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The Best Songs By The Police For Fans Of 80s Rock

best songs by the police

Ah, the 80s. The bell bottoms were out, and the skinny jeans were in. Disco was dying, and electro-funk was the murder weapon. The refined blues-centric rock of the 60s and 70s was veering into more experimental, attitudinal, and glam territories.

But of all the changes in this transformational decade, The Police remained a relative constant until their split in 1986. For most of the band’s history, the line-up consisted of songwriter Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar), and Stewart Copeland (drums, percussion)

While they did grow as a band over time, their sound was never all that influenced by what was going on around them in the music industry, especially when the 80s rolled around.

So, does that mean that they’re more suited to lovers of 70s rock, or can 80s rock fans party with The Police too?

Well, as The Police didn’t really sound like the typical 70s act either, yes, lovers of the punk-tinged hard-rock and glam-rock of the 80s will absolutely appreciate a lot of Sting and co.’s work, and I’m going to prove it to you!

Here are the 10 best songs by The Police for fans of 80s rock.

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RELATED: The 15 Best Sting Songs

10. “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” — Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980 

With dark lyrics detailing the growing sexual tension between a young teacher and his even younger student, even though this hit doesn’t sound like a hard 80s rock banger, thematically, it certainly overlaps tracks like “Hot for Teacher” on the Venn diagram of 80s music, albeit with more of a jarring Nabakovian vibe.

The chorused-out guitar arpeggios are distinctly 80s too, which, again, isn’t a far shot from what Van Helen were doing, but elements such as the reggae beat ensure it remains temporally ambiguous overall.

Is it worrying that before The Police blew up, Gordon Sumner was a secondary school teacher in England? Yes, definitely. But will 80s rock rebels love this track? Also yes!

9. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” — Ghost in the Machine, 1981

The initial idea was to release “Invisible Sun” as the lead single off The Police’s Ghost in the Machine album, and that’s precisely what happened in the UK, but the band’s label were concerned that it was a little too severe to really catch the attention of the rest of the world.

As such, they delivered “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” instead, a feel-good anthem bursting with 80s musical aesthetics. It’s a little softer than hard rock fans will be accustomed to, but there’s definitely a tie to the heavier side of the scene.

There’s a little bit of David Coverdale in Sting’s vocal delivery, and the ballad format is reminiscent of pretty much every other band at the time’s slower cuts, from Bon Jovi to Guns ‘n’ Roses.

8. “Can’t Stand Losing You” — Outlandos d’Amour, 1978

With a cover depicting Stewart Copeland in the process of hanging himself slowly by standing on a melting block of ice rather than the standard chair or stool, the themes of the single, “Can’t Stand Losing You” are arguably more hard rock than the hardest of rock bands.

In fact, this is veering into thrash metal territory — Fans of Megadeth will appreciate the visual aesthetic a great deal.

The music itself leans more into reggae than hard rock, at least in the verses.

But, as soon as the big, distorted guitar chords launch an energetic chorus with the “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing you” refrain seething with emotion over the top, you instantly understand why The Police have been given the rock label.

Another particularly rock and roll thing about this track is that it was banned by the BBC upon its release for dealing with unsavory topics. Yet, even without major airplay, it was a huge success.

RELATED: What Is Sting’s Net Worth?

7. “Walking On The Moon” — Reggatta De Blanc, 1979

“Walking on the Moon” was born the morning after a heavy night of drinking — Pretty rock and roll, ay?

Sting was absolutely smashed when he returned to his Munich hotel room that evening and spent upwards of an hour shuffling around the room singing “walking around the room”. Why? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. Sting is a pretty sporadic fella.

When he woke, the melody and cadence of his drunken howling were still seared into his brain, so he changed the line to the more poetic and serious “walking on the moon”.

Next, he assembled a reggae beat for it to sit on top and had his brother play long, airy guitar chords padded out with tons of reverb and delay, and voilà!

It’s not the rockiest cut in their catalog, but that chorus is a real earworm, no matter what genres you subscribe to. Give it a go. One listen, and you’ll be singing it for the rest of your life… it’s that catchy!

6. “Synchronicity I” — Synchronicity, 1983

This high-octane belter wastes no time getting your attention. Instantly, A ZZ-Top-tinged bassline thumps through your speakers, and a pulse-raising beat gets the foot tapping like a mad thing! Sting then joins his bandmates with an intriguing melodic line that locks your focus.

It then builds into a vaguely prog extravaganza with layered vocals, plinky-plonky keys, chugging bass, and of course, some rapid beats. There’s a little bit of a Genesis vibe in this track that will keep lovers of early psychedelic rock music sufficiently spaced out.

5. “So Lonely” — Outlandos d’Amour, 1978

On “So Lonely” The Police wear their love of Bob Marley on their sleeve, but the chorus provides a welcome rocky break from the “No Woman No Cry” imitation so prevalent in the chord choices and vocal melody of the verses. There’s even a half-decent guitar solo towards the tail end of this cut!

It’s nothing like the soaring distorted leads you’re used to hearing from Slash and Sambora, but it’s well written, and hey, a guitar solo’s a guitar solo, right?

And being that it sets the scene for one final super singable chorus punctuated with double-time snare drumming, it’s A-okay in my book!

RELATED: You Have To Listen To These Nirvana Songs

4. “Visions Of The Night” — Walking On The Moon (B-Side), 1977

“Visions of the Night” is about as Motley Crew as you’ll ever hear The Police, which is probably one of the reasons it never actually got a full release. Rather, it was tacked onto their “Walking on the Moon” UK single release as a B-side.

Rapid-fire down-strums of overdriven guitar kick this one off before an uncharacteristically gruff Sting joins the party, howling all over the mix.

The chorus gets a little Zeppelin-esque, which may not appeal to the 80s rockers out there, but there’s something decidedly punk rock about Sumner’s unpolished delivery that moves it forward in time, yet, strangely, it was written 3 years before the start of the 80s.

3. “Message In A Bottle” — Reggatta De Blanc, 1979

If you’re a guitarist, you’ll immediately understand why “Message in a Bottle” lands so high on this list of The Police songs for 80s rockers. The opening arpeggios play out over five, count em, five frets, making it a real wrist destroyer, especially if you haven’t been playing for long.

This virtuosic guitar playing and songwriting is taken even further into rock territory by Stewart Copeland’s snappy beats, his drumming lighting a fire underneath what could have easily ended up quite a slow, soppy tune.

RELATED: Love Rock? Check Out These Radiohead Tracks

2. “Synchronicity II” — Synchronicity, 1983

Kicking things off with a driving bassline, some articulate pull-offs on the guitar, and Sting’s take on the “woah oh” rock vocal platitude of the 80s, “Synchronicity 2” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kiss or Journey record.

Actually, scratch that; the intro of this Police track is decidedly darker than most of the music those two bands were releasing.

Granted the verse gets a little brighter in tone, but thanks to some fantastic lead guitar riffage, it retains its edge until a Queen-style bridge ups the ante, leading to aggressive pre-chorus electrified by Def Leppard-Esque guitar work and an impassioned vocal delivery.

1. “Roxanne” — Outlandos d’Amour, 1978

The Police are no Guns ‘n’ Roses or anything, but c’mon, sex workers, a radio ban, masculine possessiveness… it doesn’t get more 80s rock and roll than that. And, again, “Roxanne” isn’t even an 80s song, which highlights just how influential The Police were at the turn of the decade.

This track tells the story of a man who has fallen in love with a sex worker and is encouraging her to quit her profession and be his, exclusively.

Needless to say, it got The Police into a lot of trouble, with a number of platforms refusing to promote it. But, as we know, it would be Sting and co. that would get the last laugh, as “Roxanne” is considered one of the best popular songs ever written.

RELATED: 8 Things You Wouldn’t Know About Roxanne By The Police

songs by the police
The Police” at Madison Square Garden – New York 2007

Final Thoughts

One of the reasons The Police were so successful is that they didn’t confine themselves to any individual genre, and while it might be easy to assume a band with so many radio hits aren’t attitudinal enough, rock was one of their favorite genres to pull from.

That’s not to say that hardcore fans of the 80s heavy music scene will love everything The Police ever put out, but the tracks listed here today are sure things!