Sting makes his film debut in Radio On (1980) as the character "Just Like Eddie," a petrol attendant and dolefully adoring fan of the late rock íní roller Eddie Cochran. Written and directed by Christopher Petit, a protégé of German director Wim Wenders (who is the filmís associate producer), Radio On is a moody black-and-white road movie that eschews traditional narrative conventions.
The film follows despondent disc jockey Robert (David Beames) on a seemingly aimless drive across England in search of clues to the recent mysterious death of his estranged brother. Estrangement is a general theme in Radio On; the one constancy in Robertís interactions with the varied characters he encounters on the road is his singular inability to find meaningful communication or emotional connection. The only real movement in the film is Robertís ongoing journey down the motorway, his only real companion is the radio, where news bulletins continually update him on the latest human tragedy. He turns the "radio off" only to play tapesóthe alienated synth drones of the Ď70sóvintage David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo, and Lene Lovich.
Encountered by Robert at an otherwise deserted gas station located close to the spot of Cochranís fatal car accident, Stingís "Just Like Eddie" proves to be a neglectful petrol attendant, who atones for his apathy with a soulful rendition of Cochranís "Three Steps to Heaven." His role, which preceded the success of the Police, did not stray too far from reality; as he strums his guitar, he petulantly tells Robert that he plays in a band and has dreams of making it. This real-life foreshadowing provides a moment of levity and an unintentional break from the filmís unrelenting bleakness, which is Petitís primary focus and from which neither success nor escape is possible.