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Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Police - "Roxanne" (1978)

"When love is for the highest bidder, there can be no trust. Without trust, there can be no love."

So what do we call this first early hit by The Police? Is it New Wave? There's no keyboard, but it does come from the same time period as the pop friendly post punk genre. Is it Reggae? The guitarist seems to be playing in a reggae band for sure, and he's half convinced the bass player to come along. But what about the drums? They seem to be playing something like a tango with a lot more cymbals making it almost a dance track, but tango is a dance, so is that redundant? There is also so much dead air that it would take a very confidant band with a lot of composure to pull something like that off, but this was only their second single you say?  Oh yeah, and that laugh at the beginning with the piano before it? That's because the singer sat on the piano in the recording studio and they were broke and couldn't really afford to do another take so they left it in.  Put all that together and you take a struggling not-really-a-punk-band-not-really-an-anything-band, and turn them into one of the most defining New Wave bands of the era.

Before Sting became a tantric sex advocate, before he wrote for Walt Disney, before he wrote adult contemporary Celtic influenced soft rock, before he became an actor even; he was the bass player, singer, and primary songwriter for The Police. They were an older group of guys, two over twenty five and one over thirty five who wanted to play punk music. They were a little old and a little too talented to be taken seriously so they tried something else. No one believed in them and they had no record deal, so drummer Stewart Copeland got his brother Mike to loan them money for recording time. They slipped in between other acts, showed up on days they weren't at work and waited until other bands no showed and then recorded for a couple of hours as much as they could. It was when Mike heard "Roxanne"; a song Sting wrote while looking out the window at prostitutes in Paris, that he decided they could make it and he became their manager and took the single around to anyone who would listen to try to get them a break. It was a flop when first released, and took over a year before it became even a minor hit in either the U.S. or the U.K. It's a good lesson in never giving up on your dreams. But I'll still always associate it with Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs.

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