Personalities | The Police | Eighties | Rock
One of the 1980s’ most successful British bands, The Police were founded in London at the height of the punk boom in 1977 by former Curved Air drummer Stewart Copeland (b. 16 July 1952) with singer/bassist Sting (b. Gordon Sumner, 2 October 1951) and original guitarist Henry Padovani.
Padovani soon departed and the remaining threesome developed a unique, almost minimalist sound in the blend of Summers’ crisp guitar, Sting’s distinctive voice and Copeland’s clattering drums. Heavily influenced by reggae, their first two singles ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ did not chart when first released in 1978 as the BBC took a dim view of the subject matter, prostitution and suicide respectively. Reason prevailed the following year when the belated success of the reactivated singles (‘Roxanne’ also became a Top 30 hit in America) launched the debut album Outlandos D’Amour (1978) into the UK chart for a two-year residency.
Reggatta De Blanc (1979) quickly followed. As the title suggests, the album was in the same light reggae groove as its predecessor with several of Sting’s songs touching on familiar themes of loneliness and alienation. It went to No. 1 in Britain, along with the first two singles lifted from it, ‘Message In A Bottle’ and ‘Walking On The Moon’, confirming The Police as the country’s most popular new group.
Mainstream success in America arrived when Zenyatta Mondatta (1980) went Top 5 and spawned two US Top 10 singles, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ (another UK chart topper) and ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’. Recorded quickly in the midst of touring commitments, the band were dissatisfied with the album and the critical reception was lukewarm, although Zenyatta… has since been favourably reassessed. It was the last Police album to rely heavily on reggae rhythms and to use only the three main instruments almost exclusively. It was also notable for Sting’s first politically inspired lyric, ‘Driven To Tears’.
This theme continued on the lead single from Ghost In The Machine (1981), ‘Invisible Sun’, which referred to Northern Ireland and, sonically, was a brave departure for the band. The album featured a more expansive sound, utilizing saxophones and synthesizer, with more thoughtful lyrics to match, something not necessarily reflected in the second single, the infectious No. 1 ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’.
Summers, Copeland and Sting took a year out for solo projects in 1982, reconvening the following year to record Synchronicity (1983). By this time, tensions, particularly between Sting and Copeland were threatening to tear the band apart. Nevertheless, The Police managed to produce their most crafted and diverse album which would go on to become the biggest seller in their catalogue, spending 17 weeks on top of the American chart. The first of four singles to be taken...
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