In May, ex-Gong musician Mike Howlett invited Sting and former Eric Burdon and the Animals 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, 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 twenty years later 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 with the band was short. 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 the work of author 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" or Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" — had enjoyed any significant chart success.
The bleached blonde hair that would become a trademark of the band was a lucky accident, originating in February 1978. 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.
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 did 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 Mexico City show was filmed by Canal 13. In May A&M in Great Britain released "Six Pack (The Police)," an expensive package containing the 5 previous A&M singles (not including "Fall Out") in their original sleeves plus a mono alternate take of the popular album track (from Regatta De Blanc) "The Bed's Too Big Without You" backed with a live version of the Outlandos d'Amour track "Truth Hits Everybody." 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, the Police released their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, in the autumn 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 in the United States. In subsequent interviews Sting stated that he regretted the rushed recording for the album. However, many critics would later cite it as one of their strongest efforts. The instrumental "Behind My Camel," written by Andy Summers won the band a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The song "Don't Stand So Close to Me" won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance For Duo Or Group.
As Sting's fame rose, his relationship with band founder Stewart Copeland began to deteriorate. The increasingly strained partnership was further stretched by the pressures of worldwide publicity and fame, conflicting egos, and their financial success. Meanwhile, both Sting and Summers' marriages failed (Sting settled down with new partner Trudie Styler, whom he later married, while Summers, after a brief relationship that fathered a son Andrew Jr., re-married his second wife Kate).
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. It spawned the hit singles, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Invisible Sun", and "Spirits in the Material World". As the band were unable to agree on a cover picture, the album cover had three red pictographs, "digital" likenesses of the three band members in the style of segmented LED displays, set against a black background. In the 1980s, Sting and Andy Summers became tax exiles and moved to Ireland (Sting to Roundstone in Galway, and Andy to Kinsale in County Cork) while Stewart, an American, remained in England.
The Police took a sabbatical in 1982, with Sting pursuing his acting career, co-starring with Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright in the Richard Loncraine film version of Dennis Potter's play Brimstone and Treacle. He also had a minor solo hit in the United Kingdom with the movie's theme song, "Spread A Little Happiness" (which appeared on the Brimstone and Treacle soundtrack, along with three new Police tracks). Summers recorded his first album with Robert Fripp, I Advance Masked.
The Police released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983. 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 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 beat out Jackson in one category: "Every Breath You Take" won the Grammy for Song Of The Year, beating Jackson's "Billie Jean". "Every Breath You Take" also won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal while "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. 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, received significant airplay upon release of the film that year.
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, and they ultimately performed "Roxanne" and "Message In A Bottle." Copeland said later that "after about three minutes, it became 'the thing' again." Also in 1992, Andy Summers served a brief stint as Musical Director on the short-lived "Dennis Miller Show".
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 last song was performed alongside Steven Tyler, Gwen Stefani, and John Mayer. Towards the end of the song, Copeland, known for tightening his drum heads until his knuckles turn white and a hard popping snare backbeat, broke the head of his snare drum. That fall Sting released his autobiography, "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 '70s and the early '80s. In October 2006 Andy Summers released One Train Later, an autobiographical memoir detailing his early career and time with the band.
On January 22, 2007, the punk wave magazine Side-Line broke the story that The Police would reunite for the Grammys, adding that the song performed would be "Roxanne". Side-Line also announced in its news coverage that The Police were to embark on a massive tour bringing them to cities all over the world. Billboard magazine later 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. 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.
The Police opened the 49th Annual Grammy Awards on 11 February, 2007 in Los Angeles, California, announcing "We're The Police. And we're back!" before launching into "Roxanne." A&M Records, the band's record company, promoted the 2007–2008 reunion tour as the 30th anniversary of the release of their first single and not indeed that of the band's creation. ABC reported, "This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of 'Roxanne,' the single that broke the Police in the United States." The single was released in April 1978.
The Police opened their Reunion Tour in Vancouver on May 28 in front of 22,000 fans at one of two nearly sold-out concerts. Stewart Copeland gave a scathing review of the show on his own website, which the press picked up as a feud occurring two gigs into the tour. It was only meant to be tongue-in-cheek and the band took it as light-hearted as it was intended. In October 2007 the group played the largest gig of the reunion tour in Dublin, Ireland, in front of 82,000 fans.
The Police continued their reunion tour in 2008, and locations include New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Macau, Japan, Canada, USA, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, UK, Serbia, Poland, Argentina and Brazil, where they played for 75,000 people. Henry Padovani joined the band on stage for the final encore of their show in Paris on September 29th. The Police as a 4-piece band played "Next to You" from the band's first album Outlandos d'Amour.
The Police also headlined the last night of the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival on 15 June, 2008, in addition to headlining the Sunday night at Hard Rock Calling (previously called Hyde Park Calling) on 29 June.The Police performed on June 24 in Belgrade (Serbia) with Counting Crows for 52,000 sold tickets.
In February 2008, The Police announced that once they were finished touring, they would break up again. According to Sting, "There will be no new album, no big new tour, once we're done with our reunion tour, that's it for the Police".
The final show of the tour was held August 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The group earlier announced the show while donating $1 million to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative to plant one million trees in the city by 2017. Proceeds went towards arts programming for the city's two public television stations. During the entire tour they sold 3.7 million tickets and grossed $358 million, making it the third highest grossing tour of all time.
The Police and Best Buy announced August 4, 2008 that they will release a collector's set entitled "The Police: Certifiable." The set will include an entire concert recorded live in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the tour. The set will come in the following packages: 2DVD/2CD, 1 Blu-Ray Disc/2CD, and 3 premium 180-gram vinyl LPs with MP3 file key. The set will include bonus footage, including a documentary shot by Stewart's son Jordan entitled "Better Than Therapy." The set will be released on November 11, 2008 from Best Buy.
|Month of release (UK)||Song||UK singles||U.S. Hot 100||U.S. Main- stream Rock||Dutch Top 40||Album|
|May 1977||"Fall Out"||—||—||—||—||—|
|April 1978||"Roxanne"||—||—||—||—||Outlandos d'Amour|
|September 1978||"Can't Stand Losing You"||42||—||—||—||Outlandos d'Amour|
|November 1978||"So Lonely"||—||—||—||—||Outlandos d'Amour|
|April 1979 (re-r.)||"Roxanne"||12||32||—||21||Outlandos d'Amour|
|June 1979 (re-r.)||"Can't Stand Losing You"||2||—||—||9||Outlandos d'Amour|
|September 1979||"Message in a Bottle"||1||74||—||2||Reggatta de Blanc|
|November 1979 (re-r.)||"Fall Out"||47||—||—||—||—|
|November 1979||"Walking on the Moon"||1||—||—||9||Reggatta de Blanc|
|1980 (Ger. and Fra. only)||"Bring on the Night"||—||—||—||—||Reggatta de Blanc|
|February 1980 (re-r.)||"So Lonely"||6||—||—||31||Outlandos d'Amour|
|October 1980||"Don't Stand So Close to Me"||1||10||11||3||Zenyatta Mondatta|
|December 1980||"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"||5||10||—||11||Zenyatta Mondatta|
|September 1981 (UK only)||"Invisible Sun"||2||—||—||—||Ghost in the Machine|
|October 1981||"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"||1||3||1||1||Ghost in the Machine|
|December 1981||"Spirits in the Material World"||12||11||7||6||Ghost in the Machine|
|May 1982 (US only)||"Secret Journey"||—||46||29||—||Ghost in the Machine|
|May 1983||"Every Breath You Take"||1||1||1||6||Synchronicity|
|July 1983||"Wrapped Around Your Finger"||7||8||9||17||Synchronicity|
|October 1983||"Synchronicity II"||17||16||9||—||Synchronicity|
|January 1984||"King of Pain"||17||3||1||—||Synchronicity|
|October 1986||"Don't Stand So Close to Me '86"||24||46||10||20||Every Breath You Take: The Singles|
|1995||"Can't Stand Losing You/Reggatta de Blanc" (live)||27||—||—||—||Live!|
|1997||"Roxanne '97" (featuring Pras)||17||59||—||38||The Very Best of Sting and the Police|
|2000||"When The World Is Running Down" (Different Gear vs. The Police)||28||—||—||—|
|(January 1977–July 1977)|
|(July 1977–August 1977)|
|(June 1986–January 2007)||(The Police disbanded)|
|(January 2007–August 2008)|