Here’s a clip of the the Police, as taken from a live appearance in Hamburg in 1980, just as they were about to hit stadium critical mass. But, at this stage, they were still shaking off their stab at punk rock. And this track “Next To You”, taken from their debut Outlandos D’Amour , is a leftover from that early period, before we began thinking about every breath they took at Shea Stadium.
Much criticism has been leveled at the Police for their perceived appropriation of punk rock early on, and probably even more criticism for their appropriation of reggae. But, this is the way I look at it. Even if these guys all had credentials as musicians, and could play anything they wanted to – which is a punk rock no-no – they were fans of the genres from which they borrowed.
This is particularly true when it comes to Bob Marley who inspired Sting’s melodic sense on a number of tracks (‘So Lonely’ for instance), not to mention his vocal delivery. And drummer Stewart Copeland was a Steel Pulse fan, easily taking his love for their work and incorporating reggae drumming into a pop/rock idiom.
But, this track is their take on a punk tune, which is really just a speeded up blues-rock number. There gets to a point where the labels began to blur at the edges. And I think this is where the strength of the band really lay. They knew how to borrow from various sources to make something of their own, which to a certain extent is true of any band. Maybe this track doesn’t demonstrate this as well as others. But one thing it does do is show that even if these guys weren’t actual punks (too old, and too skilled…), they sure had the energy of punk.