ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 28 APRIL 2008
(The songs today were part of a recent ICA, so feel free to skip on past and come back tomorrow for the next single by The Clash…..)
The Police were the first band I ever saw play live, back at the Glasgow Apollo in May 1979. £2 a ticket, and they were supported by two other acts – Bobby Henry and The Cramps. Yup, the psychobilly nutters led by Lux Interior who did get his knob out on stage that evening. It certainly made Andy Summers‘ act of bringing on a blow-up doll to serenade during a rendition of Be My Girl/Sally look rather tame.
The fact that the band became the biggest act on the planet for a brief time in the early 80s, as well as Sting becoming the most self-righteous and pompous prick imaginable makes it all too easy to mock The Police. But as a 15 year-old lad, I thought they were as good as anything else that was emerging from the post-punk era that had been christened New Wave.
Not too many other bands were singing about prostitutes in 1979. These were the days when even the use of the word ‘damn’ was liable to get your song banned from the airwaves. The Police were actually regarded as a group that was a bit daring, cutting edge and subversive. You’ll have to trust me on that for I know its almost impossible to imagine.
But Roxanne wasn’t the first song that I ever heard by The Police. My first sighting of the band was in fact on The Old Grey Whistle Test in late 1978. They played two tracks that night, including what was their current single. A couple of days later I picked it up in the local record shop. The thing that I most remember was the sleeve – a picture of someone (turns out it was drummer Stewart Copeland) slowly hanging themselves by putting the noose around their neck and standing on a block of ice that was melted away by a three-bar electric fire. The back of the sleeve was a close-up photo of the ice block having melted…..and beside it was the photo that had been held by the hanging man.
I honestly had some nightmares about that sleeve. Is this what you were driven to when someone chucked you and broke your heart?? Surely not…(and it’s just occurred to me that perhaps a certain Ian Curtis might have glimpsed this sleeve at some point or other….)
But aside from the sleeve, it was a record that I played constantly hour-after-hour and day-after-day. I hadn’t been exposed to all the much reggae, so the song had a beat and rhythm that I thought was really unusual. I also loved the sound of Sting’s voice – it was so much sharper, clearer and tuneful than most other singers fronting new-wave bands. I was gutted when I realised the single wasn’t going to chart (it only made #42 on its first release):-
mp3 : The Police – Can’t Stand Losing You
mp3 : The Police – Dead End Job
The Police were one of a handful of bands that I was championing at school, but it was initially very difficult to get too many people interested. Then, all of a sudden, Sting began to get a lot of attention thanks to him having a main part in the movie Quadrophenia, and interest in his band exploded. Including from lots of folk in school. I think about 7 or 8 of us ended up going along to the Apollo gig – the tickets were unreserved seating so it didn’t matter when you bought them.
They say you never forget your first time, and that a small part of it lives with you forever. I’m no different…..and although I’ve been left embarrassed by an awful lot of the stuff that came out after the initial singles, I’ll never forget the part The Police played in developing my life-long love and affection for music and live gigs.
Sneer all you like. But this record deserves its place in the Top 20.