They are one of the few bands whose last album was their most successful. They made just five, and the last one, Synchronicity, released in 1983, was by far their biggest. Another album would surely be huge, but by then Sting had nearly complete creative control of the band, so it made more artistic sense for each member to pursue their own interests, which they did. Sting became a top solo artist; Summers took up photography and released more eclectic music; Copeland composed music for film and TV soundtracks.
The Police started as a punk band, originally with guitarist Henry Padovani. They played more complex styles when Andy Summers
For a short time they had four members, but Padovani left when it became clear that Summers was a better fit.
"Ambition is stronger than friendship," Sting told Phil Sutcliffe, the journalist who introduced him to Stewart Copeland in 1976. Sting was in a group called Last Exit; Copeland was part of a progressive rock outfit called Curved Air. Both groups were on their last legs. Summers, who studied classical guitar, had been on the English music scene for a while, including as a member of Soft Machine. The three had instant social and musical rapport, but when the downforce of fame pushed upon them, there were no childhood bonds to hold them together. "As long as the group is useful for my career I'll stay," said Sting. "When it isn't I'll drop it like a stone."
The group began to crumble in 1984 when they took time off following their tour for Synchronicity. They returned in 1986 to play three Amnesty International benefit concerts, but plans for an album were scuppered by hard feelings and other commitments. The next time they worked together was 2007, when they reunited for a successful, but contentious tour that lasted over a year.
Before they hit it big, all three members dyed their hair blond for a Wrigley's Gum commercial in 1978.
Sting and Summers are from England. Copeland was born in America (Alexandria, Virginia) but moved with his family to Beirut, where his father worked for the CIA.
When the Police reunited in 2007, they opened the Grammy awards with a performance of "Roxanne
" before going on tour. Their previous performance was in 2003 when they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
They made videos right away, starting with some tracks from their first album, Outlandos d'Amour
, in 1978. Their earliest videos were mostly performance footage or shots of the band in exotic locations just larking about, but as they got more successful, their video budgets grew and they became more conceptual. When MTV went on the air in 1981, they played many of these videos because they had few to choose from. Soon after the network launched, The Police delivered videos for "Spirits In The Material World
" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
," which went into rotation and made them fixtures on the network. In 1983, only Michael Jackson was a bigger video star, with "Every Breath You Take
" and "Synchronicity II
" making a huge impact.
The champion race horse Zenyatta was named after The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta. Jerry Moss, who signed The Police to his label A&M Records (Moss is the "M", his partner Herb Alpert is the "A"), bought the horse when she was a yearling for $60,000 from former PolyGram records CFO Eric Kronfeld, and named her after the album. The investment paid off for Moss - Zenyatta won over $7 million in purses.
They won the Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance two years in a row, for "Reggatta de Blanc" and "Behind My Camel
Their first gigs were on tour with the female punk singer Cherry Vanilla; they would perform first, then Sting and Copeland would act as her backup band. Cherry Vanilla released two albums in the '70s but never made it big as a singer. She later became an author.
Most of their songs were written separately, with each member bringing in demos. Sting ended up becoming the primary writer because his songs were the hits - his musical tastes matched that of the general public. Summers and Copeland didn't have a problem with this at first because working up the songs was still a team effort. Toward the end though, they felt that Sting was dismissive of their contributions, insisting on doing everything his way.
They used keyboards and synthesizers, but sparingly. Many of their musical textures were generated by guitarist Andy Summers, often using various effects units. "We had a guitarist with such a wide vocabulary that we never really needed to use keyboards that much," Stewart Copeland said
in a Songfacts interview. "We all preferred guitar, but there are bits and pieces of keyboards. They [Sting and Summers] both got Taurus bass pedals and we used technology for various things, but keyboards not so much."
Their manager, Miles Copeland (Stewart's brother) chose their first three album titles: Outlandos d'Amour, Reggatta de Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta. He made up the words: "Outlandos d'Amour" indicates "Outlaws of Love"; "Reggatta de Blanc" is "White Reggae"; "Zenyatta Mondatta" is just fun to say.
For their next two albums, Sting imposed his will and came up with highbrow concept titles based on psychology: Ghost in the Machine, titled after an Arthur Koestler book; and Synchronicity, after Carl Jung's book.