Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Police

Go To
The classic line-up of The Police.note 
Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways, looking for a home.
— "Message in a Bottle"

The Police were an English-American rock/New Wave Music/Post-Punk/"white reggae" trio formed in 1977 by bassist and lead vocalist Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Henry Padovani. Padovani was soon replaced by former Eric Burdon and the Animals guitarist Andy 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?

The peak of their popularity came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which they released five studio albums and assorted singles. However, the members' clashing personalities and consequent frequent infighting led to the band breaking up in March 1984; they re-united briefly in 1986 to re-record their 1980 single "Don't Stand So Close to Me", but broke up again shortly afterward because of a lengthy argument Sting and Copeland had over which drum machine to use (Copeland had broken his collarbone earlier in a horse riding accident and couldn't play drums for a while, which also meant the band couldn't jam out any residual stress). 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, which made them the world's highest earning musicians at the time, ended in August 2008.

With album sales topping 50 million and a string of hit singles including "Roxanne", "Message in a Bottle", "Don't Stand So Close to Me", "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic", and "Every Breath You Take", the Police remain one of the most iconic acts of their era.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Stewart Copeland - drums, percussion, (some) guitar, backing and lead vocals, (some) piano, synthesizer, keyboard, xylophone (1977–1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
  • Henry Padovani - guitar (1977, 2008)
  • Andy Summers - (most of the) 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)

Studio and Live Discography:

Every trope you take:

  • Abuse Discretion Shot: The song "Don't Stand So Close To Me" is about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and an underage schoolgirl, but never actually says what happens between them. The first two verses are about the growing attraction between the two; the second verse ends "Wet bus stop, she's waiting, his car is warm and dry". Then the song cuts to the chorus. The third verse deals with the aftermath of the encounter.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: It was a recurring trend when Nigel Gray worked on their albums to name their albums after something foreign-sounding. They stopped doing this when Hugh Padgham took over as their producer.
    • Outlandos d'Amour (the name of their debut album) loosely translates from French into "Outlaws of Love". The title isn't even completely French. "Outlandos" is actually a portmanteau of "outlaws" and "commandos".
    • Reggatta de Blanc (see Word Salad Title below), which is meant to suggest "white reggae" but in fact means "boat race" (Italian, misspelled) and "of white" (French).
    • Zenyattà Mondatta has "Zen" (as in Buddhism) mixed with "Kenyatta" (as in the president of Kenya) and the French word monde ("world"). Oh, and an meaningless diacritic. It's evocative of the band's world-music-inspired sound, but that's it.
    • The scat singing in "Masoko Tanga". The title of the song itself sounds foreign (though it could be Japanese as typing it into Google Translate in Hiragana reveals that it apparently translates to "Over there").
  • AstroTurf: 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 most of those letters were written by one Stewart Copeland.
  • Awesome Ego: During their heyday, Sting had a massive ego, something he completely owned up to then, and especially does nowadays. Case in point, for some time Sting played a fretless bass during live shows, not because of its unique sound, but because they are notoriously difficult to play in tune, and he wanted to show off.
  • Bags of Letters: The "Message in a Bottle" gets 100 billion bottles in reply.
  • Ballad of a Sex Worker: "Roxanne"
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Sting is tall, Stewart is even taller, and Andy is a good few inches shorter than both of them.
  • Black Comedy: "Can't Stand Losing You", "Friends", "Murder By Numbers".
  • Boxed Set: The band released two career-spanning ones in the years since their breakup:
    • 1993's Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings contains almost every song that the band released throughout their career, remastered and arranged in chronological order. Because the set encompasses four CDs — one less than the amount of studio albums the Police put out — Reggatta de Blanc is split across the first two discs, with side one closing CD one and side two opening CD two. The remasters were later reused for the 1995 standalone reissues of the band's studio albums, with the copyright year updated to match.
    • 2018's Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings also features all five of the band's studio albums, newly remastered once again, but puts each one on its own disc this time around. The Flexible Strategies disc features only 10 of the 24 rarities that were included on Message in a Box (plus the B-side "Murder by Numbers", which is no longer a bonus track on Synchronicity in this iteration), but compensates for the ones dropped by featuring a previously unreleased re-recording of "Truth Hits Everybody" made during the Synchronicity sessions in 1983.
  • Bravado Song: Overlapping with The Cover Changes the Meaning, the band's rendition of Grace Jones' "Demolition Man" on Ghost in the Machine refits the song to depict the titular Demolition Man bragging about the various life-threatening situations he puts himself in.
  • Break-Up Song: "Every Breath You Take," "Can't Stand Losing You," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "Someone To Talk To".
  • Careful with That Axe: Sting's voice. It's a high-pitched Caribbean-tinged howl that's often mistaken for falsetto. Sting himself has taken to calling himself a "heavy metal singer" because the technique he uses has a lot in common with a classic type Metal Scream.
  • Canis Latinicus: In the video for the 1980 version of "Don't Stand So Close to Me", the chalkboard in the classroom scenes features the schoolboy fake Latin poem "Caesar adsum jam forte / Brutus et arat / Caesar sic on omnibus / Brutus in his hat."note 
  • Cannot Spit It Out: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Dead End Job."
  • 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.
      "Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met?
      It's a big enough umbrella but it's always me that ends up getting wet"
    • 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".
    • And at the end of "We'll Be Together", Sting briefly reprises the lyrics of "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free".
    • The video for the 1986 version of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" includes background montages from the video for the 1980 version of the song, as well as the video for "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da". There are also visual allusions to, or sometimes brief glimpses of, the cover art for each of the band's five studio albums and the rows of candles from the video for "Wrapped Around Your Finger".
  • Cover Version: For a given definition of "cover," considering that Sting wrote it, "Demolition Man" was originally performed by Grace Jones.
  • 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.
  • A Day 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of them, Andy Summers especially. 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".
  • Drone of Dread: The intro of "Don't Stand So Close to Me"
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: "Message in a Bottle"
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Police's 1977 debut single, "Fall Out", and its B-Side, "Nothing Achieving", are closer to straight punk than the New Wave Music/reggae mix that would define the band's sound from their first album onward. Incidentally, the original punk angle is maintained on most of the band's non-album B-sides (albeit polished up a bit), stretching all the way to "A Sermon" in 1980. It wasn't until "Shambelle" in 1981 that the band would carry over the sound on their albums to the original B-sides as well.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous French: 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).
  • 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.
    • Sting's 1950's Fender Telecaster/Precision Bass. It's gotten it's own long-running signature model, and basically every every gear related interview ends with Sting praising the instrument. It's pretty much the only bass he even uses.
    • Andy Summers' customised Fender Telecaster, with a Gibson pickup in the neck position and onboard preamp; it's also been a Fender signature model. It was like that when he bought it from one of his guitar students. To a certain extent, his red Fender Stratocaster.
  • 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 Gets Easier: "Murder By Numbers"
  • 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."
  • Lead Bassist: Sting was a type B, C and D
  • Lighter and Softer: There's a steady downward slope of edginess from the rough reggae punk of their first album to Sting's adult contemporary solo career. The band's later albums, while not as raw in production as the debut, made up in edginess with the band members' instrumental virtuosity, at least one or two songs fast-paced, heavy or both, and plenty of Nightmare Fuel, Obsession Songs and Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Loudness War: Averted with the 2003 remasters, which come in at around DR11 on average 4 albums out of 5 (even then, the one that averages lower than DR11, Outlandos D'Amour, still averages at a reasonable DR9).
  • Love Makes You Crazy: "Next to You":
    I sold my house, I sold my motor too
    All I want is to be next to you
    I'd rob a bank, maybe steal a plane
    You took me over, think I'm going insane
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Every Breath You Take" is often mistaken for a love ballad. Oh, how wrong they are. 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.
    • "Synchronicity II" is a cheerful, energetic song about a dysfunctional family, including a mother who attempts suicide and a grandmother with psychosis. And possibly a father who tries to kill them by ramming his car into the house.
  • Mephistopheles: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is loosely based on Faust, revolving around a man who seeks forbidden knowledge from a mysterious teacher, who themself previously sold their destiny away in exchange for this knowledge (represented by a golden ring that they wear). The pupil explicitly compares the teacher to Mephistopheles as a result and aims to avoid meeting the same fate by becoming the teacher's master instead.
  • Military 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.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Ghost In the Machine and its accompanying single, "Invisible Sun".
  • 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.
  • New Sound Album: Zenyatta Mondatta instigated a shift away from the reggae fusion sound of the band's first two albums in favor of a more atmospheric sound with greater use of synths, and Synchronicity galvanized it by incorporating jazz fusion and Sophisti-Pop elements. The band's last two studio recordings, redos of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", take the approach on Synchronicity even further, being outright adult contemporary songs in-line with Sting's then-green solo career; it's likely that had the band managed to stick together long enough for at least another full album, it would've been dominated by this same sophisti-pop-tinged approach.
  • New Wave Music: One of the more experimental acts from the British side of the movement, especially during the 80's, which results in them straddling the line between it and Post-Punk enough to be placed under both labels simultaneously.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The band's sound is best described as Punk and New Wave, mixed with Reggae, as played by three experienced and highly trained Jazz and Prog musicians.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Despite being the lead singer and face of the band, Sting's bass playing is comparatively rarely commented on, despite playing such a huge role in the band's sound. Then again, when playing with a 20-year industry veteran of a guitarist and a world-class virtuoso drummer, it's tough not to be overshadowed a bit.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Wrapped Around Your Finger".
  • 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 Sting wouldn'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.
  • Older and Wiser: Andy, over a decade older than the rest, with close to 20 years of music business experience when they started. Generally the guy that rocked the boat the least. Not that he didn't join in a fair bit of course.
  • Older Than They Look: Andy Summers was a full decade older than Sting and Stewart and had already been in the music business for close to twenty years when the Police hit it big, not that he looked more than a few years older at best.
    • These days, all of them count. Since none of them lived super unhealthy lives as rockstars, you'd be shocked to realize Stewart or Sting are pushing seventy, and Andy Summers just a small few years from eighty, by looking at them or seeing them play.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience:
    • "Next to You" is a fast catchy Punk Rock/New Wave tune with a slide guitar solo.
    • Except for the slide solo, "Truth Hits Everybody" fits the mold as well.
    • 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.
    • "Mother" off of Synchronicity is less a conventional new wave song and more a shouted cacophony of pure, unfiltered dada. It's about as far-removed from the Police's usual output as it could get.
  • Overcrank: The video for "Wrapped Around Your Finger".
  • Post-Punk: One of the lighter-sounding bands from the British end of the movement, which consequently results in them being more readily categorized as a New Wave Music band instead. Despite this, their reggae fusion sound and increasing experimentation over the course of their careers has resulted in a number of analysts vouching for the Police as an important name in the British post-punk scene, demonstrating how the musical aesthetic can attain high levels of mainstream accessibility without compromising its leftfield ethos.
  • 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.
  • 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, "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.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A middle-aged British Invasion-era guitarist, a former army brat turned Prog Rock drummer, and a former schoolteacher/Jazz bassist from a tiny northern England town.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Word of God states that the teacher in "Don't Stand So Close to Me" raped the student in his "warm and dry" car, which leads to his eventual firing at the song's climax.
  • 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.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sting and Stewart were Red - hot-headed and constantly at each other's throats, Andy's blue, not completely innocent when it came to arguing, but overall far more diplomatic.
  • 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.
    • For the movie Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, Stewart got clearance to use the original multitracks for remixing, and scored the movie with the resulting "derangements".
  • Robinsonade: "Message in a Bottle".
  • Rock Trio
  • Sampling:
    • The riff and main verse structure from "Every Breath You Take" was sampled by Puff Daddy and made into the song "I'll Be Missing You" in commemoration of Biggie Smalls' death.
    • "Behind My Camel" has been sampled in "S.H.E. (Seductive Human Erotica)" by Tech N9ne.
  • Sanity Slippage Song:
    • Implied by the final verse of "Synchronicity II".
    • And also in "Shadows in the Rain".
    • "Can't Stand Losing You" is another example.
    • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Don't Stand So Close to Me", again:
      It's no use
      He sees her
      He starts to shake and cough
      Just like the
      Old man in
      That book by Nabokovnote 
    • Reportedly, Sting got the title for "Roxanne" from a poster of Cyrano de Bergerac he saw in a hotel in Paris.
    • 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.
    • "King of Pain" includes the lyrics "There's a king on the throne with his eyes torn out."
    • "Friends" references Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, "Your death, of course, will sadden me until I grok your essence."
  • Sibling Team: Stewart played the drums, and his older brother Miles Copeland III served as the band's manager.
  • Singing Simlish: "Masoko Tanga", "Reggatta de Blanc".
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Sting's normal speaking voice sounds absolutely nothing like his singing voice.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Voices Inside my Head".
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Stewart Copeland.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Andy Summers was in the 60's British Rock scene, along with all the biggest names in music, but never ended up making much of a splash. What he did do however, was sell one Eric Clapton the Les Paul guitar he ended up using in Cream - the one that ended up defining rock guitar up to present day.
  • Spurned into Suicide: The person singing "Can't Stand Losing You" implies that he's going to do this because he doesn't want to live without the girl who rejected him. Of course he also says that he's going to make her feel guilty for pushing him into the act.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Famously in the song "Every Breath You Take". Not that too many people got that...
  • 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).
  • Surpassed the Teacher: "Wrapped Around Your Finger", in the end.
  • Sex Drugs And Rock N Roll: Averted. While the band did have the intense infighting that's expected of a classic rock band, the band themselves weren't particularly wild. In fact, all three of them were either married, or in long-term relationships.
    • Sting himself has always been a health nut, and before his career took off, he worked as a schoolteacher.
  • Take That!: Stewart Copeland infamously taped a number of rude things about Sting onto his drum set, so he'd hit them harder.
    • This tendency may have single-handedly contributed to the R-rating for Urgh! A Music War, as the inscription "F*CK OFF YOU C*NT" is clearly visible on Stewart's drumheads. In every shot he appears in from the rear drumming.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • According to Sting, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" is a harsh deconstruction of the trope. The student faces heavy amounts of bullying from her peers as a result of their naïve jealousy of her, while the teacher is only able to participate in the relationship by going against his better conscience and sexually exploiting her, up to and including raping her in his "warm and dry" car one night (which isn't directly stated in the lyrics, but is implied via the allusion to Lolita at the end of the last verse). In the end, the teacher ends up being deservingly fired for his actions once word gets out among the rest of the staff, but this doesn't ultimately make everything better for the girl, as she still has to face constant bullying from the other students as a result of everyone finding out about what happened.
    • "Wrapped Around Your Finger" sings of the relationship between a student and his teacher (the knowledge the student seeks from the teacher is left deliberately vague), the student vowing that while he may now have effectively sold his soul for the knowledge the teacher can impart, he will one day turn the tables and wrap the teacher around his finger.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Big time. Most punk and new wave bands in their were comprised of young, inexperienced musicians that had a raw, simple style both out of necessity and as a reaction to the perceived stuffiness of progressive rock and its ilk. Sting was a jazz musician, Andy was also a jazz musician and was originally part of the British Invasion whereas Stewart was a longtime former member of the prog band Curved Air.
    • This actually caused them some grief in the early years from fellow new wave bands, who saw the trio of trained, highly skilled musicians as "posers", trying to capitalize on the explosion of punk-inspired music. However, this mostly died down as new wave scene in general began moving in a more technically sophisticated direction as well.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: They were patron saints of this trope, being (as they themselves freely admitted) three men with very strong egos who had all been established musicians in their own rightnote  before forming into a band essentially by chance. They would fight over tracks to be included, with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers trying to get their compositions on albums dominated by Sting's songs (though, admittedly, they did concede Sting was the strongest songwriter of the trio). This included the Grammy-winning instrumental, the Copeland/Summers-written "Behind My Camel" from Zenyatta Mondatta. Sting refused to play at all on the track, and even buried his copy of the master in his garden. By the end of the band's main run in 1986, they were barely speaking to each other, and their last recording sessions were fatally marred by a vicious fight between Sting and Stewart Copeland over, of all things, which drum machine to use on their re-recording of "Don't Stand So Close To Me".note 
  • Title-Only Chorus: The Police love this trope, particularly in their earlier stuff - "Roxanne," "So Lonely," "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Walking in Your Footsteps," "Can't Stand Losing You", "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around," "Spirits in the Material World" (more or less), "The Bed's Too Big Without You," "It's Alright for You", "Hole in my Life," "Born in the '50s", "Truth Hits Everybody," "Driven to Tears," "Rehumanize Yourself", "Someone to Talk to", and there are probably a few more.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • "On Any Other Day" is this Played for Laughs.
      My wife has burned the scrambled eggs
      The dog just bit my leg
      My teenage daughter ran away
      My fine young son has turned out gay
      And it would be OK on any other day
      And it would be OK on any other day
    • "Synchronicity II" has it Played for Drama.
      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 more that he can take
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: There's actually two different scenarios going on in "Synchronicity II": A family drama gets to the point where it disturbs the sleep of whatever's at the bottom of a dark Scottish loch. And it's none too pleased. The two events aren't linked by cause-and-effect, but by coincidence that seems symbolic to the observer — the literal definition of "synchronicity".
  • 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 (though in a 2022 interview, Copeland denied that the "FUCK OFF YOU CUNT" message was aimed at anyone in particular, describing it as "a jocular moment during soundcheck").
    • 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...).
  • Word Purée Title: Once more, "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Masoko Tanga".
  • Word Salad Title:
    • Outlandos d'Amour borders on this due to its mish-mash of English portmanteaus (outlaws + commandos) and incorrect French.
    • Zenyattà Mondatta. 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).
  • Wretched Hive: The one in "Low Life" sounds like a pretty fun one.
    Lived here too long to be afraid anymore
    You can't reach 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).
    • "Every Breath You Take". The singer will be watching the object of the song, whatever she does and whenever she does it - after all, as he says in the refrain, can't she see she belongs to him?