05.01.1984 - Rock
Rock's strongest-willed (and most popular) trio have been grist for the rumour mills since they first began to garner public acclaim. Though there've been lots of horror stories about hair-pulling fights between the Police's three members, the whispers of the group's impending break-up are unfounded. In fact, all three have pretty well worked out their differences between themselves. And the main reason is that each Policeman has developed his own separate career on the side.
Sting is making it in the movies and the gossip sheets. Stewart Copeland, who founded the band, has found a niche in film soundtracks. And Andy Summers has a double whammy going: Not only has he invaded the publishing world with his first coffee-table photo book, but he is now on his second album away from the Police. 'Bewitched' is Summers' second guitar instrumental piece done in collaboration with art-crowd favourite Robert Fripp.
"The group has always had its amount of emotional difficulties," says Summers, "like any of the great groups. It's the spark that fuels the whole thing. But now that we're doing things ourselves and are quite famous in our own right, we all get along better than ever."
Andy Summers is 41 - older than Rod Stewart, older than half of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But he says he still feels like a kid. Looks like one, too, all surfer blond and wearing white ducks and a suntan. He began his stint as a professional guitarist when he was a teenager, and came to America in 1968 with the final (until recently) incarnation of the Animals. Once in California, he stayed for six years, attending Cal State Northridge and picking up a Master's degree in music. He thought he'd give up rock'n'roll, maybe go into acting, but that didn't happen. "I just like to play," he grins. "Always have; I've never gotten over it. I still tremble when I touch the guitar."
When Stewart Copeland, an American raised mostly in England (and nine years Summers' junior) put the Police together, they were the first new wave band to meld pop and reggae. They played holes in the wall like New York's CBGBs to crowds barely larger than their own sound crew. And, somewhere between 'Outlandos d'Amour' and 'Reggatta de Blanc' either the Police made their sound fit the mainstream... or the mainstream widened to accept the Police. "It took us eight years to get played," muses Summers, "and now that we've become accepted in America, I guess we're on the way out."
Uh, that's a joke, folks. Summers has a problem with his dry, British sense of humour. He says that his caterwauling contribution to 'Synchronicity'; 'Mother' was supposed to be funny. His esoteric guitar pieces are meant to be a tad humorous.
"You're not supposed to fall on the floor and crack your ribs," he explains. "but it should at least bring a smile " He pauses, grimacing. "Maybe I failed."
Summers was born on the last day of 1942, one of four children of parents who owned a resort hotel in Bournemouth, England. ("Sort of the English equivalent of Santa Barbara," he says.) He was divorced three years ago, and tries to spend as much time as possible with his five-year-old daughter, Layla. His primary home is in London, though he generally lives out of a suitcase, and he's planning on buying a place in Los Angeles as well. He listens to jazz and avant-garde classicists more than he does rock'n'roll, hates British food (but loves British people), and denies that he's the father-figure of the Police. "The mother, really," he deadpans.
In 1979, Andy Summers suddenly decided that he wanted to be a photographer. Not just any old shutterbug hobbyist, but a really good, professional photographer. And, within four years, he had his own book, 'Throb', released. "I expect I lost money on the book," he says, "but that wasn't the point. I wanted to do it real deluxe, and the publishers wanted to do it cheap. So I put up the difference. "It was painful and expensive, basically because I did everything wrong. I had no idea how you make a book " He adds that the next one will come easier - he's already made all his mistakes. And he's been reasonably well received as a photographer too, which pleases him. "It's a different kind of satisfaction," he says, "because it's a different mode of expression."
According to Summers, the Police will be getting together later this year - probably at their favourite fantasy island, Montserrat - to piece together a live album for spring release. And it'll probably sell a jillion copies... or maybe it won't. It's not that great a concern to Summers, because he's finally established his own identity. Fortune is fine, thanks, but fame?
"Being a celebrity is not all great. It has its down side. You get over it quite quickly." Summers sums up with a line lifted from that other great blond philosopher, Andy Warhol: "You have your 15 minutes."