Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Police

Though displaying quasi-punk qualities, the Police was never a true punk band. Rather, they effortlessly mixed and matched elements of punk, ska, reggae and pop to create a very palatable rock sound that earned the three musicians numerous awards, worldwide fame and oodles upon oodles of money. Let’s take a look back.

Drummer Steward Copeland founded the band in 1977 and recruited singer/bassist Sting and session guitarist Andy Summers to complete the trio. Their first album, Outlandos d’Amour, was a labor of love, lacking any semblance of budget or a record contract. Still, the album’s single “Roxanne” proved more than catchy enough to earn the band a contract with A&M Records. The single also became a hit in both the UK and America, and the Police headed out on their first American tour.

The next album, Reggatta de Blanc, came in 1979, quickly followed by a world tour that included such far away destinations as India and Turkey. The album generated several hit singles, including the band’s first #1 “Message in a Bottle” and the equally popular “Walking on the Moon.” The strangely named Zenyatta Mondatta came at the end of 1980, delivering the Police’s first American breakthrough hit with “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” No one knew what it meant but everyone really liked it, paving the way for the controversial single “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” The song and its music video told the story of the inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student, a story made all the creepier by the fact that Sting had once been a schoolteacher. The Grammy folks didn’t seem to mind that coincidence and named the song Best Rock Vocal Performance.

Things were truly on a roll for the Police, but especially for Sting, who enjoyed special attention as the band’s handsome and brooding front man. In the early 80s, he tried his hand at acting, in The Who’s rock opera film Quadrophenia and other movies including Dune, Brimstone and Treacle.

Ghost in the Machine came out in 1981 and included some of the band’s best known songs, like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Spirits in the Material World” and “Invisible Sun.” After a brief hiatus to pursue solo projects, the Police returned with Synchronicity, widely regarded as their best effort. The album reached the #1 spot and featured enduring 80s classics “Every Breath You Take” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

That was to be their last album, as the band had burned brightly, but all too briefly. There were also personal and artistic conflicts that drove the trio apart, though they never made the split official. Each member went on his merry way, a move that made Sting a superstar with a hugely successful solo career.

In 2007, the ex-Police members surprised their fans with the announcement of a reunion tour, a multi-country affair that sold out venues everywhere the band played. They all agreed that this would be the end of Police togetherness but in the music business, never often means maybe.

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