I don’t know what has caused me to begin listening to this great band’s music again, but I am glad I did. Ask any of my friends from high school and college, and I am certain that many of them will tell you stories of my late-Seventies and early-Eighties obsession with none other than The Police. I am not sure what it was that connected with me back the, but from the moments I first heard “Roxanne” on a local radio station while visiting Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, for some road race a group of us were running, but the song grabbed me.
For that five year run the band had from 1978 through 1983, I was focused on them, The Clash and Blondie. Not only did I collect the band’s studio albums, but I even purchased a seven-inch picture disc of “Message in a Bottle,” just because I could. During the band’s tenure, they only released 55 songs across five studio albums and a Greatest Hits package. But, the quality of those songs were top-notch. What most people in Indiana never realized was what an awesome live band The Police were. For my money, they remain the greatest trio in rock history, greater than – Hold on! He’s gonna say it! – Rush. Oh, hell! What have I done! All the Rush fans are going to come after me now! Anyway, The Police only stopped in Indiana on two tours: The Ghost in the Machine Tour in 1982 and The Synchronicity Tour in 1983. Actually, I saw the band in 1982 as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts opened for them in a half-filled Market Square Arena. This was a time when MSA was being filled by the likes of Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Styx, while most of the artists I loved at the time just sped on by Indy. Unfortunately, I did not get to see The Police on their triumphant Synchronicity Tour in 1983 since I was working in Wisconsin that summer. To this day, The Police remain in my Top 10 best concerts with the likes of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and, of course, Prince.
By now, everyone is pretty familiar with The Police catalog, though I slid off the bandwagon just as they were hitting the saturation point in early 1984. Still, I was majorly disappointed when the band officially called it quits in 1986, after re-recording their classic “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” And, while at the time, I was crying heresy, I have grown to like this version that they included on their swansong compilation, Every Breath You Take: The Singles. Yet, I felt, and still do to this day, that Sting took the easy way out by not recording with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers. For way too long, I have felt that Sting’s solo material just missed the creative tension that the other two brought. All they had to do was record the highlights of Sting’s sophomore studio album and release it as a Police album, and I probably would have enjoyed the songs so much better. And, then, this trio could have ended on a big bang and rode off into the sunset. Instead, I felt like Sting’s …Nothing like the Sun was just a little sterile, boring and pedestrian. Oh well! What could have been…
With all of that said, let’s do something that I have always wanted to attempt, and that’s a ranking of EVERY song released by The Police in the Seventies and Eighties. I am NOT including any Puff Daddy remixes or songs with samples because those simply become an act of futility. Nor will I include live versions or the band’s pre-album single “Fall Out,” which is interesting but not worth my effort. So, let’s get this party started!
55. “Peanuts” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
54. “Truth Hits Everybody” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
53. “Masoko Tanga” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
52. “It’s Alright for You” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
51. “Darkness” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
50. “The Other Way of Stopping” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
49. “One World (Not Three)” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
48. “No Time This Time” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
47. “Be My Girl – Sally” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
46. “O My God” (Synchronicity, 1983)
45. “Miss Gradenko” (Synchronicity, 1983)
44. “Behind My Camel” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
43. “Shadows in the Rain” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
42. “Deathwish” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
41. “Too Much Information” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
40. “Mother” (Synchronicity, 1983)
39. “Tea in the Sahara” (Synchronicity, 1983)
38. “Contact” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
37. “Man in a Suitcase” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
36. “Rehumanize Yourself” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
35. “Hole in My Life” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
34. “Voices Inside My Head” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
33. “Demolition Man” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
32. “Walking in Your Footsteps” (Synchronicity, 1983)
31. “Regatta de Blanc” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
30. “Bombs Away” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
29. “Omegaman” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
28. “Hungry for You (J’aurais toujours faim de toi)” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
27. “Canary in a Coalmine” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
26. “Born in the ’50s” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)
25. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86” (Every Breath You Take: The Singles, 1986)
24. “Invisible Sun” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
23. “Bring on the Night” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979)
22. “Driven to Tears” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
21. “Synchronicity I” (Synchronicity, 1983)
20. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
19. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (Synchronicity, 1983)
18. “Spirits in the Material World” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
17. “Secret Journey” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
16. “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
15. “On Any Other Day” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979). There is nothing like a song about alienation by The Police, and this one is an excellent example of the subject.
14. “King of Pain” (Synchronicity, 1983). My current life’s literal theme song. ‘Nuff said!
13. “Message in a Bottle” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979). This song is so much more ubiquitous now than it was when it was released.
12. “So Lonely” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978). If you got to see this song performed in concert, then you understand how it was transformed with Sting singing the “So lonely” refrain with 10,000 equally alienated fans. It became truly transcendent.
11. “Can’t Stand Losing You” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978). I love Sting’s songs about teenage lust-slash-obsession. Contains what may be my favorite Sting line, “Your brother’s gonna kill me and he’s six-foot ten.”
10. “Next to You” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978). Hmmm, this is a subtly lustful song.
9. “Synchronicity II” (Synchronicity, 1983). Who cares what damned psychologist Sting was reading at the time when he wrote this song! It’s just a terrific, yet forgotten, Eighties rock song.
8. “Walking on the Moon” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979). You want to know how good this song is? None other than Jerry Garcia said it was Sting’s best song and that the Dead was going to play it live. I’m sure they did since they covered everyone.
7. “Murder by Numbers” (Synchronicity on cassettes & CDs, vinyl B-Side, 1983). You know an artist is popular when their B-Sides get played on the radio. The Police were the first to get this done in my (red)neck of the woods, soon followed by Prince (“Erotic City”) and The Boss (“Pink Cadillac”). Still, this is an awesome yet very dark song. And, it’s great to sing with other people at a bar.
6. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979). What a sly little obsessive love/lust song, and dark, to boot.
5. “Roxanne” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978). Yes, Eddie Murphy made this song a pop culture touchstone, but it would have never gotten to that level if it weren’t a classic.
4. “Does Everyone Stare” (Regatta de Blanc, 1979). You may not be familiar with this one, but it is a little on the creepy side which only makes it better. Now, in the song’s defense, I always felt a slight kinship with the character because I always had difficulty speaking to girls back when I was younger, so I may have made some young ladies uncomfortable with my staring.
3. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” (Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980). This is Nabokov’s Lolita set to a rock/reggae beat and updated to a young teacher’s point of view. This song was perfect in its original incarnation.
2. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (Ghost in the Machine, 1981). I’m not certain, but I surmise that this song is about when Sting met his current wife Trudie. This is his finest straight-forward love song.
1. “Every Breath You Take” (Synchronicity, 1983). Hands down, my favorite stalker song of all time! I cannot believe that people actually think this song is a romantic song. In college, before I met my wife, I dated a young lady who had some stalker tendencies and wanted this song to be “our song” exactly for the lyrical content. Obviously, I bailed! What wasn’t this song used in Fatal Attraction?