‘Zenyatta Mondatta’: The Near-Perfect Pop Of The Police

The album topped the charts in the UK, France and Australia and became their first platinum disc in the US.

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The Police artwork: UMG
The Police artwork: UMG

On October 3, 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.

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.”

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“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 February 27, 1981. As they continued their rise to the top as perhaps Britain’s biggest international rock attraction 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 February 28 Billboard chart showed Zenyatta climbing a place to what became its No.5 peak. It was 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.

Platinum Police force

As American fans continued to catch up with the band’s catalog 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.

Listen to the best of The Police on Apple Music and Spotify.

Much greater success was around the corner. The follow-up to Zenyatta Mondatta, 1981’s Ghost In The Machine, went triple platinum in 2001. Their final studio set, 1983’s Synchronicity, broke all their previous records with a 17-week run at No.1 in America. It reached quadruple platinum status in 1984 and went eight-times platinum in 2001.

Buy or stream Zenyatta Mondatta.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. BYRD

    October 3, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    “There’s not fuzzy guitar anywhere this time.” Guess Stewart forgot about “Behind My Camel”

  2. Jim Brown

    October 12, 2019 at 1:17 am

    The final studio set was ‘Synchronicity’ in 1983, not ‘Ghost in the Machine’ again. 🙂

  3. GILLIES Neil

    December 5, 2019 at 2:00 am

    Although still a good album, this is one of The Police’s weaker ones (especially Side 2 ; where Summers and Copeland have instrumentals). Sting’s ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ however becomes their best single ever – and best-selling single of the year – (and only second to ‘Every Breath You Take’ today). A surprise is there’re ONLY 2 single releases (though ‘So Lonely’ had been re-issued earlier in the year) : ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ is normal The Police work -; when ‘Canary In A Coalmine’, even ‘Voices Inside My Head’ were possibly better or additional contenders. The sound is more polished ; and Side 1 is almost perfect. ‘When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around’ is typical The Police. The other tracks are tracks – ‘Behind My Camel’ won a grammy -; but for me Sting’s ‘Driven To Tears’ just shades the others. 7.91/10

  4. John

    October 3, 2020 at 6:00 am

    Ever thought about proof reading before publishing? Repeating album names and omitting the correct ones.Outlandous D’amour and Synchronicity.
    If writers can’t be bothered reading their own articles, I don’t see why I should. Back to allmusic.com for me.

    • Mr Chris Jordan

      October 5, 2020 at 2:19 am

      Lol yeah right. Youll be back here to visit and you know it.

  5. Samuel Garza

    October 4, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    Hey, I wore this album t-shirt this past weekend!
    Great album by a great band.

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