We all know The Police, I’m sure. The success of “Every Breath You Take” alone is enough to put the band on the map, even for younger people like me. But why are they so awesome? Good question! I’ll try my best to explain that. The first and most obvious thing to note here is:
Sting (or Gordon Sumner, but I doubt you’ll be calling him that anytime soon) was into music from a young age, and would go to clubs to see artists like Cream. Prior to his musical career, Sting took on various jobs, including a stint as a teacher. That makes “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” really awkward, don’t you think? While he worked, Sting would play jazz in the evenings with various groups, most notably Last Exit. At around this time, he was dubbed “Sting” since he wore a black and yellow jumper often while playing for the Phoenix Jazzmen, leading bandleader Gordon Solomon to give him that name. But how did he join The Police? Well, he happened to meet some guy named Stewart Copeland who invited him in.
Stewart Copeland, or every drummer’s hero, has had a fascinating life. He grew up in Beirut thanks to his father’s work as a CIA officer. Copeland would later use this time in his life to his advantage, incorporating the music of Beirut in his playing. After traveling between the USA and The UK, Copeland ended up back in England. He started playing for a prog rock band called Curved Air. They became a popular live act before quietly breaking up. In 1977, The Police was finally born. Copeland, Sting, and guitarist Henry Padovani formed the first lineup before Andy Summers joined in.
Unlike his peers, Andy Summers was much older and had already been a part of the music industry for a long time. He started off with piano lessons at a young age, before moving to guitar. Like Sting, Summers was a fan of jazz and was influenced by artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. By the time he was 19, he was playing in Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, which started his professional music career. Over the years, Summers played with a number of bands, including The Animals, Soft Machine, and Kevin Coyne. In fact, he was invited to join a band just as Copeland and Sting pulled him into the world of The Police.
THE STARS ALIGN
Thanks to their experience, talent and creative thinking, The Police got a lot of attention. Stewart Copeland used the sounds he had heard from years of playing music to build his drum sound. Lebanese music, jazz, rock and roll, and reggae formed his early influences. Plus, Copeland was a contrarian. For example: in the 80s many drummers were lining their kits with big drums. Copeland decided to instead put Octobans on his kit, which are very small drums.
Sting had a unique way of playing bass where he would sing and play at once, leading to the creation of great bass lines. And I haven’t even mentioned his singing voice; he has incredible range and power, and his high, piercing voice captivated listeners. His talent as a songwriter led to The Police having many hit singles.
Andy Summers was experimenting with his sound, creating a fresh chorus-y guitar sound and playing like no one had heard before. I should mention, The Police started as a punk band. While their peers stayed in England, the band decided to introduce America to punk music. They were very successful, needless to say.
Perhaps the most important reason why The Police was so successful was because they fought tooth and nail over everything. Every little musical detail mattered to the members, to the point where they would even physically fight. Many people (me included) think that this conflict led to great music. Sure, they had trouble putting the music together, but when they finished it.. it was amazing. Each member had unique ideas and input, and each member fought to include their own style. Without this struggle, I think The Police would be a very different band.
Plus, Sting’s music sucks. There, I said it! His music is boring as hell. Imagine if he had his way and the other guys didn’t fight for their parts! But maybe that’s a hot take since Sting went on to become a famous solo artist. Just a thought.