The Police, Outlandos D’Amour
The first fusion of punk attitude with reggae bounce
Sting, Copeland and Summers had come together in late '76/early '77 in London, where each had been knocking around with different bands, different styles: Stewart with the fading prog band Curved Air, Sting trying to make it with his Newcastle group Last Exit. (Stewart's brother Miles Copeland III was building a management stable in London; another brother, Ian Copeland, was developing his booking agency. They became brain trust and business backbone of the Police.) The original trio had guitarist Henri Padovani. Their first gigs, in 1977 consisted of filling the opening slot on a U.K. tour for glam personality Cherry Vanilla. By most accounts, they were an unconvincing punk band. Though impressed by the energy and anti-authoritarian vibe of punk, Sting and Copeland were too professional to be part of the insurgency. Padovani wasn't a good fit, and was quickly replaced by Summers, whose pedigree included stints with jazzman Zoot Money, psychedelic band Soft Machine and Eric Burdon's New Animals. One of the first songs they recorded was Sting's "Roxanne," an imagined peek at the persona of a Parisian prostitute. Instead of punk aggression, it had reggae aggression: Rather than the maintaining the laid-back beat of dub, or the lilting beat of uptempo reggae, the slow verses accelerated into overdrive. Infectious excitement was also palpable on other tracks from the same blueprint: "So Lonely" and "Can't Stand Losing You." "Next to You" and "Peanuts" were neither power pop nor punk, but something smart in between: pogo pop. Summers got one of the rare chances to show off some of his jazz chops on "Hole in My Life." Sting's "Born in the 50's" fell short of being the generational anthem he might have hoped for, but it proved something else: Unlike many of their confederates on the punk side of the spectrum, Sting could really sing his ass off. The band as global Police-men was underlined by "Masoko Tanga," which sounds like it could be the title theme to a Japanese anime film.