07.01.1980 - Chase The Fade
I am wondering reputable insurance company would contemplate an all-risks policy applicable to any confrontations therein and thereinafter to be known as a meeting, hereinafter to be designated as any occasion whereby the Insured is within fifteen feet of Sumner, Summers and Copeland.
Or maybe I bring them into potentially dangerous situations. In October '78 they came to Manchester to perform on Whistle Test. For them it was a major breakthrough. Radio One's vital playlist had not shared my enthusiasm for 'Roxanne', the first potential hit for The Police, because it was about a prostitute. Nor had they gone much on the follow-up, 'Can't Stand Losing You', as the picture bag wrapper showed a bloke hanging himself. I liked it even more than 'Roxanne'! Only after 'Roxanne' was a hit in America did Britain wake up to the talent of the band.
And it's worth mentioning that The Police made the American hit by hopping on Laker to NY with one roadie carrying their equipment as hand luggage and playing for a hundred dollars or less a night to maybe 25 people. But they were 25 disc jockeys, radio station programme directors and journalists.
Back in Britain, The Police now had the crucial task of breaking their first album, 'Outlandos d'Amour'. Whatever the criticisms of Old Grey Whistle Test may be, it is acknowledged that almost any band who has the opportunity to play three live tracks from their new album on this the only rock show on British TV is going to jump at the chance.
Sting was also filming 'Quadrophenia' at that time and had to be helicoptered after the show to Brighton for some beach scenes with Mods. The make-up room in the BBC TV studios in Manchester is more friendly than most, sort of a nice place to hang out if you want your hair bleached, your clothes washed, eyebrows plucked or buttons sewn on. Sting walked in, and perceived a make-up lady struggling with an aerosol can, containing silver hair spray. 'Let me help you with that,' he said gallantly - and the can exploded in his face. Barely an hour before we recorded the show he was receiving treatment at Manchester Infirmary - a gloomy hospital I might say. There was no permanent damage to his eyes but nevertheless our first interview on TV was conducted with him wearing dark glasses over smarting eyes. It's not the easiest thing to play bass wearing too-large borrowed glasses sliding down your nose. 'And it was my birthday,' he recalled miserably.
We met again a few days later in Brighton where the director of 'Quadrophenia', Franc Roddam, had taken over the town with the help of 300 or so extras culled from Barnsley 5:15 Motor Scooter Club and the like. The obliging Roger Daltrey, as an executive producer of the film, was busy signing autographs and saying to me: 'Go on, Annie, interview these guys - they're the real story.' Which meant I dutifully had to write down the names, ages, and occupations of 48 Mods, and had to take particulars of their scooters. Sting wasn't really a star then. But he looked outstanding with his 500-quid grey silk Mod suit among the warring factions of Mod extras, police extras and Rocker extras.
The staged battles on the beach were so authentically re-enacted that one Mod extra punched in the face of not a police extra, but a real policeman. Charges were not preferred. It was a jostling mass, and Mr Roddam confessed that he had pushed his luck in Brighton considerably during the location scenes to get what he wanted.
Well, anyway. Next time I met The Police was entirely by accident, in a room over a pub near Baker Street around Christmas '79, where they were being presented with various gold... platinum... plutonium albums. Through a chaotic number of misunderstandings, I found myself face-to-face not so much with them but with a movie camera and microphone.
Little did I then know their deep Desire To Document. Wisely or not, The Police film, photograph and record everything that happens to them... I spent Christmas '79 innocently dancing at parties to the sound of 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon'. Good pop group, yeah.
During the New Year "Mailbag" programme, the Daily Mail astrologer predicted 'much travel in February and March' for me. Nonsense, impossible, I had thought, then two months later I was at the end of a 19-hour flight to Tokyo, about to start filming The Police's World Tour for an 'Old Grey Whistle Test' Special. The band had by then been in Tokyo for two days and not wasted a moment equipping themselves with more documentary instruments - i.e. Nikon F2s, FEs, F1s, wide angles, star filters... you name it, they'd bought it.
So I was greeted by click-whirr-click and the expensive whine of motor-driven cameras. I had fallen asleep during the drive from Narita Airport, only waking somewhat amazed at the under- and over-passes in Central Tokyo and wondering what alibi I could use to avoid going to their gig. To sleep, perchance - no chance. But as anyone knows who has had to override the body clock and carry on when every atom is screaming 'I want to go to sleep', it's very difficult then to sleep at all.
I refuse to believe in jet-lag - it's an attitude of mind. If you pick up on local time on arrival and assume it as normal - even though it's eight in the morning and you've got to carry on for another 12 hours - you can get by. Whereas people who keep telling you what time it is at home are doomed to suffer jet-lag.
Next day we left for Nagoya on the bullet train. The well-informed were at Tokyo Station to give the band a send-off. They had booked reserved compartments, followed the band off the train again at Nagoya and booked into the same hotel. They deluged the group with gifts. Stewart's favourite was a musical calculator. But they were all given flowers, chocolates, kimonos and letters extraordinary for their gentle naivety, and poetry too, e.g. 'And did my sweat with deep inspiration reach you?' Come to think of it, the English is pretty good. (How would your average British fan make out in Japanese?)
But once they'd made their formal presentation, bowed and giggled behind their hands, that was it. They'd move off. Japanese culture has been overwhelmingly influenced by the West and, among the young, chiefly by British pop music - curiously Japanese teenagers care more about what happens in Coventry and Manchester than in the geographically much closer Los Angeles. The Two-Tone cult had reached Japan when we arrived. In discos, at venues where The Police played the 'look' was black and white, copied from photographs of groups like The Specials and The Beat. One Japanese boy in a black shiny pork-pie hat tapped me on the shoulder and announced proudly, 'I am a Mod.' Yet he could have had no idea what 'Modernism' which began in the '60s in London and places like Brighton, was about. The sole points of reference for the Japanese are their dozen or so glossy pop magazines such as 'Music Life' whose pages are crammed with pictures and features about British rock stars.
It is the magazines here rather than records and radio which have caused this extraordinary fascination. Meeting Japanese pop fans also established a long held theory of mine. Without intending any bigotry here, a race such as the Japanese has always appeared to me to be physically alike. I had often wondered whether we Europeans all looked the same to them. Sure enough I was told by many Japanese - You look like Suzi Quatro. Others drew my likeness with Bonnie Tyler... and others thought I was Sonja Kristina, Stewart Copeland's singer girlfriend! None of whom I look like.
Nagoya didn't look particularly Japanese. It's a business town, headquarters of Yamaha. And there at the gig, the Kinro Kaikan Hall, was the man who'd made it all possible, Mr Udo, Japan's major promoter. Udo has brought to Japan most of the major rock acts...'Eric Crapton (sic), Ten Rears After and the biggest of them all, Red Zepperin.' He was still trying to get over the Wings fiasco, and recover from the shock of being million down when McCartney was imprisoned and had to cancel the tour, though Paul did see him alright later. Udo explained that he'd spent the past six years convincing the Minister of Justice that McCartney had now grown up and didn't take drugs any more. When the grass was found in McCartney's suitcase the Japanese customs arrested him but Udo said the authorities were very embarrassed at having such a celebrity behind their bars and they really didn't know what to do with him. 'Much loss of face for me,' said Udo. 'Much loss of face for Minister of Justice.'
Western influences, the conservative Japanese government is determined that its young should not share in Western drug culture and its attendant problems. Possibly due to its proximity with South-East Asian drug-producing countries, the laws in Japan are stringent, harsh and effective. The Maclean modelling twins, Jenny and Sue, who were working in Tokyo while I was there, told me of an Australian model girl who was hounded out of Japan after she had given one spliff to a Japanese boy. Whereas later in India I was offered acid on the street, there was no evidence whatsoever of drug-taking by the Japanese.
From Nagoya to Osaka we travelled on to Kyoto which really looks like everyone's concept of Japan. Snow-topped mountains and Buddhist temples. Each temple is framed by a Shinto gateway, and each one I found an awe-inspiring image. The temple area was some distance from the hotel and we were somewhat surprised to find that we were being followed by fans in taxis. It transpired that one particularly determined young lady had decided to cover the whole tour. Her parents had given her £400 to do so.
'Do they know what you're doing?' I asked her.
'Well I said I was going on a sight-seeing tour.'
Her name was Seiko and when we turned the cameras on her, we were politely stopped by the record company representatives. 'Don't film her,' they said, 'she's the Shame of Japan.' All the more reason to film her.
Japan's prosperity obviously has come about through the success of its multi-national companies. Young people are under pressure from an early age to find a reasonable position in a reputable company and are then expected to stay with the company for the rest of their lives. Changing jobs is somewhat frowned on. After all the company takes you into its 'family', paying for holidays and weddings. The pressure on young people to 'get on' is far greater in Japan than Britain. Parents, though, will treat their children to a 'binge' now and then, which not infrequently allows for a pop fan to follow his or her heroes around the country as Seiko did. Whether Japanese parents realise that this could cause moral decline in their young, I did not discover!
Hong Kong was as breathtakingly spectacular as it was a beautiful surprise. The Pan-Am Jumbo dived in out of the sky, swooping low over the harbour dazzling with lights and reflections of floating restaurants.
In Hong Kong I would have something to do at last. Which was to present The Police with two British Rock and Pop Awards. These awards are organised jointly by BBC Nation-wide, Radio One and the Daily Mirror. The previous year at the first presentation, all the artists who'd won, or most of them, were at the Cafe Royal in London to collect their awards. On this occasion hardly any winners were in Britain. There was no way The Police could fly back to collect their awards - for Best British Group and Best Album. (Incidentally they either won or came second in every possible category.) Nor could Gary Numan fly back from America to collect the Best Male Singer award nor Jerry Dammers of The Specials - also in America - to collect the DJs' award, nor Cliff Richard from South Africa.
'Nationwide' therefore decided to link up by satellite to the various parts of the world where the winners were. And if necessary fly 'celebrities' out to make the presentation. A costly business in view of the much publicised cut-backs at the Beeb. As I was going to be with The Police in Hong Kong, I was 'offered' as a hander-over of the prizes. I think Nationwide initially wanted someone more prestigious... like Andy Gibb, who after all was, as Nationwide put it, 'brother of the previous year's winners, the Bee Gees, AND a world recording star in his own right.' Well in the end he didn't get the gig. He was persuaded to open an important envelope in London.
Back in Hong Kong I was to make the presentation during a special satellite link which would be shown on a large screen back at the star-studded Café Royal presentation lunch. Because of the time difference - eight hours - The Police would be on-stage when Nationwide required them. The gig was a plush place called, Today's World Disco, all blue perspex and chrome, and the satellite coverage was to be done by Hong Kong TV. There appeared to be no problems. At the appropriate moment I would leap on-stage, stop the music and hand over the first award - Best Album of '79, 'Reggatta de Blanc' - to Sting.
Rehearsals in the empty disco during the sound-check in the afternoon revealed no hazards. The Police were to do a split set of 45 minutes each, the first to coincide with the satellite link-up. Various signals were agreed and theoretically I should leap on the stage as they played 'Walking On The Moon'. A Chinese floor manager was to tap me on the back as a cue when he got word from London.
By the time we arrived back in the evening the audience were in, and tightly packed around the stage. The Chinese floor manager was trying to hear his instructions from the Outside Broadcast Scanner (mobile studio) parked down in the street. From there would come the instructions from London. Unfortunately he couldn't hear. Anything. The whole operation required, I had been told, split-second timing, otherwise we would lose the satellite. I waited, being jostled and pushed by the dancing, bopping audience for the tap on the back.
The Chinese floor manager, bent double out of camera range, held the headphones tighter and tighter to his ears. All one could hear was a high-pitched whine and a gabble of Chinese. The time to leap on the stage came.
No tap on back. The band, as agreed, played 'Walking On The Moon'. Sting made it local and sang Walking in Kowloon. The band played on. And on. The longest version of the song they'd ever done. But there was no way of telling the band that something had gone wrong. Eventually they exhausted all possible variations and came off stage.
'Where the hell were you Annie?' shouted a bewildered Stewart. We all retired to the dressing-room. 'No, no you back on stage. Now,' shouted the agitated Chinese floor manager. 'No, we won't', said the band. 'We've finished for now.' No one wanted to fake the presentation. The Chinese floor manager told the Scanner to tell London that we weren't going back on stage. In rather the manner of a Judy Garland-Micky Rooney movie we hit on an idea. 'Let's do it right here - in the dressing - room. It'll look more natural.' This was agreed, but we still had no idea when and if The Word from London would come. We might get only a few seconds' warning. Or more. Or not. We waited. We decided that the camera should be positioned inside the dressing-room door and that at the given moment - if it ever came - I should burst through, and 'surprise' the band. My cue this time was to be a tap on the leg from the Chinese floor manager.
OK. Right. This was it. We were ready. Poised. Oh God, no one's miked up! I suddenly realised. A lot of good silent presentations would be! That problem was solved and we waited. The Chinese floor manager, still frowning, perplexed, into his headphones, became more and more agitated. He crouched under the camera, poised for The Moment. In his agitation he grabbed my right leg - 'Great, at last the cue.'
'No, no, not yet.'
'But I thought that was the cue.'
'No, no, not yet.'
In his nervousness tapping me on the leg had become a compulsive twitch. Then at last, progress. 'Three minutes from now.' OK. We counted down. Two minutes... one minute... thirty seconds... then he'd shake his head.
'Not yet. Aye minute.' OK. Eight minutes. Seven. Six. Five. 'No, not yet. Start again. I maintained what I call ICY CALM in these situations, but I was beginning to wonder what Sting, Andy and Stewart, plus the fun-loving film crew would be getting up to behind the closed door, where they were even less informed about what was going on than I was. I envisaged that when I finally did burst through the door they would be stark naked - or worse, not there at all. Having climbed out of the window. I had been told over and over by Nationwide that there would be one and a half minutes, and one and a half minutes ONLY for me to present the award, and hand back to the Café Royal.
After at least half a dozen false grab- me-by-the-legs, it appeared we were in a go-situation. I burst through the door clutching the damned award under my arm, and Andy exclaimed: 'It's Eamonn Andrews!'
It was a bit like These Are Your Lives. Trying to appear unperturbed, I turned to Sting and said, 'Well, when you made Reggatta de Blanc did you ever imagine you'd be collecting an award for it in Hong Kong?'
'Yes,' said Sting, deadpan. This got a huge laugh at the Café Royal. The reasons were both obvious and complex. The audience back in London were by now in a state of hysteria. Right from the start the Rock and Pop Awards had been a fiasco. The TV presentation was supposed to start with a group of girls dancing to a medley of songs by winning artists. For heightened effect dry ice was pumped onto the vinyl stage. There are two types of dry ice, water-based and oil-based. Oil-based dry ice was used on this occasion. It evaporated onto the vinyl floor. Consequently the dancers came on - and promptly fell over. They started the show again - it was being recorded for transmission the following day. The dancers fell over again. And again. SEVEN times.
The last I saw of The Police in Hong Kong was them disappearing down the escalator of the Lee Gardens Hotel on their way to New Zealand. 'See you in Bangkok,' we said. It was not to be. Sting caught laryngitis in Australia, and several gigs had to be pulled. But as The Police found themselves number one group in Australia, they thought it wise to re-schedule the 'lost' gigs and cancel Bangkok.
Next time we were to meet was beside the pool at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay. Bombay is not a city, it's an experience. Of contrast. Rich and poor. Black and white. New and old. Young and old. Past and present. Limbs and limbless. Gentility and cruelty. Life and death. It's the most different places I've ever seen. The magnificent railway station, palm trees waving in the forecourt, looking like a palace. The jam-packed buses, the old cars. The feeling that the British were here, giving India its own imprint of magnificent architecture, awful bureaucracy. But what wonderful passivity. The beggars I was dreading... but they're mostly happy children, beautiful children dashing in and out of the chaotic traffic, tapping on your window, miming hunger then laughing and running away. It's total street life.
Immediately one is humbled by their philosophy of life. Life? It's cheap. You just must change gear to cope, even to try to understand such a system. We went filming in a market area, Sting and I on radio mikes. Immediately we were surrounded by a following crowd. They closed in on us enthusiastically. It was of course very hot. Every now and then a car would try to get past us, using the horn rather than the accelerator to make progress. The horde would part, slowly to let it through. Suddenly Sting grabbed and pushed me violently out of the path of... a fast-moving horse, which apparently was held in as much reverence as the sacred cow, many of which were to be seen wandering through the main streets, among the double-decker buses.
Miles Copeland, the band's manager, also Stewart's elder brother, had preceded us all in Bombay, because there was a lot of setting up to do. 'You're not going to believe this,' he said, 'but the promoters are 48 middle-aged ladies.' It was true. He had charmed his way into the hearts of the Time and Talents Club, a group of ladies who put on cultural events to raise money for charity - as The Police gig was to be. They'd 'promoted' Yehudi Menuhin, the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim...but never a Rock band.
Imagine the Lady Rotarians promoting The Clash, and you'd have some idea. A whole committee was designated to help set up the show. Each member was the proud owner of a front row seat. We tried to warn them that they might find this uncomfortably LOUD, but there was no dampening their enthusiasm as first time rock fans.
When The Police arrived we went walkabout for the benefit of the film and Press cameras - in a square near the Gate of India was a man squatting on the ground, a basket in front of him, playing a pipe. Aha, we thought, he's going to charm a snake for us - well, for money. He started to play, and nothing happened. Perhaps the snake was asleep. He took the lid off and held up a cobra and shook it. He played some more. The snake collapsed into a coil and went back to sleep. True Monty Python parrot sketch stuff. Much loss of face for snake charmer.
To cheer us up he staged a fight to the death between a mongoose and another snake. I was on the mongoose's side dreading the moment the snake would wrap itself around the furry animal and crush it to death. The mongoose had other ideas. With small but fierce teeth it took the initiative and began biting the snake's head with incredible speed. Within minutes the snake was a headless bloody mess. We hadn't asked for this to happen. But in India, what's another dead snake?
As we walked about the streets, teenage boys would approach, amputated at mid-forearm. I did not discover whether this had been done deliberately by their parents at birth to make them more successful beggars. Then, the contrast. A sumptuous house on the other side of town, for lunch with one of the Time and Talents Committee. She had 16 servants, only some of whom served us an exquisite Parsee meal. Her husband was a millionaire clothes manufacturer, who supplies suits for Take Six and other London shops.
Of all the concerns in all the countries they had been to, Bombay was going to be the biggest test for The Police. No one in the audience would have ever seen a Rock group before, and there would be no one to sing along to their hits. The venue was an open-air auditorium, rather curiously surrounded with buildings. It was like being in a huge concrete box open to the sky. The 'lighting' was minimal, to put it politely - a small cluster of lamps on two poles. As would befit a normal cultural event, one of the chief organisers from the Time and Talents Club stood up on the stage before the band came on to make a short speech. She was drowned out. 'I knew then it was going to be a good gig,' said Sting afterwards. He had been genuinely apprehensive that the City fathers and middle-aged husbands of the promoters, who had so generously paid a hundred rupees each for front seats, would block the kids from being able to come forward and dance. But, in the event, he need not have worried.
Just one shouted encouragement and the virgin Rock 'n Roll fans had run, jumped, climbed over seats and packed themselves into a solid mass around the stage. It must have been a major triumph for Miles Copeland who, as he said, had come to India and created a demand, and a success, out of nothing.
Next day the entourage split into two. Half caught an early flight to Cairo, where wives and children were waiting. The rest of us were to have another day in India. Mike 'Biggles' Appleton, producer of the 'Old Grey Whistle Test', organised a foray in the country. We were to drive to the mountains to look at a Kali temple carved out of rock. It took an hour to drive out of the sprawling suburbs and shanty towns surrounding Bombay. Out on the dusty open road, heading towards Poona, we'd pass the occasional village and stop for a drink. Such sophistications as refrigeration do not exist in these areas. Bottled drinks were kept in tanks of murky water. But in that heat one's attitude towards hygiene becomes very abandoned! We'd just wipe the neck on a T-shirt, swig back a tepid 'Thumbs Up' - India's version of Coca Cola - and hope for the best.
Soon mountains began to loom up, and on the hair-raising hairpin bends, despite being so far from the city, again there were traffic jams! Drivers of lorries - their cabs all decorated with sequinned festoons and lurid paintings-would try for suicidal overtaking, till both sides of the road were completely blocked. After much horn sounding the drivers would jump out and discuss the snarl-up.
It was dusk before our driver found the right mountain containing the right temple. To reach the temple meant a steep climb up 350 wide steps. We had negotiated at the foot of the mountain with a guide, who showed us the carved pillars and the meditation chambers by the light of a kerosene lamp. To reach the upper chambers meant climbing out on the sheer mountainside on roughly hewn steps. I just never looked down! Night had fallen now, but the mountain was lit by brilliant moonlight.
The stillness after chaotic Bombay was exquisite. The only sounds came from a village thousands of feet below. Singing, drums banging. It was magical. Or would have been without the enthusiastic attempts of our guide, Rangoonet Toupi, to teach Stewart and me to speak Hindi. And when he wasn't talking, our attempts to enjoy the serenity and romanticism of this wonderful place were shattered by Rangoonet's gobbing, which would have impressed the most fervent early Pistols' fans.
All aspects of filming in India and later in Egypt were fraught. Indian officials were apprehensive at allowing valuable camera equipment into the country. In case we intended to sell it. Even foreign cars carry a 100 per cent import duty. Bureaucracy dictates that every customs transaction must be accompanied by countless countersigned 'chits', each one taking several hours to process.
The Gulf Air flight to Cairo was to stop at Dubai and Qatar. At Dubai we were informed we would have to leave our first class seats and move back to economy class at Qatar. We objected. The stewardesses were British and very sympathetic. They advised us to stay put and not move out of our seats. At Qatar various gentlemen told us we must move. We refused. It occurred to me that the airline had double booked us with a sheikh's entourage and that it was dangerous to argue with these guys - on their own airline. Impasse. The plane stayed on the ground, and we were told that if we didn't move, the flight would be delayed. We said, OK, delay the flight.
More gentlemen appeared in more menacing-looking arab dress. The documentary-conscious Stewart got out his movie camera, and zoomed in on them. That did it. One lunged at him, grabbed his camera and shouted that this was not allowed and that Stewart's film would be confiscated. Clearly the Arabs were very angry. I understand that many Arabs have a basic fear of being photographed as it is supposed to take away one's soul. In many ways I sympathise, knowing the work of some photographers!
From our next base in Cairo, surely the most exotically named of all the hotel chain, The Pyramids Holiday Inn, The Police dressed up as Arabs and we set off like some real caravan across the desert with camels, horses and cans for more filming behind the pyramids. Always there were little boys with outstretched hands saying 'Baksheesh.' Ian Copeland, the band's agent, Stewart and Miles's other brother, had arrived. He is, as is their father (an ex-CIA man) a Middle East expert and told us all we must haggle over all prices, otherwise we would not be respected.
I was concentrating on interviewing Stewart just then, but filming him against exotic backgrounds was more difficult than we imagined. At the old citadel we were told, 'No filming. Must pay.' Back to the Sphinx. There was a glorious pink sunset over the Pyramids. We set up again. Two gentlemen in djellabas intervened. 'Not allowed filming here. Must pay.'
The director, Derek Burbidge exploded. 'I PAID THIS MORNING. I saw the PROPER officials. I have PERMISSION.' To no avail. 'No photograph here,' they repeated. No one had any idea who they were. 'Let's just ignore them and carry on,' I suggested. 'They can't physically stop us.' Derek had another idea.
He positioned Stewart and me - already wired up with radio mikes - five feet away from each other, and turned the camera over and left it lying, still running, on a rock and walked away. The men in djellabas looked on. To all intents and purposes Stewart and I were just another couple of tourists admiring the Pyramids. So I had to appear very casual in asking 'Now Stewart, was the basis of The Police a direct result of the break up of Curved Air?'
Getting out of Cairo was a nightmare. There were by now 22 of us in the party, including an Australian nanny and three children. The security checks at the airport were formidable. Understandable in a country like Egypt, I suppose. The exiled Shah of Iran had arrived a week earlier and there were enough Arab factions who would hijack a plane out of Cairo, as a means of getting at Sadat, to keep the security men worried. We had to check through all hundred-odd pieces of luggage individually. Four times it was searched. We arrived, much relieved, in Athens. At last, water you could drink! No more brushing your teeth with mineral water or lemonade.
From Athens, where they had last seen Rock gig when The Rolling Stones played there in '66, The Police followed a fairly conventional route through Europe. The final gig of the tour was a sentimental one. Yesterday The World, today - Newcastle!
The City Hall was crammed with 3,000 for each of two shows. Sting's wife, the actress Frances Tomelty, commented : 'Last time he played here there were eight people in the audience - and his mum and I were two of them!'
Well done, The Police.