The Police

The Police

Synopsis of Pop Music

"We are spirits in the material world..."

The Police emerged from the same late-70’s English punk scene that produced the Sex Pistols and the Clash, but they were of a different breed. Unlike most punkers, the Police weren’t amateur musicians. In fact, they had all several years’ experience playing non-punk music like jazz and prog-rock. However, they rose to the occasion during the punk era, mixing punk energy with their musical skills to create bracing but complex pop. As a result, they survived well beyond the punk era to become international pop superstars.

The Police began when Stewart Copeland met Sting at a jazz club. They decided to put together a new band to fit the current musical climate and began gigging. Things improved when they added veteran session guitarist Andy Summers to the mix. They quickly recorded Outlandos D’Amour, an album that mixed reggae, pop and jazz elements into a heady brew spiked with punk energy. On the strength of “Roxanne,” a catchy single built on a reggae guitar line, the album sailed into the British and American charts. The group toured the U.S., ultimately pushing “Roxanne” into the Top-40 area of the pop charts.

In 1979, the Police released Regatta De Blanc. They mounted an international tour to support it and traveled to locations as distant as India and Turkey. Meanwhile, new songs like “Message In A Bottle” and “Walking On The Moon” became popular on the radio. The Police released Zenyatta Mondatta at the end of 1980 and were rewarded with their first American single hit with “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” This catchy song mixed staccato guitar passages with the titular nonsense-words chorus to become a Top-10 hit in early 1981.

The Police scored another hit in 1981 with “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” a much-discussed song with controversial lyrics about a teacher’s unprofessional relationship with a student. At the end of 1981, the group released Ghost In The Machine. Unlike previous albums, the group spent a lot of time working on this one and experimented with synthesizers and a horn section (created by overdubbing Sting several times). The album went to #2 for six weeks and spawned two big hits in the uncharacteristically sweet and romantic “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and the synth-driven, staccato “Spirits In The Material World.”

The Police had amassed a lot of success in short time, but their greatest success was yet to come. It arrived in 1983 with the release of Synchronicity, an album that consolidated the musical experiments of their last album with the strongest batch of songs that Sting had ever written. From the hard-rocking “Synchronicity II” to the jazzy “Murder By Numbers,” the album covered a stunning array of musical styles but managed to stay coherent as a single work. It soon became one of the biggest albums of 1983.

Synchronicity spawned an array of singles. The first was the #1 hit “Every Breath You Take,” a song about obsessive love whose lush music captured the slow-burning melodrama of the lyrics. It won several awards, including the Best Song Grammy. It also had an innovative video that made dramatic use of shadows and black-and-white photography. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and “King of Pain” both became Top-10 hits, and the guitar-driven “Synchonicity II” went Top-20. The Police crowned this album’s success with a massive, sold-out world tour that saw screaming fans at every sold-out stop.

The Police took a break to pursue solo work in 1985, and Sting scored a major hit with his album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles. The group reunited in 1986 to record but ended up stunning the public by announcing their breakup. A best-of album, Every Breath You Take: The Singles, was released that year, featuring a remake of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” Since then, the group’s recordings have been compiled along with several non-album rarities in a box set, Message In A Box. The Police Live, a collection of concert recordings from 1979 and 1983, was issued in 1995.

Since the breakup of the Police, both Copeland and Summers have gone on to do soundtracks and frequent solo albums. Sting continues to maintain a successful solo career and has racked up hit albums with Nothing Like the Sun and The Soul Cages. Meanwhile, the hits they all recorded as the Police have become radio staples, and budding musicians everywhere study the instrumental prowess all the members displayed on their albums. This continued success proves the Police were much more than a bunch of ‘punks.’

"Every step you take,
Every move you make,
I'll be watching you..."

Artist Release History

1978 - Outlandos d'Amour
1979 - Reggatta de Blanc
1980 - Zenyatta Mondatta
1981 - Ghost in the Machine
1983 - Synchronicity
1995 - Live
1995 - Every Breath You Take: The Classics

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Synchronicity (A&M)
Every Breath You Take: The Classics (A&M)

Band Members

Sting lead vocals, bass, keyboards, saxophone
Stewart Copeland drums, vocals, keyboards
Andy Summers guitars, vocals, keyboards

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