Zenyatta Mondatta, a Zen/Kenyan word mash-up, and title of the third Police album was a transition record for the band. Written while touring the far and middle east in 1980 it bridges the early incarnation, the post punk power trio that gave us Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc, to the slick MTV mega machine that the group became during their second act. Songs like Man in a Suitcase and Canary In A Coalmine shed light on how the Police were coping with the trials and rigorous schedule traveling from Japan through China, to India and into Egypt. The cover art, a pyramid, portrays them as a tight cohesive touring band, but by the tour’s end, the three would be clearly positioned into separate camps. Voices Inside My Head, echo things that you said.
The trip was filmed to create a documentary titled The Police Around The World. It can be seen in parts on YouTube. Shot on film, it’s a rough cut, very gritty and punk, much like their early performances. It also shows a transition from a tight club playing unit to individual personalities performing for the camera in an intimate ‘Beatles meet the Monkees’ style. A year later these types of shenanigans would be parlayed into their earliest MTV music videos on the singles Don’t Stand So Close To Me and De Do Do Do De Da Da Da.
The Group scored two Grammys from Zenyatta Mondatta with Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, and Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the Andy Summers composition (which Sting refused to play on) Behind My Camel. The members have often expressed disappointment over the record, and it would become the last reggae/punk influenced effort put out by the group as they transitioned into mega super star status.
“Beneath the crowing voice of triumph there is a shadow of power plays, hierarchy and machismo; as we march forward, the operation balloons into a swollen monster-a queen bee surrounded by workers guarding the source of the eggs-and in a dreamlike moment, with a few songs giving the power to destroy, create, get you anything and with our faces staring out from lurid posters above teenage beds, we grow to an entourage of seventy-five.”
Andy Summers-One Train Later
Zenyatta Mondatta is maybe the worst Police album. It is also pretty damn good! Throw on some headphones and enjoy these voices inside your head…