The Police: First American Tour

The Police: First American Tour

Sting, 1979

Pictured here is Gordon Sumner, also known as Sting. Thirty-five years ago he played Gordon Sumner, also known as Sting, photographed by Murray Silverbass and sang for a band called The Police. They hit it big in 1979, when Punk was in its infancy. They tried to pull off that Punk thing but it wasn't working for them. They were far too literate for that whole Sex Pistols vibe. Gordon, for example, was a teacher of English and Math during his day job.

I was staff photographer for their label, A&M Atlanta, when they came through town on their first three tours. They had just started bleaching their hair blond, a carryover from having taped a Wrigley's Spearmint Gum commercial for director Tony Scott, for which they were asked to go blond. The commercial never aired, but the band liked the look so they kept coloring their hair.

I took this photo of Sting at the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta, a nightclub owned by promoter Alex Cooley, who used this stage as the incubator for fledgling acts. "Roxanne" was on its way toward becoming the biggest hit in America, and A&M Atlanta promoted the show by inviting college-aged girls to enter a "Roxanne Look-Alike Contest". There weren't any honest-to-goodness punk rockers living in Atlanta at the time– with the sole exception of an edgy artist named Rose Whipperr– and so the only girls to participate in the promotion were coeds from Emory University who knew nothing of The Police, Punks, or what "Roxanne" did for a living (she was a hooker). Pictured here with Sting is the winner of the Atlanta "Roxanne Look-Alike Contest", but I've long since forgotten her name.

This, of course, was before the band was famous. The Police were only playing at being rock stars; they didn't have that whole celeb thing down yet. They were up for anything and so we took them around to all the radio stations and tv stations and they did in-store promotions. The night following their show at the Ballroom, the band piled into my car and asked me to follow a carload of girls to their apartment on Buford Highway. There was going to be a party of some sort. So I drove the band to this dumpy little place where I continued to take some very incriminating photographs of Sting balling some chick in the kitchen. I didn't want to take these photographs, mind you; it was part of my "job description".

A year or two later– when The Police were on their way toward becoming The Biggest Band in the World– I ran across Kathy, the girl who put a smile on Sting's face at the party and offered to smile me, too, if I'd part with the photos that would prove to the world that she had been Stung. 

But I digress.

Photos. Stories. Blackmail. I got a million of 'em. The best of it can be found in my memoirs, "When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama"

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