For The Best Police Songs Of All Time list, I decided to feature an article that I wrote a long time ago. This piece details the history of The Police first time round, without really discussing the reunion. After that you will find an Apple Music playlist of The Best Police Songs Of All Time.
After launching his solo career with Dream of the Blue Turtles, in 1985, Sting was asked if there would ever be a reunion of The Police. Sting’s answer was typically contemptuous – “No, it would be like going back to kindergarten!” His jazz-tinged album had became an international hit, fuelling Sting’s solo ambitions and confirmation that he could make it without his band mates.
By 1983, The Police were the biggest rock group on the planet. Their fifth album, Synchronicity, managed to put the philosophies of Carl Jung at the very top of the Billboard Charts and “Every Breath You Take” became the best-selling single of that year. The band had released five albums in six years and following an exhausting world tour embarked on a sabbatical from which they never properly returned.
In fact, Sting would go back into the recording studio with his band mates Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers in 1986 but severe creative differences – Sting wanted to re-record the band’s greatest hits whilst Copeland and Summers insisted on new material. Sting, perhaps mindful of his own promising solo career was unwilling to let The Police record his songs anymore. The band only existed in name and the writing was on the wall. The mind-boggling success The Police would eventually achieve would have been unimaginable for the trio when the original Police line-up viz Sting (real name – Gordon Sumner) on bass and vocals, Stewart Copeland on drums and Henri Padovani on guitar, independently released their debut single, “Fallout” in 1976. The single’s failure to attract anyone’s attention made it all the easier for Sting and Copeland to allow Andy Summers into the band, a move which led to the eventual departure of Padovani.
Summers was a good ten years older than Sting and Copeland and had played with the New Animals and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band during the 1960s. Summers’ arrival accentuated the main strength of the band – their differences. Copeland, an American living in England had played progressive rock with Curved Air and brought in the percussive ska/reggae influences; Sting, a erstwhile teacher and ditch digger, performed with many jazz-rock bands with the inevitable jazz inclinations and Summers, a veteran of the British invasion had the experience and the technical expertise (he was a classically trained guitarist) the fledging band required.
With the respective backgrounds in mind, it is ironic that in the latter 1970s, The Police had been closely associated with the punk-new wave movement – an associated quickly discredited when they dyed their hair blond for a Wrigleys’ commercial. This event would give The Police their enduring image of the blond punk trio. That image would give them the edge in getting their music heard. The fact of the matter was that in terms of the music, The Police were creating something new out of the fusion of reggae, punk, jazz and pop-rock.
Summers’ precise guitar attack created dense, interlocking waves of sounds and effects reminiscent of Robert (King Crimson) Fripp, Copeland’s complex and unconventional (for rock drummers anyway) polyrhythms providing the driving force and Sting’s high, keening voice, infectiously catchy pop songs and drop dead gorgeous good looks translated into a potential that could take over the rock world.
And it was that final element that would bring them fame and fortune. The first three albums – Outlandos D’Amour, Regatta De Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta – were overall spotty affairs but contained some of the best pop singles of its time. “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Walking on the Moon,” “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” brought The Police into the Top Ten singles and album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and increasing worldwide audience that culminated into wildly received world tours.
However, the tensions within the band were beginning to take its toll as stories of in-fighting and disputes began to surface. One particularly telling incident was recorded at a French show in 1980 where Sting reacted angrily to a fan spitting on him but noticeably Copeland and Summers were unmoved. Instructive perhaps that written on Copeland’s drums were certain expletives that were aimed at his lead singer!
By the beginning of 1981, the Police were able to sell out Madison Square Garden. The band returned to the studio in the summer of 1981 to record their fourth album. Sting’s influence over the band was virtually sacrosanct. The resulting album – Ghost in the Machine – was more experimental with Sting playing horns and keyboards and carried a dark political overtone with songs like “Invisible Sun” and “Spirits in the Material World” However, it was due to the ska-jazz ditty “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” – their biggest single to date – that made the album an instant hit. Which brings us full circle to mega-selling Synchronicity – The Police’s finest hour and conversely the beginning of their demise…
The Police were a unique band – utilizing the energy of punk without being distracted by its nihilism. Whilst there have been imitators (Men at Work and the Outfield) and disciples (dada, Verve Pipe, Live), none of these bands have managed to re-create the spirit of The Police’s freewheeling, genre-bending, appealing style.
Personally, the era the Police was viable (1978 to 1983) were exciting times – they represented many things to many people – commercial and cutting edge; romantic and political; studio perfectionists and powerful ‘live’ performers.
Thanks for reading! Here is your reward – The Best Police Songs Of All Time!!!
… still there’s more …