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— Andy Summers, guitar and vocals, The Police
The Police's calling card has probably been their constant need to stand out, to cross the seams of a well-established musical fabric. Throughout their career (mostly spanning 1977-1984) they have embraced a wide variety of musical styles, genres, beats, and singing techniques. This combination churned out hits and gave the Police the staying power that propelled them to the top of the charts and kept them on radio playlists to this day. Though the band unofficially split up in 1984, their reunion tour in 2007-2008 (to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of "Roxanne") made them the highest grossing musicians of '08. Not bad after a 23-year hiatus.
The three bleached-blonde dudes (yet hardly Beach Boys) from England were among the first white musicians (The Clash did the same a few years earlier) to embrace reggae as a potent hit-maker (Sublime followed suit a decade later, too). The band was formed in 1977 by drummer Stewart Copeland. After a trial-and-error period where quite a few musicians came and went, The Police we know and love came together in July '77 as a trio featuring Sting, Copeland, and Summers.
"Roxanne" was the song that launched the band into superstardom. Originally the band didn't expect the song to stand out much from the other material on their debut album, Outlandos d’Amour. But Stewart Copeland's brother, Miles, who became their manager, loved it and got The Police signed to A&M records almost immediately. Although it became a moderate hit in 1978, "Roxanne" was re-released as a single a year later and topped the charts in the U.S. Meanwhile, "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon" from the band's second album, Regatta de Blanc, skyrocketed to the top of the charts in Britain. After that, The Police staged a stadium-packing world tour and became, for a time, the world's biggest band.
The Police are known as mavericks (for their bold and risky recording and touring moves), thinkers (for Sting's insightful lyrics, which often allude to literature or potent social issues), edgy musical style, and good-looking charisma. Sting, a former high school English teacher, had a successful solo career after the band split in '84, but not before The Police recorded their last and most popular album, Synchronicity, with the smash hit "Every Breath You Take." Although there doesn't seem much chance of the Police reuniting on a permanent basis, fans can hold out hope that they will continue to get back together for the occasional reunion tour again in the future.
The Police may not be an official group anymore, but their musical legacy lives on and has been covered and sampled countless times ("Roxanne" has been covered by George Michael, Fall Out Boy, and many others, while "Every Breath You Take" formed the backbone of P. Diddy's tribute to the fallen Notorious B.I.G., "I'll Be Missing You").
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and copycats are quick to pay homage to the guys who inspired musical risk-taking for generations.