Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Police Songs - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Police Songs

Your picks include ‘King of Pain,’ ‘Message in a Bottle’ and ‘So Lonely’

Sting The Police

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The Police only lasted from 1977 to 1984, but they managed to accomplish quite a bit in those seven years. They began playing tiny clubs around London just as punk was breaking, and ended by selling out just about every stadium on the planet. At the end of the Synchronicity tour, it was virtually impossible to imagine how they could become any more popular, so they simply went their separate ways. (There was also the tiny problem that they grew to despise each other.) We asked our readers to vote for their favorite Police songs. Click through to see the results. 


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10. ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’

Before he was Sting the rock star, the Police frontman was simply Gordon Sumner, English teacher and school soccer coach. He swears that "Don't Stand So Close To Me" isn't autobiographical, but the song is about a teacher with a crush on a student half his age who clearly more than reciprocates. The ending is ambiguous, but it does seem like they get together. Indeed, it is just like "that book by Nabakov." In real life, these type of things usually end about as well as Lolita. If there was a real schoolgirl who inspired this song, she has yet to come forward. 

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9. ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’

The first single from Ghost in the Machine in England was "Invisible Sun," but the record company figured that the rest of the world should get something a little less serious: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." Sting had been fiddling with the tune since his earliest days in the Police, but he didn't get around to finishing it until the Ghost in the Machine sessions. The work paid off and it flew up the charts all over the world. The song was memorably used in The Wedding Singer.

Here's a scary fact: we're now further away in time from The Wedding Singer's release than the Wedding Singer was from 1985, the year it took place in. 

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8. ‘Synchronicity II’

As the title suggests, this is part II of the title track to the Police's final album. It was clearly the stronger of the two "Synchronicity" songs, and it was the only one to be released as a single. The theory of synchronicity states that events with no apparent connection can be related, and this song is about a miserable man dealing with a horrible job and a stressful home life. Somehow or another, his pain awakens the Loch Ness Monster. It's sort of like Ghostbusters II, where the collective misery of New York activates an evil slime beneath the surface of the city. In this case, the collective boredom and frustration of mankind causes the Loch Ness Monster to rise from the slime. 

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7. ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’

If there was any doubt that "I Can't Stand Losing You" is about suicide, the cover of the single shows Stewart Copeland hanging himself while standing on a block of melting ice. They were a new band without a lot of pull at this point, so the BBC banned the song. (The next single was "Roxanne," an even more explicit song that also got them into trouble.) Even without a ton of help from radio, the song became a hit and a huge highlight of their early shows that never left the setlist. They reissued it in 1979 and this time the BBC embraced it and it climbed to Number Two.

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6. ‘King of Pain’

Sting was in Jamaica with his new girlfriend Trudie, recovering from the agony of his first divorce, when the inspiration for "King of Pain" first hit him. He looked up into the sky one day and said, "There's a little black spot on the sun today." After a pause he said, "That's my soul up there." It sounded like a song to him, and he quickly wrote out the lyrics about all the pain in the world, from a seagull with a broken back to a butterfly in a spider's web. It was a huge hit in 1983, and it inspired Weird Al Yankovic's early classic "King of Suede." Sample lyric: "There's a sale on our gabardine suits today/ They're all 30 percent off from yesterday."

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5. ‘Walking on the Moon’

You never know when the inspiration for a great song might hit. For Sting, it happened one night in Munich when he arrived back at his hotel room totally hammered. He wandered around the room singing "walking around the room" over and over to himself. The next morning, he changed it around to "Walking on the Moon" and wrote a cool little reggae beat to go with it. It was the second single from Regatta de Blanc, and it became yet another worldwide hit for the young band. 

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4. ‘So Lonely’

Part of the genius of the Police was their ability to fuse punk and reggae. The best example of that is "So Lonely." Sting freely admits that they ripped off Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry" – and it's obvious when you listen to the two songs back-to-back – but they infused it with a tremendous amount of punk energy and angst. The end result is something completely unique, and it had a huge impact on rock music. It wasn't a hit when it first came out in 1978, but in 1980, the Police were huge and they rereleased the song. Radio finally embraced it and it's become one of their signature songs. 

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3. ‘Every Breath You Take’

The Police had a lot of huge hits, but this is the one that towers over all of them. It was Number One for eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Song of the Year. It's the song that took them out of basketball arenas and into football stadiums. It's the one Police song that your parents know.

The irony is that most people see it as a love song and it's often played at weddings and other special events, but it's really about a deranged stalker. It was also recorded at a time when relations between the band had reached an all-time low and they were actually beating each other up in the studio. It's impossible to know where the Police would have gone had they stayed together, but this song really marked the end of the band. They went out on top of the world. 

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2. ‘Message in a Bottle’

The lead-off song from Regatta de Blanc was the Police's first song to hit Number One in England, but it didn't even crack the Top 70 in America. (It would be another year before Police-mania swept the U.S.) It's a song about isolation; the narrator is alone on an island, desperately trying to communicate with the outside world via a message in a bottle. At the end, a wave of other bottles washes up onshore. It turns out everyone in the world is just as alone as he is. It's a depressing thought, but a wonderful tune. It was the opening song on nearly every night of the Police's 2007/08 reunion tour. 

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1. ‘Roxanne’

The Police had only been around for a couple of months when they headed over to Paris to play a gig at the Nashville Club. Sting saw a bunch of prostitutes near the club and, also nearby, he glimpsed a poster for the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which features a character named Roxanne. With the two things fresh in his mind, Sting sat down and wrote a song about a man in love with a hooker named Roxanne. Drummer Stewart Copeland helped transform it into a tango, and the result was an absolute classic – even if it didn't chart when originally released. Their manager Miles Copeland knew it was a masterpiece, and when they put it back out in 1979, it exploded on the radio. It's since been played on classic rock stations roughly 20 million times and is arguably their most beloved work. 

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