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Monday, January 23, 2012

Every Little Thing She Does: The Police Saga and Tribute

While the rage in Britain had turned from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, then to Led Zeppelin and ultimately, The Sex Pistols, a trio of older musically competent man-boys set out rule the Material World.

They called themselves The Police.

On drums, Steward Copeland drew on classically-trained licks, infused them with Reggae (and a driving snap-time personal metronome), and thus, designed a better beat with a cosmopolitan ethos setting off a vigorous pace. He is considered by Rolling Stone to be in the top 10 amongst the greatest drummers of all time (7th). (I'd say top 5...)

Essentially, The Police just played better than the average bloats thrashing about in the West End of London. To further the mix, Stewart's family connections (Miles Copeland III, I.R.S. Records founder) and band experiences with Curved Air, a once popular band, meant the rock beat was set; now, for a singer, songwriter, and a guitarist, to match the musical and business chops of Copeland.

Not to be outplayed, ever really (superego-id-ego stuff), was Gordon Sumner, a.k.a. Sting. He is underrated as a bassist, but likely, just as overrated as a songwriter, meaning: he did both equally well - and gave The Police the material it needed to grow from a faux-punk band to a record-setting popular rock band. (Below is a basic demonstration Sting's dual talents (songs and bass) in his classic brooding obsession song: Every Breath You Take, played more than any other in July and August of 1983 on MTV. As a youth, it was the theme song for a local radio station, Q101 out of Chicago.)

Guitarist Andy Summers gets overlooked as the combustible pairing of Sting and Stewart meant the eldest of the bunch, Andy, played a very flexible and transparent membrane between the two. He was like a dad influence without much fathering, instead, mostly rocking. Andy's chops on guitar were under-appreciated, as he could play subtle and a wide variety of licks flawlessly, never really showing off - as the solo was not much desired (Sting v. Stewart) in his playing. That said, Summers could do that, too - So Lonely, a classic Police show closer - was his time to shine.

The Police had only a handful of albums (and a bunch of greatest hits, reissues, box sets, that created a much larger discography), but they had a sound, and a range, that shone brightly in each record.
The best songs, frankly, were these:
  1. Roxanne, So Lonely, Can't Stand Losing You off Outlandos
  2. Message in a Bottle, Walking on the Moon off Reggatta
  3. Driven to Tears, Canary in a Coalmine, Man in a Suitcase, When the World Is Running Down... off Zenyatta
  4. Spirits in the Material World, Invisible Sun, Hungry for You, Too Much Information, Omegaman on Ghost in the Machine
  5. Synchronicity I and II, Every Breath, Tea in the Sahara, Murder by Numbers off their final studio release Synchronicity
In all, about 25 tracks (some not listed, obviously) are first-rate for anyone's listening pleasure. No argument really to be had. Others, had their quirkiness, off-putting sounds, or did not jive up. Every band has them - that's the process of music, and stretching.

From 1978, after barely knowing each other six months, they were to be on world tour by 1980, getting huge publicity that would make the current music idols and gods envious. It was a different time for the Police, for music, for the world, really.

Murder by Numbers (9/10/83)

Murder by Numbers' partial lyrics:

Now if you have a taste for this experience
And you're flushed with your very first success
Then you must try a twosome or a threesome
And you'll find your conscience bothers you much less

Because murder is like anything you take to
It's a habit-forming need for more and more
You can bump off every member of your family
And anybody else you find a bore

Because it's murder by numbers, one, two, three

It's as easy to learn as your ABC
Murder by numbers, one, two, three
It's as easy to learn as your ABC

Now you can join the ranks of the illustrious
In history's great dark hall of fame
All our greatest killers were industrious
At least the ones that we all know by name

But you can reach the top of your profession

If you become the leader of the land
For murder is the sport of the elected
And you don't need to lift a finger of your hand

By 1983, they put their final album together during fist fights, and childish and jealous rants. It would be hard to know - as no one directly connected wants to say what exactly caused it - but they outgrew the basic concept of the band. And stardom, travel, and musical directions resulted in their breakup at the height of their commercial success. (Their last album, Synchronicity, spent 17 weeks at the top of the American Billboard top 100 charts, interrupting Thriller's run.)

The album's title (Synchronicity) was inspired by Arthur Koestler's The Roots of Coincidence, which mentions Carl Jung's theory of synchronicity. Sting was an avid reader of Koestler, and also named Ghost in the Machine after one of his works. (Wikipedia)

But in synch, The Police were not. By 1984, the band was abolished but for a one-off attempt in 1986 that went nowhere. It took 21 years, aside from a few drink-inspired get togethers, before they would only see the light in 2007, or rather, the dollar signs. (To be cynical like Murder by Numbers.)

The things I remember most are haunting lyrics intertwined with a tight playing drummer and a ethereal guitar player. She wore a red dress; drove you to tears; when the world is running down; while every breath you take was inspired. We sent a message in a bottle and our SOS could be heard. And we all are Spirits in the Material World...Boom crash!!!

The saga is done, but the memory of their works are not forgotten.
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