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.

After one independent single ‘Fall Out’, they were joined by veteran guitarist Andy Summers (b. Andrew Somers, 31 December 1942) formerly of Dantalian’s Chariot and Eric Burdon’s New Animals.

Popular Newcomers

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.

Political Messages

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...

To read the full article please either login or register .

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.