The Police

The Police were an English New Wave/modern-rock trio that released five albums on A&M between 1978 and 1983. The band was formed by ex-Curved Air drummer Stewart Copeland in 1977, releasing its first single that summer on brother Miles Copeland’s Illegal Records label. After the arrival of veteran guitarist Andy Summers, the lineup stabilized around the classic three-piece that achieved international fame during the early 1980s with the albums Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity. Bassist/vocalist Sting subsequently launched a successful solo career and parlayed into film roles and philanthropy.

Members: Sting (vocals, bass), Stewart Copeland (drums, vocals), Henry Padovani (guitar, 1977), Andy Summers (guitar, vocals, 1977-86)

In early 1977, American drummer Stewart Copeland was fresh off a two-album stint with Curved Air when he took a sudden interest in the New Wave. He spotted Sting (aka Gordon Sumner) fronting Newcastle jazz-rockers Last Exit and immediately saw star potential in the singing bassist. French guitarist Henry Padovani (briefly of punk-rockers London) initially held down the guitar slot. This formative Police lineup toured with Cherry Vanilla and issued the Illegal single “Fall Out” / “Nothing Achieving” in May 1977.

Immediately after that release, the band were summoned to France by erstwhile Gong bassist Mike Howlett. The two parties performed a Paris Gong reunion concert as Strontium 90 and cut several demos, including an embryonic version of the Sting composition “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” These recordings were unearthed two decades later on the disc Strontium 90: Police Academy.

The Strontium gig marked the first interaction between Sting, Copeland and veteran guitarist Andy Summers, who promptly joined The Police. Summers had played in a string of ’60s era acts (Zoot Money, Dantalian’s Chariot, The Animals). In 1975, he was named as a possible replacement for Mick Taylor in The Rolling Stones. This four-man Police gigged briefly before Padovani left for Wayne County and the Electric Chairs.

The Police were singed to A&M in 1978 and issued the reggae-rocker “Roxanne” as a single that April. The song was met with resistance from programmers on first release due to its lyrical content about the narrator’s love for a prostitute. It reappeared in November on the band’s debut album Outlandos d’Amour, which yielded two further reggaefied singles, “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely.” The album also documents the band’s early punk leanings (“Next to You,” “Peanuts,” “Truth Hits Everybody”) while previewing future sonic developments on the harmonic-tinged instrumental “Masoko Tanga”: an early showcase for Summers’ chorused guitar techniques. As on all future albums, Sting assumed the bulk of writing credits. His “Born in the ’50s” is an early example of boomer self-reflection: a theme that would dominate pop culture and journalism in the coming decade.


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