5 Deep Cuts by The Police

It’s difficult to believe it’s been almost 40 years since a trio called The Police, mixed rock, reggae, jazz and textured instrumentation called it quits in 1986 at the peak of their fame. The band reformed for a 2007-2008 world tour in celebration of their 30th anniversary. 

Videos by American Songwriter

Credit the band’s mix of musical genres and the virtuosity of the players with the hugely successful tour with 150 dates that was the third highest-grossing tour of 2007, according to Reuters.  Despite that success, Sting has indicated he would not regroup because he prefers solo work, according to Readers’ Digest.

Sting’s statement is one reason fans should check out the group’s videos and recordings, especially their deep tracks. Here are five of the standouts:

1. “One World (Not Three)”

The third world breathes our air tomorrow
We live on the time we borrow
In our world there no time for sorrow
In their world, there is no tomorrow

As the primary songwriter for The Police, Sting has written many songs about social and political issues. What makes “One World (Not Three)” stand out is that the song, included on the band’s 1981 album Ghost in the Machine, is as relevant today as it was in the early 1980s. At the time the song was released, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were at tense loggerheads, with a palpable fear of nuclear confrontation. There was also social and political unrest about poverty and famine in developing countries and a global call for unity and change.

The band recorded the song on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, so perhaps it’s not surprising it has a unique blend of punk-root, jazz, and reggae influences, putting Sting’s passionate and distinctive vocals in the forefront. Drummer Stewart Copeland’s playing on this song has also received critical kudos. Marrying the poignant message with its reggae-heavy beat and rich instrumentation, the song fervently asks listeners for compassion and understanding in a world that, despite decades passing, remains unsettled and divided even today.

2. “Murder By Numbers”

“Murder By Numbers” stands out in the landscape of Synchronicity (1983), presenting an intriguing contrast to the album’s otherwise atmospheric and intricately orchestrated compositions. The band originally planned for the song to become the B-side of the hit single “Every Breath You Take.” The composition is somewhat simple, highlighting Sting’s hauntingly serene vocals about the act of killing, set against a sophisticated rhythm, thanks to drummer Stewart Copeland. Many drummers have praised Copeland as one of the most intricate in his work. As the song unwinds, the instrumentation becomes a harmonious blend of bass and guitar. That creates a jazzy feel that is something of a soundtrack for murder and those who evade justice. Some critics suggest that the band quickly wrote and recorded the song. Perhaps that’s why its raw sound is so powerful.

3. “Driven To Tears”

How can you say that you not responsible?
What does it have to do with me?
What is my reaction, what should it be?
Confronted by this latest atrocity

Certainly, many songs recorded by The Police prominently feature Sting’s vocals or Stewart Copeland’s dynamic drumming, with Andy Summers’ guitar playing providing a steady, powerful, and at times, intricate backdrop. However, it’s essential not to overlook Summers’ prowess. Often celebrated as a virtuoso, Summers truly shines in the track “Driven to Tears.” In this song, he delivers a blazing guitar solo, seamlessly complementing Copeland’s superb drumming, which artfully layers diverse textures and rhythms. This melding of their individual talents results in one of The Police’s most outstanding songs, brilliantly highlighting the unique musical gifts of each member. Beyond its musical excellence, the song carries a potent political message about poverty, deeply influenced by the destitution Sting witnessed during his travels in India.

4. “Peanuts”

Don’t want to hear about the drugs you’re taking
Don’t want to read about the love you’re making
Don’t want to hear about the lives you’re faking
Don’t want to read about the muck they’re raking

Yes, many songs from The Police take listeners on journeys through political and social unfairness. But that doesn’t mean all of the band’s tracks tackle heavy issues. A prime example of the lighter side of their catalog is the song “Peanuts,” an up-tempo, energetic romp. Although there’s widespread speculation that the song cheekily jabs at the iconic Rod Stewart, its inclusion in the band’s 1978 debut album, Outlandos d’Amour, ensured it reached a wide audience. Notably, even if Stewart was the initial target, many critics contend that the song’s playful jabs could be directed at numerous rock stars of that tumultuous era. Furthermore, drawing parallels to the contemporary music scene, some argue that its message might be aptly suited for certain flamboyant personalities on today’s charts.

5. “Reggatta de Blanc”

One, two, one, two, three, four
Bamba, arriba
Dos cervezas

“Reggatta de Blanc,” is the standout title track from The Police’s sophomore album. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. It’s often lost in the band’s extensive catalog. That’s a shame because it’s a track that melds the expert playing of the bandmates with Sting’s vocals, including plenty of exuberant “e-yo’s” and spirited “Cha! ’s.” A pulsating baseline with delayed drum rhythms that are filled with reverb and echo is a true highlight of this song. Critics have praised the song and noted it shows how the trio melds their contributions. If you hear a live version, expect the audience members to rise, dance, and revel in the upbeat sound.

Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

4 American Musicians Who Have a Larger Following in Europe than in the U.S.

Josh Travis Talks First LP ‘Few of Days & Full of Trouble’