The Police reunited for an appearance on the 2007 Grammy Awards Show. Anyone familiar with Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland knew that a Grammy Awards Show would never be reason enough for the original band members to come together and suddenly decide to perform on television. It was obvious that this was some kind of reintroduction to the band. That suspicion was confirmed a day later when a press conference was held in Los Angeles to announce that tickets would soon be available for an upcoming tour. A group known for surprising the media, their fans and sometimes even themselves, had done so handily. It was that way since the beginning.
The original band was formed by Stewart Copeland as a trio that became a foursome sometime in the spring of 1977. By early summer, Strontium 90 appeared on the scene as a reinvented version of the same group. After having undergone some personnel shifts and adjustments, the band members were Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers and Henry Padovani. As Strontium 90, the band recorded a few demo tracks, played gigs in London and Paris and worked on perfecting their sound. Sometime in the summer of 1977 they began calling themselves The Police, a name originally chosen by Stewart Copeland.
Looking to get their sound on vinyl, The Police tried laying down some studio tracks in late July of 1977 with the help of music producer John Cale, a Welsh musician and one of the founding members of The Velvet Underground. The recording sessions went nowhere and revealed that Henry Padovani lacked the guitar skills needed to keep up with the others. As a result, Padovani left the band in early August. By the fall of 1977, The Police became the threesome of Sting, Summers and Copeland that we know so well. The trio with a unique sound bigger than the band was tailor made for the small clubs and venues of England’s Punk and new wave music scene. As a result, they became popular with British Fans.
After giving the recording studio another try, The Police had better luck. Roxanne was released as a single in early 1978. Can’t Stand Losing You, So Lonely and their first album, Outlandos d’Amour, followed later that year. Through a deal brokered by Stewart Copeland’s brother, Miles, A&M Records signed The Police to a recording contract and released Outlandos d’Amour in the USA.
In 1979, the band toured the USA to support their newly released singles and the first album. The press loved to describe them as three guys from England with bleached blond hair playing rocked up Jamaican Rebel Music driving around the USA in a cannibalized, overdue rental van filled with stolen instruments.
The blond hair was actually the result of a commercial they did to earn some quick money. Afterward, they decided to stay with the look. The trio did drive around from gig to gig in a leased Ford Cargo Van that had seen better days and was long past the original return date. The van contained ‘borrowed’ instruments and equipment. Actually, according to statements made by the band members during that time, they rented the instruments in New York City for a club date and forgot to return them until their tour was finished. It’s said the band made good on the extra charges for the van and instruments.
Their second album, Regatta De Blanc, was released in the fall of 1979. Walking on the Moon and Message in a Bottle received a huge amount of airplay and helped fill most of their shows to overflowing. In November of 1979, I was lucky enough to squeeze into My Father’s Place on Long Island to watch an amazing performance by The Police. The event was simulcast on WLIR, Long Island’s New Music Radio Station at that time. A friend later provided me with an audiocassette of the performance. I wore that cassette out.
The third album by The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta, was released in October of 1980. The record hit number one in the UK and number five in the USA against tough competition which included AC/DC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Queen and Bruce Springsteen to name a few. Songs like Driven To Tears and Don’t Stand So Close To Me could be heard playing constantly on the radio. Despite all that radio play, people didn’t tire of their sound and always seemed to want more.
Sting’s newly acquired Star Power as the band front man, an actor and solo musician in his own right gave him a constant edge over Steward Copeland. Copeland was his most vocal critic in the band and the two actually got into fistfights on several occasions. It probably didn’t help that managers, concert promoters, publicity agents and record companies all knew there would be no Police or paycheck without Sting and likely took his side on many issues. That must have driven Copeland nuts. Despite the infighting, the band members were still able to agree enough at that time to get down to business and move the band forward.
In 1981, just one year after their third album was released, their fourth album hit the stores. Ghost in the Machine flew to a ranking of number one in the UK and number two in the USA. Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Invisible Sun captured the imagination of fans and were placed in constant rotation on radio stations from coast to coast in the USA. These songs proved that the band could make occasional changes in their sound without evolving away from their fan base as others had.
In 1983, the band released Synchronicity, their fifth and final album to date. It reached number one in the UK and number one in the USA. The album won the group several Grammy Awards and lots of critical acclaim. Songs like Every Breath You Take, King of Pain and Wrapped Around Your Finger became instant favorites that crossed over musical formats and received a huge amount of airplay. Synchronicity II became a favorite song of rock and new music disc jockeys. Today, that album is considered a classic and much beloved by most fans and music critics.
Without an official announcement and with little fanfare, The Police went their separate ways when the Synchronicity Tour finally ended in the spring of 1984. Because of all the albums sold, concerts performed, airplay received and media attention during that last tour, most fans probably felt the band members were just taking a well-deserved break.
The Police reunited for three concerts that benefited Amnesty International in 1986. Unlike the Beatles, there must have been enough esprit de corps there to occasionally get back together for the right reasons. In 1992 the band members reluctantly performed two songs at Sting’s wedding reception after being pressured to do so by the “A” List of guests. That led nowhere.
In March of 2003, The Police played several songs together during a ceremony for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The event was broadcast on television. Unlike the charity concerts or spur of the moment wedding gig, the 2003 performance of the reunited band members gave fans reason to hope for more. It didn’t seem strained and even Sting said he was surprised at how easy it was for the guys to perform together again. That gig proved that the band members could play together and still have a good time. That gave fans a reason to hope for more, but in the end it was all up to one band member.
Sting hit it as big without The Police as he did with them. Anyone paying attention to radio, broadcast television or cable during the 1990’s could not escape him. The Soul Cages, Ten Summoner’s Tales, Bring On The Night and other albums brought the S man lots of attention, accolades and money. Few performers create the kind of musical presence that Sting does and that sells well.
I think the defining moment of his fame as a solo performer during the 1980s and 1990s came at one of his concerts. I happened to see a video filmed for some project about the S-man. After finishing the concert, Sting came back stage. It appeared that he had turned in a long performance and already done one or two encores. He looked thin, almost frail, couldn’t catch his breath, was bathed in sweat, had tight fitting clothes on and all but collapsed against a backstage wall. He was wearing at least four or five Cause Ribbons on his lapel and yet couldn’t get anyone to bring him a bottle of cold water. Sting had become a tool used by the entertainment industry as much as a Craftsman of it. Perhaps that is what brought him back to the band that started it all.
Sting says that he woke up one morning and thought that it was time for The Police to reunite. It may be that he was simply tired of constantly facing the music and everything that came with it all by himself. Even as the powerful front man of that legendary band, it wasn’t Sting and the Police. It was just The Police. As a fan, I always thought of the band as one entity, not one person. Maybe that was what Sting wanted after all his individual fame.
Most people probably think that Summers and Copeland were just sitting around waiting for the call from the S-man. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting past the reality that both may have felt that ship had sailed along time ago, they have had lively and prosperous careers. Beyond his eighteen solo albums, Andy Summers started his career in 1965 and played with Eric Burden and The Animals, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Dantalion’s Chariot and had many other successful collaborations and projects. Stewart Copeland is considered one of the world’s finest drummers and began his career in 1974. Beyond his work with bands like Curved Air, Animal Logic, Oyster Head and Klark Kent, Copeland has had an amazing number of collaborations and proven to be a prolific and very successful soundtrack composer. But just like Sting, it was The Police that probably brought them the kind of attention that lead to bigger and better things.
A press conference held at the famous Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles the morning after the Grammy Awards told the tale. The Police were back and ready to go on tour. The press event atmosphere was electric and featured Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland playing a set for reporters, invited guests and some lucky fans.
Reporters that were present seemed as surprised and shocked as fans. Most were in awe of what they were seeing, wondered if the reunion would last past the press event and seemed more interested in enjoying the spontaneous show than asking questions. Those that did ask questions kept it unusually light. While it could be that they were just burnt out from the Grammy’s, it was more likely that they weren’t use to dealing with a musically in your face band like The Police. Even Ozzy and his occasional reunions with Black Sabbath couldn’t create the kind of atmosphere The Police could.
Although the new album question is left unanswered at this writing and the future of the band past the tour remains unannounced, there is another question that I think fans would be interested in having answered. If arguments over the music and artistic differences broke them apart so many years ago, what really brought them back together? What made Sting suddenly decide the time was right. What made them all willing to face the same old arguments and pressures all over again? I’m guessing it was Synchronicity. Welcome back guys!