The Police

  • British new wave band formed in London in 1977. The lineup was Sting (Gordon Sumner, frontman, vocals, bass), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums).
  • In 1976, American drummer Copeland was in England touring with his band, Curved Air. He met Sting, who was a member of a jazz-rock band called Last Exit. A couple of months after they met, they jammed together in London, and Copeland indicated his interest in forming a band, as Curved Air had just split up. Sting was reluctant to commit, but saw the potential, and The Police began. They recruited Henry Padovani to be their guitarist. Their debut concert was on March 1, 1977. By May, they had a single released – a punk rock song written by Copeland, called Fall Out. 
  • That same month, Sting was invited to participate in a band named Stontium 90. The band’s usual drummer was not available, so Sting brought Copeland along. Andy Summers was the guitarist for this band. They played a couple of concerts, and did some demo recordings. Sting was impressed with Summers, and invited Summers to join The Police. Summers agreed, but only if Padovani was dismissed. By August, the final Police lineup was in place.
  • They identified as a punk band, but they developed an art rock sound that ultimately evolved to one of the earliest new wave bands.
  • Their bleached blond hair was part of their overall look. This happened by accident – in 1978, they were running out of money. They were asked to do a commercial for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, and the director insisted that they dye their hair blond for the commercial. The commercial never aired, but the band kept the look.
  • The Police began to record their debut album, Outlandos d’Amour, without a record contract and without much cash. Copeland’s older brother was managing the band, and he was not enthusiastic about the songs, until he heard the song Roxanne, a song about a prostitute. Based on the song, he secured a record deal, and the single was released in April 1978 before the album was issued later that year. Initially it was not successful, and did not chart. The BBC refused to play it, and the band promoted the song as “Banned by the BBC” in an attempt to generate interest. In February 1979, Roxanne was released in the U.S., where it was frequently played on the radio, hitting the U.S. charts at #32. This in turn led to its re-release in the UK, where it finally charted at #12. Subsequently, the song was ranked #388 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in 2008, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • The Police’s second album, Regatta de Blanc, was released in 1979. It hit #1 in the UK, and #25 in the U.S. The singles were huge hits in the UK, but curiously they did not chart in the U.S., even though today they are widely known – Message in a Bottle, and Walking On the Moon. 
  • They became international superstars with their next 3 albums. 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta sold 2 million records in the U.S., and the singles Don’t Stand So Close To Me and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da both peaked at #10 in the U.S. The Ghost in the Machine album from 1981 sold 3 million copies, with Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic reaching #3 on the chart. And their biggest album, Synchronicity, had sales of over 8 million records, and included their only #1 song, Every Breath You Take (ranked #84 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest List – the highest ranking new wave song on the list). 
  • By 1983, when Synchronicity was released, critics labeled them as “The Biggest Band in the World.” However, the trio could hardly stand one another. Each member recorded their parts of the album separately, rather than playing together. They did a concert tour to promote the album, but by 1986, they were done. Each member started solo careers over the next 20 years.
  • In 2007, they reformed for a year to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They toured the world over a 15 month period, selling 3.7 million tickets and grossing $358 million – at the time, the third highest grossing tour ever.
  • The band received 6 Grammy awards, including Song of the Year for Every Breath You Take, and they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. They are ranked #70 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • Sting got his nickname during his days as a jazz musician. He often wore black and yellow sweaters with hooded stripes, which his bandmates thought made him look like a bee. The Police certainly made their mark in music history, deserving their place in the HOF. In 1986, they released a remix version of Don’t Stand So Close To Me. Watch both versions below, and let me know which one you prefer.

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