440 - The Police – vanaf de zijlijn
De kijkers van Top Pop, van heel jong tot wat ouder, kregen vanaf het einde van de jaren zeventig voortdurend te maken met The Police, drie artiesten die nogal simpele muziek maakten. Het trio bereikte in Nederland hoge hitklasseringen met liedjes als ‘Message In A Bottle’, ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ en niet te vergeten: ‘De Do Do Do De Da Da Da’.
In 1984 viel de groep uit elkaar. Frontman en zanger Sting (Gordon Sumner) manifesteerde zich in 1985 met het album ‘The Dream Of The Blue Turtles’ – daarop de succesvolle singles ’Love Is The Seventh Wave’ en nog vóór de val van de Berlijnse Muur – ‘Russians’.
Geen wonder dat Sting in het middelpunt staat van de meeste artikelen die aan The Police gewijd zijn. Op deze plek wil ik juist aandacht besteden aan de andere leden van het trio, gitarist Andy Summers en drummer Stewart Copeland. Op het eerste gezicht stonden zij aan de zijlijn, fungeerden vooral als begeleiders van Sting.
Stewart Copeland en broer Miles
Drummer Stewart Copeland was de jongere broer Miles Copeland. Hun vader (ook Miles) werkte voor de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst in Egypte, Libanon en Londen.
Popjournalist David Hepworth in 1980: “As his father was an employee of the American government, much of Stewart’s childhood was spent shunting between various foreign postings.
His first band were The Black Knights, formed from the teenage children of various European and American workers in Lebanon. They were followed by The Undertakers and The Nomads, Stewart in the drum seat with each one, ‘mostly just for physical exercise’.
When his father was posted to London, Stewart underwent his first exposure to the music scene at a Jimi Hendrix concert”.
Stewart werkte in Londen samen met zijn broer. Die kon wel wat hulp gebruiken. “Elder brother Miles was already involved in the rock scene, managing a small stable of bands that included Wishbone Ash and The Climax Blues Band.
Stewart spent his school holidays helping out. For a while he was a roadie for Wishbone Ash. Later he was to act as tour manager for Joan Armatrading; all invaluable experience and a chance to examine the music business from top to bottom”.
Miles bleef zich thuis voelen in de sfeer van het Midden Oosten, waar de familie gewoond had. Toen journalist Rob Tannenbaum hem in 1988 opzocht typeerde hij diens woning als volgt: “The house is decorated with burgundy ottomans and Egyptian trinkets in a style somewhere between a museum and an opium den”.
Van verder studeren kwam niet veel voor Stewart. Muziek maken was aantrekkelijker. “When the time came for him to go to college, Stewart was sent back to America to study at the University of California in Berkeley. He left without getting a degree after receiving a call from Curved Air, another band managed by brother Miles, to come and be their drummer”. Dat gebeurde in 1975.
De groep werd niet zo succesvol als iedereen gehoopt had. Hepworth: “Curved Air, a rather lightweight ‘progressive’ band fronted by Sonja Kristina, weren’t getting very far. They lasted long enough for Stewart to play on two more albums and then ground to a halt just in time to avoid being steamrollered by the new wave”.
Miles was er als de kippen bij in Londen toen hij ontdekte wat een nieuwe rage werd bij de Britse jeugd. Adam Sweeting in 1988: “Miles Copeland was at the forefront of punk, tearing down the old canons of musicianship which had a foot planted firmly on the neck of contemporary rock”.
Ook Stewart voelde aan wat er op muzikaal gebied aan het veranderen was in Engeland. Voor groepen als Curved Air, die hun muzikale kwaliteit wilden etaleren, was de belangstelling snel aan het krimpen. Een jonge generatie zocht de eenvoud. Drie accoorden was genoeg.
Het was tijd voor Stewart om iets anders te gaan doen – met een nieuwe groep.
“He had been passing his spare time mooching round the punk clubs that were springing up at the time in London. He’d come to realise the vital importance of those three chords. He knew that if his new baby was to survive and flourish, it had to attract the kids who were following The Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Stewart just modestly thought that his band could and would be a lot better than the competition. He was right but it took him a long time to prove it.
Without what The Clash did, there would be no Police. Those bands created another world with another set of rules. Now some of those rules were just as irritating as the old rules but at least it was a new free-for-all – a new playground to go and play in... with a different set of bullies”.
Succes was minstens even belangrijk als muziek maken…
Stewart Copeland en Sting
De drummer ging aan het werk. Een nieuwe groep opzetten, dat kon hij niet in zijn eentje.
Een popjournalist hielp mee. Hepworth: “Stewart decided to form a band. He contacted a rock journalist in Newcastle called Phil Sutcliffe to get in contact with Sting [Gordon Sumner]. He’d seen the latter playing with Last Exit on a night off in Newcastle but the two hadn’t met or spoken. Stewart asked if Sting would like to come down and talk about forming a band”.
Stewart herkende het talent van Sumner. Maar hij was niet onder de indruk van zijn muzikale aanpak op dat moment. “What he had was talent, but he was playing the wrong thing”.
De jonge broer van zakenman Miles Copeland had in elk geval een plan om het te maken. “I asked him to come down [van Newcastle naar Londen]. We talked and I played him my tapes of stuff that I had written and told him about my ideas. I think he was impressed with my personality and obvious ambition and I had a plan, a strategy.
There was no money and no nothing but I convinced him that it would be a working group and that it would work out. We couldn’t find a guitarist immediately so we got Henry Padovani [uit Corsica] , who was a friend of mine, who had only played in one group. But he was wildly enthusiastic and could churn out three chords really well”.
Later moest Stewart bekennen dat Sumner hem tijdens hun eerste ontmoeting een demo van zijn song ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ liet horen. Daar haakte hij in eerste instantie niet op in. Stewart hield het heft voorlopig in eigen handen.
Stewart in 2006: “Sting always had this big book he carried around, full of lyrics that he’d been working on for years. He was a real songwriter, no question about it, so it was a bit hard to contend with. I felt I had talents in that area, too, but there you go. It’s all part of being in a band”.
Geld speelde, zoals altijd, een grote rol. Sting kreeg een aanbod om als begeleider op te treden van de succesvolle artiest Billy Ocean, die in 1976 bekend was geworden met de single ‘Love really without you’.
Stewart in 1980: “I had to keep Sting’s morale up, keep news coming in to him, make him think he was in a group. Because he got, for instance, an offer from Billy Ocean for fifty notes a week and I had to talk him out of it by saying ‘look, it’s just around the corner’”.
Stewart was soms meer met organiseren in de weer dan met muziek maken.
Hepworth: “It was Stewart’s enthusiasm and American get-up-and-go that held the band together”.
Stewart: “I was writing the songs. I didn’t know anything about writing songs but I faked it. We had a fifteen minute set which gradually turned into a twenty minute set and so on.
But as soon as we hit the road that was the last note that I ever wrote. I was too busy thinking of booking trucks and P.A.s and getting to the gigs and hustling the agent and everything. And so Sting was dissatisfied with the material because it was pretty shitty and the only way to improve it was to write better material himself”.
Miles en Stewart Copeland
Andy Summers experimenteert
Gitarist Andy Summers (Somers, geb. 1942) werd het derde lid van The Police. Hij was veel eerder geboren dan Stewart Copeland (1951) en Sting (1952). In de tijd dat Stewart, Sting en Henry begonnen waren aan de weg te timmeren, had Andy al een langdurige carrière als muzikant achter de rug.
Summers vertelde zijn levensverhaal eveneens aan David Hepworth.
“Before most Police fans were born Andy had left his Bournemouth home to come to London and join Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, a respected white R&B ensemble who were popular on the capital’s club scene”.
Aan werk geen tekort. “Bands who could crank out exciting versions of obscure soul classics found work easily. Andy recalls weeks when they would do up to thirteen gigs”.
Zo leerde de gitarist het muzikantenvak bij Zoot Money. “It was hectic but he learnt his trade, developing the professional’s ability to pick things up quickly. In return for all this blood, sweat and craziness he was well paid. Barely eighteen, he was earning £90 a week – a great deal of money in pre-inflation Britain”.
Andy speelde mee op de Zoot Money hit ‘Big Time Operator’ (1966).
Andy Summers met Zoot Money
Wat later ging Summers experimenteren. “When pyschedelia came along in 1967, they underwent a sweeping change of image and emerged as Dantalian’s Chariot, all kaftans and long wandering solos. They were unlucky, it didn’t work and they broke up.
Andy took his guitar and joined the original line up of Soft Machine, a jazzy avant garde band who enjoyed a great reputation but never sold records. With them he made his first trip to America, eventually leaving the band over there and rejoining Zoot Money, this time in a later version of The Animals.
As a result, Andy lived in Los Angeles during the height of the hippy era, toured all over America and got as far as Japan. When that band ground to a halt, Andy recorded his own solo album which was never released. His manager promptly disappeared, taking his money and the tapes with him”.
Ervaring in Amerika
De gitarist bleef in California hangen. Hij pakte er van alles aan. “He remained in Los Angeles and worked for a while as an actor in fringe theatre groups, eventually enrolling at college to study music for nearly four years. During his time there he more or less abandoned electric guitar and wrestled with the classical form.
Leaving college he played around the area in various outfits – including one genuine Mexican band – before deciding to go back to Britain and return to rock and roll”.
Je kunt het zo gek niet bedenken of Andy deed mee. “Arriving back in the old country, penniless, he was lucky enough to bump into old friend Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) who put him in touch with Neil Sedaka, at that time looking for musicians for an extensive British tour.
Sedaka lent him three hundred pounds to buy a new amplifier and put him on the payroll. This stint was followed by periods in the David Essex Band, The Kevin Coyne Band, and then with Kevin Ayers.
Aansluiting bij Copeland en Sting
Het geluk was, achteraf bekeken, eindelijk met hem in het voorjaar van 1977. “On May 28, while helping out with a Gong reunion gig in Paris, Andy met Stewart and Sting. A month later he joined The Police as second guitarist. By August Henry Padovani had departed and they were three”.
Summers wilde eindelijk wel eens vaste voet aan de grond hebben, zei hij in 1980. “I was getting pretty disillusioned. I was starting to look at the alternatives. I didn’t want to be a session musician”.
Bovendien had hij vertrouwen in de aanpak van Copeland. “I liked it because there seemed to be so much challenge in what they were doing. Stewart was buzzing all round London sticking up posters”.
Sting en Stewart zetten Padovani dus aan de kant. Andy nam diens plaats in. Weer iets nieuws in de loopbaan van de ervaren en veelzijdige muzikant. The Police was geboren.
Sting, Henry Padovani, Stewart Copeland
Vanzelf ging het niet. “Things didn’t happen straightaway for the new band. Andy recalls that in their first year of existence, The Police did no more than twelve gigs and most of them were rotten support slots”.
De nieuwe groep wisselde regelmatig van manager, als dat maar werk opleverde. Wat waren de muzikanten blij als ze in Duitsland weer eens met Eberhard Schoener konden samenwerken. Die zorgde voor een beetje brood op de plank.
Het muzikale trio ontdekte de voordelen van reggae, de muziek die vanuit de voormalige Britse kolonie Jamaica in Londen was opgedoken, dankzij artiesten als Millie Small, Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash en later Bob Marley.
“We started to cotton on to reggae. It started from there and once we got into a studio and started to hear ourselves back then the sound started developing. The attraction of reggae was the space. One of our band mottos is ‘less is more’ and you can certainly use that to effect in reggae. It was a way of getting away from the sixties type thrash and doing something new.
We never consciously set out to play reggae. But once we realised what we were doing we were able to develop it more as we’ve gone on”.
Een trio had méér voordelen. Hoe minder mensen, hoe meer iedereen van de inkomsten over hield.
Miles Copeland zorgde voor een platencontract met A&M Records. In een artikel in 2007 schreef Chris Campion over diens rol: “Miles was the single most important figure in the band’s success; the brain behind-the-scenes who cut the deals and strategised their rise to the top. He was, in effect, the fourth Police man”.
In 1980 vertelde Miles aan Aaron Fuchs van Cashbox dat hij het vertrouwen had weten te winnen van A&M in Londen. “I had established a good track record with A&M England. I brought them Squeeze at a time when they needed a young act, having just been burned by the Sex Pistols and the Stranglers, who went out of their way to offend everybody”.
Met een minimum aan geld had The Police opnamen in eigen beheer gemaakt. Daarvoor hadden Stewart en Miles met Paul Mulligan een eigen bedrijfje opgezet, Illegal Records. In zekere zin leek de aanpak van de groep op die van een punkband, hoewel ze heel andere muziek maakten. Er werd zo weinig mogelijk uitgegeven. Elke dollar, elk pond, was er één te veel bij wijze van spreken.
In Cashbox schreef Harry Weinger: “The group dove headlong into the British music scene. Their first gig took place in Birmingham, England, with a limited repertoire that forced songs to be born anew during extended jamming. A single, ‘Roxanne’, recorded and released independently in 1978, was subsequently picked up by A&M Records for their ‘No Wave’ compilation. A complete Police LP on the label, ‘Outlandos D’Amour’ followed.
The group made their way to the States in desperate, low-budget fashion, cramming themselves and their equipment into a van while furiously criss-crossing to do appearances. Gaining in respect and sales”.
In Sounds kwam Stewart Copeland in 1980 aan het woord bij Hugh Fielder. “Their first album, ‘Outlandos d’Amour’ cost them the ridiculously small sum of £4,000 to make. They pushed the boat out for the second, spending about £10,000. That kind of money wouldn’t even get you a backing track on the latest overblown Eagles album.
‘‘Regatta De Blanc’ took us three weeks to record’, says drummer Stewart Copeland. ‘We just went into the studio and said ‘right, who’s got the first song?’ We hadn’t even rehearsed them before we went in’”.
Een derde album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’, werd in Nederland opgenomen, in de nieuwe Wisseloord studio van PolyGram te Hilversum. Voor PolyGram, toen onderdeel van Philips, was het van groot belang om aan de buitenwereld te laten zien dat wereldberoemde artiesten er wilden werken. Managers als Joost Hummeling en Bart Sloothaak waren bereid om de gebruikelijke tarieven flink te verlagen als dat nodig was. Minder bekende, vaak Nederlandse PolyGram-artiesten, werkten dan tegen de gebruikelijke hoge tarieven.
Het was stevig aanpakken, liet Summers anno 1998 in de Telegraph afdrukken. “For a year, he says, things were desperate. ‘We were putting up our own posters and spraying our own graffiti. So many times we ended up pushing the van because we ran out of petrol’.
Finally, one night in 1978, when the Police were supporting the comedy rock band Albertos y los Trios Paranoias at a concert in Bath, about a thousand punks turned up to see them.
‘The place erupted’, Summers recalls. ‘Total mayhem. Girls throwing their knickers on stage. The poor Albertos were standing on the side of the stage with white faces muttering ‘Bastards!’ That’s when we knew something was happening. I remember going home and telling, ‘You wouldn’t believe it. A total riot’”.
The Police brak door met hun optreden in de punk scene. Bij Blondie gebeurde dat ook. Met de single ‘Roxanne’ kon de groep de overstap maken naar het grote publiek. Later verzetten de leden zich evenwel tegen hun punk-imago. Ze zouden nooit iets met die stroming van doen gehad hebben.
In 1980 zag het er rooskleurig uit voor de leden van de groep. Andy had eindelijk vaste voet op de grond, viel David Hepworth op.
“If Sting is the face and voice of The Police and Stewart Copeland is its heart then Andy Summers is, more than anyone else, the architect of their distinctive sound. Before Andy came along, Sting and Stewart readily admit, they were just another band. It was Andy’s experience and ear that set out their direction.
A small, slender man in his mid-thirties, Andy lives with his wife and year old daughter Layla in a scrupulously tidy mansion flat in South-West London. For the first time in his fifteen year career he is
One room is given over to his numerous guitars and music making paraphernalia. The shelves in the living room are packed with serious looking volumes on art and music, the record racks lined with jazz and classical albums.
He perches himself tidily on the edge of the sofa and mulls over the questions carefully, responding with the enthusiasm of a beginner, only occasionally betraying the length of his career with a slightly worldly-wise edge”.
Stewart Copeland was blij dat de groep bij A&M Records zat, in plaats van bij een groot internationaal concern. “The Police can keep tabs on every area of their business. Even before they were big, Stewart says, he could walk straight into their record company’s offices and see the managing director without having to make an appointment. It’s this avoidance of bureaucracy that has made their rise to the top so smooth of late”.
Een punkgroep als The Clash had het volgens hem verkeerd aangepakt door bij CBS te tekenen. “Stewart has numerous theories about how so many bands go wrong. They go for the biggest record company and grab the largest advance, then spend months in expensive studios and end up having to compromise more and more in order to pay back the massive debts they run up. The Clash for instance.
Unfortunately, with all their pious attitudes and all their sloganeering, they just went straight into the jaws of the monster that they were talking about, straight into CBS, absolutely the paramount worst situation, the monolith!”
The Police was gewoon bezig muziek te maken – geen politieke boodschappen. “We haven’t got any political message to stir the kids. We’re not trying to effect any political changes, we’re not trying to open doors of consciousness for the kids. That was all Johnny Rotten’s job and he did it pretty well. We’re just tune pickers. That’s all The Beatles were”.
Jerry Moss (A&M eigenaar) met The Police
Wat die muziek betreft, na korte tijd was het Sting die creatief het beste uit de voeten kwam. Hij zorgde voor de hits. “Stewart explains that Sting usually comes in with a new song which he plays to the other two on an acoustic guitar. The three of them then argue the toss for a couple of hours before recording”.
The Police was volgens hem zover gekomen dat alles goed was. De fans vonden alles mooi wat ze deden. “We’re now in the position that we can play what we want”.
“Does that mean you can play them anything and still maintain your position?”, vroeg Hepworth.
Stewart Copeland: “I don’t know about anything because we haven’t tried that yet. We haven’t played them any crap yet. There’s nobody who’s going to tell us what we can or cannot play. The press can’t touch us – we’re invulnerable.
So, either we can release crap and make money or we can release good music. And that’s down to us. If we’ve got talent we’ll make good music. If we haven’t got talent and it was just a flash in the pan, if we hit it lucky, then we’ll disappear”.
Bij de kritische Britse pers stond de groep niet altijd in een goed aanzien. De leden van de groep werden gezien als ‘punk betrayers’. Ze hadden de Britse punk-muziek verraden.
Het einde van The Police
Tegen het einde van 1983 was Andy Summers toe aan iets anders, liet hij in Cashbox afdrukken. Hij had weer contact gezocht met Robert Fripp, voor een soloproject. Dat is vaak een voorbode van het einde van een groep.
“The project originally started with me writing a letter to Robert, seeing if he’d be interested in getting together at some point and playing and possibly making an album. And he was, and we spent about a year talking on the telephone occasionally until we were able to make the time to get together because of the various schedules and so on.
We wound up in England and had a twiddle on our guitars for about an hour. We went to the studio really not having an idea of what we were going to do and it started from there. We sort of made it up as we went along. But it was a lot of fun and a very satisfying project. I guess we’ll probably go in and do another one sometime next year, time allowing. We’re going to continue”.
Naar eigen zeggen was Andy niet de enige met eigen muzikale ideeën. “I’m sure we’ll all go on and do other things, but we want to take a rest from touring at least. We’ll probably get together next year and put a live album together. But in terms of heavy touring, I don’t know if we’ll be doing any of that next year”.
Volgens de auteur van Cashbox, Harry Weinger, was Sting inmiddels de leider van The Police. “So often Sting is perceived as the head of the group. He seems to be the most outspoken one”.
Summers was het niet met hem eens. “I don’t think that’s true at all. I think he’s the quietest one, actually. We have enough savvy to understand the way things generally go in terms of the public and the way things are publicized, I take all that for what it’s worth. We’re all doing what we want to, when we want to. We have lots of opportunity and we’re all doing very well. Good luck to everyone”.
In de Telegraph kon je later lezen: “Off-stage, the tension between Sting and Stewart Copeland became difficult to disguise. They regularly had fist fights. There was rivalry between all three band members, though, about things as petty as who should have the most prominent position in publicity photographs.
That Summers and Copeland were receiving the same percentage of the royalties as Sting, who wrote all the songs, didn’t help matters. There were many reasons for the band to split, but it has entered pop folklore that it really happened because Summers, the peacemaker, could no longer keep the two huge, warring egos of Copeland and Sting apart”.
Melbourne, Australië, maart 1984
In die tijd was al duidelijk dat het einde van The Police nabij was. In maart 1984 gaven ze hun laatste concert, in Australië. In 2004 vertelde Summers aan popjournalist Martin Aston hoe het gegaan was:
“Our last concert was at the Melbourne Showgrounds. We knew that Sting wasn’t going to do it anymore, but it was still all very muted. I think we were confused, because it really was like the Beatles at that point. That summer we’d been Number 1 in America for four months, we played Shea Stadium, and Sting started saying, ‘This is the time to get off, at the top’.
It was an incredibly ballsy move. Though I think there was a lot more fuel left inside us, there wasn’t huge resistance from Stewart and I.
We knew it was the last show, though we never formally sat down and talked. It just crept out through the roadies and maybe Miles Copeland. Maybe Sting was feeling his power and was removing himself from it, he doesn’t like confrontation.
It wasn’t until the reality was a few days away that I started to have these incredible feelings of hollowness. So we played to 50,000 people in an open air park, with a total mob scene after in the dressing room, people saying, ‘God, how great being in this band! What’s it like?’
Waking up the next morning was worse. We’d had this incredible feeling of power, and suddenly it’s gone. It was gut wrenching, like walking off the edge of a cliff in a cartoon. You keep walking, and suddenly realise there’s nothing underneath you”.
Melbourne, maart 1984
Aan het bestaan van The Police was (tot nader order) een einde gekomen.
17 november 2021
Hugh Fielder, ‘Police Balls’, Sounds, 5 januari 1980
Aaron Fuchs, ‘Miles Copeland Brings Variety To A&M’, Cashbox, 15 maart 1980
David Hepworth, ‘Police Profile: Andy Summers’, Smash Hits, 20 maart 1980
David Hepworth: ‘Police Profile: Stewart Copeland’, Smash Hits, 3 april 1980
Harry Weinger, ‘Andy Summers, Police Photographer’, Cashbox, 12 december 1983
Rob Tannenbaum, ‘Miles Copeland: Make sure you write what a nasty S.O.B. I am’, Musician, maart 1988
Adam Sweeting, ‘Culture candy’, Guardian, 16 december 1988
‘The Police’, Telegraph, 7 februari 1998
Martin Aston, ‘Hello Goodbye: Andy Summers and the Police’, Mojo, september 2004
Terry Staunton, ‘Kings of Pain: Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland’, Record Collector, december 2006
Chris Campion, ‘Miles Copeland: Where’s the Police chief?’, Observer, 2 september 2007
Jeroen Kleijne, ‘The Police – Hello Hilversum here’, VARAgids, 2015
‘Wetenschappers: ‘Every Breath You Take’ is het ultieme doorsneelied’, NOS, 14 november 2021
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