Last week, I got through the first two discs of the Police’s all-inclusive boxset, so now let’s talk about the last two. It’s a good dividing point, separating the Police-as-band era and the Police-as-Sting’s-backing-back era, both of which have their merits, though there does seem to be a lot of vitirol for the latter. Copeland and Summers were every bit as vital to the band’s sound, and if you need proof, just check out Sting’s solo career. In fact, if you listen to Copeland’s album as Klark Kent, you can probably figure out who was really doing all the arrangements, since it very much sounds like a lost Reggatta-era Police album without Sting. But Sting was the guy in front, and more importantly he was writing all the hits. The Police were a great band, but they wouldn’t have amounted to much without “Roxanne”, and then without “Message in a Bottle”, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, and so on. Funny enough, A&M’s suggested first single for Ghost in the Machine was “Omegaman”, written by Andy Summers, the only song he wrote for the band that was even remotely workable for radio. Sting of course rejected this, most likely throwing a fit and giving an ultimatum. Even if the other members didn’t write a whole lot of songs for Zenyatta, you could tell they at least had a hand in the arrangements and the overall direction of the record.
The Police were my first favorite band, even though they called it quits the same year I was born. Technically not a “break up” but make no mistake, they were about as broken up as could be. Still, I was absolutely obsessed with them; we had the Every Breath You Take singles collection, the live 2-disc set, Reggatta de Blanc (which my Dad played every day in the car on the way to drop us off at day care), and two copies of Synchronicity. Later on I used birthday money to buy the rest of ’em, and from there they became my entire music collection for a year or two. Otherwise I’d check out music from the library, grabbing discs from bands I’d vaguely heard of, none of which impressed me as much as The Police did. That didn’t really bother me, since I didn’t exactly crave variety back then; I liked the idea of figuring out my favorite band at such a young age. That’s a load off! One day I stumbled upon the box set section at the library and found Message in a Box, The Police’s 4-disc “complete works” box, which lo and behold included 24 “non-album” tracks. Yes, there were some alternate mixes and live tunes in there, but there was also a lot of stuff I hadn’t heard yet, and to me that was the holy grail.