Having sold a staggering 75 million records worldwide, The Police left an indelible mark on the music industry. With a career boasting an impressive collection of international hits, including five UK number one singles and five consecutive UK number one albums, they spearheaded the second British invasion of the United States and defined an era of British sound.
Their final album, Synchronicity, released only six years after the band’s first live performance, is their most successful. Receiving platinum certification in several countries along with three GRAMMY Awards, the album sold over 15 million copies across the world, solidifying The Police as one of the definitive rock groups of all time.
Who are The Police?
“As a three-piece, what was intelligent about us was, instead of trying to pretend we were a bigger band — we used that limitation to our advantage: less is more.”
Known as the power trio, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers and Sting revolutionised the boundaries of the rock genre. Utilising their diverse musical backgrounds, the trio played with the improvisational skills of a jazz ensemble and the raw energy of punk rock, creating a new, genre-defying sound that would become a hallmark of the new wave movement.
Growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Stewart Copeland developed a passion for music and a talent for rhythm at a young age, honing his skills through jazz. Moving to London in 1974, he was an accomplished percussionist with a keen ear for genre and a love of rock ’n’ roll. He made his recording debut shortly after with prog rock group Curved Air on the album Midnight Wire. Inspired by the raw energy and rebellious spirit of punk rock, Stewart eventually formed The Police in the late 1970s, capitalising on the provocative relationship between law enforcement and the punk movement.
Sting paid his early dues playing bass in his hometown of Newcastle, England, with local jazz fusion groups such as The Newcastle Big Band, The Phoenix Jazzmen, Earthrise, and Last Exit. Following a Curved Air performance in Newcastle, Stewart Copeland, on the advice of journalist Phil Sutcliffe, attended the set of Last Exit and, recognising the potential and charisma of the bass player, arranged an introduction. Within months, songwriter Sting had left his teaching job and relocated to London.
Andy Summers, who had begun his career in rhythm and blues with Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, had a wealth of experience, and an invaluable knowledge of genre and composition. Falling under the influence of the psychedelic genre, Andy had played with acid rock group Dantalian’s Chariot, before moving on to play with the likes of rock bands Soft Machine and The Animals for a brief time in 1968.
After five years in Los Angeles studying classical guitar and composition, Andy returned to London. Following a period of touring and recording with various acts, Andy joined Mike Howlett’s band Strontium 90, for which Stewart Copeland was the resident percussionist. Stewart poached Andy for The Police line-up, eventually replacing Henry Padovani as lead guitarist.
Undeterred by their initial struggle to secure airplay on British radio, The Police did the unthinkable and launched their first tour of the US. Unable to afford the usual luxuries of a band on tour, the trio flew on budget tickets, carried their instruments in hand luggage, and travelled from city to city crammed into a Ford Econoline van.
Performing at renowned music hotspots such as CBGB in New York and The Rat Club in Boston, the band steadily began to cultivate their fanbase. Their persistence paid off and they caught the attention of US radio stations, which led to newfound success upon their return to the United Kingdom, as the reissued single ‘Roxanne’ climbed the charts.
From Newport to New York
1 March 1977
Sting, Stewart Copeland and Henry Padovani perform their first gig as The Police at Alexander’s, Newport, supporting Cherry Vanilla.
1 May 1977
The Police release their first single ‘Fall Out’, having recorded it in February at Pathway Studios, North London, with a budget of £150.
18 August 1977
The Police, with Andy Summers now in place of Henry Padovani, perform at Rebecca’s in Birmingham.
22 February 1978
The band film a TV advert for Wrigley’s chewing gum, bleaching their hair blonde for the shoot in a look that became synonymous with their early breakthrough.
21 March 1978
The Police sign to A&M records.
20 October 1978
The Police fly to the United States carrying their instruments in their hand luggage.
2 November 1978 in the US, 17 November 1978 in the UK
The band release their first LP, Outlandos d’Amour, which reaches number six on the UK Albums chart and number 23 on the Billboard 200.
29 September 1979
The Police achieve their first UK number one with ‘Message in a Bottle’.
In July 1983, to promote the album of the same name, The Police kicked off the ‘Synchronicity’ tour in Chicago, visiting three continents for 105 shows. The tour sold out Shea Stadium in New York, just six years after the band’s first live performance, and Rolling Stone magazine speculated that The Police were ‘the biggest rock band in the world’.
At the height of their success, tensions between the trio revolving around musical and creative differences had reached their limit, leading to their disbandment in 1984 after the completion of the tour.
Life after The Police
Sting released his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, in June of 1985. This album marked the beginning of an ever-evolving and expanding musical career. As a solo performer, he is a 17-time Grammy Award winner and has released 15 studio albums to date, which have sold millions of copies worldwide and won multiple awards.
Collaborating with many musicians, Andy has toured the world as an independent artist, released 13 solo records, composed film scores, and displayed many successful exhibitions of his intimate photography.
Outside of The Police, Stewart has had an impressive career in songwriting, and score composition for film and production, whilst he has also arranged a number of ballets and operas, winning multiple awards for various productions.
In 2003, The Police reunited for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, embarking on their final tour four years later. In 2023, we celebrate 40 years of Synchronicity with the first UK coin dedicated to these true music legends.