The Police

The Police were an English rock trio that released five albums between 1978 and 1983 on A&M. They were the most commercially successful British act of the new wave era with five UK No. 1 singles, including “Every Breath You Take,” the No. 1 song of 1983 on the US Billboard chart.

Drummer Stewart Copeland formed The Police with singer-bassist Sting. After one indie single, their lineup finalized with veteran guitarist Andy Summers.

The Police fuse reggae and rock on their debut album Outlandos d’Amour, which features the early hits “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” and “So Lonely.” They rose to international stardom with their 1979 second album Reggatta de Blanc and the UK chart-toppers “Message In a Bottle” and “Walking On the Moon,” both marked by Summers’ flanged tones and Sting’s distinct tenor. Their 1980 third album Zenyatta Mondatta contains the hits “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (their third UK No. 1) and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” plus the live staple “Driven to Tears.”

The Police embraced music video with their 1981 release Ghost in the Machine, a transatlantic chart-topper with the global hit “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (their fourth UK No. 1) and the radio staples “Spirits In the Material World” and “Invisible Sun.”

The Police reached peak-level popularity with their 1983 release Synchronicity, which spawned the MTV staples “Every Breath You Take,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “Synchronicity II,” and the radio hit “King of Pain.” The album spent seventeen weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and launched a world tour.

Sting made his first solo album and took acting roles. The Police regrouped for “Don’t Stand So Close to Me 86,” included on their 1986 compilation Every Breath You Take: The Singles.

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


The Police formed in early 1977 when London-based American drummer Stewart Copeland (b. 1952) took an interest in the nascent new wave scene. He arrived in England two years earlier and worked as a roadie for Curved Air, a post-psych band managed by his older brother Miles Copeland III, the founder of British Talent Management Ltd. Stewart joined the band for their 1975–76 albums Midnight Wire and Airborne and courted frontwoman Sonja Kristina.

Upon Curved Air’s demise, Copeland scouted for a leaner rock-based unit. He spotted Sting (aka Gordon Sumner, b. 1951) fronting Newcastle jazz-rockers Last Exit and immediately saw star potential in the singing bassist. French guitarist Henry Padovani (briefly of punk-rockers London) completed the initial lineup.


The Police made their live debut as the opening act for Cherry Vanilla on March 1, 1977, at Alexander’s in Newport, Wales. Two nights later, they played at the Roxy Club in Convent Garden, the epicenter of the burgeoning punk scene.

“Fall Out”

The Police released their first single, “Fall Out” (b/w “Nothing Achieving”), in May 1977 on Illegal Records, an indie founded by Miles Copeland after the collapse of BTM.

Fall Out” (2:01) Sting asserts his defiance of “all the leaders and gangs.” He also refuses to follow convention (“my education… was my indoctrination”) because he’s “got [his] own machine.”

Nothing Achieving” (1:55) Sting rejects his father’s ways (“My daddy’s boots don’t fit me ’cause I’m bigger than him”) but struggles with his own futile outlook (“there’s nothing worth achieving, all your dreams are just deceiving… locked the doors on your good living… throwing stones that are reeling”).

“Fall Out” was the inaugural release on the label (IL 001), which also issued singles by The Wasps, Menace, and John Cale. The label hatched Deptford Fun City Records, which issued the EP Packet of Three, the 1977 debut release by Squeeze.

Elsewhere, Copeland augmented Metro for their standalone single “Naive” (b/w “Innocence”), released in mid-1977 as Public Zone. Now commited to The Police’s launch, he declined an invitation to join Metro.

Immediately after “Fall Out,” erstwhile Gong bassist Mike Howlett summoned The Police to France, where 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 surfaced 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 (b. 1942), a longtime journeyman with roots in the beat era (Zoot Money, Dantalian’s Chariot, The Animals). In 1975, his name arose as a possible replacement for Mick Taylor in The Rolling Stones.

Summers joined The Police, which briefly gigged as a four-piece before Padovani joined tour mates Wayne County & the Electric Chairs. The classic trio lineup of Sting, Copeland, and Summers made their live debut on August 18, 1977, at Rebecca’s in Birmingham. That same month, they played the second Mont de Marsan Punk Festival, which also featured sets by The Clash, The Damned, Dr. Feelgood, and Eddie & the Hot Rods. (Another slated act, The Jam, missed their slot.)


The Police played nine documented London shows in the first ten weeks of 1978, including sets at the Rock Garden, The Vortex, Hope & Anchor, Red Cow, and Rainbow Theatre. On January 22, they headlined the Marquee. A&M Records signed the band for worldwide distribution.

In February, The Police appeared as a punk band in a commercial for Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum. Sting and Stewart Copeland bleached their hair for the unaired commercial, directed by English filmmaker Tom Scott (The Hunger, Top Gun).

Stewart Copeland moonlighted as Klark Kent on the May 1978 single “Don’t Care,” a punk-pop song backed with “Thrills” and “Office Girls.” He issued the song on green vinyl on self-press Kryptone Records. In June, A&M picked up the single. “Don’t Care” reached No. 48 on the UK Singles Chart. Copeland mimed the song in green-face (on guitar) on the August 31 broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops. He continued the Klark Kent alter ego with the November 1978 Kryptone release “Too Kool to Kalypso,” another green-vinyl cut backed with the instrumental “Theme for Kinetic Ritual.”

“Roxanne”, “Cant Stand Losing You”

On April 7, 1978, The Police released “Roxanne,” a Sting reggae-rocker backed with “Peanuts,” a Sting–Copeland punk number. “Roxanne” faced radio resistance due to its lyrics about a prostitute. The Police self-produced the single at Surrey Sound Studios, a recently built facility at 70 Kingston Road, Leatherhead, owned by engineer Nigel Gray.

“Roxanne” (3:02) is a mid-tempo song with a choppy five-chord descent based in G minor. Sting portrays a suitor who doesn’t want his love interest to “put on the red light,” a reference to Amsterdam’s Red Light district, where Sting drew inspiration for the song. He pleads with her not to “sell [her] body to the night” and counters her sense of boundaries (“You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right”) with his (“It’s a bad way”).

On August 14, 1978, The Police released “Can’t Stand Losing You,” another reggae–rock hybrid with comically grim lyrics about post-romantic despair. It’s backed with the exclusive “Dead End Job,” a punked-out rant about menial labor.

“Can’t Stand Losing You” (2:59) Sting plays an emotionally crippled dejectee who pines for his former love. He phones her constantly to no avail and ends the first two verses with increased despondency (“not prepared to go on like this… to carry on living doesn’t make no sense”). On the third verse, he goads her sense of grief (“you’ll be sorry when I’m dead”) and ends on his bleakest sentiment: “I guess you’d call it suicide but I’m too full to swallow my pride.”

Dead End Job” (3:35) Sting dissowns his background in menial labor (builder, bus conductor) and education (English teacher at St Paul’s First School, 1974–75) with the line “Don’t wanna be no teacher, I don’t wanna be no slave!” He claims he’s content as a local miser with no ambitions for wealth or travel.

Don’t wanna be no millionaire
on’t wanna own no mint
I don’t wanna be no tax exile
And I don’t mind being skint

In the final lines, he ad libs the title with random profanities.

The Police made videos for “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You,” both filmed on the same day on a red soundstage with the band dressed in black. Neither single charted on first release.

On October 10, 1978, The Police made their UK television debut on the BBC music program The Old Gray Whistle Set, where they performed “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Next to You.” On October 20, they made their US debut at New York’s CBGB’s

Outlandos d’Amour

The Police released their debut album, Outlandos d’Amour, on November 2, 1978, on A&M.  It includes “Roxanne,” “Peanuts,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” and another reggaefied track, “So Lonely.”

Outlandos d’Amour documents the band’s early punk leanings (“Next to You,” “Peanuts,” “Truth Hits Everybody”) and previews future sonic developments on the harmonic-tinged instrumental “Masoko Tanga,” an early showcase of Andy Summers’ chorused guitar techniques.

Sting sole-wrote everything apart from “Peanuts” and “Sally,” a Summers soliloquy inserted in “Be My Girl,” an all-chorus rocker preceded by “Born in the ’50s,” an early example of boomer self-reflection: a popular theme in 1980s entertainment and journalism.

1. “Next to You” (2:50) Sting can’t stand another day “so many miles away” from his new girl. He sold his house and motor and says he’d “rob a bank [and] maybe steal a plane” to be next to her. Though he’s “had a thousand girls,” he admits his own conquest (“You took me over, think I’m goin’ insane!”).

2. “So Lonely” (4:50) Sting can’t convince himself to live without his departed love. He feels as though “no one’s knocked upon [his] door for a thousand years or more” and refers to his life as a “one man show” in a theatre he calls his soul.

3. “Roxanne” (3:12) The album version is ten seconds longer than the original single. The Outlandos credits list Sting on “butt piano.”

4. “Hole in My Life” (4:55) Sting reveals his bleak emotional state (“shadow in my heart”) that makes him “shake like an incurable.”

5. “Peanuts” (4:02) Stings assails a “famous name” who’s “not the same” as in his prime when his songs served to “liberate” and “elevate” onetime fans like Sting, who’s irritated by the “muck [the press is] raking” of this “fallen hero” (“Don’t wanna hear about the drugs you’re taking… life you’re faking”). The title references the peanut gallery, a Vaudevillian pasttime where hecklers in the cheapest seats tossed peanuts at stumbling performers.

6. “Can’t Stand Losing You” (2:59) Middle-eight: five-note bassline that scales from root to fifth on a two-chord progression (B♭→C); repurposed for the title track of the second Police album.

7. “Truth Hits Everybody” (2:55) is a brisk rocker with poetic verses about a personal epiphany. Sting abandons delusion “like a broken ocean” and awakes to a newfound truth, which becomes his weapon (“Take a look at my new toy, it’ll blow your head in two”).

8. “Born in the 50’s” (3:45) Sting recalls key points of boomer childhood (JFK’s assasination, Beatlemania) and how the GI generation reacted differently to news events (his mother thought the communists killed Kennedy but Sting “knew better”). He summarizes his generation as “the class they couldn’t teach” but bemoans the loss of sixties idealism (“we lost our faith and prayed to the TV… freeze like statues on the pages of history”). He notes that British life changed as fewer people relied on “all those G.C.E.’s” (General Certificate of Education, the UK equivalent of the high school diploma). As a young boomer, he rants at the GI generation:

Oh you opened the door for us
And then you turned to dust
You don’t understand us
So don’t reprimand us
We’re taking the future
We don’t need no teacher

9. “Be My Girl—Sally” (3:24) is an uptempo buzzsaw chorus (in D) where Sting affixes “won’t you” to the title. After three quatrains, the music cuts to a piano–vocal soliloquy by Summers. He portrays a lonesome drunk who buys an imported blow-up doll: a “cuddly… bouncy… guarantee of joy” who wears “a permanent grin” and who only makes him worry when “my girl wears pins.”

10. “Masoko Tanga” (5:42) Masoko is Swahili for “markets.” Sting mumbles half-formed English lines (“keyboard is a… kicking a wall baby”) with faux-foreign syllables. One full-formed coma splice: “Took a lot of drugs, watch the tide roll out.”

The Police self-produced Outlandos d’Amour between January and June 1978 at Surrey Sound Studios, where Nigel Gray engineered the album with his brother Chris. Nigel also worked on “Don’t Care” and concurrent titles by Alternative TV and Godley & Creme (L).

Sting plays harmonica on “So Lonely.” Summers handles piano on “Sally.” The album’s title derives from Portuguese (Outlandos = Outlands) and French (d’Amour = of Love).

Outlandos d’Amour displays the Police logo (slanted left, sans serif, bold all-caps), a mainstay of group albums and sleeves through 1980. Freelance artist Les May designed the cover, which shows a saturated group-photo in the London Underground by Melody Maker photographer Janette Beckman, also credited on Too Kool to Kalypso and 1978 sleeves by Spizzoil and David Kubinec. May’s recent visual credits include 1976–77 titles by Café Jacques (Round the Back), Lone Star, Moon, and Tina Charles.

The Police lifted “So Lonely” as their fourth single, backed with “No Time This Time,” an exclusive b-side for the time being.

Outlandos d’Amour received little notice on first release. The Police embarked on a five-week autumn US tour (Oct. 20–Nov. 25) that raised their transatlantic profile. In February 1979, “Roxanne” reached No. 31 in Canada and No. 32 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This spurred newfound interest in the UK, where the re-released single reached No. 12 and lifted Outlandos d’Amour to No. 6 on the albums chart.

In June 1979, A&M reissued “Can’t Stand Losing You,” which peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart under “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats.

Outlandos d’Amour reached No. 2 in the Netherlands, No. 6 in New Zealand, and No. 15 in Australia. In North America, the album reached No. 22 in Canada and No. 23 on the US Billboard 200.


Sting made his acting debut in Quadrophenia, the 1979 action-drama adaptation of the 1973 rock opera by The Who. He plays the Ace Face, a scooter-riding spiv who leads a group of mods through battles with the rockers in 1964 Brighton. The film stars singer Phil Daniels as Jimmy, a lowly mod with double-schizophrenia who idolizes Ace but later discovers that the Face works by day as a bellboy.

Sting sings “Nuclear Waste,” an ecological punk-protest song by The Radio Actors, a Charly Records one-off assembled by Mike Howlett with alumni of Gong, Hawkwind, and the Edgar Broughton Band.

Reggatta de Blanc

The Police released their second album, Reggatta de Blanc, on October 5, 1979, on A&M. It’s their first of four consecutive No. 1 albums on the UK and Australian charts.

Reggatta opens with the pre-released single “Message in a Bottle” and contains four additional Sting compositions, including “Bring On the Night,” “No Time This Time,” and “Walking on the Moon,” the album’s second single.

Stewart Copeland submitted three Side Two cuts (“On Any Other Day,” “Contact,” “Does Everyone Stare”) and co-wrote “It’s Alright for You” with Sting. “Deathwish” and the title track are group compositions.

1. “Message in a Bottle” (4:51)
2. “Reggatta de Blanc” (3:06)
3. “It’s Alright for You” (3:13)
4. “Bring On the Night” (4:15)
5. “Deathwish” (4:13)
6. “Walking on the Moon” (5:02)
7. “On Any Other Day” (2:57)
8. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” (4:26)
9. “Contact” (2:38)
10. “Does Everyone Stare” (3:52)
11. “No Time This Time” (3:17)

Sessions took place between February and August 1979 at Surrey Sound, where The Police co-produced the album with engineer Nigel Gray. Andy Summers plays all the keyboard tracks apart from “Does Anyone Stare,” which has a piano intro by Copeland. The album’s title translates roughly to “reggae in white” or “white reggae.” (Reggata — not a word is any language — is possibly a portmanteau of “reggae” and atta, an Indian flatbead flour.)

A&M art director Michael Ross designed the Reggatta de Blanc cover, which sports a blue monochrome zoom-in shot by photographer James Wedge, also credited on recent albums by Fischer-Z (Word Salad) and The Kinks (Sleepwalker, Misfits). Janette Beckman took the Reggatta back-cover photo: a face-down shot of their scalps. Ross also designed covers for 1979 A&M releases by Chris De Burgh, Elkie Brooks, Live Wire, Rick Wakeman, Squeeze (Cool for Cats), Tarney–Spencer Band (Run for Your Life), and the first two albums by Joe Jackson: Look Sharp! and I’m the Man, the latter with Reggatta-like visual elements (monochrome imagery lined with bold caps).

Three weeks ahead of Reggatta on September 14, The Police issued “Message In a Bottle” as their fifth single backed with the exclusive “Landlord.”

Landlord” (3:09)

“Message In a Bottle” reached No. 1 in Ireland and No. 2 in Canada and the Netherlands. On the week of September 25, it overtook “Cars” by Gary Numan on the UK Singles Chart, where it held No. 1 for three weeks and bowed to “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. TotP aired the clip on their Sept. 20 broadcast amid “Cars” and hits by Electric Light Orchestra (“Don’t Bring Me Down”), Kate Bush (“Them Heavy People”), Madness (“The Prince”), Rainbow (“Since You’ve Been Gone”), and Sad Cafe (“Every Day Hurts”).

In the “Message In a Bottle” video, The Police rehearse in a backstage dressing room, where Sting sports a red bow tie.

On November 16, The Police lifted “Walking On the Moon” as their sixth single backed with “Visions of the Night.”

Visions of the Night” (3:05)

“Walking On the Moon” became their second consecutive No. 1 single in Ireland and the UK, where it topped the chart on the week of December 4 and cleared for “Another Brick In the Wall” by Pink Floyd.

In the “Walking On the Moon” video, The Police mime “Walking On the Moon” beside a Saturn V moon rocket in the song’s video, filmed outside Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, with intermixed NASA archival footage. Sting holds a guitar (not bass) in the video, which TotP aired on its November 29 broadcast amid clips by Blondie (“Union City Blue”), Rose Royce (“Is It Love You’re After”), The Skids (“Working for the Yankee Dollar”), and in-house performances by The Moody Blues (“Nights In White Satin”) The Tourists (“I Only Want To Be With You”) and Thin Lizzy (“Sarah”).

In the US, “Bring On the Night” appeared in lieu of “Walking On the Moon” as the second Reggatta a-side. (Sting includes a jazz arrangement of “Bring On the Night” as part of an eleven-minute medley with a subsequent Police song, “When the World is Running Down,” on his 1986 live double-album Bring On the Night, also the title of a corresponding docu-film.)

Reggatta de Blanc reached No. 1 in the UK, Netherlands, and Australian and also went Top 10 in Canada (No. 3), New Zealand (No. 4), and Italy (No. 7). The album peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard 200.


The Police opened 1980 with a January–February US tour that included dates with The Specials (2/1: Showbox, Seattle) and XTC (2/5: Paramount Theatre, Portland, Ore).

In June 1980, an alternate version of the Reggatta track “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” appeared as a single in the UK, backed with a live version of “Truth Hits Everybody.” This was included in Six Pack, a collection of the band’s 1978–79 A&M singles, including “So Lonely,” which The Police singled out as a separate reissue.

Though it didn’t chart on its first release, the reissued “So Lonely” reached No. 6 in the UK and No. 7 in Ireland. Sting sports slicked-back hair and sunglasses in the “So Lonely” video, in which The Police mime with walkie talkies on a Tokyo subway.

Stewart Copeland resurrected the Klark Kent alter ego for the June 1980 A&M single “Away From Home” (b/w “Office Talk”) and its August followup “Rich in a Ditch” (b/w “Grandelinquent”). In the US, Miles Copeland gathered eight Klark Kent songs on an eponymous green-vinyl 10″ EP on I.R.S. Records, a new wave subsidiary of A&M.

Zenyatta Mondatta

The Police released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, on October 3, 1980, on A&M. It consolidated their breakthrough in multiple European markets and became their first Top 5 album on the US Billboard 200.

Zenyatta features eight Sting compositions, including “Driven to Tears,” “Man in a Suitcase,” and “Shadows in the Rain” plus the side openers “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” both released as singles. Andy Summers makes extensive use of chorused flange and contributes the Side Two instrumental “Behind My Camel.” Stewart Copeland submits the side-enders “Bombs Away” and “The Other Way of Stopping.”

Musically, Zenyatta ranges from uptempo new wave (“When the World Is Running Down,” “Bombs Away”) and ska (“Canary in a Coalmine,” “Man in a Suitcase”) to ethereal reggae (“Driven to Tears,” “Shadows in the Rain”) and post-punk (“Behind My Camel,” “The Other Way of Stopping”) with moments of harmonized reggae-rock (the two hits).

1. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (4:04)
2. “Driven to Tears” (3:20)
3. “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” (3:38)
4. “Canary in a Coalmine” (2:26) Summers plays piano.
5. “Voices Inside My Head” (3:53)
6. “Bombs Away” (3:06)

7. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” (4:09
8. “Behind My Camel” (2:54) Summers plays synthesizers and bass in Sting’s absence.
9. “Man in a Suitcase” (2:19)
10. “Shadows in the Rain” (5:04)
11. “The Other Way of Stopping” (3:22)

Sessions took place in July–August 1980 at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Netherlands, where The Police co-produced the album with Nigel Gray, who engineered Zenyatta Mondatta amid work on singles by Fay Ray and Klark Kent and albums by Code Blue, Hazel O’Connor (Sons and Lovers), The Planets, Siouxsie & The Banshees (Kaleidoscope), and Copeland’s partner (and onetime Curved Air bandmate) Sonja Kristina.

Zenyatta Mondatta sports a pyramid cover scheme with the yellow-lighted Police against a blue triangle with grandient orange surround. The back cover and inner-sleeve show collages of live and studio pics with the pyramid scheme. Janette Beckman to the front cover group photo and select pics in the three collages, which also contain photos by Miles Copeland and seven other photographers, including Watal Asanuma and NME photojournalist Adrian Boot, whose recent credits include album visuals for Buzzcocks (Singles Going Steady), Camel (I Can See Your House From Here), Def Leppard (On Through the Night), Magazine (Real Life), and Ultravox (Systems of Romance).

In Japanese, zeni yatta mondatta means “it was a gate that gave money” (銭 やった 門だった).

A week prior to Zenyatta, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” appeared on September 27 as the first single, backed with the non-album “Friends,” an Andy Summers composition. Original UK copies came in a six-fold poster sleeve with a saturated yellow–orange group pic (alternately green–purple).

Friends” (3:37)

The video to “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” intercuts scenes of Sting as a school teacher with footage of the band frolicking before the camera. Sting wears a sleeveless shirt emblazoned with The Beat logo and mascot.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” reached No. 1 in Ireland and Spain, No. 2 in Canada and New Zealand, and No. 3 in Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, and South Africa. It topped the chart for four weeks in the UK, where “Don’t Stand” became their third No. 1 single.

In late November, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” appeared as the second UK Zenyatta a-side, backed with “A Sermon,” a mostly self-performed Stewart Copeland song from 1977.

A Sermon” (2:34)

In the video to “De Do Do Do,” The Police mime outside a country resort in the deep winter snow. The song reached No. 1 on the Canadian CHUM chart and No. 2 in Ireland and Spain. It peaked at No. 6 in Australia and No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart.

In the United States, the a-sides were reversed. “De Do Do Do” appeared first (b/w “Friends”) and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (b/w “A Sermon”) became the second single in the US. Both songs peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Don’t Stand” reached No. 9 on the Cashbox Top 100).

Zenyatta Mondatta entered the UK Albums Chart at No. 1 and became the country’s second biggest-selling album of 1980 after Super Trouper by ABBA. Zenyatta also reached No. 1 in Australia and No. 2 in Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands. It also went Top 10 in Germany (No. 5), New Zealand (No. 3), Sweden (No. 8), and the US, where it reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200.


The Police appear on Urgh! A Music War, a 1981 multi-artist concert film with an accompanying two-record soundtrack on A&M. A late-1980 live performance of “Driven to Tears” opens the film and album, which features thirty-eight new wave acts, including 999, Au Pairs, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, Magazine, The Members, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Pere Ubu, Skafish, Toyah Willcox, and Wall of Voodoo.

Sting partook in The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, a benefit show for human rights efforts at London’s Drury Lane Theatre, hosted by the British Section of Amnesty International. He did unaccompanied acoustic solo renditions of “Roxanne” and “Message In a Bottle” at the September 12 event, which also featured sets by Pete Townshend, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Donovan, and Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof.

Ghost in the Machine

The Police released their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, on October 2, 1981, on A&M. Side One features four of the band’s most well-known songs: “Spirits in the Material World,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Invisible Sun,” and “Demolition Man.” Sting wrote eight songs and co-wrote “Rehumanize Yourself” with Stewart Copeland, who wrote the album-closer “Darkness.”

Sting lifted the album title from a 1967 book about philosophical psychology by Hungarian science historian Arthur Koestler. Andy Summers wrote “Ωmegaman,” inspired by The Omega Man, a 1971 American post-apocalyptic action film starring Charleton Heston.

Ghost in the Machine includes reggae-rock (“Spirits in the Material World,” “Hungry for You,” “One World (Not Three)”) and dark ethereal numbers (“Invisible Sun,” “Secret Journey,” “Darkness”). Sting plays saxophone on “Too Much Information” and the uptempo cuts “Demolition Man” and “Rehumanize Yourself.”

1. “Spirits in the Material World” (2:59)
2. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (4:22)
3. “Invisible Sun” (3:44)
4. “Hungry for You (J’Aurais Toujours Faim De Toi)” (2:52)
5. “Demolition Man” (5:57)
6. “Too Much Information” (3:43)
7. “Rehumanize Yourself” (3:10)
8. “One World (Not Three)” (4:47)
9. “Ωmegaman“) (2:48)
10. “Secret Journey” (3:34)
11. “Darkness” (3:14)

The Police co-produced Ghost in the Machine with Hugh Padgham, an engineer on 1979–80 albums by Bliss Band, The Jam (Setting Sons), Peter Gabriel (melt), Split Enz (Frenzy), and XTC (Drums and Wires, Black Sea). Padgham recently graduated to full-time production on the 1981 Genesis release Abacab and the preceding debut solo album by their drummer Phil Collins.

Sessions for Ghost in the Machine took place in June–July 1981 at AIR Studios on the island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles. Additional sessions occurred at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec, with engineer Nick Blagona, a soundman on recent albums by April Wine, Chicago, Leyden Zar, Patsy Gallant, and Streetheart. On the final master of “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” Sting includes piano tracks by veteran keyboardist Jean Roussel (Juicy Lucy, Hanson), who plays on the original demo. Police roadie Danny Quatrochi plays bass on “Demolition Man.”

Ghost in the Machine sports cover art by Neo Plastics founder Mick Haggerty, who depicts the trio as three characters of a red sixteen-segment display. Sting’s character (center) sprouts diagonal segments that signify his spiky hair. Original UK copies dublicate the characters in blue and green on the LP labels. On the inner-sleeve, The Police appear as apparitions on a computer motherboard. Haggerty also designed 1979–82 covers for Gamma, Hall & Oates, Nazareth, Split Enz (True Colours), and Supertramp (Breakfast In America).

“Invisible Sun” appeared seven days ahead of Ghost as the lead-off British single backed with “Shamelle,” a non-album Summers instrumental. It reached No. 5 in Ireland and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The Police (Sting mainly) appear as faded apparitions in the “Invisible Sun” video, which shows black-and-white footage of children in London’s working-class areas.

Shambelle” (5:42)

Abroad, The Police lifted “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” as the first single (b/w “Shamelle”). The video intermixes studio footage with soundboard frolic and scenes of the band cavorting with Montserrat  villagers. In the UK, A&M lifted “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” as the second single backed with “Flexible Strategies,” an exclusive group-credited jam.

Flexible Strategies” (3:42)

“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” reached No. 1 in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK, where it ended the four-week reign of the Lesley Gore cover “It’s My Party” by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin. The Police held the top spot for one week and bowed to “Under Pressure,” a collaborative single by Queen and David Bowie. Elsewhere, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” peaked at No. 2 in Australia and Italy and No. 3 in Belgium and the US.

In December, The Police lifted “Spirits in the Material World” as the third UK single (second abroad). The exclusive UK b-side, “Low Life,” is an R&B-tinged Sting number.

Low Life” (3:45)

“Spirits in the Material World” went Top 10 in France, Ireland, and the Netherlands and reached No. 7 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart (No. 11 on the Hot 100). In the video, The Police mime inside a high-ceiling reheasal space where Sting sports shaggy hair and Summers dons a black hat and ripped sleeveless shirt. Original UK copies of the single appeared in a six-fold poster sleeve with color variants of the sloped side-by-side group shot.

In the US and Canada, “Secret Journey” appeared in March 1982 as the third Ghost a-side (b/w “Darkness”).

Ghost in the Machine reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, where it overtook Abacab on October 10 and held the summit for three weeks before Dare by The Human League took the honors. It became the fifth biggest-selling UK album of 1981 behind titles by Shakin’ Stevens (Shaky), Collins’ debut (Face Value), Queen’s Greatest Hits, and Kings of the Wild Frontier, the third and final album by Adam & The Ants.

Ghost in the Machine peaked at No. 5 in Norway and New Zealand and also went Top 10 in Germany (No. 4) and Sweden (No. 6). In the US, the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and later certified triple-Platinum (3,000,000 copies sold).

The videos “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Spirits in the Material World,” and (to a lesser extent) “Invisible Sun” aired regularly on MTV during the US cable music channel’s first eighteen months of broadcast. The Police also made a video for “Demolition Man,” filmed on the same day in the same studio as the “Spirits” clip.

The Police launched the Ghost in the Machine tour on October 1, 1981, at the Sporthalle in Böblingen, Germany. The tour covered six legs and 100 dates across ten months. To replicate the album’s brassy sound, they employed Chops, a group of jazz-funk sessionists that appear on 1982 albums by Candi Staton, Tomorrow’s Edition, and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.


The Police launched the North American leg of the Ghost in the Machine tour on January 15 at Boston Garden. Leg 2 comprised eighteen stops, including a three-nighter (Feb. 8–10) at the 48k-seat Inglewood Forum. Select dates featured Bow Wow Wow or The Go-Go’s as opening acts. After four dates in South America (Leg 3), they returned to the US for Leg 4, which covered twenty-seven cities between March 12 and April 22, including an April 15 show at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, with Black Uhuru.

In July, The Police swung through Italy and England (Leg 5) and returned to North America for Leg 6, which included the ‘Police Picnic’ festival, an August 13 event at the CNE Grandstand in Toronto with sets by A Flock of Seagulls, English Beat, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Oingo Boingo, Talking Heads, and the Canadian band Spoons. English Beat toaster Ranking Roger joined The Police as a second vocalist for their performance of “One World (Not Three).” Leg 6 wrapped on September 6, 1982, at Pan American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Andy Summers teamed with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp on the 1982 A&M release I Advance Mask, an album of guitar-dual instrumentals. He also plays on the 1982 Kevin Coyne b-side “Father, Dear Father,” taken from the musical England, England.

Sting stars as Martin, a mystery man who boards with a couple and oversees their injured daughter in Brimstone and Treacle. He recorded five songs for the soundtrack, including the novelty cover “Spread a Little Happiness,” which A&M lifted as his debut solo single (b/w “Only You”). The Brimstone soundtrack also features two unique Police recordings, “How Stupid Mr. Bates” and “I Burn For You.”

How Stupid Mr. Bates” (2:39)

Stewart Copeland drums on Acting Very Strange, the 1982 debut solo album by Genesis bassist and guitarist Mike Rutherford. He also drums on the Illegal Records single “Why? Why? Why?” by ex-Damned guitarist Brian James.


Stewart Copeland recorded the soundtrack to Rumble Fish, an American teen noir drama directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Matt Dillon. The album features twelve soundscapes and one track (“Don’t Box Me In”) with vocals by Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgway.


The Police released their fifth album, Synchronicity, on June 17, 1983, on A&M. It contains the global chart-topper “Every Breath You Take,” the No. 1 song on Billboard‘s year-end chart.

Two unrelated title tracks, “Synchronicity I” and “Synchronicity II” (both uptempo hi-tech numbers), bookend Side One, which also contains Sting’s first foray into worldbeat (“Walking in Your Footsteps”) and a song apiece by Stewart Copeland (“Miss Gradenko”) and Andy Summers, who sings the neurotic avant-rocker “Mother.”

Side Two contains the album’s three mega-hits: “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain,” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” The closing track, “Tea in the Sahara,” is an ethno-ambient ballad.

1. “Synchronicity I” (3:23)
2. “Walking in Your Footsteps” (3:36)
3. “O My God” (4:02)
4. “Mother” (3:05)
5. “Miss Gradenko” (2:00)
6. “Synchronicity II” (5:00)
7. “Every Breath You Take” (4:13)
8. “King of Pain” (4:59)
9. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (5:13)
10. “Tea in the Sahara” (4:11) Sting drew lyrical inspiration from The Sheltering Sky, a 1949 existentialist novel by American author Paul Bowles.

Sessions took place between December 1982 and February 1983 at AIR (Montserrat) and Le Studio (Quebec). The Police co-produced the album with engineer Hugh Padgham, who worked on Synchronicity in succession with titles by Frida (Something’s Going On), Genesis (self-titled), Split Enz (Time and Tide), and XTC (English Settlement). Sting titled the album after the theory of synchronicity (simultaneous similar but unrelated occurrences), a concept postulated by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

A&M art director Jeff Ayeroff collaborated with freelancer Norman Moore on the Synchronicity cover, which has photography by Duane Michals. Each side (front and back) has three rows of randomly assembled monochrome pics overlaid with a translucent watercolor stroke in one of the three primary colors. The strokes carry over to the LP labels and the “Every Breath You Take” picture sleeve. Moore’s concurrent credits include 1983 album visuals for The Breaks, Donnie Iris, Endgames, and Industry.

“Every Breath You Take” appeared on May 20 as an advance single backed with the Sting–Summers co-write “Murder by Numbers,” which appears as a bonus track on cassette and CD copies of Synchronicity.

Murder by Numbers” (4:31)

“Every Breath You Take” reached No. 1 in Canada, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, and the UK, where it became the fifth chart-topping Police single on May 29, 1983, and held that spot for a month before Rod Stewart (a future Sting collaborator) took the honors with “Baby Jane.” It peaked at No. 2 in Australia, Norway, Spain, and Sweden and went Top 10 in ten additional territories.

In the US, “Every Breath You Take” reached No. 1 on the Cashbox Top 100, the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart, and the Billboard Hot 100, where it ended the six-week reign of “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara on held the summit for eight weeks (July 9–September 3) until the Eurythmics claimed the slot with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

The video to “Every Breath You Take” opens with a pan-down view of an ashtray that morphs into Copeland’s snare drum. The camera pans over to a shadow-lit Sting, who plays standup bass from a (soon mirrored) profile angle, which zooms as he faces the lens for the “Oh, can’t you see?” bridge. After scans of the string section and repeated Sting zoom-ins, the lens pans down from a chandelier to a group scene in front of a ballroom window, which illuminates the otherwise black room. In the final seconds, the lens zooms to a hatted, silhouetted window cleaner, who fades to a reverse-recap of the intro scene (snare-to-ashtray).

Godley & Creme directed the neo-noir video, which features cinematography by Daniel Pearl. They took visual cues from the 1944 short film Jammin’ the Blues, a video montage of jazz musicians.

MTV placed “Every Breath You Take” in high rotation. In 1984, it became one of four runner-ups for Video of the Year at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards, where it lost to “You Might Think” by The Cars, which also beat another Godley & Creme-directed clip: “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock. Pearl won the award for Best Cinematography in a Video.

In July, The Police lifted “Wrapped Around Your Finger” as the album’s second UK single backed with “Someone to Talk To.”

Someone to Talk To” (3:08)

The “Wrapped Around Your Finger” 12″ features two additional tracks: “I Burn for You” and a live version of “Message in a Bottle.”

I Burn for You” (4:50)

“Wrapped Around Your Finger” reached No. 1 in Ireland and Poland and went Top 10 in Spain (No. 5) and France (No. 6). It peaked at No. 7 on the UK Singles Chart

In December 1983, A&M lifted “Wrapped Around Your Finger” as the fourth Synchronicity single in North America, backed with a live version of “Tea In the Sahara.” It peaked in the winter of 1984 in Canada (No. 10) and the US (No. 8 Billboard Hot 100).

In the Godley & Creme-directed “Wrapped Around Your Finger” video, Summers and a white-clad Sting mime in slow motion through a lit maze of 6′ candle pillars, which embox Copeland. Sting downs the pillars in his final jog-through as the song reaches fadeout.

Meanwhile, A&M lifted “King of Pain” (b/w “Someone to Talk To”) in August 1983 as the second single in North America, where it reached No. 1 on the Canadian Top Singles chart and the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart (No. 3 on the Hot 100).

In January 1984, “King of Pain” became the fourth Synchronicity single in Europe, where it reached No. 7 in Ireland and went Top 20 in the UK and Belgium.

The Police didn’t make a video for “King of Pain” but A&M assembled one for the Australian market, where the video aired on Countdown. The video mixes spare footage from “Every Breath You Take” with images from Duane Michals’ photoshoot.

In October 1983, “Synchronicity II” became the album’s third transatlantic single, backed with the Sting–Summers exclusive “Once Upon a Daydream.”

Once Upon a Daydream” (3:28)

“Synchronicity II” went Top 20 in Ireland (No. 12), the UK (No. 17), and the US, where it reached No. 15 on the Cashbox Top 100 (No. 16 Billboard).

Godley & Creme directed the “Synchronicity II” video, which takes place in a windblown scrapyard of downed tower cranes strewn with film reels. The Police mime in draped, tattered post-industrial garb as Sting (spiky up-quiff) stares into the lens with intense, despotic expressions. The “Synchronicity II” picture sleeve features image stills from the video.

In Japan, A&M lifted “Synchronicity I” (b/w “Someone to Talk To”) as the second of two singles (after “Every Breath You Take”) in that market, where Synchronicity became their second Top 20 album on the Oricon chart.

Synchronicity reached No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK, where it spent two weeks at No. 1 before newcomers Wham! claimed the spot with their debut album Fantastic. Synchronicity peaked at No. 2 in the Netherlands and went Top 5 in Norway (No. 4), Germany and Sweden (both No. 5).

In the US, Synchronicity spent seventeen non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, where it displaced Thriller by Michael Jackson on July 23 and held the spot for seven weeks. Thriller reclaimed the top spot on September 10 but Synchronicity reconquered it for a ten-week stay at No. 1 that ended on November 26 when Quiet Riot overtook The Police with Mental Health. Synchronicity later certified eight-times Platinum (8,000,000 copies sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The Police launched the Synchronicity tour on July 23 at the 50k-seat Comiskey Park football stadium in Chicago, supported by The Fixx, A Flock of Seagulls, Ministry, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. The tour comprised six legs and 105 shows across eight months. On August 3, The Police played Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, supported by Talking Heads and Peter Tosh. Other opening acts on the North American dates included Berlin, Kissing the Pink, Madness, Oingo Boingo, Re-Flex, Thompson Twins, and UB40.

The Police played to their largest-ever audience on August 18 at New York’s 67k-seat Shea Stadium. On Leg 3, a reformed Animals opened back-to-back Florida shows (October 28–29) at the Miami Orange Bowl and Orlando’s Citrus Bowl.


The Police wrapped the Synchronicity tour with three shows in Oceania, where they gave the final concert of their original formation on March 4, 1984, at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Andy Summers re-teamed with Robert Fripp for the 1984 A&M release Bewitched, a second collection of guitar-dual instrumentals. Summers also recorded the title track to the 1984 sci-fi movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. “2010” doesn’t play in the movie but does appear on the A&M soundtrack album with film score music by Hollywood composer David Shire.

Sting released his debut solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, on June 17, 1985, on A&M. It went Top 5 in ten nations and spawned the hits “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” “Fortress Around Your Heart,” “Love Is the Seventh Wave,” and “Russians.” His tour behind Turtles spawned the live double-album Bring On the Night, a mix of solo numbers and rearranged Police staples, including “Driven to Tears,” “Demolition Man,” “Tea in the Sahara,” and the title track.

On July 13, 1985, Sting performed a seven-song set with Phil Collins and Branford Marsalis at the Wembley Live Aid event. Their half-hour set (3:18–3:48 pm) featured four Police numbers (“Roxanne,” “Driven to Tears,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Every Breath You Take”) and the Collins solo numbers “Long Long Way to Go,” “In the Air Tonight,” and “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).” Immediately after their set, Phil hopped a Concord to Philadelphia, where he re-performed the last two songs at the JFK Live Aid event. Sting also appeared on stage with Dire Straits to reprise his studio role as the high-pitched voice behind the “I want my MTV” intro to their 1985 mega-hit “Money for Nothing.”

Stewart Copeland released The Rhythmatist, recorded in Africa with local percussionists for an accompanying film that he co-wrote with J.P. Dutilleux and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.

In June 1986, The Police regrouped for A Conspiracy of Hope, a multi-act tour for the benefit of Amnesty International with sets by U2, Bryan Adams, Peter Gabriel, and Lou Reed. The Police played three dates, culminating with a June 15 show at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where U2 frontman Bono joined them onstage for the final verse of “Invisible Sun.” The Police handed their instruments to U2 for the all-star finale cover of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released.”

The Police booked studio time in July 1986 for a possible sixth studio album. One day before the scheduled sessions, Copeland incurred a collarbone injury in a horseback accident. Unable to drum, he programmed a Fairlight CMI for “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86,” their hi-tech remake of the 1980 classic for the October 1986 Police compilation Every Breath You Take: The Singles. After this aborted attempt at a new album, The Police disbanded with no formal announcement. Sting continued his solo career with the 1987 release …Nothing Like the Sun.



1 thought on “The Police

  1. First intro draft (2018): “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.”

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