The Police

One of the first bands associated with the 70s Punk/New Wave movement to achieve widespread commercial success, the Police were initially ridiculed by some for their perceived lack of “authenticity.” But the bleach-blond, leather-jacketed threesome quickly got the last laugh on their critics, becoming one of the world's biggest recording acts with an expansive musical approach that won them a massive global audience.

It's not surprising that the Police were initially dismissed as bandwagon-jumpers, since all three members were seasoned players whose technical skill violated Punk's embrace of amateurism. Singer/bassist Sting (born Gordon Sumner) had played with various Jazz-Rock combos, while guitarist Andy Summers had been a member of such 60s bands as Eric Burdon and the Animals and Soft Machine, and American-born drummer Stewart Copeland had been a member of British Progressive Rock band Curved Air. The three first worked together as members of the Prog group Strontium 90, and had originally adopted their trademark blond look for an appearance in a TV chewing-gum commercial.

That the three bandmates' instrumental skills outstripped those of their Punk contemporaries became clear on their first three albums, Outlandos d'Amour, Reggatta de Blanc and Zenyatta Mondatta, whose prominent Reggae beats were still a rarity in Rock at the time. The band supported 1978's Outlandos d'Amour with a grueling low-budget tour of America, while gaining transatlantic attention with their hits "Roxanne" and "Can't Stand Losing You." Reggatta de Blanc increased the band's American audience and was a major seller throughout Europe, spawning the British No. 1 singles "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon." Zenyatta Mondatta gave the band a pair of Top 10 U.S. singles in "Don't Stand So Close to Me" (also the U.K.'s top-selling single of 1980) and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da." The Police's global success was due at least in part to the band’s touring in such countries as Mexico, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Greece and Egypt, which were rarely visited by Western rock acts.

As the Police's popularity grew, so did the complexity and sophistication of their musical output. Ghost in the Machine (1981) expanded the band's sound with new instrumental textures; with the hit singles "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Invisible Sun" and "Spirits in the Material World," it became a multi-platinum hit in America. 1983's Synchronicity was even more ambitious and accomplished, spawning the hits "Every Breath You Take," "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "King of Pain," and selling over 8 million copies in America.

The band supported Synchronicity with a hugely successful nine-month stadium tour, after which they reconvened to begin work on a new album. But those sessions were unproductive, and the band broke up instead. Sting went on to a massively successful solo career, while Summers and Copeland remained active with a variety of solo and collaborative projects.

Except for a brief performance at the band's 2003 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Sting, Summers, and Copeland — whose interpersonal tensions have been well-documented over the years — resisted numerous offers to reform. They finally reunited for a 30th-anniversary world tour that ran from early 2007 through August 2008, making them the world's highest-earning musicians for the year of 2008.