The Police were a three-piece rock band consisting of Sting (vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar, vocals) and Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion, vocals). The band became globally popular in the early 1980s, playing a style of rock that was influenced by jazz, rock and reggae music. Their 1983 album, Synchronicity, was number one in the UK and the US and sold over 8,000,000 copies in the US. The band broke up in 1984, but reunited in early 2007 for a one-off world tour lasting until August 2008, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their hit single "Roxanne" and also, to a lesser extent, that of their formation as a group. To date, The Police have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. Rolling Stone ranked The Police number 70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
he Police were founded by American-born drummer Stewart Copeland in early 1977. After the demise of his progressive rock band Curved Air, Copeland was anxious to form a new three-piece group and join the burgeoning London punk scene. Singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani began rehearsing with Copeland in January 1977, and they recorded their first Police single, "Fall Out"/"Nothing Achieving," the following month. Acting Manager Paul Mulligan paid for the recording of the single. In March and April, the threesome toured as a support act for Cherry Vanilla as well as Wayne County & the Electric Chairs.
In May, ex-Gong musician Mike Howlett invited Sting and former Eric Burdon and the Animals guitarist Andy Summers to form Strontium 90 with him, as a project band for a Gong reunion. The drummer Howlett had in mind for this band, Chris Cutler, was unavailable to play, so Sting brought along Stewart Copeland. Strontium 90 recorded several demo tracks at Virtual Earth Studios, and then performed at a Gong reunion concert in Paris on May 28, 1977. An album with some of these studio and live tracks (with the first recorded version of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic") was released twenty years later in 1997 under the name Strontium 90: Police Academy. The foursome also performed at a London club as "The Elevators" in July 1977.
In July 1977, Copeland, Sting, Padovani, and Summers began performing as a four-piece version of the Police. Padovani's relatively limited ability as a guitarist meant that his tenure with the band was short. Soon after an aborted recording session with producer John Cale on August 10, Padovani left the band and Summers took over sole guitar duties. This lineup of Copeland, Sting, and Summers would endure for the rest of Police history.
Sting proved to be a capable songwriter. He had previously spent time as a secondary school English teacher, and his lyrics are noted for their literary awareness and verbal agility. Material in the later album Ghost in the Machine was inspired by the writings of Arthur Koestler, and material in Synchronicity was prominently inspired by the writings of Carl Jung. "Tea in the Sahara" on the latter album showed interest in the work of author Paul Bowles as well.
The Police, along with The Clash, are notable as one of the first mainstream white bands to adopt reggae as a predominant musical form, and to score major international hits with reggae-styled material. Although ska and reggae were already very popular in the United Kingdom, the style was little known in the United States or other countries. Prior to the emergence of the Police, only a handful of reggae songs — such as Eric Clapton's 1974 cover rendition of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" or Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" — had enjoyed any significant chart success.
The bleached blonde hair that would become a trademark of the band was a lucky accident, originating in February 1978. The band, desperate for money, was asked to do a commercial for Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum on the condition that they dye their hair blonde.
For the Police, their first album, Outlandos d'Amour was a hardship, working on a small budget, with no manager or record deal. Stewart Copeland's older brother Miles Copeland III heard "Roxanne" for the first time and immediately got them a record deal with A&M Records. Originally released in 1978, the single was re-released in 1979, and it was then that the Police gained widespread recognition in the United Kingdom, as well as scoring a minor hit with the song in several other countries, notably Australia. Their success led to a gig at the famous New York club CBGB and a gruelling United States tour in which the band drove themselves and all their equipment around the country in a Ford Econoline van.
In October 1979, the group released their second album Reggatta de Blanc, which was a major seller in many countries and which spawned the U.K. singles "Message In A Bottle," their first #1, and "Walking on the Moon," also a chart topper. The instrumental title track would win the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In March 1980, the Police did their first world tour, and they were one of the first major rock bands to play in places like Mexico City, Mexico, Bombay, India and Egypt. The Mexico City show was filmed by Canal 13. In May A&M in Great Britain released "Six Pack (The Police)," an expensive package containing the 5 previous A&M singles (not including "Fall Out") in their original sleeves plus a mono alternate take of the popular album track (from Regatta De Blanc) "The Bed's Too Big Without You" backed with a live version of the Outlandos d'Amour track "Truth Hits Everybody." It reached #17 in the U.K. singles chart although chart regulations introduced later in the decade would have classed it as an album.
Pressured by their record company for a new record and a prompt return to touring, the Police released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, in the autumn of 1980. The album gave the group their third U.K. #1 hit, "Don't Stand So Close to Me", and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", which charted in the United States. In subsequent interviews Sting stated that he regretted the rushed recording for the album. However, many critics would later cite it as one of their strongest efforts. The instrumental "Behind My Camel," written by Andy Summers won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance For Duo Or Group.
By this time Sting was becoming a major star, and he established a career beyond the Police by branching out into acting. He made a well-received debut as the 'Ace Face' in Quadrophenia the film version of The Who's rock opera, followed by a role as a mechanic in love with Eddie Cochran's music in Chris Petit's Radio On. He also played the character Feyd Rautha' in Dune and a soldier who is executed for being too brave in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
As Sting's fame rose, his relationship with band founder Stewart Copeland began to deteriorate. The increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the pressures of worldwide publicity and fame, conflicting egos, and their financial success. Meanwhile, both Sting and Summers' marriages failed (Sting settled down with new partner Trudie Styler, whom he later married, while Summers, after a brief relationship that fathered a son Andrew Jr., re-married his second wife Kate).
The Police's fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, co-produced by Hugh Padgham, was released in 1981. It featured thicker sounds, layered saxophones, and vocal textures. It spawned the hit singles, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Invisible Sun", and "Spirits in the Material World". As the band were unable to agree on a cover picture, the album cover had three red pictographs, "digital" likenesses of the three band members in the style of segmented LED displays, set against a black background. In the 1980s, Sting and Andy Summers became tax exiles and moved to Ireland (Sting to Roundstone in Galway, and Andy to Kinsale in County Cork) while Stewart, an American, remained in England.
The Police took a sabbatical in 1982, with Sting pursuing his acting career, co-starring with Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright in the Richard Loncraine film version of Dennis Potter's play Brimstone and Treacle. He also had a minor solo hit in the United Kingdom with the movie's theme song, "Spread A Little Happiness" (which appeared on the Brimstone and Treacle soundtrack, along with three new Police tracks). Summers recorded his first album with Robert Fripp, I Advance Masked.
The Police released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983. Notable songs from that album include "Every Breath You Take", "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "King of Pain" and the foreboding "Synchronicity II". Except for "King of Pain", the singles were accompanied by music videos directed by Godley & Creme. This album hit #1 in both the U.K. (where it debuted at #1) and the U.S. It stayed at #1 in the U.K. for only two weeks and in the U.S. for 17 weeks. It was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but lost to the inevitable winner, Michael Jackson's Thriller.
The Police beat out Jackson in one category: "Every Breath You Take" won the Grammy for Song Of The Year, beating Jackson's "Billie Jean". "Every Breath You Take" also won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal while "Synchronicity II" won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. "Every Breath You Take" also won the American Video Award for Best Group video and nabbed two Ivor Novello Awards for the categories Best Song Musically & Lyrically and Most Performed Work. In 1983, Stewart Copeland composed the musical score for Rumble Fish a film directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola from the S.E. Hinton novel. A song released to radio on A& M Records "Don't Box Me In (theme From Rumble Fish)", a collaboration between Copeland and singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway leader of the band Wall of Voodoo, received significant airplay upon release of the film that year.
Although there was never an official split, each band member pursued his own solo career after the Synchronicity tour ended in March 1984. In June 1986, the trio reconvened to play three concerts for the Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope Tour. In July of that year, a tense short-lived reunion in the studio produced only subdued re-recordings of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da". The former was released in October 1986 as their final single together in the form of "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86" (a substantially reworked version of the 1980 original), appeared on the compilation Every Breath You Take: The Singles, and made the UK Top 25. By this time, it was clear that Sting had no intention of continuing with the band, having already released a successful solo debut LP in 1985, the jazz-influenced The Dream of the Blue Turtles.
In 1992, Sting wed Trudie Styler. Summers and Copeland were invited to the ceremony and reception. Aware that all band members were present, the wedding guests pressured the trio into playing, and they ultimately performed "Roxanne" and "Message In A Bottle." Copeland said later that "after about three minutes, it became 'the thing' again." Also in 1992, Andy Summers served a brief stint as Musical Director on the short-lived "Dennis Miller Show".
On March 10, 2003, the Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed "Roxanne," "Message In a Bottle," and "Every Breath You Take" live, as a group. The last song was performed alongside Steven Tyler, Gwen Stefani, and John Mayer. Towards the end of the song, Copeland, known for tightening his drum heads until his knuckles turn white and a hard popping snare backbeat, broke the head of his snare drum. That fall Sting released his autobiography, "Broken Music".
In 2004, Henry Padovani (the band's guitarist before Andy Summers joined) released an album with the participation of Stewart Copeland and Sting in one track, reuniting the "original" Police members in a performance for the first time since 1977. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked The Police #70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In 2006 Stewart Copeland made a rockumentary about the band called Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, based on Super-8 filming he did when the band was touring and recording in the late '70s and the early '80s. In October 2006 Andy Summers released One Train Later, an autobiographical memoir detailing his early career and time with the band.
Wikipedia contributors. The Police. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. August 28, 2008, 08:28 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Police&oldid=234743524. Accessed August 29, 2008.