The Police Drummer Recalls Thinking 'Roxanne' Was a 'Throwaway Song' When Sting First Wrote the Hit

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The Police's Stewart Copeland opened up about the origin of the track in a interview with 'The Bob Lefsetz Podcast'

<p>Brian Rasic/Getty</p> The Police

Brian Rasic/Getty

The Police

"Roxanne" might be a classic now, but one member of the Police didn't always think it would be a hit.

In an interview with The Bob Lefsetz Podcast, Stewart Copeland revealed he initially thought the 1978 track was a "throwaway song."

“We were struggling and starving and going nowhere for about a year and a half, and [Sting] wrote it without any agenda,” the band's drummer, 71, recalled. “It was certainly not a Police song because we were still theoretically a punk band.”

At that time, Copeland wanted the band to stick to its punk rock ethos, however Sting, 72, and guitarist Andy Summers, envisioned exploring sounds without limitations.

Related: Sting Tells Stories Behind Hits, from Prostitutes ('Roxanne') to Bond ('Every Breath You Take') (Exclusive)

“I was the one cracking the punk whip," he said during the conversation. “No, we’ve got to be punk. We've got to be punk. And they're saying, ‘Can't we just play?’”

Sting, according to Copeland, “secretly” shared his idea for “Roxanne” with Summers, and after he was excited about it, the song landed in the drummer's hands.

“I gave it a drum beat that was kind of bass-ackwards and made it into a Police song,” Copeland explained. “It wasn't punk-o-rama, but it was still a rock song, even though it was kind of a lament.”

But the drummer still wasn't sold on the tune. “It was a throwaway song,” he said.

<p>Roy Rochlin/Getty</p> Stewart Copeland of The Police in New York City in October 2023

Roy Rochlin/Getty

Stewart Copeland of The Police in New York City in October 2023

That's what he believed, until his brother, Miles Copeland — who was, at the time, the band's manager — convinced him "Roxanne" had potential.

“He hears it, ‘Folks are going to love this. And I don't care if it's any good or not, but I do know folks are going to love this,'" Stewart said.

Stewart continued: “He took it and he said, 'I'll take that to a record company,' And they said, ‘OK, we'll release that as a single.’ And the rest is history.”

The song eventually became the "Every Breath You Take" band's breakthrough hit.

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<p>Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty</p> Stewart Copeland of The Police

Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty

Stewart Copeland of The Police

Related: Sting Sells Music Catalog to Universal in Deal Worth a Reported $300 Million

In an interview with PEOPLE in May 2023, the "Desert Rose" musician opened up about the inspiration behind "Roxanne" — prostitutes and the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac.

"We were staying behind the railway station [in Paris], the Gare Saint-Lazare, in an alleyway. And the reason the hotel was so cheap is that we had to share it with ladies of the night," he recalled. "I'd had a pretty sheltered life up until that point, and I was kind of fascinated by the commerce. It was intriguing to me."

During that time, Sting was mesmerized by a poster on the wall advertising Cyrano, the main character of which is deeply in love with a woman named Roxanne.

"Those two conflicting ideas — of this beautiful name and this very, very elegant, courtly romance, and what was going on in the hotel — just lit a torch under me," he said. "I went to my room, picked up the guitar and imagined this woman into life."

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