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Sting Denies His Solo Career Broke Up The Police

The frontman told Howard Stern that the band never even officially split.

At the height of their fame in the early '80s, the English rock band the Police were "like the Beatles" in terms of their fame level. "We were all over the world," guitarist Andy Summers told Yahoo! Life in June 2023. "We were highly recognized and, you know, it was crazy." Even today, their single "Every Breath You Take" is the most-played song ever to hit American radio, per Showbiz411.

Yet the music stopped for the band shortly after they toured their biggest album, 1983's Synchronicity. The Police went on a hiatus that would turn permanent as their frontman, songwriter, and bassist Sting took off on a solo career that would match the band's success. Years later, Sting claimed that he had had no intention of breaking the Police up by releasing his own music and explained why the group fell apart anyway. Read on to find out more.

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Sting left the Police at the peak of their success.

The Police performing onstage in 1983
Rob Verhorst/Redferns

Their debut album, 1978's Outlandos d'Amour, was the first of five albums the Police released across six years. Each sold millions, per Chartmasters, culminating in the 1983 mega-hit Synchronicity, which moved more than 15 million copies. After touring in support of the album, reaching the Everest of rock concerts in their epic New York City Shea Stadium concert, the band took a hiatus, according to Classic Pop Magazine, and Sting began to pursue his first solo project, the jazzy The Dream of the Blue Turtles. That album made it to No. 2 on the Billboard chart, producing four top singles and earning two Grammy wins, paving the way for Sting to become one of the biggest solo artists of the next decade.

He said they never really broke up.

Sting in 1986
Will/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, given Sting's burgeoning solo career, the Police's hiatus never came to an end. According to him, there was never a conversation about a real split. When Howard Stern asked Sting in 2016 if breaking up the band was his decision, the now-71-year-old responded, "We didn't officially break up."

Despite his assertion, creative tensions were running high behind the scenes and included physical and verbal confrontations among the members, according to The Guardian. On a 2020 episode of the Vintage Rock Pod, Police drummer Stewart Copeland said that more conflicts arose as Sting became "more certain of his singular vision of the music" and took more control of the creative enterprise. "It's just kind of no fun to have to argue over every bit of input," he remembered.

Meanwhile, Sting told Stern that he felt confined by the group. "I needed to spread my wings, you know, I needed a different set of colors to work with…A band has a certain sound, and it's kind of limited," he explained.

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He denies his solo career ended the band.

Sting maintains that releasing music on his own wasn't a ploy to put an end to the Police. "I just thought it was time that I exercise my right to make a solo album as the others had done," he told Stern, referencing the work both Summers and Copeland did outside of the band, including Copeland's Golden Globe-nominated score for the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film Rumble Fish. "And then [my album] was a massive hit, so I went, 'Hang on a minute…,'" the singer continued.

Supporting Sting's claim, the band did reunite in the wake of his solo success. They played three shows with the Amnesty International benefit Conspiracy of Hope in 1986 and secretly entered the studio to record more material that same year, according to Rolling Stone. That attempt was interrupted after Copeland fell off a horse and broke his collarbone, however, and soon the band was arguing again—this time over which synthesizer to use. "It was too early [to reunite]," Sting told the magazine.

Summers called the split "absolutely devastating."

Andy Summers in 2015
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

Guitarist Andy Summers has expressed some different sentiments around the tensions in the band, saying in Yahoo! Life this year that having "three alpha-males" in one group was the very dynamic that drew audiences in. According to him, the problem with Sting's departure was less his desire to spread his wings than the silence around what was really going on.

"[A]t the time, [Sting going solo] seemed like sort of a cute idea. Of course, it was absolutely devastating. But the problem with it was that we didn't say, 'So, that's the end of the Police. We're not doing it anymore,'" Summers said.

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They eventually got the band back together—for the last time.

The Police performing in 2007
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

More than 30 years after their "unofficial" breakup, the Police regrouped in 2007 for a lucrative world tour, working through the tensions for the sake of the music. Despite the tour netting $360 million, per Yahoo! Life, fans shouldn't hold their breath for another reunion, however. Calling the idea "a bridge too far," Sting noted in MusicRadar in 2022 that the three men still had trouble working together, even decades later. "I mean it was hard because the power struggles were still apparent…but we got through it and people loved it, they really did," he explained.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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