‘Murder by Numbers,’ the final track on The Police’s classic 1983 album Synchronicity, wasn’t originally intended for the album’s lineup. Indeed, it was left off of some LP releases of the album, though it appeared on cassette and CD.
The song started as the B-side of Synchronicity‘s most popular track, ‘Every Breath You Take.’
‘Murder by Numbers’ was co-written by guitarist Andy Summers, whose only other songwriting contribution on the album was ‘Mother,’ by far the record’s worst track. He did just fine here, though, coming up with a seductive jazz-pop arrangement.
From the late 70s to the early 80s, The Police released five albums, every one of which went platinum in multiple countries. When all was said and done, they sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
I’ve always known 1983’s Synchronicity was a monster hit — it went eight times platinum in the U.S. alone and spent 17 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart. But I underestimated how success of the band’s earlier efforts.
I have a “greatest hits” appreciation of The Police. I own only Synchronicity but I’m very familiar with their most popular songs from the four albums that preceded it — ‘Roxanne,’ ‘Can’t Stand Losing You,’ ‘Message in a Bottle,’ ‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’ and so on.
1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta was The Police’s third album and, though the band itself dismisses it as half-good, it received some of the best reviews of their career.
20 Best Songs of the 80’s – #1
This is an odd pick because it breaks the pattern I’ve set up through the other 19 songs. While The Police were very much an early-80’s band, Sting went on to have a celebrated solo career, making him one of the only artists on the list who had more success outside the 80’s than in them.
So an argument could be made that this isn’t really an ’80’s song’ so much as a Sting song (the same argument I’ve used in excluding artists such as Michael Jackson, R.E.M. and U2 from the lineup).