The Police are an English rock trio, from London, England, formed originally in 1977. The trio consisted of Gordon Sumner, CBE (born 2 October 1951), widely known by his stage name of Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar, vocals) and Stewart Copeland (drums, vocals, percussion). The band became globally popular in the late 1970s and are generally regarded as one of the first New Wave groups to achieve mainstream success, playing a style of rock that was influenced by jazz, punk and reggae music.
Their 1983 album, Synchronicity, was number one in the UK and the US and sold over 8,000,000 copies in the US. The band broke up in 1984, but reunited in early 2007 for a one-off world tour lasting until August 2008, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their hit single "Roxanne" and also, to a lesser extent, that of their formation as a group. The Police have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, and became the world's highest-earning musicians in 2008, thanks to their reunion tour. Rolling Stone ranked The Police number 70 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The Police were founded by American-born drummer Stewart Copeland in early 1977. After the demise of his progressive rock band Curved Air, Copeland was anxious to form a new three-piece group and join the burgeoning London punk scene. Singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani began rehearsing with Copeland in January 1977, and they recorded their first Police single, "Fall Out"/"Nothing Achieving," the following month. Although the early style of the group has been classified as punk rock, Allmusic Guide argues that this was only true "... in the loosest sense of the term"; the Guide states that the band's "... nervous, reggae-injected pop/rock was punky" and had a "punk spirit", but it "wasn't necessarily punk". In March and April, the threesome toured as a support act for Cherry Vanilla as well as Wayne County & the Electric Chairs. In May, ex-Gong musician Mike Howlett invited Sting and former Eric Burdon and the Animals guitarist Andy Summers to form Strontium 90 with him, as a project band for a Gong reunion.
The drummer Howlett had in mind for this band, Chris Cutler, was unavailable to play, so Sting brought along Stewart Copeland. Strontium 90 recorded several demo tracks at Virtual Earth Studios, and then performed at a Gong reunion concert in Paris on May 28, 1977. An album with some of these studio and live tracks (with the first recorded version of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic") was released 20 years later in 1997 under the name Strontium 90: Police Academy. The foursome also performed at a London club as "The Elevators" in July 1977.
In July 1977, Copeland, Sting, Padovani, and Summers began performing as a four-piece version of the Police. Padovani's relatively limited ability as a guitarist curtailed his tenure with the band. Soon after an aborted recording session with producer John Cale on 10 August, Padovani left the band and Summers took over sole guitar duties. This lineup of Copeland, Sting, and Summers would endure for the rest of Police history. Sting proved a capable songwriter. He had spent time as a secondary school English teacher, and his lyrics are noted for their literary awareness and verbal agility. Material in the later album Ghost in the Machine was inspired by the writings of Arthur Koestler, and songs on Synchronicity by the writings of Carl Jung. "Tea in the Sahara" on the latter album showed interest in the work of author Paul Bowles.
The Police, along with The Clash, were among the first mainstream white bands to adopt reggae as a predominant musical form, and to score major international hits with reggae-styled material. Although ska and reggae were already popular in the United Kingdom, the style was little known in the United States or other countries. Prior to the emergence of the Police, only a handful of reggae songs—such as Eric Clapton's 1974 cover rendition of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" or Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion"—had enjoyed much chart success. The bleached-blonde hair that would become a trademark of the band was a lucky accident, originating in February 1978. The band, desperate for money, was asked to do a commercial for Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum on the condition that they dye their hair blonde. Allmusic Guide notes that while the "...commercial provided exposure, it drew the scorn of genuine punchers".