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Oldies 03/12/2003

Retro: The Police

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by Mikey (Gillingham, Kent, UK)

Nominally, the Police were punk rock, but that's only in the loosest sense of the term. The trio's nervous, reggae-injected pop-rock was punky, but it wasn't necessarily punk. All three members were considerably more technically proficient than the average punk or new wave band. Andy Summers had a precise guitar attack that created dense, interlocking waves of sounds and effects. Stewart Copeland could play polyrhythms effortlessly. And Sting, with his high, keening voice, was capable of constructing infectiously catchy pop songs.
While they weren't punk, the Police certainly demonstrated that the punk spirit could have a future in pop music. As their career progressed, the Police grew considerably more adventurous, experimenting with jazz and various world music's. All the while, the band's tight delivery and mastery of the pop single kept their audience increasing and by 1983, they were the most popular rock & roll band in the world. Though they were at the height of their fame, internal tensions caused the band to splinter apart in 1984, with Sting picking up the majority of the band's audience to become an international superstar.

The Beginning
Stewart Copeland and Sting (b. Gordon Sumner) formed the Police in 1977. Prior to the band's formation, Copeland, the son of a CIA agent, had attended college in California, before he moved to England and joined the progressive rock band Curved Air. Sting was a teacher and a ditch digger that played in jazz-rock bands, including Last Exit, on the side. The two musicians met at a local jazz club and decided to form a progressive pop band with guitarist Henry Padovani. For the first few months, the group played local London pubs. Soon, they were hired to appear as a bleached-blonde punk band in a chewing gum commercial. While the commercial provided exposure, it drew the scorn of genuine punkers. Late in 1977, the band released their first single, "Fall Out," on I.R.S., an independent label Stewart Copeland founded with his brother Miles, who was also the manager of the Police. The single was a sizable hit for an independent release, selling about 70,000 copies.

A quick change in the line-up
Andy Summers, a veteran of the British Invasion, following the release of "Fall Out", replaced Padovani. Summers had previous played with Eric Burdon's second line-up of the Animals, the Zoot Money Big Roll Band, the Kevin Ayers Band and Neil Sedaka. The Police signed with A&M by the spring of 1978, committing to a contract that gave the group a higher royalty rate in lieu of a large advance. A&M released "Roxanne" in the spring of 1978, but it failed to chart. The Police set out on a tour of America in the summer of 1978 without any record to support, travelling across the country in a rented van and playing with rented equipment. Released in the fall of 1978, Outlandos D'Amour began a slow climb into the British Top 10 and American Top 30. Immediately after its release, the group began a UK tour supporting Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias and released the "So Lonely" single. By the spring of 1979, the re-released "Roxanne" had climbed to number 12 on the UK charts, taking Outlados D'Amour to number six. In the summer of 1979, Sting appeared in Quadrophenia, a British film based on the Who album of the same name; later that year, he acted in Radio On.

Worldwide success
Preceded by the number one British single "Message in a Bottle," Regatta de Blanc (fall 1979) established the group as stars in England and Europe, topping the UK charts for four weeks. Following its release, Miles Copeland had the band tour several countries that rarely received concerts from foreign performers, including Thailand, India, Mexico, Greece and Egypt. Zenyatta Mondatta, released in the fall of 1980, became the Police's North American breakthrough, reaching the Top 10 in the US and Canada' in England, the album spent four weeks at number one.
"Don't Stand So Close To Me," the album's first single, became the group's second number one single in the UK; in America, the single became their second Top 10 hit in the spring of 1981, following the number 10 placing of "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" in the winter. By the beginning of 1981, the Police were able to sell out Madison Square Garden.
Capitalizing on their success, the band returned to the studio in the summer of 1981 to record their fourth album with producer Hugh Padgham. The sessions, which were filmed for a BBC documentary hosted by Jools Holland, completed within a couple months and the album, Ghost in the Machine, appeared in the fall of 1981. Ghost in the Machine became an instant hit, reaching number one in the UK and number two in the US, as "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" became their biggest hit to date.

Following their whirlwind success of 1980 and 1981, in which they were named the Best British Group at the first Brit Awards and won three Grammys, the band took a break in 1982. Though they played their first arena concerts and headlined the US Festival, each member pursued side-projects during the course of the year. Sting acted in Brimstone and Treacle, releasing a solo single, "Spread a Little Happiness," from the soundtrack; the song became a British hit. Copeland scored Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish, as well as a San Francisco Ballet's King Lear, and released an album under the name Klark Kent; he also played on several sessions for Peter Gabriel. Summers record an instrumental album, I Advance Masked, with Robert Fripp.

The Police returned in the summer of 1983 with Synchronicity, which entered the UK charts at number one and quickly climbed to the same position in the US, where it would stay for 17 weeks. Synchronicity became a blockbuster success on the strength of the ballad "Every Breath You Take." Spending eight weeks at the top of the US charts, "Every Breath You Take" became one of the biggest American hits of all time; it spent four weeks at the top of the UK charts.
"King of Pain" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" became hits over the course of 1983, sending Synchronicity to multi-platinum status in America and Britain. The Police supported the album with a blockbuster, record-breaking world tour that set precedents for tours for the remainder of the '80s. Once the tour was completed, the band announced they were going on "sabbatical" in order to pursue outside interests.

Going solo
The Police never returned from sabbatical. During the Synchronicity tour, personal and creative tensions between the band members had escalated greatly, and they had no desire to work together for a while. Sting began working on a jazz-tinged solo project immediately, releasing The Dream of the Blue Turtles in 1985. The album became an international hit, establishing himself as a commercial force outside of the band. Copeland and Summers demonstrated no inclination to follow their bandmate's path. Copeland recorded the world beat exploration The Rhythmatist in 1985, and continued to compose scores for film and television; he later formed the prog-rock band Animal Logic. With his solo career - which didn't officially begin until the release of 1987 XYZ - Summers continued his art-rock and jazz-fusion experiments; he also occasionally collaborated Fripp and John Etheridge.

Brief attempt to reform
During 1986, the Police made a few attempts to reunite, playing an Amnesty International concert and attempting to record a handful of new tracks for a greatest hits album in the summer. As the studio session unravelled, it became apparent that Sting had no intention of giving the band his new songs to record, so the group re-recorded a couple of old songs, but even those were thrown off track after Copeland suffered a polo injury.
Featuring a new version of "Don't Stand So Close to Me," the compilation Every Breath You Take - The Singles was released for the 1986 Christmas season, becoming the group's fifth straight British number one, and their fourth American Top 10.
Following its release, the group quietly disbanded, reuniting to play Sting's marriage in 1992. That same year, a Greatest Hits album was released in the UK. The following year, the box set Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings was released, followed in 1995 by the double-album Live.

The Police Discography

07 October 1978 Can't Stand Losing you - Chart Position No.2, 16 weeks on chart*
28 April 1979 Roxanne - Chart Position No.12, 9 weeks on chart
22 September 1979 Message In A Bottle - Chart Position No.1, 11 weeks on chart*
17 November 1979 Fall Out - Chart Position No.47, 4 weeks on chart
01 December 1979 Walking on the Moon - Chart Position No.1, 10 weeks on chart*
16 February 1980 So Lonely - Chart Position No.6, 10 weeks on chart*
14 June 1980 Six Pack - Chart Position No.17, 4 weeks on chart
27 September 1980 Don't Stand So Close To Me - Chart Position No.1, 10 weeks on chart*
13 December 1980 De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da - Chart Position No.5, 8 weeks on chart*
26 September 1981 Invisible Sun - Chart Position No.2, 8 weeks on chart*
24 October 1981 Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - Chart Position No.1, 13 weeks on chart*
12 December 1981 Spirits In The Material World - Chart Position No.12, 8 weeks on chart
28 May 1983 Every Breath You Take - Chart Position No.1, 11 weeks on chart*
23 July 1983 Wrapped Around Your Finger - Chart Position No.7, 7 weeks on chart
05 November 1983 Synchronity - Chart Position No.17, 4 weeks on chart
14 January 1984 King of Pain - Chart Position No.17, 5 weeks on chart
11 October 1986 Don't Stand So Close To Me '86 (re-issue) - Chart Position No.24, 4 weeks on chart
13 May 1995 Can't Stand Losing You (Live) - Chart Position No.27, 2 weeks on chart
20 December 1997 Roxanne '97 (re-mix) - Chart Position No.17, 6 weeks on chart#
05 August 2000 When The World Is Running Down - Chart Position No.28, 3 weeks on chart##

(*) Top 10 Single
# credits Sting and The Police
## credits Different Gear vs. The Police
NOTES: 'Can't Stand Losing You' made No.42 on its first visit and peaked at No.2 only on re-entry in July 1979.
Six Pack consists of six separate Police singles as follows: The Bed's Too Big Without You, Roxanne, Message In A Bottle, Walking On The Moon, So Lonely, Can't Stand Losing You.

1978 Outlands D'Amour
1979 Regatta De Blanc
1980 Zenyatta Mondatta
1981 Ghost in the Machine
1983 Synchronity

Albums: Compilations and Box Sets
1986 Every Breath You Take - The Singles
1993 Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings (Box Sets)
1995 Every Breath You Take: The Classics
1995 Live
1998 Greatest Hits
2002 The Very Best of Sting & The Police

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