The Return of the Police - Sting, Summers and Copeland are Back!

Bill Knell

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The Police reunited for an appearance on the 2007 Grammy Awards Show last night. Anyone familiar with Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland knows that a Grammy Awards Show would never be reason enough for them to come together and perform. It was obvious that this was some kind of reintroduction to the band. That suspicion was confirmed today when a Police Fan Club box suddenly appeared on Sting’s Website and announced that tickets would be available for an upcoming tour.

The band was formed by Stewart Copeland in 1977 as a foursome, went through some changes and became the threesome we all know in August of that year. By 1978 they had released Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You and their first album, Outlandos d'Amour, which began to appear in the USA when A&M records signed them. Like The Beatles, they perfected their sound while touring and playing seemingly endless club dates.

In 1979, the threesome drove across the USA in a Ford Cargo Van filled with rented instruments and equipment. Actually, according the statements made by the band members during that tour, they rented the instruments in New York City for a CBGB club date and forgot to return them. They stayed in cheap motels, wrote and practiced during the day; played sets late into the night and drove to their next gig using whatever time remained.

Unlike the Beatles who went through various incarnations, were constantly surrounded by controversy and took about six years to get noticed, The Police were suddenly thrust into worldwide stardom in less than a year and a half. I guess you could almost say that they woke up one morning in 1979 to find they were famous in the UK and USA. If Sting, Summers and Copeland thought that would cut them a break, they were wrong. The accommodations got better and the venues got bigger, but the pace never slowed for a second. Their second album, Regatta De Blanc, was released in 1979. Walking on the Moon and Message in a Bottle received a huge amount of airplay and helped fill most of their concerts to overflowing.

In the fall of 1979, I was lucky enough to squeeze into The Father’s Place in Roslyn, Long Island, New York and watch an amazing performance by The Police. The event was simulcast on WLIR, Long Island’s New Music Radio Station. A friend later provided me with an audio cassette of the performance. Although I doubt that the threesome understood how important that little concert in a relatively small venue was they still played their hearts out. The simulcast alone could have easily been heard by a million people or more in the New York metropolitan area. That helped the radio station achieve the highest ratings in their history.

Already a fan, I hadn’t seen them perform live. It was amazing how perfectly connected these artists were. After having seen bands like The Beatles, The Association, Blondie, The Young Rascals and dozens more perform live; I have to say that The Police were second to none in their ability to perform live music exceptionally well and were unbelievably comfortable on stage.

Sting was the obvious leader of the Band at the My Father‘s Place show, but not in a dictatorial sense. Anyone there could see this was a team effort. It was also kind of funny because while Police Albums were disappearing off store shelves all over the Tri-State area, the threesome seemed like guys who lived nearby, threw their instruments in the back of a van and headed down to the show. They were friendly, unpretentious and seemed to really enjoy interacting with the crowd.

Most people that I spoke to after the concert were asking each other where they could get a recording of the simulcast. The Band made their songs sound better than they did on the first album. That was probably because the first album was made while they were still unsigned and had very little money to work with. The sound of the band changed and became polished. Some of the album tracks were performed with new arrangements that made the songs more upbeat and fast paced. That concert was an experience I’ll never forget.

Although few understood their sound of Ska mixed with Reggae and Rock, a lot of people liked the songs and musical style of The Police. While still relegated to the category of New Music, the band burst out into the mainstream. Unlike other performers of the day which were wasting huge sums of money on elaborate stage shows, Sting, Summers and Copeland depended on their music, unique sound and dynamic live performances to impress the crowds. Well educated and penny wise, they watched where the money was going and avoided being ripped off by managers, accountants and handlers while the bones of other bands were being picked clean by shady characters.

In 1980, The Police began a world tour which included stops in Mexico, India and Egypt. The tour made them famous throughout the world; however, it also created a whole new level of pressure on the band members. Because Regatta De Blanc received so much attention and airplay, Sting, Summers and Copeland were under the gun to release another album and go back on tour. Zenyatta Mondatta, their third album, was released in October of 1980. The record hit number one in the UK and number five in the USA.

The early 1980s were good and bad for The Police. Sting has said they were earning ‘buckets of money’ at the time, but his individual stardom began to eclipse the fame the band was enjoying and created a rift between himself and Stewart Copeland. The pressure on the band continued to grow. Just one year after their third album hit the stores, Ghost in the Machine was released in 1981. Their fourth album hit number one in the UK and number two in the USA. Many believed that the threesome had reached their zenith with that record, but they were in for an even bigger surprise.

In 1983, The Police 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. Songs like Every Breath You Take, King of Pain and Wrapped Around Your Finger became instant favorites that crossed music formats and received a huge amount of airplay. Synchronicity II became a favorite of rock and new music disc jockeys. The album is considered a classic and their best by most fans and music critics.

Things got dicey among band members during the 1983-1984 Synchronicity Tour. Sting, Summers and Copeland all seemed to be making future plans that didn’t include the others. Without an official announcement and with little fanfare, The Police went their separate ways when the tour finally ended in the spring of 1984. The group had been so over exposed and the music continued to play on the radio for so long that no one really understood it was over for the Band until Sting released The Dream of the Brave Turtles and began playing with his own band.

There a few brief reunions, but these were merely chance events that didn’t spark any new collaborations, concerts or tours. In 1986 The Police played three concerts for the benefit of Amnesty International. In 1992 the band members performed two songs at Sting’s wedding reception. In March of 2003, the threesome played several songs together during a ceremony for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which was later broadcast on television.

Given the good-natured atmosphere evident among the band members during the induction ceremony, Police fans had hoped the occasion might spark a reunion. Even Sting seemed surprised in at how easy it was for the threesome to perform a set during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Broadcast. It almost seemed as though the band had never gone their separate ways. But anyone that had ever seen the Police perform in the early days knew better.

There were still a lot of issues to deal with and Sting was in the middle of a number of projects at the time. If Sting, Summers and Copeland had learned anything from their previous collaboration, it must have been to plan ahead. I doubt that any one of them wanted to be thrust back into the spotlight only to find each other pressured from all directions for albums, concerts and publicity appearances.

It’s now obvious that the band members used the last few years to put something together. If they have managed to sneak some recording sessions for a new album, that would be a huge and much-welcomed surprise. What has brought the band back together? It must be Synchronicity!

You can access more information about their Fan Club, Tour and ticket sales on my Website. Welcome back guys!

Author: Bill Knell
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