Interview: GOLDMINE (1993)

April 01, 1993

The following article by Thomas Kintner appeared in an April 1993 issue of Goldmine magazine...

Bands that defy classification come all the time, but most are not in sight long enough that you would notice...

Bands that defy classification come all the time, but most are not in sight long enough that you would notice. In a medium as stylistically incestuous as music it is nothing short of wondrous when an act breaks through by sounding different than anything before it, and more amazing still is a band which rides more than flash and fancy to the top.

The Police was such a band. Forging a blend of styles and sounds that had previously made programmers blanch, they carved a niche for themselves in pop music. Their importance as one of the bands in the new wave movement is not to be undervalued, but it would be a disservice to pigeonhole with such an easy attribution a band which encompassed its own unique brand of music, and whose members today continue to create vital, genre-bending sounds on their own.

In searching for a clean start it becomes obvious that there is as little chance of finding a real point zero from which the Police sprang full-blown as there is of digging up the players' parents' receipts for the drum, guitar and bass lessons. What is certain is that in early 1977, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist/singer Gordon Sumner, the latter who would later be identified for all purposes but taxes as Sting, first got together in rehearse in London.

Sting was born October 2, 1951 in Wallsend, Tyne And Wear, England. Before becoming a Police - man he'd laboured as a teacher and ditch digger and had played with a jazz outfit called Last Exit in the Newcastle area. American Copeland was born July 16, 1952 in Alexandria, Egypt (his father was a CIA agent) and had lived both in the Middle East and the US before moving to England in 1975. There he joined the British progressive rock outfit Curved Air, which split up the following year.

At its genesis the pair was teamed with guitarist Henri Padovani, and that trio comprised the line-up which recorded the first single under the Police name, 'Fallout', in February 1977. In May of the same year Andy Summers (born Andrew Somers in Lancashire, England on December 31, 1942) made his way into the group as a second guitarist. Summers, who had previously played with Eric Burdon and the New Animals, Kevin Ayers, Zoot Money, Soft Machine and others, proved a far superior guitarist, and by August Padovani had gone the way of Pete Best and the Police line-up was set for the remainder of the group's existence.

Late in 1977, at the height of the punk era, the group signed with A&M Records, and in January 1978 recorded its first album, 'Outlandos d'Amour'. Before the record had even been released, the band took it upon itself to go on a club tour of America (booked by Frontier Booking International - FBI - run by Ian Copeland, one of Stewart's brothers), and in doing so primed the pump of reception for when the album finally arrived.

Outlandos was released in the US in November and by May of the following year it had peaked at #32 on Billboard's album chart. Though the music was quite strong, especially for a debut album, it was not the sort of thing one would have expected to be well-received by lily livered late 70s America. Much of the album's style was derived from a mixing of reggae and punk, which, while the sort of thing college students of the period loved; could be a bit off-putting to the upper end of the record buying public's age group.

Looking back, the Sting of the early Police had very little in common with the brooding fellow of conscience so many today are glad to accuse of pretentiousness. The early Sting belted them out, from his yelping at the end of 'Peanuts' to his off-kilter roll through 'Born In The 50's'. He was all energy and action, yet virtuosic, a perfect front man for a band which played both fast and well.

The gem of the album was also the song that first brought the group popularity, the reggae-esque ode to a prostitute, 'Roxanne'. Released in the US in April 1979 the song peaked at #32 on the Billboard singles chart, but it was in fact much bigger than that. It caught on with alternative radio at first, then gradually snuck its way into the mainstream over a period of time not reflected by chart statistics. Even today the song remains an AOR staple because it was quirky without being too odd, a nice little showcase of the band's pop reggae with a warmly resonant chorus. It boasted all of the elements which made the Police good from the start, from smart composition, to, spunky lyrics.

Beyond its sole hit there was much to love on 'Outlandos'. Jerky and idiosyncratic as it was, the production on the album was actually quite smooth. 'Next To You' was relentlessly catchy from stem to stern as it quite solidly dispelled the notion that speed kills. From the indelicate yet effective 'Peanuts' to the chorus pick-ups in 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'Outlandos' was at its best when the tempo was up and the trio sounded as hard as it looked.

All decked out in the peroxided hair they first sported in a Wrigley's gum ad around that time (Copeland's other brother Miles, who served as manager and launched the powerful IRS Records label, helped shape the band's video-ready image), they were at once stand-offish and inviting. Given later history it seems peculiar to have viewed them as roguish at all, but at the time they swaggered in with dispatch and the look of the dark about them and made their mark with an album both unusual and rewarding. (In July 1978, before the Police album was released, Stewart Copeland issued a solo single, 'Don't Care', which was released under the name Klark Kent. It seeped up from the underground far enough that by 1980 it spawned a 10-inch album by Copeland using the same name. Copeland's face and name appeared nowhere on 'Music Madness From The Kinetic Kid', though there was one odd picture of him (or at least presumably him) on it jumping about in a mask, wearing a pair of funky elevator high-tops. Though 'Don't Care' became a cult favourite, it was at the time nothing to drag him from his day job.)

By October the Police's first club date in the States came at New York's CBGB and the not-so-mild-mannered Klark Kent was put on the shelf for a while. It was not, however, the end of Copeland's machinations of the bizarre. In October 1979 the group's second album 'Reggatta de Blanc', was released in America as a double 10-inch album. It reached as high as #25 on the Billboard charts despite the fact that it produced no breakthrough single. The sole American release from the record, 'Message In A Bottle', though destined to be another AOR evergreen, failed to rise above #74 at the time. Still, their following was growing and the music they were playing was solid.

'Reggatta' featured many of the same reggae/pop marriages that its predecessor had (in fact, as the title was a "g" heavy of having anything to do with ships it pretty well worked out to mean "white reggae"), but it had a lot less wall-shaking in it. But for bits of 'It's Alright For You', 'Reggatta' was a far gentler and smoother record than Outlandos had been. Gone were the angry young men with lyrics delivered at breakneck pace, and in their place were allegory and observation, the early working models of an imagery of despair engendered by the world about us. 'Message' and 'Walking On The Moon' were the big winners on the album because they were both coherent and cohesive, full of resonant imagery while at the same time slick and catchy.

Reggatta demonstrated that the Police was very much an either/or band, less an exercise in integration than an amalgam of three irreconcilable visions, any of which might float to the top at any time. 'On Any Other Day' was a non-sequitur nearly identical in style and substance to 'Don't Care' and the remainder of the Klark Kent material which came later, and was quite obviously direct from the mind of Copeland. On another hand, in its outcry of pain couched in carefully burnished bits of imagery, 'Message In A Bottle' was vintage Sting. The disparate natures of their approaches provided the band with an intriguing inner mechanism and gave the material an undeniable richness.

Their success in the States was moderate at the time, but their ambition and confidence were not. In January 1980 the trio began a world tour at the State University of New York at Buffalo which took them to 37 cities in 19 countries, eventually ending up in Newcastle, where Sting and Copeland had first met and begun the group. It was the band's most ambitious undertaking to that time, made possible largely by the tremendous groundswell of support they had garnered for themselves in the UK.

Going into its third album, 'Zenyatta Mondatta', released in October 1980, the group had already scored four top 10 hits in Britain and 'Reggatta' had spent four weeks as the #1 album there. When 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' came out in August to precede the album it became the band's third #1 UK single after 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon'. In both its special edition badge-shaped and regular versions, 'Zenyatta' also did big business in the States, where it eventually reached as high as #5 behind the strength of 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', both of which reached #10 on the singles chart.

'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was an impeccably crafted pop song, a smooth ride in the lyrics which ran up and rang out its chorus. Though Sting has denounced it for the unrealistic viewpoint of its apocalyptic vision, 'When The World Is Running Down' was still an awful lot of fun both because it was peppy and because it really was a charming bit of insouciance. On the other hand, 'Driven To Tears' was a moving and sober reflection on man's inability to change his world, placed in a pastoral, spacious setting framed by Summers's exquisite, experimental guitar work.

What the three had in common was that they all had hooks of the sort which dug deep. Beyond those three tunes, the first thing obvious was that 'Zenyatta' was undeniably front-heavy. The first three songs were arguably the best on the album, and beyond them the record seemed to meander and spin away in odd directions. 'De Do Do Do' was a winner and 'Behind My Camel' was good enough to win a Grammy for best instrumental, but the latter two-thirds of the album was quite certainly the rockiest part of the going.

In June the group recorded 'Ghost In The Machine', which, when released that October, was their fourth album in as many years. The album's first single, the thoroughly infectious 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', reached #3 in Billboard in December, making it the group's biggest US hit to that time. Within a month the album had peaked at #2, where it stayed for six weeks. As it wound up, 'Every Little Thing' was the biggest success to come from 'Ghost'. 'Spirits In The Material World' topped out at a respectable #11 in March and 'Secret Journey' followed in May with only enough steam to carry it to #46. But what was important was that the album was a success, a bigger one than its predecessor, in fact.

'Ghost' could be viewed as the first true showcase of the band as an integrated whole. On the first two albums, especially, it was often possible to tell without a scorecard a Copeland from a Sting from a Summers, but on 'Ghost' it all held together as a single unit. One could sense a bit of each individual in every song and if one cared to look the authors were there to be found, but 'Ghost' was certainly the best meshing the group had seen. That is not to say that individuality was being subordinated at the time. In fact, as 'Ghost' had its way with the charts all three officers had their own solo projects in the works.

Copeland made a big leap into what would later become his bread and butter, film scoring, by providing the music for Francis Ford Coppola's 'Rumble Fish' in July. The music was released as a soundtrack at the time and produced a bit of a hit with 'Don't Box Me In', which featured vocals by former Wall Of Voodoo vocalist Stanard Ridgway. September saw Sting's first solo single, a UK-only revival of 'Spread A Little Happiness' released to coincide with his acting role in the film 'Brimstone And Treacle' (he had previously appeared in the film version of the Who's 'Quadrophenia'), which made it to UK #16. The soundtrack for the film also featured some other Sting solo material and three songs by the Police. For his part, Summers released the all-instrumental 'I Advance Masked', an album which teamed him with Robert Fripp of King Crimson renown. Built in an arty rock style around elongated synth and guitar lines laid throughout the tracks for the sake of building tension, the album was essentially an experiment in mood. Peppered with all varieties of bells and whistles, its approach was closer to that of King Crimson than to that of the Police. It was a mild success, reaching US #60 in October.

Still, despite all three heading in separate directions there seemed to be little cause for alarm regarding the group's stability. Brimstone' had had the Police on it and the group was stilt playing live dates, including the US Festival that September in California. There were already plans in motion to record the follow-up to 'Ghost', so no one was too concerned that the group was on the way out. Things were quiet for a while as 1982 passed by with no new Police album. Then, in June 1983, 'Every Breath You Take' was released, the first single from the album 'Synchronicity', which was released the following month. If they had achieved stardom before, what came with this album's release was something quite beyond that.

'Every Breath You Take' was by itself a major phenomenon. It reigned in the Billboard #1 spot for eight weeks and was everywhere to be found. The song's video was in ultra-heavy rotation at MTV, bringing black and white back four minutes at a time. As a single it was the group's only gold-selling issue. It was also the biggest hit of the mid-year by a long shot, and by year's end had garnered honours as Billboard's Top Single of the Year and two Grammies: Song of The Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo or Group with Vocal.

'Synchronicity' rocketed to the top of the charts within weeks of its release on 'Every Breath's' shoulders and kept a stranglehold on the #1 spot for 17 weeks, garnering multi-platinum status somewhere along the way. Part of that staying power had to do with the fact that 'King Of Pain', the album's second single, also performed well on the charts. It was in the Top 40 for 13 weeks, wherein it managed its way to #3.

When that single cooled down, the group's label, A&M, hit the market with 'Synchronicity II', which made #16 in December. Finally, 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was released in January 1984 and climbed to #8, thanks in no small part to a memorable video full of toppling candles.

And just like that it was over.

No one, probably including the principals, knew it at the time, but the Police had run their course with 'Synchronicity'. While the hype machine that is pop music built the group continuously higher with each new single it released, each member of the group set his sights on his own project, all perhaps thinking that it would all come together again when the solo blood in them had coursed its way through. Such was not to be the case, though not for lack of trying. With the benefit of history, it's fair to say that 'Synchronicity' was a Sting album before there was such an animal, the first odd steps toward building a whole album around concept, ideal and shifting imagery. It was very much evident that it was an album of Sting in control, which was certainly not to say that the others had no hand in what made the record work.

Mother was all Summers, a vicious primal scream bit that was quite cute if not Top 40 material, and 'Miss Gradenko' read like a good, solid, loopy Copeland bit, but those two pieces were the entirety of that two-thirds' overt contribution. That having been said, Gradenko is not the song of choice when DJs dust off 'Synchronicity', and most folks familiar with the album have heard 'Mother' enough times that they have no qualms about skipping right past it anymore. To cut a long story off, 'Synchronicity' belonged to Sting to an even greater extent than the group's early material had.

Stewart Copeland remarked of the album's results to 'Musician' at the time, "Sometimes I think we distilled (our style) out of existence, and other times I's more powerful than it ever was." Either case was easily made, so reality was likely somewhere in between. While the title track was fairly undistinguished and quite easy to filter out, there were several tracks chock full of exquisite imagery, the most notable of which was 'King Of Pain'. Between some easily accessible imagery ranging from Oedipal flashes to waterfalls and a chorus that fairly kicked in the door coming out of the verses, the song was a gem from the git-go.

Every song on the album's second half had something to recommend it, true even if the copy was a CD or cassette, both of which had the bonus tune 'Murder By Numbers' on them. Keith Richards once denigrated 'Every Breath You Take' as "elevator music," but it made for a nice balancer between the hard-pounding 'Synchronicity II' and the rigid 'King Of Pain'. 'Tea In The Sahara' was both strong and subtle, worthy of the position it held on vinyl as a farewell of sorts. It was just one of many set pieces which showcased a band at the height of its final ascension.

After the group's final full album there were several occasions on which all three members publicly came together to play. They toured to support 'Synchronicity', an arena tour which included a legendary performance before 70,000 at Shea Stadium in New York. They later reunited at an Amnesty International concert in Atlanta, Georgia in June 1986, where they fuelled speculation that they were going to get together for another album. While that in fact turned out to be accurate, it was not quite the reunion their fans might have hoped for.

In July the group reunited to record what was to be the follow-up to 'Synchronicity', an album of their single releases remade and revised to give a new take on some favourite material. The idea of retaking the songs that had made them big was primarily Sting's and very quickly it became obvious that it was not catching on. Sting said that Copeland and Summers thought such a project "cynical," that they saw little reason to do what they saw as essentially a twist on a rehash. The conflict over what direction to take quickly tore the group apart after only three days' sessions, after only two songs had been redone. One of them was 'De Do Do Do', which to date has not seen the light of day. The other was 'Don't Stand So Close To Me '86' which wound up the single release from 'Every Breath You Take - The Singles', the final Police album. The second time around 'Don't Stand' climbed only to #46 on the singles chart, though the album it supported reached #7.

With that record it was pretty well confirmed that the Police had broken up. It was finally a clean break after much going back-and-forth, the first time it was formally demonstrated that the group was no longer interested in recording together regularly. Back in 1984, no one knew anything of the sort. All three musicians had moved on to their next solo projects, but that did not necessarily bode ill. It was business as usual as the trio moved on to continuous projects without missing a beat.

The most prolific of the three with regard to the total number of albums he released was Andy Summers, who, after the last real assembly of the group, released no fewer than six albums. The first was 'Bewitched' his second project with Fripp, in March 1984. 'Bewitched' was unlike 'I Advance Masked' in that it was less an attempt at capital A art than an effort to cast bits of light and shade. Produced entirely by Summers, it even managed some uptempo bits on the record's first half, which marked a clear divergence from its predecessor's constant dirge state. A fair share of unrelenting bass was still there to be found, but 'Bewitched' was no sullen trundle by any means.

Summers's next album was 'XYZ' in July 1987, the first of his five entirely solo projects. It was followed by 'Mysterious Barricades' in 1988, 'Golden Wire' in 1989, 'Charming Snakes' in 1990 and 'World Gone Strange' in 1991. Over the course of his projects Summers sported as many styles as he did record labels, as he jumped, from A&M to MCA, then to Private Music, where he finally found a comfortable home.

'XYZ' was the album which featured Summers's vocals - the first and last. He did not so much sing his vocals as scrape them out of his mouth with a microphone by the sound of it, which in the end made for uneasy listening. The title track was the sole instrumental on the record, and it was no coincidence that it was the easiest pill to take. His vocals were quite flat and intrusive similar in style to what one might find on a Pogues record, and as a result the album was not a whole lot of fun.

'Mysterious Barricades', 'Golden Wire' and 'Charming Snakes' were different. All instrumentals more solidly entrenched in just being music than the Fripp collaborations had been, all three were explorations of the sort not to be expected from 'Mother's' proud papa. They were in fact nearly gentle, full across with soft licks and wet piano sounds. Far from his earlier shoulder knotters, all three albums had textures of all sorts given to generally relaxed listening circumstances. They were all quite good, and they all went fairly unheard by the public before disappearing without a trace.

Summers's 1991 release 'World Gone Strange' was the most recent indication of the direction he wished his music to take. Meandering and experimental as it snapped its line over many new textural bits, it was wholly uncommercial but deeply personal. Like all of his solo material it had nothing to recommend it but its content, and as such made its way from the world of charts and sales tallies with hardly a whisper. Regardless, it was a fine album.

In addition to his recording, Summers served a stint as bandleader on TV's now defunct Dennis Miller Show. He also scored for films, including 'Weekend At Bernie's' and '2010', and showed up more than once as a session player on other folks' projects, including Sting's. Given his low-profile, almost alternative approach, Summers's continued success after the band's break-up was a testament to both his work ethic and his talent.

The most diverse of the three with regard to the variety of pursuits he engaged in was Stewart Copeland. After the Police he scored movies and television, put together film projects, helped found an entirely new trio, played polo aplenty and still found time to release the occasional album. Straight out of the Police came a dual music/video production called 'The Rhythmatist', which was released in May 1985. The project was an exploration of both the lands and music of Africa, the latter of which was hybridised with Copeland's brand of rock drumming in much the same way as reggae was melded into the early Police albums. Far from being commercial, the project was in its purest aim designed to be expansive, to bring a bit of the foreign into the domestic in such a way that it might be understood and accepted.

A brief passage in the liner notes read "rhythmatism" as "the study of patterns that weave the fabric of life," which pretty well summed up the album's aim. It was not intended to sell platinum and could not have done so given the style of its content, but for those willing to seek it out it was a fine primer in foreign rhythm. It may have been after 'The Rhythmatist' or even long before the Police broke up, but somewhere along the line the next album grind fell by Copeland's wayside. It may have begun in October 1982, when Copeland scored a production of King Lear for the San Francisco Ballet and found it enough of a challenge to supplant the investment of himself in pop music. In any event, following an offhand comment during the ballet's run to the effect that he would like to do one, Copeland was invited by the Cleveland Opera to compose his first operatic project.

It was called 'Holy Blood And Crescent Moon', and it made it to the Cleveland stage for five sold-out performances in October 1989. Much of its success must be attributed to the carry-over of fans Copeland brought with him from his Police following and the advance publicity for the project that his participation garnered. It was in fact so successful that it moved on to a run in Fort Worth, Texas in November. It took Copeland four years to compose the piece in its entirety, at a cost totalling a million dollars. Opera critics were for their part unkind to it, also certainly in part because of the notoriety its composer brought with him.

Along the way to its premiere Copeland's regular source of income became scoring movies. He proved quite popular for his strongly evocative works, and scored films from 'Wall Street' and 'Talk Radio' down to smaller productions such as HBO's 'Afterburn' and the recent TV production 'Babylon 5'. With very little fanfare he undertook and continues to do a couple of projects a year, which turned out to be the functional equivalent of a day job for him. Copeland has said that opera is now his first choice, that "two-thirds of (his) time is writing opera. What's left (he uses) to earn a living."

Copeland, has hardly abandoned popular music, though his attempts at it have been very esoteric. In January 1988 his second non-soundtrack album, 'The Equalizer And Other Cliffhangers', was released. One of the first batch of albums in the IRS Records 'No Speak' project, it was a very industrial blend of textures sewn together with some of the snappiest rhythms ever locked into vinyl. It included the theme to the popular Equalizer television show and plenty of diverse explorations. It was a "project" in the truest sense, a look toward the new and unexplored.

Most recently Copeland teamed with bassist Stanley Clarke and vocalist Deborah Holland to produce a pair of albums under the name Animal Logic. The band formed in 1987 when Copeland and Summers toured Brazil with Clarke and Holland along for a tryout. Summers was apparently never considered a part of the band project, which is to say that his not appearing on the records in no way meant that he was dumped. The band produced, as one might have expected from a group which takes its major creative impetus from two so pronouncedly different talents as Copeland and Clarke, an eclectic mix of music which was surprising only in the incredibly pop nature of, it. Holland's roadside grill brass vocal style was an odd counterpoint to the rhythm section of the two others, but it fit in quite well as it transformed the music from simply driving to distinctive.

Though his pursuits usually involved putting together music of one kind or another, Copeland was found in media on all ends of the spectrum. From his well-publicised love of polo to his collaboration with James Earl Jones on a video for a "Noah's Ark" project, Copeland was always to be found with his hand in something. Proven long since as a musician, he chose to branch out his interests instead of hammering away new fortunes with new material culled from old proven styles. He did not follow the most commercial path available to him, but he made his mark nonetheless.

By far the member of the band who parlayed the position given him by the Police's success into the most commercially successful solo career was Sting. As the band's former front man it was perhaps appropriate that he achieved the greatest notoriety after its dissolution, as he had always done the majority of the hopping about in the videos. After the Police he worked regularly as both a musician and actor, with seven films, five-plus albums, one major theatre production and several tours to his credit. In addition he has outspoken in the service of many causes, most notably Amnesty International and the crusade to preserve the Amazonian rain forest.

As an actor Sting did not set the world aflame, but he was seen in several high-profile roles. He had appeared in several films (including the aforementioned 'Quadrophenia' as well as 'The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle') while still in the Police, but his first role of any note was in a cameo as Feyd Rautha in David Lynch's 'Dune'. His other roles included a place in 'The Bride' in 1985, in which he played Frankenstein, 'Plenty' with Meryl Streep that same year, 'Julia And Julia' in 1987, 'Stormy Monday' in 1988 and 'The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen' in 1989.

Sting's major stage debut also came that year as he did his take on MacHeath in 'Threepenny Opera' at Washington, D.C's National Theatre. Mixed reviews were in all cases the response to his endeavours, though his perseverance toward the form, served him well in that he eventually got past being sneered at for being a musician dabbling out of his shoes.

It was as a musician that Sting made his primary port of fame. His solo career truly took off in January 1985 when he assembled an ungodly talented band including such bright players as Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Weather Report's Omar Hakim on drums, Darryl Jones on bass and Kenny Kirkland on keyboards. They played out a few times to major acclaim before they took their act into the studio. In June of that year Sting's first album featuring the band, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles', came out and proved Sting to be the most accessible of the three Police to pop fans. The record was a tremendous success as it climbed to #2 on the charts and produced four Top 20 hits. The first of them, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', was the biggest when it reached #3 in August. In October, 'Fortress Around Your Heart' climbed its way to #8 as the band travelled extensively on an incredibly well-received tour.

The tour was used as a backdrop for the film that came in November, 'Bring On The Night', which spawned a live album of the same name in June 1986. In December, 'Love Is The Seventh Wave' reached US #17 and in March 1986 'Russians' reached #16. The Police were quite dead, long live the Sting.

'The Dream' sounded remarkably unlike the Police. To an extent it was obviously due to the emergence of strong talents in Sting's backing band, but beyond that there seemed to be almost a different sensibility to his solo work than he had carried previously. Dream was rife with social conscience, from the questioning of man's rape of the land in 'We Work The Black Seam' to the questioning of man's rape of his fellows' lives in the stark 'Russians'. It seemed very much a collection of thoughts and guilts throughout, a ride of outcry filled with emotions regarding all things from love to war, from mood to the sensual. It was a pursuit almost Jungian at times, a delving deep to wake the sleeping dogs. And all the way through it played back well.

The 'Bring On The Night' double album fulfilled the promise 'Dream' held. Where 'Dream' was tight and precise and engendered thought, 'Bring On The Night' was free-flowing movement from one very hot band. Where 'Dream' was about building messages into minute waltzes, 'Bring On The Night' was about bringing down the house. The two together would have made for a fine triple album complete with edges both rounded and jagged.

November 1987 saw the release of 'Nothing Like The Sun', Sting's second studio album. Throughout the fall it vied for position with Pink Floyd's 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' as the most incessantly played AOR album of the time and it peaked at #9 on the album charts. The album's first single, the peppy 'We'll Be Together', hit #7 in December. It was followed by 'Be Still My Beating Heart' which hit #15 in March 1988.

In April the EP 'Nada Como El Sol' was released, featuring songs from 'Nothing' done in Spanish and Portuguese. It was not a new idea to do such a project as artists ranging from Peter Gabriel to David Lee Roth had already recorded alternate language recordings for foreign markets. But Sting's take had an interesting angle to it. 'Nada Como' featured a translation of the very topical 'They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)', a harsh criticism of Augusto Pinochet's Chilean regime at the time, and as a result it was banned in that country. In fact, two of the four songs translated have to do with political unrest; making it as much a barb tossed at South American governments as it was a reaching out to meet their people.

Back in the States, 'Englishman In New York' stalled out at #84 and marked the end of releases from 'Nothing'. As an album it moved Sting away from many of the trappings of pop which had engulfed him before. It had its hits, but Nothing's social consciousness was more introspective than 'Dream's', which doled out its commentary as world view. The waters ran deeper on 'Nothing', and it was a richer album for it.

In November 1988 the package 'Nothing Like The Sun: The Videos' was released, featuring all of the clips from the album long since overplayed on MTV. It was his second such compilation after 1987's 'Sting: The Videos Part 1'.

From that point it was over two years to the release of his next album, 'The Soul Cages'. It was the longest he had gone without recording since the Police had formed, but the time off hurt neither sales nor substance as the album hit #2 in March 1991 and garnered almost universal praise. The album's first single was 'll This Time', a track indicative in its thickly layered style of what the album as a whole held. Full of imagery and subtext, it was still strong and catchy as it made it to #5.

Imagery was what 'The Soul Cages' was all about. From a fisherman's yard to cities in ' the fog and moonlight in the sand the whole album was the strong stuff of dreams, archetypes couched in deep, brooding rhythms. All of the songs on the album evoked mood and texture more strongly than anything Sting had released previously, and made of the album a rich experience.

When 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' was released in January 1993 as a lead-in to the March release of 'Ten Summoner's Tales', it was in a way the album's second tease release. The first came in the summer of 1992 when Sting teamed with Eric Clapton to cut 'It's Probably Me' for the 'Lethal Weapon 3' soundtrack. The song eventually found a place on Sting's album, albeit with a considerably denser arrangement.

'Ten Summoner's Tales', whose title presumably came as a play on Sting's given nomenclature, was an assemblage of far-ranging styles and substances which accomplished the rare feat of neither blending with nor fighting against one another. From the bits of country 'n' western which popped the chorus of 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice' out of its verses, to the deliberate downshift/upshift jerkiness of 'She's Too Good For Me', to the wonderful warmth of 'Fields Of Gold', the album was (as its title might have let on) a compilation of yarns told in drastically different fashions which held together primarily through the deftness with which they were spun out.

Now firmly entrenched in his solo-ness, Sting has passed fully through his time as a teen idol with remarkably few scars to show for it. He has poised himself to remain commercially viable with the fan bas he has built for many years to come, and is one of the few artists who emerged from the '80s virtually certain to do so. His work has at all times matured and grown in scope and will likely continue to do so unless by some odd chance it turns out his soul has no more depths to plumb.

As for the Police, newly addicted completists have a chore before them. Starters might look for the slew of tracks donated to, various compilations by the band members, including, in Sting's case, a version of 'Down So Long' with Jeff Beck on 'Live! For Life' appearances on the soundtracks for the films 'Party Party', 'The Secret Policeman's Other Ball', and 'Lethal Weapon 3' (with Eric Clapton), and the compilations 'Lost In The Stars', 'Rock For Amnesty' and 'A Very Special Christmas', in addition to the Band Aid charity single 'Do They Know It's Christmas'.

Also, he appeared on several other artists' records, including Dire Straits's huge hit 'Money For Nothing' and Phil Collins's 'Long Long Way To Go'. On video he had a live special on the Disney Channel, hosted Saturday Night Live in January 1991 and appeared on the special related to the 'Very Special Christmas' project, where he performed 'Gabriel's Message'.

Sting's 'Soul Cages' concert made its way to video shortly after his tour's completion, and in 1992 he joined the ranks of musicians to profit from a set on MTV with the 'Sting Unplugged' Video. Recently he released, concurrently with the release of the album, a collection of videos for 'Ten Summoner's Tales'.

In the case of Stewart Copeland, one might look for 'Earth Girls Are Easy', which featured his song 'Throb', 'Out Of Bounds', on which he performed the title track with Adam Ant and 'Zola-X', '9¬? Weeks', featured his song 'Cannes', and the soundtrack for 'Men At Work'. He was featured on Peter Gabriel's single 'Red Rain,''the aforementioned 'Live For Life' and the No Speak sampler 'Music Too Good For Words'. For Police purists, the occasional old vault rack showed up now and again on an IRS compilation, including 'Nothing Achieving' on 'These People Are Nuts!'. They also had tunes featured on 'After The Hurricane' and 'Urgh! A Music War', which featured a live version of 'Driven To Tears'. Also available were the videos 'Police Around The World' from 1983 and 'The Police: The Synchronicity Concert' from 1984. Along with the records, as a band whose' old material needs no excuses, whose musical talents produced work which aged well and sounds as good now as when it was first released. With vinyl becoming harder and harder to come across, Klark Kent may well not survive, but it is a certainty that the Police and all their off-spring will be remembered long into the future.

© Goldmine magazine


Mar 6, 1993

Policeman on a new beat: Tricky things, images. Ask Sting. Somewhere in the 1980s, this critically acclaimed, gorgeously photogenic, mega-platinum-selling rock god with the world at his feet turned into an embarrassing, pretentious bore carrying the world on his shoulders...

Mar 2, 1993

Fans and critics may think of Sting as a pretty serious guy, but his new record really isn't that serious. At least for Sting. Take the album's title: 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. It's "a mild literary joke," a takeoff on the story 'Summoner's Tale' from Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' and also a reference to Sting's real name, Gordon Sumner. If that's not exactly 'National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon', it's still a change of pace for the self-proclaimed 'King of Pain', a man best known for tortured love songs ('Every Breath You Take') and social commentary ('Russians'), for reminding listeners, "There is a deeper world than this..."