The Police were a globally famous rock band with a slew of famous hits such as “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, “Don’t Stand So Close to me”, “Walking On The Moon” and others all written by Song Writers Hall Of Fame inductee and frontman, Sting.
What many people don’t know is that not every Police song was written by Sting; in fact, many of my favourite Police songs were not written by Sting. I am slightly biased, though, because Stewart Copeland, drummer of the group, is my favourite member.
Let’s take a look at 10 Police songs not written by Sting but written by drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers.
To listen along to this playlist, click play below
1. “Bombs Away”
Let’s start off with a song written by Stewart Copeland because, as I said, he is my favourite member. This song is off their third album Zenyatta Mondatta released in October of 1980.
Their producer at the time, Nigel Gray, collected a bunch of second-hand tapes, and Bombs Away was actually recorded on one of these previously used tapes. Stewart said “’Bombs Away’ was written on a Siouxsie And The Banshees backing track. I changed the speed and did things to the EQ to change the drum pattern. So, with the desk, I can get my song playing, then press a switch, and there’s Siouxsie singing away.” Once you listen to the peculiar lyrics of the song, it’s no surprise Stewart wrote them.
Many of his solo projects show through his quirky nature, and this one also alludes to his childhood in the Middle East, “The President looks in the mirror and speaks. His shirts are clean, but his country reeks. Unpaid bills in Afghanistan hills. Bombs away but we’re O.K.”
Fittingly, the song also opens with a drum fill followed by the prevalent clicking of the hi-hat throughout, distinctive to Stewart’s playing. Although The Police never performed the song live, it finally got to see a live audience when Stewart performed it in 2017/2018 with his band Gizmodrome.
2. “Fall Out”
This was one of the very first songs Stewart had written and shown to Sting and the first song recorded by The Police. It was released as their first single in May 1977 and re-released in 1979 but never on an album. It was so early on in The Police’s career that they had to borrow £400 pounds to pay for the recording they issued on Illegal Records, a label set up by Stewart’s brother Miles for the sole purpose of issuing the track. The song features original guitarist Henry Padovani, but he played only the solo leaving the rest open to Stewart due to nervousness. Even though Stewart wrote the track and played guitar and drums on it, he said the record only sold because of their punk clothes on the cover, “The average punk had every available punk record and when the next one came out which was the Police record, he bought that, too. But still, I think it was a good record, so it did more than the average punk single.” Even though the music goes right along with the punk persona of the early Police, the lyrics show a more thoughtful side of Stewart which he admits to, “It was a heartfelt lyric, all about a personal disinclination to follow the styles of my peers.” Sting credits Mick Jagger’s review of the single in Sounds magazine for its success, but he had to feel at least a little fondly of the song because unlike most songs written by other band members The Police did perform this song several times throughout 1979 and 1980. I think it’s a great song regardless of the band’s opinions of it and for whatever reason, it took off – I’m glad it did!
This is a song written by guitarist Andy Summers and released on The Police’s fourth album Ghost In The Machine in 1981. The song was such a strong piece that A&M Records chose it to be the first single. According to Andy, it was Sting that derailed this, “A&M wanted to put it out as the first single but Sting, who was feeling his power at the time, was freaked out. He didn’t want it out. He refused. He got very upset, but A&M didn’t want to upset him for all the typical reasons, so it didn’t get put out.” A song was written by Sting, “Invisible Sun”, was released as the album’s first single in the UK instead. In contrast with Invisible Sun, Omegaman is a high-energy chugging piece with an amazing lick by Andy right out of the gate and Sting’s unsettled sounding screams throughout. The restless chugging ties in with the restless sounding lyrics, which bring about images of wandering at night through a dystopian cityscape, “The sky’s alive with turned on television sets, I walk the streets and seek another vision yet, the echo makes me turn to see that last frontier, the edge of time closes down as I disappear. I’m the Omegaman.” It’s an amazing song that swiftly transports you somewhere else and is slightly cathartic on those hard-to-get-through days. It’s a shame it didn’t get the attention it was due.
Darkness is another non-Sting song that made it onto “Ghost In The Machine”, with this one penned by Stewart Copeland. This song is a conglomerate of lots of different sounds with an almost jazzy piano line that dreamily drifts you through the song complemented by a very reggae-sounding bassline and the atmospheric shapeless crying of Andy’s guitar in the background. The lyrics and melody give the song an overall melancholy feel “I could make a mark, if it weren’t so dark, I could be replaced by any bright spark, but the darkness makes me fumble for a key to a door that’s wide open.” And, of course, a Stewart Copeland song wouldn’t be complete without the crisp clicking of the hi-hat throughout. A sophisticated and yet still quirky-sounding song by Copeland, one definitely worth a listen.
5. “Someone to Talk to”
This song is a non-Sting song and features a non-Sting vocal; Andy Summers wrote the song and sings it himself. It wasn’t released on any album but was the B-side to “Wrapped Around Your Finger” in 1983. A rather simple song with a great groove, great little embellishments, and slight changes in rhythm by Stewart throughout as he loves to do. Sting also pops in and punctuates the chorus with some saxophone as he did a lot on “Ghost In The Machine”. The song sounds like it could be right at home on that album for that reason. There’s a catchy riff that Andy repeats over and over throughout the song, which I really enjoy; it ties the song together and gives some interest to what is mostly a nice simple Reggae-Esque rhythm guitar. The lyric is relatable – talking about missing someone you’ve left when all you wanted to do was leave when you were with them, “Why am I standing right next to the phone when I kept on saying I must be alone?” The delivery is very suave and smooth in my opinion, I really enjoy Andy’s vocal on this song.
6. “A Sermon”
This song was written by Stewart Copeland and was meant to be released on their first album Outlandos d’Amour but was left off and later released in the UK as the B-side to “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” in 1980. The original title was “No Excuse”, which is screamed by Sting several times throughout the song, “There’s no excuse, for the people you abuse.” The song was written before the band had really experienced fame, but it foreshadowed what fame could and would do to the band as they reached for greater and greater success, “But the traps are all laid for any honest crusade, your old values will fade as you struggle to make the grade.” Sting said of the song, “That’s a Stewart song about making it which was a bit presumptuous because we only just had. It’s arrogant, but Stewart is good at being arrogant in a funny way – as in that Klark Kent line about ‘If you don’t like me, you can suck my socks’.” Similarly, Stewart said it was a bit premature, “We hadn’t made it at all when we did this song. And we were all just as arrogant as each other from the start.” This being a song written by Stewart, Andy stepped back and let Stewart play the guitar on the record other than the solo, “the clever bit” as Stewart put it. The rhythm guitar is a simple but catchy punk kind of rhythm with a bright and optimistic sound. The drums open the song with several flams, a double hit on the snare with one played slightly after the first. Copeland utilized this many times throughout his drumming career and it creates a broader, more hard-hitting sound. I think this song would’ve been a great addition to Outlandos.
7. “Behind My Camel”
This is an instrumental written by Andy Summers released on The Police’s third album Zenyatta Mondatta in 1980. It was actually the first song Andy had written entirely on his own, but the other members were anything but encouraging about it, “I was always much more interested in weirder stuff and the commercial hit songs always seemed to come out of Sting anyway. But we didn’t have enough songs to fill the album, and I had this ‘Behind My Camel’ thing. I said: ‘How about doing this then?’ And Sting said: ‘I’m not playing on that!” Sting stuck to that…he never did play on the track; Andy himself plays the bass. Sting disliked the song so much the story goes that he actually took the tapes and buried them in the garden behind the studio. Stewart didn’t like the song very much either, “As hard done by as I ever felt in this band, I could always take comfort in the fact that Andy got shafted even worse than I did on that little instrumental… I only played on the song because there wasn’t anyone else to play the drums.” Despite all the fuss about the song, Andy stuck it to the other guys in the band when “Behind My Camel” won Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards in 1982. The song is atmospheric, dark, and quasi-middle eastern sounding, which is hinted at in the title. The most prominent features are Andy’s guitar and synths, the bass and drums are rather simple and repetitive, which isn’t a surprise because Stewart seemingly didn’t put much effort into the song, and Sting didn’t put any effort into the song. They get the job done though.
8. “On Any Other Day”
“You want something corny? You got it.”: The opening lines of a characteristically off-kilter song by Stewart Copeland released on The Police’s second album Reggatta de Blanc in 1979. Another pleasantly punk-sounding song, with a moving rhythm guitar, throughout and overly simplistic sarcastic lyrics to go along…“There’s a house on my street and it looks really neat, I’m the chap who lives in it.” The song is about all the things that go wrong and get under our skin throughout the day, and you could get through them easier if only it were any other day, “My wife has burned the scrambled eggs, the dog just bit my leg.” Apparently, on this day he is particularly touchy because it’s his birthday, according to the outro where you can hear high-pitched voices singing “Happy Birthday, Dear Daddy, Happy Birthday, To You.” Another weird and wonderful Copeland song and this one did make it onto an album.
9. “Does Everyone Stare”
This is an unconventional love song written by Stewart Copeland and released on Reggatta de Blanc. This is one of the few songs on which you hear Stewart’s singing voice. It opens with Stewart on the piano while quietly singing the lines, “I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date, I get the heebie-jeebies, and my panic makes me late.” The use of the phrase “heebie-jeebies” is something you’d only expect to find in a love song by Stewart Copeland. The pleasantly peculiar lyrics continue from there, “I never noticed the size of my feet until I kicked you in the shins. Will you ever forgive me for the shape I’m in?” Sting continues to sing the remainder of the song after the piano intro. The song transitions from Stewart’s vocal to Sting’s with the intrusion of an opera singer belting in the background, very random and yet expected from a Copeland song. Surprisingly, Sting was up for a song so characteristic of Stewart, but perhaps it was because the recording sessions for Reggatta de Blanc saw the band short on new material. The band dug up old songs and used parts of them to create new songs, “Does Everyone Stare” being one of them. It was apparently a piano piece Copeland had written in college.
10. “Miss Gradenko”
This is a song written by Stewart Copeland and was released on the Police’s fifth and final album Synchronicity in 1983. The Police never performed this song live, but Stewart has performed this song live with his band Gizmodrome in 2017/2018 and an Orchestral version for “Stewart Copeland Lights Up the Orchestra” in 2019. There is a beautiful whirling finger-picked arpeggio on guitar that repeats throughout with a rather funky bassline and, of course, a hi-hat heavy drum part from Copeland. There are many ways to interpret the lyrics of this song, but I always interpreted the song to be about how inhuman business can be, “We were at a policy meeting they were planning new ways of cheating… Your uniform doesn’t seem to fit, you’re much too alive in it. You’ve been letting your feelings show are you safe Miss Gradenko?” Stewart’s songs seem to either be about politics, fame, or teenage problems, and this is another great one of those.
I hope after reading this, your curiosity has been sparked to give these songs a listen if you haven’t already. Sting gets the majority of the attention in the group, but The Police wouldn’t be The Police without Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers, and their contributions.