The classic line-up of The Police. From left to right: Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland and Sting.
The Police are an English rock/new wave/post punk/white reggae trio formed in 1977. Sting sang lead vocals and played bass guitar, Stewart Copeland played drums, and former Eric Burdon And The Animals member Andy Summers played guitar, with both adding backing vocals and sometimes taking the lead. There was also Henry Padovani who was the founding guitarist, but was quickly replaced by Summers. Reportedly, the band was named after something they knew would appear every single day in all newspapers. And what better than "police" to fit this?They were popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. After reaching international fame, they broke up in March 1984. They got back together to rerecord some singles. At the time Sting had no intention of rejoining them. They just kept ending up performing together again— at Sting's wedding, while being introduced into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003— and opening the 49th annual Grammy Awards, where they announced their return. Their reunion tour ended in August 2008.They have sold 50 million albums worldwide. In 2008 they became the world's highest earning musicians, thanks to their reunion tour. Some of their most popular songs are "Roxanne", "Every Breath You Take", and "Message In A Bottle".
Principal Members (Founding members in bold):
Stewart Copeland - drums, percussion, guitar, backing and lead vocals, piano, synthesizer, keyboard, xylophone (1977–1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
Henry Padovani - guitar (1977, 2008)
Andy Summers - guitar, piano, bass, keyboard, backing and lead vocals (1977–1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
Gordon Sumner (Sting) - lead vocals, bass, double bass, harmonica, synthesizer, keyboard, saxophone, oboe, drum machine (1977–1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
Adorkable: Pretty much all their music videos except for "Every Breath You Take" and "Synchronicity II", as they were all shot on location with the band simply being themselves. "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" is an amazing example: the guitarists stand on a snowy hill miming the song while Copeland films their performance on a second camera, in the frame of the first camera that we see. They take turns throwing snow at each other, Sting tries to block Copeland out of the frame with the neck of his bass guitar, and everyone plays Summers' guitar for the solo.
Astro Turf: After "Fall Out" was released, letters began appearing in some local London music magazines praising the band's drummer, Stewart Copeland. Later (much later), it was revealed that those letters were written by one Stewart Copeland.
Bags of Letters: The "Message in a Bottle" gets 100 million bottles in reply.
Black Comedy: "Can't Stand Losing You", "Friends", "Murder By Numbers".
Blond Guys Are Evil: Any of them — just ask the other two blond guys. Infighting reigned supreme during the band's original run, and has inevitably crept back in for each reunion.
Quite pronounced with Sting's acting in the music video for "Every Breath You Take". He was doing that on purpose in a vain attempt to remind people that it's not a love song.
Breakup Song: "Every Breath You Take," "Can't Stand Losing You," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "Someone To Talk To".
Breakup Breakout: Sting is one of the most famous, but the other two have also gone on to moderately successful solo careers (Stewart Copeland as a film and stage composer, Andy Summers as a jazz soloist).
Continuity Nod: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "O My God" and "Seven Days" (the latter a song from Sting's solo career) all include a verse about hilariously failing to invoke the Umbrella of Togetherness trope.
Also in his solo career, Sting includes a brief, joking nod to "Every Breath You Take" in the fade-out of "Love Is The Seventh Wave", where he sings "Every breath you take, every move you make, every cake you bake, every leg you break".
A really crapsacky life if "Synchronicity II" is anything to go by.
"On Any Other Day" from Regatta de Blanc is a more humorous example of this, and "Once Upon A Daydream" is a very dark version.
Darker and Edgier: The lyrical content on each album is progressively darker than the last. Curiously enough, the music gets somewhat Lighter and Softer with each album (not counting the faster or harsher songs that showed up on every album) because of the improved production quality, showing Sting's penchant for Lyrical Dissonance.
This even manages to translate into text form in the liner notes for Message in a Box, when all three make comments on their B-sides and obscure releases. On "Dead End Job", Andy jokes that the job announcements he read from his local newspaper at the start was "the only time I ever got a compliment from Sting about my vocals." On "Visions of the Night", Stewart mentions that "the title was too cerebral for our early audiences, so Sting would announce it as 'Three O'Clock Shit'" and Andy mocks his early enthusiasm for the track. On the live version of "Driven to Tears", Sting jokes that "there's a very good Andy solo in there, though it's very short because we only ever let him have eight bars." And commenting on the live version of "Tea in the Sahara", Sting mentions that he thought they played it "too fast on the album and live", to which Stewart replies "Sting thought everything was too fast."
Despair Event Horizon: "Message in a Bottle" is about trying to keep from crossing it, and finding out that everyone feels lonely sometimes; while the protagonist of "King of Pain" seems to have crossed it long ago.
Downer Ending: Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity both end with very melancholy tracks. The CD version of Synchronicity ends with the dark and cynical bonus track "Murder by Numbers".
Follow the Leader: The reason for the band's formation. Curved Air, the Progressive Rock band Stewart was in, had just combusted and he wanted to join the Punk Rock scene instead. The band quickly carved out a niche for themselves, however, by using a lot of jazzy chords, reggae and african influences, the bizarre vocal style of Sting, and plainly catchy pop singles.
The band were likely following The Clash's example, being that punk and reggae were their primary influences. They lasted almost the same amount of time and made similar changes in style per album.
Gainax Ending: Outlandos d'Amour ends with "Masoko Tanga", which is... a combination of an intricate funky bassline, Andy reggae-skanking away on rhythm guitar, Stewart pounding away at a complicated groove and Sting singing Africanesque nonsense lyrics on top, with an ending that spontaneously combusts.
The second album title, Reggatta de Blanc. It means "White reggae", a term they considered their music at the time fit into.
The lyrics of "Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi)" are almost entirely in French, apart from an English chorus towards the end. Unsurprisingly, Sting trips over French grammar in the chorus, awkwardly singing Mais non pouvons faire ce que nous voulons instead of Mais ne pouvons pas faire ce que nous voulons ("but we cannot do what we want"). In all fairness, the original line already has to strain to roll of the tongue, and the correct negative would just wreck the whole rhythm. The title itself is also grammatically suspect. He almost certainly means "j'aurai" (I will), not "j'aurais" (I would).
Harpo Does Something Funny: A lot of the guitar solos on the reunion tour were clearly improvised by Andy Summers (who, being a self-taught jazz guitarist, is adept at making riffs up on the fly). It's about as close to jamming onstage as the meticulously rehearsed Police ever came.
I Am the Band: Enforced by Sting and got progressively worse over the years, much to the chagrin of the other two. Copeland was even more upset because he was the one who started the band. See Creator Backlash in the Trivia tab.
Iconic Item: The bleached blonde hair. Among the fandom, Stewart Copeland's short shorts and tube socks qualify.
I'm a Humanitarian: "Friends" and "Hungry for You (j'aurais toujours faim de toi)", though the latter is metaphorical instead of literal.
Instrumentals: "Masoko Tanga", "Reggatta de Blanc", "Voices Inside My Head", "Behind My Camel", "The Other Way of Stopping", "A Kind of Loving", "Flexible Strategies", "Shambelle", "How Stupid Mr Bates". Some of them ("Masoko Tanga" and "Reggatta de Blanc") include nonsensical Scatting from Sting, "A Kind of Loving" features hellish Metal Screaming throughout and "Voices Inside My Head" has two lines chanted repetitively in the middle: "Voices inside my head/Echoes of things that you said".
It's All About Me: There are so few songs written by the two non-Sting members of the band, because Sting would refuse to play on them. He famously buried Andy Summers' tape of "Behind My Camel" in the studio's backyard and Andy himself ultimately plays the bass on that track. Then it won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
The reason Reggatta de Blanc and Zenyattà Mondatta had so many co-writes and non-Sting songs was because Sting hit a writer's block for Blanc and the band were so desperate for material they at one point considered re-recording "Fall Out", Zenyattà was rush-recorded to the point that the sessions ended a day before the band's tour was due to begin. During production of Ghost in the Machine, Andy somehow managed to browbeat Sting into grudgingly playing on "Omegaman", though he retaliated by preventing its release as a single. More co-writes and songs by Stewart and Andy were banished to the B-side pile.
The members seem oddly more reflective about it in the Message in a Box liner notes; Sting comments on "Friends" that "Andy's weirdest ideas made his best songs!", Andy and Stewart agree on "I Burn for You" that their main contribution to the band was pushing Sting to write more aggressive material, and Andy mentions in the history section that he and Stewart both accepted the fact that Sting was the band's "best songwriter".
Their first single "Fall Out" / "Nothing Achieving" was written by Stewart Copeland, with Copeland providing both drums and guitars. Sting only performed bass and vocals. The band's third member Henry Padovani only played some of the solos. These two tracks bear far more resemblance to Copeland's solo work as Klark Kent.
Last Note Nightmare: "Peanuts," "Be My Girl - Sally," "Masoko Tanga," and "Shadows In The Rain."
Some others think it's about jealousy. Still not right, but may not be too much off the mark either...
"Roxanne" is actually about a prostitute, strange for such an upbeat song.
Interestingly, Sting seems to have realized this, and in later years tends to play a more downbeat version of it, including the one he did with Gil Evans.
"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" is a cheery little number about the lies of media and politicians, or about how the girlfriend would always twist the meaning of everything he said, so he was left only with nonsensical words that could not be interpreted.
"On Any Other Day" is a really cheerful-sounding tune about a guy who's having a really bad day.
"Once Upon a Daydream" begins as a love story about a young couple: "Once upon a daydream/ Doesn't happen anymore/ Once upon a moonbeam/ Is this no place for tenderness?" Once the couple discovers that they are pregnant, the girl's father beats his daughter and kills her unborn baby. It gets worse. Very romantic, dreamy, and ethereal music that suits the first verse beautifully continues to play as the boy sings about shooting his girlfriend's father in the head and spending the rest of his life in prison.
"Can't Stand Losing You" is an upbeat song about a woman breaking up with her boyfriend, and at the end, her boyfriend threatens to kill himself (no word on whether he actually did it).
"So Lonely" has a nice tune considering the subject matter.
"Wrapped Around Your Finger" is about the relationship between a dominatrix and her submissive.
Foreign Service Brat: Stewart grew up in Lebanon because his dad was a CIA officer stationed there, which influenced his drumming style and his music in general.
It is more Played for Laughs. In Andy Summers' autobiography he mentions being worried that his mother would hear the song and be offended, but she found it hilarious.
Mondegreen: "Message in a Bottle" has the line "A year has passed since I wrote my note". To many listeners it sounds like "A year has passed since I broke my nose" which some say is an explanation for his weird singing style.
Mood Whiplash: Done on purpose with "Mother" on Synchronicity, a yelled, dadaist song by Andy that is markedly different to the usual laidback sound of the album. There is a large contingent of fans who wish the song wasn't on the album. The CD of the same album also appends the creepy "Murder By Numbers" after the melancholy "Tea In The Sahara", but it works better because it remains jazzy.
Movie Bonus Song: "How Stupid Mr Bates", "A Kind of Loving" and "I Burn For You" were recorded by the band for the soundtrack of Brimstone and Treacle, a 1982 film adaptation of a Dennis Potter play that starred Sting as Martin Taylor. They were later released on the Message in a Box compilation. Sting also recorded two more songs for the soundtrack alone, "Only You" and a cover of "Spread a Little Happiness" that became a surprise hit in the UK, but these were left off the compilation.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Andy, Stewart, and label executives all wanted to release Andy Summers' "Omegaman" as a single for Ghost in the Machine, but Stingwouldn't let them because he didn't write it. It's one of the best songs on the album, and probably sounds even better due to not being overexposed.
Overcrank: The video for "Wrapped Around My Finger".
Ditto with "Peanuts" and a strange, horn-driven solo.
"Fall Out", "Nothing Achieving", "Dead End Job", "Visions Of The Night", "No Time This Time", "Landlord", "Omegaman" and "Synchronicity II" all fit this description too. It's safe to say that the band definitely were into punk but it wasn't their main thing.
P.O.V. Cam: Stewart bought a Super 8 camera at the start of the band's career and filmed hundreds of hours of footage, even taking the camera to press conferences, record shop meet'n greets, and on stage. Stewart later compiled the footage as the film Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out.
Precision F-Strike: "Someone To Talk To". Additionally, "Rehumanize Yourself" has one instance of "cunts", as does "Dead End Job" (it's hidden under repeating sound effects and other dialogue regarding help wanted ads), and "On Any Other Day" starts with Studio Chatter where Stewart says "... the other ones are complete bullshit".
Protest Song: "Bombs Away" is about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that began as Zenyattà Mondatta was being recorded, "Driven to Tears" criticises the West's inattention towards global poverty, and "One World (Not Three)" works in a similar vein, declaring that "one world is enough for all of us" and "Invisible Sun" is about the horrors of the troubles in Ireland.
Rated M for Manly: Quite a few of their songs, but "Demolition Man" probably tops the list, Especially when recorded by androgynous reggae singer Grace Jones
Manager Miles Copeland's initial plan for their first album was to exploit this by calling it Police Brutality, until he heard "Roxanne" and decided to shift to a different group image.
Rearrange the Song: The band members had trouble coming up with material for Reggatta de Blanc, so they frequently resorted to raiding old material they had written and cannibalising it to make new songs: "The Bed's Too Big Without You" and the "Bring on the Night" were recycled and reworked from songs Sting had written with the band Last Exit, "Reggatta de Blanc" originated as a jam they played on stage during their first tour as filler (it seems to have evolved from the instrumental break in "Can't Stand Losing You"), and "Does Everyone Stare" was cribbed from a piano piece Stewart had written in college.
Sting in fact ended up reusing most of the songs he had written with Last Exit: "I Burn for You", "The Bed's Too Big Without You" and "O My God" were rerecorded by The Police, "Carrion Prince" and "Truth Kills" became "Bring on the Night" and "Truth Hits Everybody", the lyrics of "Fool in Love" were used for "So Lonely" and "Savage Beast" was rewritten for The Dream of the Blue Turtles as "We Work the Black Seam".
Also in his solo career, Sting performed several rearranged versions of Police songs. "Shadows in the Rain", originally recorded as an eerie, minimalist reggae dirge with noisy, atonal guitar solos by Andy, was rearranged for The Dream of the Blue Turtles as a jazz shuffle. "I Burn for You" remained a love song for the live album Bring on the Night, but it lost the ominous production and climactic drum solos from the Police's version.
Also shows up in "Mother"; Andy not so much sings the song as he shouts it throughout (the instrumental backing just accentuates it more), and by the end, he's Laughing Mad.
Sell Out: The band came under attack from the Punk Rock scene they were trying to bandwagon on by appearing in an unaired commercial for Wrigley's Spearmint Gum due to being desperately broke. This commercial did provide them with their distinctive bleached-blond appearance.
The first verse of "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around" refers to "James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show".
The head of their record label, Jerry Moss, later purchased a champion thoroughbred racehorse and named her Zenyatta, after the album Zenyattà Mondatta.
After three albums of Gratuitous Foreign Language or just plain nonsensical titles, the band's first English-language album title is a reference to Arthur Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine, which also inspired some of the lyrics.
A separate Koestler work, The Roots of Coincidence, inspired the title of Synchronicity through its mention of Jung's eponymous theory. The album's collage on both the front and back includes a photo of Sting reading from said book, with the front cover including a faintly noticeable quotation in the middle-left corner.
"Tea in the Sahara" was inspired by Paul Bowles' novel The Sheltering Sky.
A Song in the Limelight: Apart from "Hole in My Life" and "Masoko Tanga" (with some piano work provided by Joe Sinclair in the background) and "Low Life" (with a sax solo by Olaf Kubler), the band recorded all their albums by themselves (Sting provided the horn sections on Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity, while Andy sometimes chipped in on synth and Stewart played additional guitar on "It's Alright for You", "A Sermon" and "Fall Out", and piano on "Does Everyone Stare"). The most notable exception is "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic": while the band was recording it at Le Studio in Quebec, session keyboardist Jean Roussel constantly pestered the band until they relented and let him play on the track.
Step Up to the Microphone: Andy on "Be My Girl - Sally" and "Mother" (as well as the B-sides "Friends" and "Someone to Talk to"), Stewart on "On Any Other Day" and "Miss Gradenko" (on both of which he shared lead vocals with Sting) and the start of "Does Everyone Stare". Notably, the respective members wrote said songs.
Stock Ness Monster: "Synchronicity II", besides singing about an emasculated frustrated man living in a suburban family hellhole, makes vague mention of a mysterious creature in a Scottish lake "many miles away" (possibly referring to the Loch Ness Monster).
Another suburban family morning Grandmother screaming at the wall We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies We can't hear anything at all Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration But we know all her suicides are fake Daddy only stares into the distance There's only so much heartache he can take
Two Lines, No Waiting: There's actually two different scenarios going on in "Synchronicity II" (presumably they vaguely have something to do with each other): While the family drama as described above takes place, many miles away... something's crawling to the surface of a dark Scottish lake.
The family drama gets to the point that it disturbs the sleep of whatever's at the bottom of that lake. And it's none too pleased.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Whilst they're all good friends and not averse to reunions, to say The Police fought a bit in their heyday is a massive understatement. The band almost broke up after Copeland and Sting started a fight while recording "Every Breath You Take" and producer Hugh Padgham almost walked out - manager Miles Copeland had to call a band meeting to prevent a breakup.
There's plenty of footage out there of the band fighting each other during televised interviews.
Copeland re-arranged his drum kit so that the cymbals would block out Sting on stage. He also wrote "FUCK OFF YOU CUNT" and Sting's name in Japanese across the heads of his drums, hoping to use his drum kit like a voodoo doll.
During their Behind The Music episode, Copeland had this to say about reuniting and playing three songs at Sting's wedding:
Stewart Copeland: After about five minutes, it became The Thing again.
The situation is lampshaded affectionately during an appearance on Spectacle with Elvis Costello, with Stewart reminding his bandmates just who founded the band—
Stewart Copeland Sting, Andy, now that the tour is over, there's something I've been waiting to say to you both for a long time — (Melodramatically) You're fired!
What the Hell Is That Accent?: Sting's singing voice is best described as "indistinctly Mediterranean." Also, Stewart Copeland, being an American who grew up in the Middle East before moving to England - his accent on the first verse of "Does Everyone Stare" is more neutral, while "On Any Other Day" sounds more American (which is admittedly pretty comical to hear for lyrics with British colloquialisms like "I'm the chap who lives in it"). Andy, while normally averting this and singing in his normal Lancashire accent on "Someone To Talk To" and "Sally (Be My Girl)", lapsed into it while performing the ranting, yelled vocals on "Mother", which sound noticeably more American/indistinctly mid-Atlantic, and recites the lyrics of "Friends" in some kind of indistinct exaggerated UK accent (oi loik to eat moi friends...).
In an interview, Copeland explained that the title came from a series of Portmanteaus: the first word comes from Zen and the name of Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta, while the latter is a combination of the Italian word for "world" and a nod to their earlier Regatta de Blanc. He added that their Working Titles were in a similar vein, such as Trimondo Blondomina (three blonds dominating the world) and Caprido Von Renislam (less portmanteau, more of a misspelling of Catharina van Renneslaan, the name of the street where Wisseloord Studios was located).
Outlandos d'Amour, for that matter, borders on this due to its mish-mash of English portmanteaus (outlaws + commandos) and incorrect French.
Lived here too long to be afraid anymore You can't find the bed, so you sleep on the floor
Yandere: "Can't Stand Losing You" is a suicidal version. Hilariously enough, the BBC sidestepped the lyrics and instead banned the single because of the cover art (Copeland with a noose around his neck standing on a block of ice).