Singer/bassist Sting has been so revered these last two decades as a classic adult contemporary artist and songwriter (the oft-covered Fragile and Fields of Gold) that it's strange to remember the edgy, punkish reggae roots of The Police, the band he formed with lead guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland in the late 70s.
Ex-Curved Air member Stewart Copeland and ex-Last Exit bass player Sting first came together with the experienced session player and former King Crimson guitarist Summers in Mike Howlett's Strontium 90 project. From the first time they set foot on American soil, The Police were hailed as a "must-see" band -- a group that alchemized an already-impressive studio sound (a blend of improvisational instincts with raw punkish energy) into something utterly otherworldly when they hit the stage. Although The Police existed for just over six years (and released only five albums as a unit), the band's contribution to the lexicon of rock was immense.
Their singles, from "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da" to "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," were among the catchiest of the era. Albums like the Grammy-winning Reggatta De Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta (featuring the hit "Don't Stand So Close to Me," which won a Grammy as 1981's Best Rock Performance), led to 1983's classic Synchronicity, which would prove to be their last studio endeavor. The most successful Police album yet, it produced one of the most-remembered rock ballads of the '80s, an ode to obsessive love "Every Breath You Take," and led the band to embark on a wildly successful stadium tour.
The Police ranked as the #1 most played band on U.S. radio in the '80s, but personal and creative tensions that escalated on the tour led to a split that was originally termed a "hiatus." Each member had focused on his individual careers between Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity, and the more-official split allowed them to continue on these paths.
Copeland had resurrected his Klark Kent alter ego, releasing Klark Kent, and wrote the music for the movie Rumblefish. Summers had a book of photographs published to coincide with an exhibition of his camera work and also made an album with Robert Fripp.
Sting began working on a jazz-flavored solo project and released the hit The Dream of the Blue Turtles in 1985.
Copeland and Summers had less commercial aspirations. Copeland recorded the worldbeat-oriented The Rhythmatist and continued to score film and TV projects; he later formed Animal Logic with bassist Stanley Clarke.
Summers was more interested in art rock and jazz fusion, beginning with 1987's XY, continuing with collaborations with Fripp and John Etheridge.
During 1986, the Police played an Amnesty International concert and got together to record some new tracks for a greatest hits compilation, Every Breath You Take. The Singles featured a new version of "Don't Stand So Close to Me," and hit the Top Ten. The group officially disbanded after that, only reuniting to play at Sting's wedding in 1992. The box set Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings was released in 1993, followed by a double live album two years later.