I was still at school when I first heard the police, and I’m pretty sure the first thing I heard was Can’t Stand Losing You, so it was either 1978 or 1979 when it was re-issued. I suspect the former as I would have been 11 maybe 12 at the time, which seems right. Somebody had a copy with them at school, I was smoking behind the gym before going into a Religious Education class in a temporary class room, it is probably still in use today, and I remember somebody showing it to me, it may have been the blue vinyl one or the black, I don’t recall which, or who it was that had it, or why they had it with them. I just remember being shown it. This would have been the second proper release, the first having been Roxanne (and Fall Out on an independent before that, with a different guitarist)
After that I somehow became absolutely obsessed with The Police for two albums and then, quite suddenly, I wasn’t. But that first album, ‘Oulandos D’amour‘, I loved that and it was a time where we, as kids, had no income so everything was 7″ singles first, and it didn’t really matter when you got them, 6 months after release or on the day of release, just as long as you got them. Occasionally there was some swapping done which was anything you could throw in for a vinyl record from another kid who really wanted 10 cigarettes and a box of matches, or some other item that you might have access to.
I had a small but steady income from school dinner tickets. Coming from a single parent family I received free school meals. On a Monday I would queue up with everybody else for that weeks dinner tickets, collect my free ones and then go back down the queue and sell them for a bit less than somebody was going to buy their official ones for. We both won really, except I never had any dinner at school to speak of course, a problem that continues to a degree today.
Before I owned either of those first two albums I had 7″ singles, Roxanne without the telephone cover, just a plain one. I had Can’t Stand Losing You in blue vinyl with the hanging man cover, So Lonely with the jumpsuit cover, and at some point I had a copy of that first single, Fall Out’ with Nothing Achieving as the B side, I think it was the 1979 reissue after they had their initial success, but the Stewart Copeland penned A side is a bloody good track:
Do you remember the So Lonely jumpsuit cover? I thought they looked so cool and I had no self realisation that they might, but that I would look bloody stupid if I wore the same thing.
The second album came out and I had, from somewhere, the first two singles from it, Message in a Bottle and Walking on the Moon. All these singles had something that is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to experience today, I actually have difficulty describing what it is, but I’ll give it a go. While I gather my thoughts, here are a few videos to enjoy:
So for those first three singles I had only the records, bits from Smash Hits, Sounds or Melody Maker and not much more. I didn’t see any of the videos at the time, the most I would see would be TOTP and, for instance, on Thursday 3rd May 1979 I must have been out, because I didn’t see this:
I don’t remember seeing this either:
I DO remember seeing this one though:
My point is that there was limited access to information about the band, a lot was word of mouth or from the aforementioned publications, so there was a degree of mystery involved. There was also a sense of community, where you would go to somebody else’s house and they would play you a record you didn’t have yet, including the b side that you wouldn’t hear on the radio, only there. The music was tied in with key life events, the first this or that linked back to the songs. There was a lack of derivation and knowledge of influences, what you were listening to was seemingly brand new, plucked from the ether for your listening pleasure and this made it feel warm and complete and, somehow, specifically for you. That is what it is not possible to experience anymore but it is what I experienced then.
Speaking of the lack of information available to the young fan, in 1979 Andy Summers was 37 years old, I had no idea , though I knew he was a bit older than the other two, and don’t really know what I would have thought about it then, I think it would have irked me somewhat. Sting was 28 and Stewart Copeland was 27, which seems much more acceptable, to a 12 year old.
I don’t recall where or when I finally got the second album, Reggatta de Blanc, but I remember getting the first album, Outlandos d’Amour, very well. I was visiting my Mother and Step-Father-to-be during the school summer holidays. I was going on a bit about how I wanted this Police record that they had in the record shop at the end of the street, it was £3.99 I think. Eventually my Mother gave me a £5 note and told me to go and get it, so I did, this made me very happy indeed. When my Step-Father-to-be came home I was sat there with it and thanked him for it. There was then much shouting, slamming of doors and bit of a hissy fit, which made me feel rather uncomfortable, but not guilty. My Dad was bringing up two boys with no financial contribution and little emotional contribution either, and had been doing so for 4 or 5 years. £5 was a piss in the ocean really. Sure, money was no doubt tight, but overall, my brother and I were probably some of the least expensive children they could possibly have.
Then came something that I really coveted. The six pack! It was a collection of seven-inch singles released in 1980. The pack came in a PVC folder and contained the first five A&M singles plus a mono version of The Bed’s Too Big Without You, which was unreleased elsewhere at the time. The records in the pack were all produced on blue vinyl in picture covers with specially adapted labels which featured an overhead picture of the heads of the band (used on the back cover of the Reggatta de Blanc LP), rather than the original “A&M” logo. Each single was also accompanied by a special picture card (3 group shots and 3 solo shots), with the lyrics of each single printed on the reverse.
It was The Bed’s Too Big Without You that I wanted as far as songs go, but I wanted all that blue vinyl as well, and that Roxanne telephone cover. I didn’t know at the time that it was on Reggatta de Blanc as I didn’t have the album at that point. Had I known I probably wouldn’t have been quite so desperate to own it, which was a desire that was never fulfilled. While it was readily available I couldn’t scrape together the money for it. I do still occasionally think about buying it now, a decent copy is about £25.
From somewhere I did have one of The Police badge picture discs, I can’t remember which one it was though, it may have been from third album Zenyatta Mondatta, which means it was possibly Don’t Stand So Close To Me, which means it would have been this one, which looks familiar:
It was around the time of the third album that I lost interest, not completely, I have all the original albums, a few singles and at one point I had a CD Box set with everything they released on it. What I lost was that feeling that I spoke of before, after the first two albums it was as though that special shine had gone, for me at least, and it was very much to do with everything else that was going on in my life at the time. It is why, in my opinion, nothing they did after those first two albums comes close. The only thing I would change about Outlandos d’Amour is Be My Girl Sally, you know how some jokes are only really funny the first time you hear them and become increasingly unfunny the more you hear them until they just make you cringe? Well that is Be My Girl Sally for me, Andy Summers should have been banned from song writing after that abomination.
So in summation, I loved those albums, and all the singles, the singles first actually and I’ve been playing them today and they are just brilliant. I’ll leave you with this very short video I just shot, perhaps it sums up everything much more succinctly than I could with words.
3 thoughts on “The Police – The Early Years”
This takes me back.
First three singles owned;
Ian Dury and the Blockheads “Hit Me” …….bought.
The Police ” I can’t Stand”…….Probably bought or pinched.
Elvis Costello ” Oliver’s Army” …….swopped.
The Police could do no wrong in my eyes for many years. However, as discussed Andy Summers was no song writer.
The Police remind me of The Tinned Pilchards so much. So many things in common.
“The” in their name.
A three piece band.
One member was ten years older than the other two.
One group member came from across the pond. With one member going across the pond on holiday.
The lead singer was the one with all the talent and really good looking.
All the best
Lead singer? Vocalist maybe, in that he used his voice, I don’t think anybody would go as far as to call it singing.