On 3 October 1980, The Police delivered an album that Rolling Stone described as “near-perfect pop by a band that bends all the rules and sometimes makes musical mountains out of molehill-size ideas.” It was their third LP, Zenyatta Mondatta.
Listen to Zenyatta Mondatta right now.
A No. 1 album in the UK, France and Australia, it featured two more signature hits for Messrs Sting, Summers and Copeland, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ and ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.’ But alongside the nonsense lyrics of the latter, Sting was also contributing songs of social conscience such as ‘When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,’ ‘Driven To Tears’ and ‘Bombs Away.’
“It doesn’t have any of the heavy metal that I suppose was on the first two albums,” Copeland told Musicians Weekly around the release of Zenyatta Mondatta. “But there are plenty of groups providing that already. There’s not fuzzy guitar anywhere this time. ‘[When] The World Is Running Down,’ for example, started out as a heavy jazz number and then we Policeified it. We always do lots of overdubbing and employ the studio techniques to the fullest and there’s a lot of cosmetic surgery on the tapes.”
Zenyatta Mondatta had a red-letter day in America on 27 February 1981. As they continued their rise to the top as perhaps Britain’s biggest international rock attractions of the day, the RIAA awarded the trio their first platinum album disc. The long player was outdoing its predecessors Outlandos D’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc in the US and reaching its peak of popularity as the platinum certification arrived.
The 28 February Billboard chart showed Zenyatta climbing a place to what became its No. 5 peak, in the 19th week of an epic 153-week run on the countdown. ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and ‘Behind My Camel’ won for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
As American fans continued to catch up with the band’s catalogue to that point, the Police’s first two albums would go on to their own, eventual, sales recognition. Outlandos D’Amour won platinum certification in the summer of 1984, more than five years after its chart debut; Outlandos D’Amour had to wait much longer, charting for the first time also in 1979 and turning platinum early in 2002.
Much greater success was around the corner. The follow-up to the Zenyatta Mondatta album, 1981’s Ghost In The Machine, went triple platinum in 2001, and their final studio set, 1983’s Ghost In The Machine, broke all their previous records with a 17-week run at No. 1 in America, reaching quadruple platinum status in 1984 and going eight-times platinum in 2001.
Zenyatta Mondatta can be bought here.
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