- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

It's not every day that I wedge myself under the wheels of a tour bus.
For Sting and the Police, however, it seemed perfectly reasonable no, inevitable, like going for a stroll in the Tuileries when in Paris.
It was 1980, and my friend Di and I had just emerged from a Police concert, our brains buzzing with the jagged Caribbean rhythms of "Canary in a Coalmine" and the plaintive "Roxanne." (Every easy girl with low self-esteem in the place thrilled when Sting sang the lines "I loved ya since I knew ya/I wouldn't talk down to ya/I had to tell you just how I feel/I won't share you with another boy.")
We saw the band's tour bus idling by the curb, and before I knew it, I was pulling Di down to the ground and crawling under the bus. We neatly arranged ourselves over the gravel, our yellow-and-black striped tights (in honor of Sting, get it?) and black pumps sticking out from under the bus like some punk variation on the Wicked Witch of the East from "The Wizard of Oz." And we waited.
The tour manager and other assorted Police factotums tried to get us to move, but our conditions were clear: No dice until we met Sting. Things threatened to get ugly after the driver started revving the engine, causing the tires to thrum ominously. Then, a man's hand appeared under the bus, and a buttery British voice said, "Hello, ladies. I have come to get you out of the gutter."
I took that hand, which belonged to Sting, and scrambled out from under the undercarriage. Sting was gracious and lightly amused (not to mention looking every inch the Anglo-Saxon bombshell), brushing the road dirt from our clothes as he tut-tutted over our escapade, gently scolding us never to pull a stunt like that again. A peck on the cheek for both of us and Sting vanished up the steps, the tinted windows hiding him from our view as the bus pulled away.
We retired to a nearby bar and celebrated by drinking Stingers.
Such was the sway the Police held during the punk-new wave interval of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Today, it is commonplace for pop artists to incorporate jazz, reggae, ska and other world-beat rhythms into catchy tunes that are easily accessible to the masses.
Look at the Grammy-gobbling Norah Jones, India.arie or even alterna-faves Radiohead and Coldplay their dreamy songs with reggae and global music undertones owe much to early Police recordings. Twenty-some years ago, it was electrifying to hear this kind of culturally cross-fertilized music on the pop charts.
Additional confirmation of the contagious catchiness of Police songs came in the shape of a 3-year-old I baby-sat at the time "Synchronicity" was released in 1983. His favorite song was not from "Electric Company" or "Sesame Street"; it was "King of Pain," and he would sit, solemnly swaying his sippy cup and wail, "I am only hoping that you'll end this reign/'Cause it's my destiny to be the King of Pain" at the top of his lungs.
The Police were one of the first post-punk success stories, and at the time, they were considered sellouts, apostates from the loud, fast, three-chord orthodoxy that ruled punk music. Briefly, I thought I was betraying my Ramones-Sex Pistols-Clash loyalties by grooving to the Police. Would I be banned from CBGBs and Danceteria for listening to "Da Do, Do, Doo, De Da, Da, Da"? My boyfriend at the time sneered that the song was "what the Archies would sound like if they drank too much Red Stripe." But their sound owed much to the jangly guitars and speedy tempos of power punk and the "black and white" ska groups of the period, including the English Beat and Selecter.
The Police took the stripped-down minimalism of punk and gave it jazz and blues inflections, reflecting the musicians' diverse and pre-punk musical origins. Before the Police, bassist Sting played in a jazz band, drummer Stewart Copeland was in a "progressive rock" group, and guitarist Andy Summers 10 years older than the other band members was steeped in rhythm and blues, psychedelia and progressive rock in the Soft Machine and Yes vein.
They took these influences and blended them into a sound all their own soulful but not sentimental, intelligent but not pretentious. Singles such as "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle," "Driven to Tears," "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and "Every Breath You Take" were the soundtrack of the early 1980s for the person who engaged both the thinking and feeling regions of the brain. Especially if said person was female
Call them the Clash Ultra-lite if you must but was there ever a girl who threw herself under the wheels of a bus for Joe Strummer?

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