02.16.2007 - The Secret Policeman...
Looking back, it was probably not one of Henry Padovani's better decisions...
Tired of the squabbling, Henry had picked up his guitar and walked away from what would go on to become one of the biggest bands of all time.
He turned his back on The Police - and joined Wayne County & The Electric Chairs.
Today Henry, in something of an understatement, says: "Technically I left to join a bigger band but with hindsight it's certain that The Police went on to better things..."
And now when Sting and The Police reunite for their first tour in 23 years - collecting a pay packet of £70million - Henry will only be able to watch from the wings.
For while he helped found one of the world's biggest acts, launching Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers to international stardom, Henry Padovani - like Pete Best, the so-called Fifth Beatle - is just another footnote in history.
Now 54-year-old Henry is left to ponder what might have been.
"I feel a bit like a father who has gone through a painful divorce and left the baby behind. He's still my child, and I love him - but I just wish I'd spent more time with him."
We tracked him down to his modest home on the outskirts of Paris. He said: "I'm not hugely rich or world famous, but I'm certainly very happy."
His story began in late 1976 when, as a wide-eyed 24-year-old, he arrived in Britain from Corsica and a chance meeting with Stewart Copeland and Sting set him on a rollercoaster ride of "booze, sex, and rock'n'roll".
In January 1977, the band's first rehearsal was held at Copeland's flat. "I had long shaggy hair and a beard, and I'd only intended to stay around for two weeks, but after meeting Stewart I agreed to help him start The Police.
"I liked the name, and the fact that we were playing fast, rhythmic music. I even shaved off my beard.
"Sting arrived for our first rehearsal with his son Joe in a travel cot while Stewart and I were dressed like bandits.
"We thought we looked like dangerous rockers, while Sting probably thought we looked like idiots. But he liked being with us, and The Police were born."
The band produced their first single, 'Fall Out', in February 1977, with their manager Paul Mulligan paying for the recording. It sold only 2,000 copies and there were no royalties. Henry says: "We didn't have any money. I was always bringing fruit and other essentials round to Sting to help fill up his family fridge. Life was a real struggle."
Despite getting on well with Sting and Stewart, cracks began to appear in the relationships when Andy Summers joined the band in the summer of 1977.
Henry explains: "Andy was a decade older than the rest of us, and pretty sophisticated. He helped produce the sound that Sting wanted, good love songs and that kind of thing, while I was still more interested in punk.
"We were all arguing all the time. There was real tension, and I got sick of the whole thing."
The band performed as a four-piece between July and August 1977, but then Henry took the monumental decision to join Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, whom The Police had supported a few months earlier.
Does he feel any bitterness towards Andy Summers? "Absolutely not. I have a tremendous respect for him."
The Police soon shot to fame with classic hits such as 'Roxanne', 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take' and produced five epic albums, becoming arguably the biggest band in the world in the early 1980s. Henry, meanwhile, enjoyed more modest success with his own guitar instrumental band, The Flying Padovanis, before they disbanded at the end of 1987.
He told the Mirror: "I've seen every end of the business since my time with The Police and wouldn't change a single moment. I'm immensely proud of having been there at the beginning."
One of the proudest moments of Henry's career came in 2004 when his old pals Stewart Copeland and Sting joined him to perform the song Welcome Home.
As well as being the star track of Henry's French solo album, it was the first time the original Police members had produced music together since 1977.
Henry says: "It was like nothing had changed. We had such good times together and have always kept in touch. The guys are some of my best friends." And with tickets for the band's comeback tour already selling for an astonishing £2,500 on the black market, he is hopeful that their revival will be good for his own career.
He said: "I've got lots of plans, including further tours and new releases. Life is great, and seeing The Police reform makes it even better."
© The Daily Mirror by Peter Allen