The Police were one of many conventional rock acts allowing themselves to be marketed under the New Wave banner in order to enhance their chances for commercial acceptance. Although the band’s savvy blend of stripped-down guitar-driven pop, smoothed-over reggae rhythms, and bleached blonde poster boy looks connected with the public from the start, an abundance of infectious compositions and clever video clips—programmed round-the-clock by MTV and other cable TV channels—would elevate them to superstardom at the time of their breakup.
The original impetus for the Police was supplied by drummer Stewart Copeland, who provided its name and enlisted his brother, Miles, a talent agent and record executive, to manage their career. He added singer/bassist/composer Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) for his stage presence in 1976, and when the original lead guitarist left the following year, brought in Andy Summers, who was well known for session work and as a member of various British rock groups.
The band’s debut album, Outlandos D’Amour (A&M 4753; 1978; #23), failed to catch on immediately due to BBC censorship of the initial singles releases—"Roxanne" (A&M 2096; 1979; #32) and "Can’t Stand Losing You" (A&M 2147; 1979; #42 UK)—and the inability to fit established radio playlist guidelines in the U.S. Critics, however, were almost without exception, enthusiastic; The New York Times’ John Rockwell would write that "no other rock band in recent memory has been able to combine intellectuality, progressivism, and visceral excitement so well." (April 5, 1979). When A&M decided to include "Roxanne" on the sampler LP, No Wave, the song entered the Billboard Hot 100.
With A&M providing greater studio and promotional support, the second album, Regatta De Blanc (A&M 4792; 1979; #25), earned a 1980 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance with the title track. The next release, Zenyatta Mondatta (A&M 4831; 1980; #5), did even better, going platinum and garnering two Grammys in 1981, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Don’t Stand So Close to Me") and Best Rock Instrumental Performance ("Behind My Camel"). Ghost in the Machine (A&M 3730; 1981; #2), although receiving only lukewarm endorsements from the press (due in part to its darker thematic concerns), also achieved platinum sales.
The fifth LP, Synchronicity (A&M 3735; 1983; #1), commercially outstripped all of the Police’s earlier work by a considerable margin, largely due to the widespread appeal of the Sting-composed ballad, "Every Breath You Take" (A&M 2542; 1983; #1). The work included many other gems as well, including three more hit singles: "King of Pain" (A&M 2569; 1983; #3), "Synchronicity" (A&M 2571; 1983; #16), and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (A&M 2614; 1984; #8). Synchronicity would pull all of the band’s earlier albums back onto the charts as well as earning two 1983 Grammys: Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Every Breath You Take") and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
At this point in time the band members split off to pursue various solo projects, only getting together to perform three benefit concerts for Amnesty International in summer 1986. Although demands for an official reunion for been repeatedly dashed, A&M has continued to market the Policy legacy via a steady stream of compilation releases, most notably Every Breath You Take – The Singles (A&M 3902; 1986; #7), Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings (A&M 0150; 1993; #79), and The Police Live! (A&M 0222; 1995; #86).
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