The Police are a three-piece English rock band, who were strongly influenced by reggae and ska music. Coming to prominence in the wake of the punk rock phenomenon, they rose to become one of the most popular groups in the world in the early 1980s.
After 23 years, they reunited on February 11, 2007 to perform as the opening act of the 49th Annual Grammy Awards. The day after this performance, on February 12, 2007, the band announced they would be touring as a band in 2007.
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. Acting Manager Paul Mulligan paid for the recording of this first single. 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 veteran 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 drums, 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 May 28, 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 in 1997 under the name Strontium 90: Police Academy. The foursome also performed at a London club as "The Elevators" in July 1977.
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 meant that his tenure in the band was short, and soon after an aborted recording session with producer John Cale on August 10, 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 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 Carl Jung. "Tea in the Sahara" on the latter album showed interest in Paul Bowles as well.
The Police, along with the Clash, are notable as one of 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 very 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" — had enjoyed any significant chart success.
The bleached blonde hair that would become a trademark of the band was a lucky accident, occurring before they cut their first album. 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.
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 infamous New York club CBGB and a grueling United States tour in which the band drove themselves and all their equipment around the country in a Ford Econoline van.
As with several other international acts of this period (e.g. Blondie), the Police gained early popularity in Australia through their first Australian tour. The band also had their first international hits in Australia before achieving popularity in other countries. The key factor in their early Australian breakthrough was that they were enthusiastically supported by Australia's only non-commercial rock radio station, Triple J in Sydney, which in turn led to early exposure for their music videos on the popular national pop show Countdown.
In October 1979 the group released their second album Reggatta de Blanc, which was a major seller in many countries and which spawned the U.K. singles "Message In A Bottle," their first #1, and "Walking On The Moon," also a chart topper. The instrumental title track would win the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
In March 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 Mexico City, Mexico, Bombay, India and Egypt. The Police toured the world long before they were a world class act. The Mexico City show was filmed by Canal 13. 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.
In May A&M in Great Britain released "Six Pack," an expensive package containing the 5 previous A&M singles (not including "Fall Out") in their original sleeves plus popular album track (from "Regatta De Blanc") "The Bed's Too Big Without You". 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 by fall's end, the Police quickly released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta in the fall 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 successfully in the United States. Zenyatta Mondatta gave the Police worldwide fame. In subsequent interviews Sting himself expressed some disappointment with the album, regretting the rushed nature of its recording. However, many critics would later cite it as one of their strongest efforts. It was, however, the last album in which the group collectively cooperated, or as Sting would later put it, the last album they worked on "as a band". The instrumental "Behind My Camel," written by Andy Summers, would win the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, in spite of Sting's refusal to play on the track (the bass line being performed by Summers himself). The song "Don't Stand So Close To Me" would win the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance For Duo Or Group.
By this time Sting was becoming a major star in his own right, and he was clearly intent on establishing a career beyond the confines of the Police. He branched out into acting with fair success, making a well-received debut as the 'Ace Face' in the film version of The Who's rock opera Quadrophenia. This was followed with a role as the mysterious visitor in the Richard Loncraine film version of Dennis Potter's play Brimstone and Treacle, as well as scoring a minor solo hit in the United Kingdom with the movie's theme song, "Spread A Little Happiness", appearing on the Brimstone and Treacle soundtrack.
As Sting's fame rose, he began to exert 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. The increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the attendant pressures of worldwide fame, conflicting egos, money, and publicity.
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, spawning the hit singles, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Invisible Sun", and "Spirits In The Material World". The three red pictographs set against the album cover's black background represent "digital" likenesses of the three band members.
The Police released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983; it is widely regarded as a classic. Notable songs from that album include "Every Breath You Take", "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "King of Pain" and the foreboding "Synchronicity II". Except for "King of Pain", the singles were accompanied by memorable 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 the inevitable winner, Michael Jackson's Thriller. The Police, though, beat out Jackson in one category: "Every Breath You Take" won the Grammy for Song Of The Year, beating Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" in that category. "Every Breath You Take" also won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. "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.
Also 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 recieved significant airplay upon release of the film that year.
Although there was never an official break-up, each band member pursued his own solo career after the Synchronicity tour ended in March 1984. In June 1986 they 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 on the compilation Every Breath You Take: The Singles). 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.
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, ultimately performing "Roxanne" and "Message In A Bottle". Copeland said later that "after about three minutes, it became 'the thing' again."
On March 10, 2003, the Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed "Roxanne", "Message In a Bottle", and "Every Breath You Take" live, as a group. The latter song was performed alongside Steven Tyler, Gwen Stefani, and John Mayer. Towards the end of the song, Copeland was playing the drums in such an inappropriate and unmusical manner that the head of his snare drum actually broke. That fall Sting released his biography "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 70's and the early 80's. Andy Summers' autobiographical memoir of his career during and before his career in The Police, was released in October of 2006 called One Train Later. And Sting released an album of 16th Century classical music written by John Dowland in cooporation with lutenist Edin Karamozov called Songs From The Labyrinth in 2006.
In early 2007, reports surfaced that the trio would reunite for a tour to mark their 30th anniversary. The concerts would coincide with Universal Music (current owners of the A&M label) re-releasing some material from the band's back catalog. The following statement was released on behalf of the band by a spokesperson 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."
The punk wave magazine Side-Line then launched on January 22nd as first the news that The Police were to reunite for the Grammys adding that the song brought would be "Roxanne", which all appeared to be correct. Side-Line also announced in its news coverage that The Police were to embark on a massive tour bringing them to stations all over the world. Billboard magazine later on 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,' " he said. "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."
Inside sources have admitted that the group has in fact begun tour rehearsals in Vancouver, British Columbia, and that further details on the reunion tour would be announced in February, including a performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on February 11, 2007. A local radio station, Rock101, reported this information to the general public on January 24, 2007. There have been numerous sightings of the group and their entourage in the Vancouver area as expectation builds of a pending reunion tour.
The Police opened the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on 11 February 2007 in Los Angeles, California, stating, "We are The Police and we are back" before launching into "Roxanne."
On February 12th, The Police held rehearsals and a press conference for the media at The Whisky a Go Go in L.A., where they confirmed that they will be undertaking a world tour starting in Vancouver in May. It was also announced that the opening act for the North American leg of the tour would be Fiction Plane, a pop-rock band from England featuring lead singer Joe Sumner, the son of Sting.