In November 1978, the state of the Billboard album charts was strong. Billy Joel's 52nd Street, the Grease soundtrack, Donna Summer's Live and More, and comedian Steve Martin's A Wild and Crazy Guy were just some of the LPs populating the top 10.
It was on November 2, 1978, when a brash new outfit out of England threw its hat into the rock and roll ring with an oddly titled debut album. The band: the Police. The album: Outlandos d'Amour. Even as far back as 1977 while making the record, Stewart Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers were already well into the band's notorious volatile and tense balancing act.
"Did 'Wanna Know,' then 'So Lonely' in two bits," Copeland shared from his personal diary on SiriusXM show Volume. "Then 'Rosie Lee'--which became 'Peanuts'--then 'Roxanne.' Andy really pissed me off. I'm sure I pissed him off, too," the drummer laughed. "None of the three of us were cuddly, and we pissed each other off frequently. But our music held us together."
The album landed in America with something of a thud, following the group getting off on a bad foot in the UK after first two singles "Can't Stand Losing You" (about suicide) and "Roxanne" (ode to prostitution) were slagged for their risque subject matter.
"We had [a] publicity campaign with posters about how the BBC banned ‘Roxanne,'" Sting recalled. "The reason they had a problem with ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ was because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck, waiting for the ice to melt."
As the Police slugged it out on tour of North America, the record started to pick up some steam. "Roxanne" was the first song to break out in the U.S. and the UK, where the song eventually peaked at #12, followed by "Can't Stand Losing You" climbing all the way to #2.
In England, Outlando d'Amour proved to be the breakout the band was hoping for, reaching #6 on the British LP chart. In America, the album was also a success, peaking at #23 over the week of May 5, 1979. The #1 song in the United States that week: The Doobie Brothers' Minute By Minute.
"Roxanne" received a huge boost in 1982 when it was featured in the blockbuster comedy, 48 Hours, as sung by Eddie Murphy.