So it looks like The Police are finally toast - again. Just recently, the band announced that they're too old and too rich to put up with one another any longer and will be playing their last concert ever sometime this summer. The details are still sketchy, but apparently the show will be in New York City and will help plant trees somewhere. (Sting loves causes, you know, and anybody who has put so many carbon footprints on this earth as he has should do all he can.)
But amidst all the inevitable hoopla of "last evers" and "never agains," it occurred to me that the breakthroughs and advances of The Police were getting lost in the sauce. After all, this isn't just some goofy ska band that got lucky with a hit or two - and yes, I do mean Madness.These guys are freakin' legends. As they prepare to take their final bows (for now, anyway), let's take a look at why The Police really mattered, and why we should miss them. (That is, of course, until they reunite again. Hey, don't say it can't happen.)
They Were Exciting. Think about it: When The Police hit the scene in 1978, we were inundated with uptight New Wave acts like Blondie, The Cars and what have you, bands that sold cool detachment but couldn't put on a show if you smacked them upside the heads with checkered sneakers. The Police rocked the sure-shot and then some. They tore up every joint they played. Hell, they even tore up the dressing rooms! Hating one another no doubt had something to do with it, but so what? They had energy, they were fun, and that's all that counts.
They Brought Reggae To The Masses Bob Marley may be the undisputed king of the genre, but seriously, how many girls in your Algebra class do you remember having a copy of Babylon By Bus? I'm guessing not many. Just as The Rolling Stones sold American blues back to US audiences who had no idea they were buying American blues, it took three white bottle-blonds who played songs like So Lonely - its chord progressions gently ripped from No Woman No Cry - to bring the taste of island spice to the multitudes.
Sting Could Rock The Bass You've got Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, Phil Lynott, and then who else? Nobody, right? Sting took the bass out front again - he often played a fretless, because he was that good and didn't mind showing you - and he made that sucker scream and shout. Check out this clip from Rock Band and tell me the guy wasn't happening six ways to Sunday.
Stewart Copeland Knew How To Play Them Drums Sure, he used those funny Octobans a tad much, but for the most part, the lone American in The Police performed balletic acts of grace and fury every time he sat down at his kit. Punk-rock energy with the melodic finesse of a jazz virtuoso - that's the Cope. Take a look at this recent clip to see how he hasn't lost his polyrhythmic fire.
Andy Summers Revolutionized The Electric Guitar Why this guy doesn't top every guitar reader's poll amazes me. Two years before The Edge came to the world's attention as the "It" gizmo guy, Andy Summers was weaving dizzying quilts of sound that centered around inventive arpeggios and innovative applications of effects pedals. The entire concept of "less is more" started with Summers' masterful playing on tracks like Message In A Bottle, a song everybody is still trying to figure out and can't get quite right.
They Wrote Classic Songs Or rewrote them, as was the case with Every Breath You Take - Sting claims his monster hit was inspired by listening to the Ben E. King gem Stand By Me. But think about all the other smash-o's: Don't Stand So Close To Me, Roxanne, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun...You get the idea.
It'll be a drag to see them ride off into the sunset. Beyond the cathartic live shows, I'll miss that great new Police album they could have recorded but didn't. But maybe they can get a few punches in before they split. And then they can kiss and make up in ten or twenty years. I'll be waiting.
By Joe Bosso