The Police

TrackAlbum
Next To YouOutlandos D'Amour
Truth Hits EverybodyOutlandos D'Amour
Bring On The NightReggatta De Blanc
Reggatta De BlancReggatta De Blanc
Voices Inside My HeadZenyatta Mondatta
Driven To TearsCertifiable
OmegamanGhost In The Machine
DarknessGhost In The Machine
Synchronicity ISynchronicity
King Of PainSynchronicity

The Police photo 1

 

 

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The Police playlist

 

Contributor: Chris Dodge

This should be straightforward. 5 studio albums, 10 playlist tracks, 2 tracks per album and multiple top ten hits in numerous countries to choose from. My first attempt at the playlist turned out to be an edited Best of compilation of songs even my parents probably have heard of. No real challenge there. Let’s make it more interesting. Playlist can’t contain any monster hits and needs to include one band co-write and one song each from Summers and Copeland. Okay, that’s more like it.

I only really love three Police albums: Outlandos D’Amour, Reggatta De Blanc and Ghost In The Machine. The other two are good but don’t quite do it for me in the same way. I’ll explain why later.

I can’t remember what the first Police song I heard was. For a time, they were one of the biggest bands in the world and their singles were never off the radio. Outlandos D’Amour was the first album I bought but not until about 1981 when I was of record-buying age and had ceased purchasing novelty singles from the Barron Knights and the Smurfs. The album had already been out for three years by this time.

Next To You kicks off the debut album in fine style. Wikipedia informs me that fittingly this was the last song the band played live and were joined by former member Henry Padovani. In truth the band were too tight musically to be classified as part of the punk rock movement but, wanting to fit in with the times, the punk sensibility shines through albeit with a slide guitar solo! For me, the band’s sound appeared more aligned to the US new wave bands emerging at the time, perhaps reflecting two of the band members’ links to the States. I have always been a fan of Stewart Copeland’s dynamic drumming style and this is a great early example of his use of syncopation to drive the rhythm.

Truth Hits Everybody existed in different versions for a number of years but remained a live favourite and can also be found on The Police Live released in 1995. The band seemed to nail certain musical phrases and mould them into their own style, ‘Whoa-oo-oh’ is definitely one of them.

 

 

Bring On The Night is my first selection from their second album Reggatta De Blanc and one of my favourites. Released as a single in the US, Germany and France however it was only a hit in the latter, reaching number six. Stewart Copeland rates it highly as one of their best album tracks and there’s lyrical links to T.S. Eliot and Ted Hughes as well as Norman Mailer. The rare band co-write selected for the playlist is the instrumental title track supposedly evolved from improvisational stage jams during performances of Can’t Stand Losing You. It won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance when such awards existed. Likewise, Summers’ Behind My Camel a year later.

I really struggled with selecting tracks from Zenyatta Mondatta. Despite being highly praised by critics, I concur with the band who expressed disappointment over the album due to its rushed recording, only finishing it hours before embarking on their next world tour. There are undoubtedly strong tracks but the relatively weaker singles (compared to previous efforts) indicated a dip in quality as the band’s popularity and demand for tours around the world increased. However, listening again today, Voices Inside My Head has a great groove and a signature tight rhythm section. I have opted for the live version of Driven To Tears to be found on the live album Certifiable recorded in Buenos Aires as part of the band’s last reunion tour in 2007. Check out Summers’ versatile guitar riffing around the 2:30 minute mark. If you have the inclination and time, I would highly recommend watching the documentary Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police which is based on his acclaimed memoir “One Train Later” and paints an honest and absorbing insight into the band during the height of their fame.

 

Staying with Andy Summers undoubted talents, time for my selection of a song he wrote. Omegaman from their fourth album Ghost In The Machine. Initially chosen as the first single by record label A&M until Sting refused to allow its release in favour of Invisible Sun. Probably the right decision but not the first time Sting had failed to fully acknowledge Summers’ contributions, having once buried the master tape to Behind My Camel in the garden until Summers retrieved it! What is undeniable is that, put simply, Sting writes the best harmonies and some killer choruses which make natural choices for singles.

By this point, both Summers and Copeland were beginning to tire of Sting’s dominance and increasingly experimental musical direction which was very apparent on Ghost In The Machine. However, despite their diminishing involvement, both Summers and Copeland contributed what I believe to be their strongest recorded songs on this album. Therefore, Stewart Copeland’s Darkness makes the playlist. Despite its downbeat lyrical theme, the song’s repetitive and hypnotic melody fits perfectly on a record which has a heavier reliance on keyboards and horns. It’s probably the album of theirs which I play the most as I have a soft spot for the gated drum sound and recording technique which producer Hugh Padgham was known for at the time.

And so to their final album, the one I play the least if seldom ever, Synchronicity, released in 1983. Production heavy with most songs edited together from different takes and individual parts recorded in separate rooms, it’s an accomplished yet, as a result of its recording process, a strangely sterile record. Nevertheless, it has some undeniable great songs. Even the use of a sequencer doesn’t spoil Synchronicity I which just edges out Synchronicity II the third single from the record. King Of Pain is another highlight and my favourite single from the album. However, as with Synchronicity II, it was only a relatively minor hit in the UK although it reached no.3 in the States and the top spot in Canada. Native Alanis Morissette covered the song for her MTV Unplugged record.

 

For those interested, my original playlist was as follows: Roxanne, So Lonely, Can’t Stand Losing You, Truth Hits Everybody, Message In A Bottle (the best Police single), Bring On The Night, The Bed’s Too Big Without You, Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun.

So there you have it, managed to get through the whole piece without reference to Every Breath You Take, white reggae, internal squabbles and inflated egos. Oops.

 

 

 

 

 

The Police official website

PoliceFans.org unofficial fansite

The Police Fansite on Facebook

Stewart Copeland official website

Andy Summers official website

Sting official website

The Police biography (AllMusic)

Chris Dodge currently resides in Singapore but will be returning to Kent and his much missed record collection in the summer of 2022. Having discovered ‘With the Beatles’ in his parents’ record collection at the tender age of 7, Chris become an avid music fan and his musical tastes are eclectic to say the least although a sizeable portion of his records are from the 1980s to mid-1990s when he didn’t have a family to spend his money on. Chris is on twitter @chjdod.

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5 Comments

  1. Glenn Smith
    May 26, 2022

    Chris, ok I get the self imposed discipline to avoid a greatest hit package – and I see you’ve added your hits top 10 at the foot – but there’s a couple of tunes which have to be highlighted regardless of their smash hits status. We can’t avoid Message in a Bottle (the best Police single as you say), a simply sensational piece of songwriting, backed by brilliant performances by all three, a popular music masterpiece. Bed’s Too Big and Walking on the Moon, for Sting’s bass playing alone are brilliant tunes, Bed’s Too Big’s arrangement around the two bass riffs, c’mon! And on the shared song writing I’d have definitely had Does Everyone Stare, I’d reckon Stewart’s masterpiece. Alright, I know they are all off Regatta, but by jingoes what an album. I’d make a notable mention to Hole in My Life… but I’ll avoid mentioning the two biggies off Outlandos. Great list, fun thinking about the possibilities, and I get what you mean about their best work, I’m a total sucker for the first two records which are close to perfect. Thanks Chris.

    • Chris Dodge
      May 26, 2022

      Ha ha, thanks for your comment Glenn. Fully expected to get a fair bit of stick for the playlist! Agreed, Message in a Bottle still has an amazing energy and is certainly as good as you have described. I like all of Copeland’s songs on Reggatta de Blanc, but On Any Other Day is probably my favourite. Just felt that Darkness displayed a different level of songwriting maturity and sophistication. Walking on the Moon is a great example of Sting’s bass playing but, not entirely sure why, it’s never been one of my favourites of theirs.

  2. David Lewis
    May 27, 2022

    I’d have to have ‘Message in a Bottle’. I was about 12 when it came out. I still find it compelling. And Sting, like so many others, seems to thrive with some competition. Copeland and Summers pushing him brought out some real magic. Sure he was brilliant as a solo but there can be a level of self indulgence that takes some of the fire.
    And given how relationships had somewhat deteriorated, Synchronicity was a very good album. Is there a case for it to be the best ‘album recorded while the band was disintegrating’ album? Abbey Road might pip it and there might be one or two other candidates.

  3. Harvey
    Jun 15, 2022

    So Lonely …. Great song … even better in concert …
    Not even a mention?

    • Chris Dodge
      Jun 15, 2022

      Yep, in the alternative playlist at end of article!

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