The Magic of ’78: The Police’s “Outlandos D’Amour”


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We all know the likes of The Police. The magic of Every Breath You Take and Message in a Bottle still dazzles many music enthusiasts to this day, new and old. But here on mvm, we do love a good origin story. So, I’m set to take you back to the magic of 1978, where it all started.

Their tight delivery, stupendously catchy pop melodies, interpolated with gritty guitar and itchy polyrhythms, made The Police one of the most popular rock & rolls bands in the height of 1983.

Traversing uncharted waters, the technically sublime three-piece reinvented the wheel for punk rock as they soon cooked up a place for the punky spirit within the halls of pop music.

The trio’s tense reggie-injected warbles of pop/rock synchronicity really spoke to those edgy fans who didn’t quite find an appeal to bands boxed in genres. They would after all, go on to become more than your average punk or new wave band. They offered a little something extra.

Sting (born Gordon Sumner) and Stewart Copeland formed The Police in 1977 and after a guitarist altercation – there always is – Andy Summers joined later in early ’78.

It all started out on a chewing gum commercial, believe or not. Appearing as a bleached-blonde itzy punk band, they would go on to find their first success with Fall Out, their first single that appeared on Copeland’s independent label, IRIS.

The trio find instant adventure by signing to A&M in 1978. Quite a bag to secure, considering the only “official” release was on a TV commercial, and the fact that the contract gave the group a higher royalty rate in lieu of an even larger advance, too. So quite a bag, indeed. Shortly in the spring of ’78, A&M released “Roxanne” but interestingly so, it failed to chart at first.

So, the journey began. Without any actual record to support, an intrepid tour across the plains of America took place with nothing but the youthful naivety of a band and a rented van with equipment. Released in the fall of 1978, the trios’ debut of Outlandos D’Amour was a slow builder at first into the sprawling charts. With a subsequent UK tour support on their backs, a pivotal moment of experimental genre-fusing took place, as the emotive funk-punk So Lonely was released.

Literal translation means Outlaws of Love
The Police, Live at Tokyo, 2008

Matched with the keening highs of an immovable chorus and a warb

ling of instrumentals, the song would be the tip in the scales that the band were looking for. By the spring of 1979, they decided to re-release Roxanne. Much to the dismay of the label at the time, it sought an un-wavered attention this time, as it rose to 12 in the UK, and ultimately taking the debut album to number 6 in the same breath.

Many avid Police fans could argue that Reggata De Blanc established them as musical heavyweights, led by that number one of Message in a Bottle, but it’s the outlandish trepidation, the undulating slap of avant-garde reggae-funk that makes it the greatest album for me from The Police. An unknown contender, this album is littered with the fast and bold. Next To You, So Lonely, Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, Truth Hits Everybody and even their last Masoko Tango, that is very much a statement of intent of ok, yes we love reggae and we hope you do too.

But as we all know, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the trio – and the start of something great. By 1983, they were all anyone could talk about.

Andy Summers: “I made $1 mil a night – and played 150 times.”

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