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Members include Stewart Copeland (born July 16, 1952, in Alexandria, VA), drums; Sting (born Gordon Matthew Sumner, October 2, 1951, in Wallsend, England), vocals; Andy Summers (born Andrew Somers, December 31, 1942, in Bournemouth, England), guitar. Addresses: Record company--A&M Records, 1416 North LaBrea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028.
An unmistakable influence on the music of the 1980s, The Police formed their unique pop rock style in the latter-punk era. Three talented, intelligent musicians came together from a cross-section of musical and life experiences into a distinct sound that became both popular and respected. Following the band~s break-up in the mid-1980s, each member moved on to his own new and successful career. Charles Dougherty summed up the band~s commercial appeal in Down Beat, "The key to their popularity is self-evident; catchy melodic hooks combined with matinee idol good looks make the teenies screamy."
Drummer Stewart Copeland came up with the idea of forming a band called The Police in the mid-1970s. Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of a CIA agent. His two brothers Miles and Ian became the band~s manager and booking agent, respectively. Stewart Copeland spent most of his childhood traveling throughout the Middle East, because of his father~s work. Copeland had played with a progressive rock band called Curved Air, before he decided to branch off into his own group. In comic reference to the senior Copeland~s career, Stewart decided to name the project The Police.
The band began in England in 1977 when drummer Stewart Copeland asked bassist/singer Sting to team up with him in his project. The son of a Newcastle milkman, Gordon Sumner, had quit his job as a teacher in a convent to pursue his music career. When Copeland discovered him, he was performing with a jazz band called Last Exit. He got the name Sting based on his stage dress for the jazz clubs. "I wore outrageous, striped, yellow-and-black pullovers, and one guy thought I looked like a bee," Sting explained to David Sheff in People.
Copeland had seen Sting sing with his jazz band and recognized his potential. "I have no idea how I did it, but I bamboozled this jazz musician into joining me in this punk band," Copeland recalled to David Friendly in Newsweek. Sting and Copeland began rehearsing with guitarist Henri Padovani in London.
Copeland explained his reasons for starting the band to Charles Dougherty in Down Beat, "In the beginning of ~77, clubs were opening all over the place, packed with kids who wanted to hear the new sound, get into the [punk] scene. There weren~t enough bands to go around."
The newly formed trio began playing clubs in England almost immediately. In February of 1977, they recorded their first single, "Fall Out," which Miles Copeland released on his label called Illegal Records. They played U.K. tours with New York singer Cherry Vanilla and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers. Then, they went on to play concerts in Holland with Wayne County & the Electric Chairs.
In May of that same year, ex-Gong member Mike Howlett asked Sting and Copeland to do a show with guitarist Andy Summers as the group Strontium 90. Summers, born in Bournemouth, was a seasoned musician who had played with the Animals, Soft Machine, Neil Young, and Kevin Ayers. The Police soon asked Summers to play a show with them at London~s Marquee. After the show, Copeland formally added Summers to the line-up. Two months later, Padovani decided to quit the band, making them a trio once again. The group played their first show as a trio at Rebecca~s in Birmingham, West Midlands on August 18, 1977. "The Police were my first three-piece band," Summers recalled to Martin Lee in Rolling Stone, "and it produced so much more room for experimentation, more freedom."
In 1978, The Police got their first exposure in the United States, yet it was not in the form of a recording or a performance. The band members all dyed their hair blonde to appear in a commercial for Wrigley~s Chewing Gum. The Police had set the image of a U.K. punk band before they even had a song out. By March, they had secured a record contract with A&M Records to release the single, "Roxanne." Instead of the traditional advance, manager Miles Copeland negotiated a deal that would allow them a greater royalty percentage. A move that would pay off for everyone in the band.
Meanwhile, Copeland also released a single called "Don~t Care" under the name Klark Kent. But by October of 1978, the momentum grew so quickly, none of the members could work on any projects outside of The Police for a few years. The next single, "Can~t Stand Losing You," had made it to No. 42 on the U.K. charts, and the time had come to play in the United States. The Police kicked off their first North American tour at CBGB~s in New York City.
The following month, the band~s debut album, Outlandos D~Amour, arrived in stores, along with the single "So Lonely." The album soared to No. 6 on the charts in the U.K. and to No. 23 in the United States. They followed up on the success with their first headlining tour in the U.K. and the top spot at the Reading Rock Festival in Reading, England. Sting became a singing sensation, winning over an international audience. "Performing is frenzied. Sexual," Sting explained to Marcelle Clements in Esquire. "It frees people for a while. I induce that by going into a trance, really, which is why I like to be almost unconscious ... that is when the audience really gets sucked in. If I sing a really high note, my body gets overoxygenated, and the whole hall goes back and forth. I get close to fainting. And I do that every night."
Their next LP, Regatta de Blanc, was released in 1979. It topped the U.K. charts for four weeks in a row and made it to No. 25 in the U.S. The group rereleased "Can~t Stand Losing You" and followed up with the hit "Walking on the Moon." During the same year, Sting played the role of Ace Face in The Who~s movie Quadrophenia.
The band played concerts all across the globe. In March of 1980, The Police became the first rock group to play in Bombay, India. "One of the best moments of my life was in Bombay," Sting told James Henke in Rolling Stone, "playing for an audience that had never seen rock, that had no idea how to behave toward it.... Throughout the show, I explained that this is dance music, please don~t sit down--stand up on the seat or just dance. And by the end of the set, they did! They clapped in all the right places. It was quite emotional."
At the end of 1980, The Police released their third record, Zenyatta Mondatta, and the hit single "Don~t Stand So Close to Me." Both stayed at the top of the U.K. charts for four straight weeks. In January of 1981, Zenyatta Mondatta reached No. 5 in the U.S. and the next single, "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" became a Top 10 hit. A month later, The Police~s Zenyatta Mondatta won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Although The Police was still Copeland~s band, Sting became the focal point, the main spokesman, and the most prolific songwriter. They freely discussed the clashes between the three personalities that fueled the creativity behind The Police. "There~s a competitive spirit in the group; there are three very strong egos," Sting explained to Henke in Rolling Stone. "But I write and sing the songs, therefore, I tend to dictate the musical direction. We do have a semblance of democracy, which is important. The other two members do talk a lot; they~re not gagged or anything."
"Sting can~t dominate because he~s outnumbered," Copeland told Andrew Abrahams in People. "With The Police, it~s always two against one."
In October of 1981, The Police released Ghost in the Machine, the title of which was based on a book by Arthur Koestler. The album included yet another hit debut single, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," which climbed to No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 3 in the United States. The album stayed at No. 2 on the U.S. charts for six weeks.
The band received accolades from both continents on February 24, 1982. They received an award for Best British Rock Group at the first annual BRIT Awards in London. Then a few hours later, they received two Grammy awards for "Don~t Stand So Close to Me" and "Behind My Camel." Despite the recognition, Andy Summers admitted the group had cut down on practice. "We~re probably the worst rehearsed band in the world," Summers told Martin Lee in Rolling Stone. "We stopped rehearsing over two years ago. I like that because it keeps an element of risk and uncertainty."
By 1982, the members of The Police had begun to work on their own side projects. Stewart Copeland composed a film score for Francis Ford Coppola~s movie Rumble Fish, and scored King Lear for the San Francisco Ballet. Sting produced his first solo single, "Spread A Little Happiness," for the movie Brimstone & Treacle, in which he also played the lead role. And Andy Summers released an instrumental album called I Advance Masked with King Crimson~s Robert Fripp.
Their biggest success hit the following year with the release of the chart-topping LP Synchronicity and the single "Every Breath You Take." Sting came up with the album~s concept from reading the work of Carl Jung, but most of the lyrics were inspired by the end of his eight-year marriage. "This is rock music that is not only canny commerciality, but has height and serious ambition intellectually," Jay Cocks wrote in Time. "It isn~t often, after all, that Carl Jung hits the top of the charts."
If any had doubts, Synchronicity firmly planted The Police in the annals of rock influences, both in the U.K. and in the U.S. "I guaranteed them that if they toured America, they would do what had never been done before, and they did," booking agent Ian Copeland told Marcelle Clements in Esquire. "They changed the course of music history."
In February of 1984, "Every Breath You Take" won two Grammy Awards, one for Song of the Year and another for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. "Synchronicity" also won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. Two months later, "Every Breath You Take" received the best group video award at the American Video Awards.
In spite of the group~s increased success, the trio continued to focus on outside projects. Copeland released a movie called So What?? about England~s punk scene in 1982. Sting appeared in the David Lynch film Dune. In 1985 Copeland released a solo album called The Rhythmatist. A month later, Sting released his own solo effort, Dream of the Blue Turtles.
On June 11, 1986, The Police performed one of their last concerts as a band at a benefit for Amnesty International. When they returned to the studio to record their next album, they decided to abandon the recording and dismantle the band. In November, A&M Records released Every Breath You Take--The Singles, a greatest hits package and reprise of the band~s career. The trio rerecorded "Don~t Stand So Close To Me" for the compilation.
The label also released Live!, a recording of two live concerts, a 1979 show in Boston and a 1983 performance in Atlanta. By 1997, their last performance together had taken place at Sting~s wedding to Trudie Styler in 1992, where they played "Roxanne."
After the band~s break-up all three members moved on to successful music careers in different areas. Sting continued to record solo albums and appeared in film and on Broadway. Stewart Copeland wrote an opera called Holy Blood and Crescent Moon, wrote film and television music, and opened a nightclub in Coconut Grove, Florida, with actress Maria Conchita Alonso. Andy Summers also became a film composer and recorded several solo albums.
"The Police was almost the perfect band experience," Copeland later told Andrew Abrahams in People. "Nobody died of a drug overdose, we went all over the world, and when it was over, we were poised to embark upon new careers."
by Sonya Shelton
The Police's Career
Band formed in 1977 in London, England; released single "Fall Out" on Illegal Records, 1977; signed record contract with A&M Records and released Outlandos D~Amour, 1978; released Regatta de Blanc, 1979; first rock band to play Bombay, India, 1980; released Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980; Ghost in the Machine stays at No. 2 on U.S. charts for six weeks, 1982; Synchronicity and "Every Breath You Take" reach No. 1 on the charts in U.S. and U.K., 1983; disbanded in 1986.
The Police's Awards
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Rock Performance, 1981; two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Rock Instrumental Performance, 1982; BRIT Award for Best British Rock Group, 1982; three Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance, and Best Rock Performance, 1984; American Video Award for Best Group Video, 1984; BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, 1985.
- Selective Works
- Outlandos D~Amour (includes "Can~t Stand Losing You," "Roxanne," and "So Lonely"), A&M Records, 1978.
- Regatta de Blanc, (includes "Walking on the Moon"), A&M Records, 1979.
- Zenyatta Mondatta (includes "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" and "Don~t Stand So Close to Me"), A&M Records, 1980.
- Ghost in the Machine (includes "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic), A&M Records, 1981.
- Synchronicity (includes "Every Breath You Take" and "Synchronicity"), A&M Records, 1983.
- Every Breath You Take--The Singles (includes "Don~t Stand So Close to Me ~86"), A&M Records, 1986.
- Live!, A&M Records, 1995.
- Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard Books/ABC-CLIO, 1991.
- Periodicals Audio, May 1987.
- Down Beat, May 1984.
- Esquire, November 1983.
- Gentleman~s Quarterly, October 1989.
- Guitar Player, April 1991.
- Newsweek, August 15, 1983.
- People, January 21, 1980; July 17, 1995.
- Rolling Stone, February 19, 1981; February 18, 1982; August 24, 1995.
- Time, August 15, 1983.
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