Back in June of 1979, while driving with a couple of my high school cross country team members to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, in order to run in a road race that we ran in every year of high school, we picked up on my buddy’s car radio a song coming from the I.S.U. radio station. As I turned the knob (remember those analog days?), I pulled in a song that blew me away. Remember: I grew up in Indiana, so we were ALWAYS about a year behind the rest of the country with regards to music, fashion, building roads, etc. But, that day I heard a band for the first time that would come to dominate my listening preference over the next five years. That very day I heard “Roxanne” by The Police. Now, my English brethren might wink at the faux punk band, but I loved them.
Unfortunately, they could not stand each other. That musical tension drove their music to magical heights, but, after they became successful, egos started to run wild. Basically, Sting, the group’s main songwriter, decided it was time for him to go solo. That was 1985, making their grand Synchronicity album from 1983 the band’s last statement.
Back in the fall of 1981, I purchased what remains my favorite album by the band, Ghost in the Machine. I would literally run back to my dorm room only to play that album once through before my next class or work. As I sit here listening to the album for the first time in years, memories come running back. The biggest memory was the fact that I purchased a single ticket to go down to Indianapolis to see the band play in concert shortly after our spring break. By the way, the opening band was Joan Jett & the Blackhearts! How many times did you see a concert in which both artists became members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? On that night in March, I was blessed, as my ticket cost me a whopping $15.
Anyway, while a group of us went to Houston, Texas, for spring break (we weren’t that smart of guys, though our lodging was totally free and it had a full keg, but more on that some other time), we met some girls from Ball State who were down there too and hung out with them most of the time. Anyway, one of the girls felt sorry for me that I was going to this concert alone, so she said she would buy a ticket and drive us down to Market Square Arena. I don’t remember her name, but the company was nice. The trip was totally platonic, as I held no feelings toward her. Needless to say, we saw an awesome concert in a half-filled arena as The Police had yet to capture the imagination of the youth of Indiana.
As we all know, Sting went on to become a pretty successful solo artist, though never really reaching the level of his former band. Guitarist Andy Summers has released several “experimental” guitar-based albums over the years, none of which have been financially successful. And, drummer Stewart Copeland, released a couple of new wave, Police-sounding EPs, did some soundtrack work, played in an experimental band called Oysterhead with Phish guitarist Trey Anastacio and Primus bassist Les Claypool, and some session work.
You can relive the magic the trio made back during their reunion tour of the mid-2000s on the live DVD set Certified, which is an excellent document of their live prowess and volatile strength as a unit. Unfortunately, that tour may be the last time the band will work together.
So, today, I give you my Top 15 Favorite Police Songs.
15. “Too Much Information” (1981, Ghost in the Machine). Sting predicted the future with this song.
14. “Spirits in the Material World” (1981, Ghost in the Machine). You have to give Sting credit for writing songs about society that still hold up today.
13. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (1983, Synchronicity). Here is an example of the lyrics reading like poetry without the music. That was Sting’s brilliance as a songwriter.
12. “Message in the Bottle” (1979, Regatta de Blanc). This song is so ingrained in class rock radio that people forget that it was never a Top 40 hit in the US. Radio thought we wanted to hear Kenny Rogers at the time, I guess.
11. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” (1980, Zenyatta Mondatta). What the hell is this song about? I still don’t know. But, I STILL don’t care! It’s got a good beat, and it’s easy to dance to.”
10. “Roxanne” (1978, Outlandos d’Amour). This song kicked off the band’s career here in the States. But, it did not reach iconic level until we heard Eddie Murphy singing it in 48 Hrs.
9. “Synchronicity II” (1983, Synchronicity). This song’s success walked in opposition of the intelligence of the lyrics. Maybe, I have under-ranked this song after all.
8. “Omegaman” (1981, Ghost in the Machine). This was the band’s last nod to their punk influence. Still, that synth-guitar thing that Andy played at the beginning was my hook.
7. “King of Pain” (1983, Synchronicity). The lyrics read like poetry. The music is magical. And, the title described the look on my oldest son’s face when I would look back at him in the review mirror of our mini-van.
6.”When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” (1980, Zenyatta Mondatta). I love love songs with long titles.
5. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” (1979, Regatta de Blanc).
4. “Walking on the Moon” (1979, Regatta de Blanc). This song was number one seemingly in every country BUT the USA. Go figure. In the words of Elvis Costello, “I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused.” Words to live by.
3. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (1980, Zenyatta Mondatta). This is the book Lolita set to music. Still, it’s an awesome song.
2. “Every Breath You Take” (1983, Synchronicity). This is their biggest hit from their biggest album. FYI: It’s NOT a love song, but a stalker’s song. Listen to the lyrics! It’s down right creepy!
1. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (1981, Ghost in the Machine). What can I say? Sting can sure write a love song!
Well, this was a fun trip in the “Wayback Machine”. This is just another set of songs that make up the soundtrack of my life. Sting was correct when he sang, “Life is easy when it was boring.”