Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the musical group. For information about law enforcement agencies see police.
The Police was a three-piece British pop band which was strongly influenced by reggae, and came to prominence in the wake of the punk rock phenomenon and rose to become one of the most popular groups in the world from the late 1970s to the mid- 1980s.
The Police evolved from the shortlived group Strontium 90, which was formed by expatriate Australian musician Mike Howlett. He began his career as the bassist with the late 1960s Australia harmony pop group The Affair before moving to London in 1970. In 1973 he joined the noted progressive rock group Gong, which had been founded by another Aussie expatriate, Daevid Allen. He remained with the group until 1976 Howlett and drummer Pierre Moerlan composed much of Gong's material
After leaving Gong ca. 1976 Howlett formed Strontium 90, recruiting singer-bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers (a former member of Eric Burdon's New Animals) and United States-born drummer Stewart Copeland, whom Howlett already knew from Copeland's previous band Curved Air).
Strontium 90 was the band in which the three future Police first met and played together and Howlett claims to have introduced the three musicians to each other. He taped several demos of the band, including the first recorded version of Sting's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", which was also the first recording the trio ever made together. He also taped a London live performance from the same period, which marked the first time that the future Police played together in front of an audience.
Strontium 90 were unable to secure a recording contract, so Sting, Summers and Copeland eventually left, with Copeland and Summers forming the first version of The Police in 1977. Howlett became one of the leading producers of the New Wave period, with a string of chart-topping production credits.
After Strontium 90 broke up, Copeland initially recruited Sting as bassist and lead singer) and Henri Padovani as guitarist. This line-up issued the band's first single ("Fall Out") in May 1977. Padovani's relatively limited ability as a guitarist meant that his tenure in the band was short, and soon after the single came out he was replaced by Andy Summers, who was several years older than Copeland and Sting and whose experience as a guitarist went back to the early 1960s and included a stint in Eric Burdon's New Animals in the late Sixties. When the band recruited Summers, Copeland told Padovani that he wanted to experiment with 'new sounds'. Padovani accepted this, and quit the band.
Copeland had previously played drums in progressive rock band Curved Air. Shortly after quitting, he caught notice of Sting, then bass player and singer with a jazz fusion group called Last Exit. Sting proved to be a capable songwriter; he had previously 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 material in Synchronicity was prominently inspired by the writings of C.G. Jung. But "Tea in the Sahara" on the latter album showed interest in Paul Bowles as well.
The Police are notable as one of the first mainstream white pop groups to adopt reggae as a predominant musical form and to score major international hits with reggae-styled material. Although reggae was already very popular in the United Kingdom (due to the large number of Caribbean immigrants) the style was little known in the United States or other countries, and prior to the emergence of The Police only a handful of reggae songs -- e.g. Eric Clapton's 1974 cover version of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sherriff" -- had enjoyed any significant chart success. In this and several other repects, The Police invite comparisons with Cream, a trio of highly regarded 'star' players with a bass-playing lead singer, who achieved huge success adapting a novel African American music form (in Cream's case, blues music) for white pop-rock audiences, and who achieved enormous international success while for the most part retaining the respect of critics.
For the Police, their first album, Outlandos d'Amour was a hardship, working on a small budget, with no manager, record deal, or any kind of contacts. Stewart Copeland's older brother, Miles, heard 'Roxanne' for the first time and immediately got them a record deal with A&M Records. The single was re-released in 1979, and it was then that the Police achieved widespread fame 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 infamous New York club CBGB and a gruelling United States tour in which the band drove themselves and all their equipment around the country in a station wagon.
As with several other international acts of this period (e.g. Blondie), The Police enjoyed some of their first international hits in Australia, well before most other countries. Their popularity there was greatly assisted by the fact that the group was enthusiastically supported by Australia's only non-commercial rock radio station, Double Jay in Sydney, which in turn led to early exposure for their music videos on the hugely popular national pop show Countdown . They first toured Australia in 1978 to a wildly enthhusiastic repsonse, and one of their Sydney concerts recorded and broadcast by Double Jay. Like Nirvana in 1990, on this first Australian tour the band were still not well known, but by the next time they returned they were chart-topping superstars.
In October 1979, the group released their second album Regatta de Blanc, which was a major seller in many countries and which spawned the hit single "Walking on the Moon".
In March of 1980, the Police decided to embark on their first World Tour, and they were one of the first major rock bands to play in places like Bombay, India and Egypt. The Police toured the world long before they were a world class act. The much generated hype of their new music and tour caused an outbreak of popularity among new wave devotees across the rest of the world.
Pressured by their record company for a new record and a prompt return to tour by fall's end, The Police quickly released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta in the fall of 1980. The album gave the group an United Kingdom number one with "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", which charted successfully in the United States. Mondatta gave the Police worldwide fame. It was perhaps the weakest of their albums in artistic terms, although a degree of critical disappointment did nothing to harm its sales. It was however the last album the group cooperated in, or as Sting would later put it, the last album they worked on "as a band".
By this time Sting was becoming a major star in his own right, and was clearly intent on establishing a career beyond the confines of The Police. He branched out into acting with fair success, making an impressive debut as the mysterious visitor in the Dennis Lonchrane film version of Dennis Potter's play Brimstone & Treacle, as well as scoring a minor solo hit in the United Kingdom with the movie's theme song, "Spread A Little Happiness". This was followed by a well-received performance as 'The Ace Face' in the film version of The Who's mod opera Quadrophenia. His biggest role was the psychopathic assassin Feyd-Rautha in the blockbuster David Lynch screen adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, and although he was admirably suited to the role and performed well, the film itself received very mixed reviews, mainly due to the fact that it was taken out of Lynch's hands by his producers, who drastically recut it.
As Sting's fame rose, he began to exert more and more control over the group, aided by the fact that he wrote the bulk of their material. His relationship with band founder Stewart Copeland began to deteriorate, with the two reputedly coming to blows on some occasions, and the increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the attedant pressures worldwide fame, ego, money, publicity and drugs.
Their fourth album, Ghost In The Machine, produced by George Martin, was released in 1981, featured a thicker sound and vocal textures and spawned the hit singles, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and "Spirits In The Material World."
They released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983; it is widely regarded as a classic. Notable songs from that album include "Every Breath You Take" (an example of a paranoia song), "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "King Of Pain" and the forboding "Synchronicity II", which was accompanied by a memorable music video directed by Godley & Creme.
Although there was never an official break-up, each band member gradually began his own solo career. A short-lived attempt to reunite in 1986 produced only a subdued re-recording of "Don't Stand So Close to Me", and by this time it was clear that Sting had no intention of continuing the band, having already released a success solo debut LP in 1985, the jazz-influenced Dream Of The Blue Turtles".
- Fallout/Nothing Achieving (single) (1977)
- Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
- Regatta de Blanc (1979)
- Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
- Ghost in the Machine (1981)
- Synchronicity (1983)
- Every Breath You Take: The Singles (1986)
- Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings (1993)
- Every Breath You Take: The Classics (Revamp) (1995)
- Live! (1996)
- The Very Best Of... Sting & The Police (1997, 2002)
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