Original 1978 UK sleeve
|Single by The Police|
|from the album Outlandos d'Amour|
|Released||7 April 1978|
|Format||Vinyl record (7")|
|The Police singles chronology|
"Roxanne" is a song by English rock band The Police. Written by lead singer and bassist Sting, the song was released in April 1978 as a single from their debut album Outlandos d'Amour. It was written from the point of view of a man who falls in love with a prostitute. On re-release in 1979, the song peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.
Police lead singer Sting wrote the song, inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the band's seedy hotel in Paris, France, where the Police were lodged in October 1977 to perform at the Nashville Club. The song's title comes from the name of the character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, an old poster of which was hanging in the hotel foyer.
Sting had originally conceived the song as a bossa nova, although he credits Police drummer Stewart Copeland for suggesting its final rhythmic form as a tango. During recording, Sting accidentally sat down on a piano keyboard in the studio, resulting in the atonal piano chord and laughter preserved at the beginning of the track. The Police were initially diffident about the song, but Miles Copeland III was immediately enthusiastic after hearing it; he became their manager and got them their first record deal with A&M Records.
We went into Surrey Sound Studios and it was working pretty well. We recorded a few tracks, one of which I wrote more or less as a throwaway. That was 'Roxanne', I didn't think much more about it until we played the album to Miles Copeland who is, of course, Stewart's brother and a bit of an entrepreneur, though he'd never been particularly interested in The Police. In fact, he'd kept away from it to say the least. He did come along to the sessions while we were putting the first album together but more or less just to offer brotherly advice to Stewart. He heard the album and quite liked it. When we got to Roxanne, we were a bit embarrassed because the song was a bit of an anachronism, because compared with our usual material it was slow, quiet and melodic. Far from saying he thought it was a piece of shit, he said it was amazing. I thought, 'He likes this song This is fantastic!— Sting, A Visual Documentary, 1978
According to Andy Summers:
Sting played it for me in my living room early on. He was very shy at first bringing in his songs. But it was brilliant, and later on we all worked it out in a damp basement in North London. I remember Stewart telling Sting where to place the bass notes, which was a bit tricky. Miles Copeland came down to hear us and we were kind of embarrassed to play it for him, because Miles had blinders on and was into fast and furious punk. But much to his credit, he said, 'This is great, a knockout!' I was really surprised. And he took it to A&M and got a contract for one single. I don't think it ever broke the Top 40 in America, but eventually it became the Police signature tune.— Andy Summers, Guitar World, 1/94
"Roxanne" became the band's debut single for A&M Records. However, despite the praise given by Miles Copeland, the single did not chart upon its initial release.
The band released two further singles in the UK that year: "Can't Stand Losing You", which charted at number 42, and "So Lonely", which did not chart. Then, in early 1979, "Roxanne" was issued in North America as the group's first single there. In the US, "Roxanne" entered the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979 and peaked at number 32 in April. In Canada, the single placed one rung higher on the charts, peaking at number 31.
The song's international success spurred a UK re-release of "Roxanne" in April 1979. This re-release of the song was a hit, reaching number 12 in the UK Singles Chart. A live solo version performed by Sting from the 1982 album The Secret Policeman's Other Ball received moderate airplay on album-oriented rock radio and reached number 28 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. The song went on to become a staple of Sting's performances during his solo career, and it was performed when The Police reunited in 2003 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2000, VH1 ranked the song at number 85 on its list of the "100 Greatest Rock Songs" while in 2003 it was ranked number 90 on their list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 years".
It is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2008, "Roxanne" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Three different music videos were released for "Roxanne". The first shows the band performing the song on a stage on what is perhaps a sound check to a show. Many slow motion shots of the group live appear here as well. The second version was shot on a soundstage and shows the band performing before a red backdrop. The third version is identical to the second, except the footage was transferred from videotape to film and has a grainy quality to it.
1Roxanne '97 (Puff Daddy Remix)
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||43|
- Sting – bass, lead vocals, backing vocals, piano
- Andy Summers – guitar, backing vocals
- Stewart Copeland – drums, backing vocals
7": A&M / AMS 7348 (UK)
- "Roxanne" – 3:00 (Sting)
- "Peanuts" (single edit) – 2:52 (Stewart Copeland, Sting)
Cover versions and samples
- In 1997, Sting re-recorded the song with music impresario Puff Daddy as "Roxanne '97 (Puff Daddy Remix)" for the compilation album The Very Best of Sting & The Police. Only the 1997 and 1998 A&M/PolyGram releases have this song, as it is omitted in the 2002 A&M/Universal re-release.
- In 1997, Michael Franti & Spearhead covered the song in the film Good Burger during the introduction of a female character with the same name.
- In 1997, British reggae group Aswad covered the song on its album Big Up.
- In 1997, saxophonist Warren Hill covered the song on his album Shelter.
- In 1999, George Michael covered the song on his album Songs from the Last Century.
- In 2000, rapper Cam'ron sampled "Roxanne" for his single "What Means The World to You?".
- In 2001, the song was one of the many remixed covers in the film Moulin Rouge!, named "El Tango de Roxanne", which was combined with the tango composition "Tanguera" by Mariano Mores.
- In 2003, Fall Out Boy covered the song in the deluxe version of Take This to Your Grave.
- In 2003, Sherbert covered the song with Matt Lightbourn on vocals.
- In 2004, Incubus performed a version of the song on the occasion of its semi-acoustic live set at KROQ with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers as guests.
- In 2005, British group The Flying Pickets delivered an a cappella version of the song on its album "Everyday".
- In 2006, British band Arctic Monkeys referenced the character of "Roxanne" in a lyric of their single "When the Sun Goes Down".
- In 2007, Kate Ceberano recorded a version for her Nine Lime Avenue album.
- In 2008, Idina Menzel covered the song on her "I Stand" Summer Tour. She also performed the song on her 2010–2011 Symphony Tour as a mashup with Cole Porter's Love For Sale, which appears on her live album "Live: Barefoot at the Symphony."
- In 2009, the song was parodied by Flight of the Conchords in You Don't Have to be a Prostitute, in episode 2 of its second television series.
- In 2011, the song was featured on the Community episode, "Remedial Chaos Theory".
- In 2012, the song was covered by singer Juliet Simms for the reality television show, The Voice. Her cover reached number 86 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- In 2014, Nadia Ali did an acoustic cover of the song that was released as a free download.
- In 2015, Royal Blood covered the song in BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge.
- In 2016, Lacey Sturm covered the song on her album Life Screams.
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