Drummer Stewart Copeland told Rolling Stone “That song has been the turnaround for us.” RS500 Punk was hitting London in 1977 and The Police’s brand of art rock wasn’t well received. The group was excited when they landed a gig as an opening act for a punk band at a Paris club. However, upon arrival it turned out there was no other act and the group ended up playing to an empty house. SJ
Things got worse when the band’s car broke down after the gig. Sting, the band’s singer and chief songwriter, decided to stake a stroll, finding himself wandering through Paris’ red-light district. As Sting recounted, “It was the first time I’d seen prostitutes on the streets…I imagined being in love with one of those girls.” SJ
The idea for the song “Roxanne” was born. The namesake was inspired by the heroine in the play Cyrano de Bergerac. A poster for the play was featured in the hotel lobby where the band was staying in Paris. RS500
Sting originally conceived of the song as a bossa nova, but Copeland suggested the final rhythmic form as a tango. WK Although Sting wasn’t particularly impressed with the end result, the group’s manager, Miles Copeland III, was “immediately enthusiastic.” WK The single was the first major-label release for the group after they’d released “Fall Out” on an independent label in 1977. SF It didn’t chart initially, but was rereleased after “Can’t Stand Losing You” became a minor UK hit in the fall of 1978.