Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don't Stand So Close to Me

(I must point out that this title is ironic, because The Police have to be the best self-documented band that I'm aware of.)

Had the happy accident of happing across Stewart Copeland's Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies, which is a sheer joy. It's even a great companion piece to his must-see insider's documentary: The Police - Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, still my favorite rock-doc to date. (Oh, and the little doc on the DVD on the Certifiable set is a nice third component, if you have the money or interest; however, their older Police: Live is a better example of what they there were like in concert when they were kings.)

Between the two (or three), you get a real good sense of what it was like to be a huge rock star, and just how funny, charming, and decent Stewart Copeland really is.

You also get a feel for Sting and Andy Summers. Apparently, Sting is truly a gifted musical genius - almost savant - so maybe his seemingly arrogant public pronouncements are actually humble. Exactly what Andy Summers does on the guitar is wonderfully articulated as well.

For music nuts like me, this is nirvana. (Which reminds me Mr. Grohl, sit down at your computer someday and tell us the story, k?)

If you want a taste of what the book is like, this interview comes close:

Since Copeland mentions both Sting's and Summer's books, I leaped to my library site and procured Andy Summer's book. I'll report on that when I'm done. Don't intend to read the Sting book though, based on the comments on Amazon and the fact it stops before the Police get started.

Besides, thus far I've noticed that people as gifted as (Copeland says) Sting is aren't very good at conveying themselves, and thus far any attempts I've come across from Sting of that nature appear to support my theory. (I read a bit of his book online.)

Copeland, however, is as gifted at articulating his life and times - and being entertaining about it - as he is at drumming and film scoring.

One thing that puzzled me was no mention of his post-Police band: Animal Logic. He mentions Stanley Clarke once, but other that that, nada. Wonder why...


I forgot to include one of my favorite things from the book - Copeland's dislike of jazz, as he puts it: "jazz, a music that elevates dexterity over spirit."

How true! I do like myself some classic jazz, and sometimes am even in the mood for modern "smooth" jazz, which is muzak's pretty sister, but for the most part Copeland coins what I've thought about it for a while.

And, I wanted to continue and refine my thought about The Police being the best self-documented band by stating the obvious that the Beatles are the most documented band. However, even though Lennon and McCartney have both explained who really wrote which song, and who did which parts of songs they wrote together, they didn't necessarily self-document like The Police have.

To that end, there's some interesting stuff going on in that space, known as "Charting the Beatles." Here's a blog, and here's a flickr group devoted to it. I discovered this via both and


Whisky Prajer said...

I picked up this book as a remainder, which easily falls into the "Worth 1000 Words" category. Early in, Summers comments on the perceived glamour of green rooms and studios, etc. Young fans consider these places to be holy -- access is so rare -- but most of 'em are undeniably seedy. I'm frankly not sure if Summers was speaking ironically, or if he was happily inflating the fantasy to serve his purposes (he was certainly capable of both).

The hotel rooms get comfier as the venues get larger. And the groupies, well ... After the band has put the final touches on Synchronicity Summers gripes that "Mother" is the only song of his to make the cut. I always thought the tune was a throwaway, a reaction that was reinforced by this book's conclusion. It wouldn't have hurt Summers to spend less time sniffing coke and shagging girls, and more time calling home to see how Mumsy was doing.

yahmdallah said...

Yeah, I'm gathering that from his bio. He says that very thing about himself.