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The Police were an English rock trio, from London, England, formed originally in 1977. The trio consisted of Gordon Sumner, CBE (born 2 October 1951), widely known by his stage name of Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar, vocals) and Stewart Copeland (drums, vocals, percussion). The band became globally popular in the late 1970s and are generally regarded as one of the first New Wave groups to achieve mainstream success, playing a style of rock that was influenced by jazz, punk and reggae music. Their 1983 album, Synchronicity, was number one in the UK and the US and sold over 8,000,000 copies in the US. The band broke up in 1984, but reunited in early 2007 for a one-off world tour lasting until August 2008, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their hit single "Roxanne" and also, to a lesser extent, that of their formation as a group. The Police have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, and became the world's highest-earning musicians in 2008, thanks to their reunion tour. Rolling Stone ranked The Police number 70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.


Formation (1977–78)

The Police were founded by American-born drummer Stewart Copeland in early 1977. After the demise of his progressive rock band Curved Air, Copeland was anxious to form a new three-piece group and join the burgeoning London punk scene. Singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani began rehearsing with Copeland in January 1977, and they recorded their first Police single, "Fall Out"/"Nothing Achieving," the following month. Although the early style of the group has been classified as punk rock, Allmusic Guide argues that this was only true "... in the loosest sense of the term"; the Guide states that the band's "... nervous, reggae-injected pop/rock was punky" and had a "punk spirit", but it "wasn't necessarily punk". In March and April, the threesome toured as a support act for Cherry Vanilla as well as Wayne County & the Electric Chairs. In May, ex-Gong musician Mike Howlett invited Sting and former Eric Burdon and the Animals guitarist Andy Summers to form Strontium 90 with him, as a project band for a Gong reunion. The drummer Howlett had in mind for this band, Chris Cutler, was unavailable to play, so Sting brought along Stewart Copeland. Strontium 90 recorded several demo tracks at Virtual Earth Studios, and then performed at a Gong reunion concert in Paris on 28 May 1977. An album with some of these studio and live tracks (with the first recorded version of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic") was released 20 years later in 1997 under the name Strontium 90: Police Academy. The foursome also performed at a London club as "The Elevators" in July 1977.
The band's logo
In July 1977, Copeland, Sting, Padovani, and Summers began performing as a four-piece version of the Police. Padovani's relatively limited ability as a guitarist curtailed his tenure with the band. Soon after an aborted recording session with producer John Cale on 10 August, Padovani left the band and Summers took over sole guitar duties. This lineup of Copeland, Sting, and Summers would endure for the rest of Police history. Sting proved a capable songwriter. He had spent time as a secondary school English teacher, and his lyrics are noted for their literary awareness and verbal agility. Material in the later album Ghost in the Machine was inspired by the writings of Arthur Koestler, and songs on Synchronicity by the writings of Carl Jung. "Tea in the Sahara" on the latter album showed interest in the work of author Paul Bowles.

The Police, along with The Clash, were among the first mainstream white bands to adopt reggae as a predominant musical form, and to score major international hits with reggae-styled material. Although ska and reggae were already popular in the United Kingdom, the style was little known in the United States or other countries. Prior to the emergence of the Police, only a handful of reggae songs—such as Eric Clapton's 1974 cover rendition of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" or Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion"—had enjoyed much chart success. The bleached-blonde hair that would become a trademark of the band was a lucky accident, originating in February 1978. The band, desperate for money, was asked to do a commercial for Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum on the condition that they dye their hair blonde.Allmusic Guide notes that while the "...commercial provided exposure, it drew the scorn of genuine punkers".

Recording contract (1978–1980)

For the Police, their first album, Outlandos d'Amour was a hardship, working on a small budget, with no manager or record deal. Stewart Copeland's older brother Miles Copeland III heard "Roxanne" for the first time and immediately got them a record deal with A&M Records. Originally released in 1978, the single was re-released in 1979, and it was then that the Police gained widespread recognition in the United Kingdom, as well as scoring a minor hit with the song in several other countries, notably Australia. Their success led to a gig at the famous New York club CBGBmarker and a grueling United States tour in which the band drove themselves and all their equipment around the country in a Ford Econoline van. In October 1979, the group released their second album Reggatta de Blanc, which was a major seller throughout Europe. The album topped the British charts for four weeks and spawned the UK number-one singles "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon". The instrumental title track won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

In March 1980, the Police did their first world tour; the band played such areas as Mexico City, Mexico; Bombaymarker, India; and Egypt, which seldom hosted foreign performers. In May, A&M in Great Britain released "Six Pack " an expensive package containing the five previous A&M singles (not including "Fall Out") in their original sleeves plus a mono alternate take of the popular album track (from Reggatta De Blanc) "The Bed's Too Big Without You" backed with a live version of the Outlandos d'Amour track "Truth Hits Everybody." It reached #17 in the U.K. singles chart, although chart regulations introduced later in the decade would have classed it as an album. Pressured by their record company for a new record and a prompt return to touring, the Police released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, in the autumn of 1980. The album gave the group their third U.K. #1 hit, "Don't Stand So Close to Me", and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", which charted in the United States. In subsequent interviews, Sting said he regretted the rushed recording for the album. However, many critics would later cite it as one of their strongest efforts. The instrumental "Behind My Camel," written by Andy Summers, won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance For Duo Or Group.

Stardom (1980–83)

By this time, Sting was becoming a major star, and he established a career beyond the Police by branching out into acting. He made a well-received debut as the 'Ace Face' in Quadrophenia, the film version of The Who's rock opera, followed by a role as a mechanic in love with Eddie Cochran's music in Chris Petit's Radio On. He also played the character Feyd Rautha in Dune and a soldier who is executed for being too brave in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. As Sting's fame rose, his relationship with band founder Stewart Copeland began to deteriorate. The increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the pressures of worldwide publicity and fame, conflicting egos, and their financial success. Meanwhile, both Sting and Summers' marriages failed (Sting settled down with new partner Trudie Styler, whom he later married, while Summers, after a brief relationship that fathered a son, Andrew Jr., re-married his second wife Kate).

The Police's fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, co-produced by Hugh Padgham, was released in 1981. It featured thicker sounds, layered saxophones, and vocal textures. It spawned the hit singles, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Invisible Sun", and "Spirits in the Material World". As the band were unable to agree on a cover picture, the album cover had three red pictographs, "digital" likenesses of the three band members in the style of segmented LED displays, set against a black background. In the 1980s, Sting and Andy Summers became tax exiles and moved to Ireland (Sting to Roundstone in Galway, and Summers to Kinsale in County Cork) while Stewart, an American, remained in England.The group took a sabbatical in 1982, with Sting pursuing his acting career, co-starring with Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright in the Richard Loncraine film version of Dennis Potter's play Brimstone and Treacle. He also had a minor solo hit in the United Kingdom with the movie's theme song, "Spread A Little Happiness" (which appeared on the Brimstone and Treacle soundtrack, along with three new Police tracks). Summers recorded his first album with Robert Fripp, I Advance Masked.

The Police released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983. Notable songs from that album include "Every Breath You Take", "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "King of Pain" and the foreboding "Synchronicity II". The Synchronicity Tour began in Chicago, Illinois in July 1983 at the original Comiskey Parkmarker, and ended in Melbournemarker, Australia in March 1984 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. The event featured five bands, including Simple Minds, Flock of Seagulls, The Fixx, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, with The Police topping the bill. Sting's look, dominated by his orange-colored hair (a result from his role in the science fiction film Dune) and tattered clothing, all which were emphasized in the music videos from the album, carried over in to the set for the concert. To add to the excitement, an MTV kickoff crew hosted the concert, featuring MTV notable Martha Quinn, who introduced the group. Musically, each of the band members had expanded gear with added instruments (such as Stewart Copeland's auxiliary percusion and Andy Summers' guitar synthesizer components) and even backup singers dressed in robes, who joined the band for "Tea In The Sahara".

Except for "King of Pain", the singles were accompanied by music videos directed by Godley & Creme. This album hit #1 in both the U.K. (where it debuted at #1) and the U.S. It stayed at #1 in the U.K. for only two weeks and in the U.S. for 17 weeks. It was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but lost to Michael Jackson's Thriller. The Police beat out Jackson in one category: "Every Breath You Take" won the Grammy for Song Of The Year, beating Jackson's "Billie Jean". "Every Breath You Take" also won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal while "Synchronicity II" won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. "Every Breath You Take" also won the American Video Award for Best Group video and nabbed two Ivor Novello Awards for the categories Best Song Musically & Lyrically and Most Performed Work. In 1983, Stewart Copeland composed the musical score for Rumble Fish, a film directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola from the S.E. Hinton novel. A song released to radio on A&M Records "Don't Box Me In (theme From Rumble Fish)", a collaboration between Copeland and singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway leader of the band Wall of Voodoo, received significant airplay upon release of the film that year.

Break-up and post-break-up tour (1984–86)

After the Synchronicity tour ended in March 1984, the group disbanded, and each band member went on to pursue his own solo career. In June 1986, the trio reconvened to play three concerts for the Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope Tour. In July of that year, a tense short-lived reunion in the studio produced only subdued re-recordings of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da". The former was released in October 1986 as their final single together in the form of "Don't Stand So Close To Me '86" (a substantially reworked version of the 1980 original), appeared on the compilation Every Breath You Take: The Singles, and made the UK Top 25. By this time, it was clear that Sting had no intention of continuing with the band, having already released a successful solo debut LP in 1985, the jazz-influenced The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

Post-break-up (1992–2006)

In 1992, Sting wed Trudie Styler. Summers and Copeland were invited to the ceremony and reception. Aware that all band members were present, the wedding guests pressured the trio into playing, and they ultimately performed "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle". Copeland said later that "after about three minutes, it became 'the thing' again." Also in 1992, Andy Summers served a brief stint as Musical Director on the short-lived "Dennis Miller Show". On 10 March 2003, the Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker and performed "Roxanne", "Message In a Bottle," and "Every Breath You Take" live, as a group. The last song was performed alongside Steven Tyler, Gwen Stefani, and John Mayer. Towards the end of the song, Copeland, known for tightening his drum heads until his knuckles turned white for a hard popping snare backbeat, broke the head of his snare drum. That autumn Sting released his autobiography, Broken Music.

In 2004, Henry Padovani (the band's guitarist before Andy Summers joined) released an album with the participation of Stewart Copeland and Sting in one track, reuniting the "original" Police members in a performance for the first time since 1977. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked The Police #70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2006, Stewart Copeland made a rockumentary about the band called Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, based on Super-8 filming he did when the band was touring and recording in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. In October 2006, Andy Summers released One Train Later, an autobiographical memoir detailing his early career and time with the band.

Reunion tour (2007–08)

In early 2007, reports surfaced that the trio would reunite for a tour to mark their 30th anniversary, over 20 years since their 'final' split in 1986. The concerts would coincide with Universal Music (current owners of the A&M label) re-releasing some material from the band's back catalogue. The following statement was released on behalf of the band by a spokesman at Interscope Geffen A&M Records and posted on Sting's official website: "As the 30th anniversary of the first Police single approaches, discussions have been underway as to how this will be commemorated. While we can confirm that there will indeed be something special done to mark the occasion, the depth of the band's involvement still remains undetermined."

On 22 January 2007, the punk wave magazine Side-Line broke the story that The Police would reunite for the Grammys, adding that the song performed would be "Roxanne". Side-Line also announced in its news coverage that The Police were to embark on a massive tour bringing them to cities all over the world. Billboard magazine later confirmed the rumours, quoting Andy Summers who had discussed earlier in 2006 how the band could have continued post-Synchronicity: "The more rational approach would have been, 'OK, Sting, go make a solo record, and let's get back together in two or three years. I'm certain we could have done that. Of course we could have. We were definitely not in a creative dry space. We could have easily carried on, and we could probably still be there. That wasn't to be our fate. It went in another way. I regret we never paid it off with a last tour." The band opened the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on 11 February 2007 in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, announcing "We're The Police. And we're back!" before launching into "Roxanne." A&M Records, the band's record company, promoted the 2007–2008 reunion tour as the 30th anniversary of the release of their first single "Roxanne" and not indeed that of the band's creation.
Guitarist Andy Summers performing in Marseille with the group
They opened their Reunion Tour in Vancouver on 28 May in front of 32,000 fans at one of two nearly sold-out concerts. Stewart Copeland gave a scathing review of the show on his own website, which the press picked up as a feud occurring two gigs into the tour. It was only meant to be tongue-in-cheek and the band took it as light-hearted as it was intended. Henry Padovani joined the band on stage for the final encore of their show in Paris on 29 September. The Police as a 4-piece band played "Next to You" from the band's first album Outlandos d'Amour. In October 2007, the group played the largest gig of the reunion tour in Dublin, Ireland, in front of 82,000 fans. The group also cancelled their second planned concert in Antwerp, Belgium on 9 October 2007, as Sting suffered from pharyngitis. They continued their reunion tour in 2008, and locations included New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Macau, Japan, Canada, US, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, UK, Serbia, Poland, Argentina and Brazil, where they played for 75,000 people.

The group were headliners at the TW Classic festival in Werchter, Belgium on 7 June 2008. The Police also headlined the last night of the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival on 15 June 2008, in addition to headlining the Sunday night at Hard Rock Calling (previously called Hyde Park Calling) on 29 June. In February 2008, the band announced that once they were finished touring, they would break up again. According to Sting, "There will be no new album, no big new tour, once we're done with our reunion tour, that's it for the Police".
Drummer Stewart Copeland performing in Marseille with the group
The final show of the tour was held 7 August at Madison Square Gardenmarker in New York City and was opened by The B-52's. The group earlier announced the show while donating $1 million to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative to plant one million trees in the city by 2017. Proceeds went towards arts programming for the city's two public television stations. During the entire tour they sold 3.7 million tickets and grossed $358 million, making it the third highest grossing tour of all time. The Police and the store Best Buy announced 4 August 2008 that they would release a collector's set entitled "Certifiable: Live in Buenos Aires". The set will include an entire concert recorded live in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the tour. The set will come in the following packages: 2DVD/2CD, 1 Blu-Ray Disc/2CD, and 3 premium 180-gram vinyl LPs with MP3 file key. The set will include bonus footage, including a documentary shot by Stewart's son Jordan entitled "Better Than Therapy". The set was released on 11 November 2008 at Best Buy.


Band members

  • Sting: lead vocals, bass guitar (1977–1984, 1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
  • Andy Summers: guitar, backing vocals (1977–1984, 1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
  • Stewart Copeland: drums, percussion, backing vocals (1977–1984, 1986, 2003, 2007–2008)
  • Henry Padovani: guitar (1977)


(January 1977–July 1977)
(July 1977–August 1977)
(August 1977–March 1984)
(April 1984–December 2006) (The Police disbanded)
(January 2007–August 2008)


BRIT Awards

  • 1982: Best British Group
  • 1985: Outstanding Contribution To Music

Grammy Awards

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

See also


  2. Copeland 1995.
  3. Sting 2003.
  4. Obrecht, Jan. "Andy Summers".
  6. The Police reunion at Grammys
  7. The Police to play "Roxanne" at Grammys
  8. Police Reunion Rumors Reaching Fever Pitch - Billboard, 3 January 2007
  9. Police to reunite for Grammy gig
  10. Stewart Copeland on his own forum
  11. Sting Can't Wait To Be A Solo Singer Again
  12. Inductee List, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Accessed 24 July 2009.


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