01.01.82 THE WASHINGTON POST
The following article by Boo Browning appeared in a January 1982 issue of The Washington Post newspaper...
The Police: Working the rock beat; inside the machine with Sting and friends...
Andy Summers sinks his small, rumpled frame into a tattered backstage couch. His face wears the sallow gray of sickbed and night patrol, and a vein throbs a blue sentry over his right eye. Seated, Stewart Copeland squints determinedly into a Stephen King horror story - a wasted attempt to stare down the wall of noise around him; one leg waves a tired surrender over the chair arm. Sting, meanwhile, is in an anteroom, testing the flexibility of the twice-sewn stitches in his right hand.
Ah. The glamorous life of the international supergroup.
Somebody has to do it, of course, and if Saturday's packed Capital Centre wasn't testimony enough to a job well done, the chart successes and platinum albums the Police have been raking in should attest to the group's mettle. Reggae is their beat, but elements of rock and jazz have nabbed the Police their biggest chunk of territory. Internationally sophisticated and provincially poppish at once, the sound has kept their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, in the top 10 for nine weeks, while last year's Zenyatta Mondatta finished eighth on the chart.
Having "conquered the world," as Sting likes to put it, the trio embarked on a sold-out American tour the night before, the better to "become more integrated in the general field of rock," according to Summers. The tour will end "sometime in March, but we'll probably go on for a while after that." The November-December European leg of the tour did not go particularly well. Bassist/vocalist Sting, completing the filming of his latest movie, 'Brimstone and Treacle', was required to leap through a window, slashing his hand in the process. The star stoic nevertheless played a concert that evening, bandages and all. As the bass lines to 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' snapped out, so did his stitches, and understudy Danny Quatrochi had to take over duties the next night.
"Fourteen thousand people were waiting. What could he do?" explains guitarist Summers, who himself made the second concert "with 10 minutes to spare," having been rushed to the hospital the previous day suffering from a kidney stone. Add to all this a late flight here and there, and freezing weather everywhere.
Yet the British group is aware of the standing-room-only Capital Centre audience that has braved the cold to see them. "We have to count ourselves as very fortunate," says Summers. "It took us a while to become a large-scale success in America as well as in other parts of the world, but we have done it, and it's something we can be proud of.
"In America, to be a success, you have to recognise that there is a huge machine and wheels that have to be set in motion," he continues. "So you have to talk to a lot of people that you normally wouldn't come into contact with, do jobs that are very necessary, all the little cogs that make the wheels go 'round so your record can happen. That's the way it works in America. But that's no excuse to make non-interesting music or do a half-hearted performance." Their ability to make the big wheel turn, coupled with manager Miles Copeland's business savvy, has won them smart royalty deals with A&M, as well as criticism from some rock watchdogs who view their world-conquering relentlessness with a jaundiced eye.
"The press is very cynical in general, don't you think?" shrugs Summers. "We happen to have a good label and a good manager - Stewart's brother - and a lot of circumstances have come together and made the package work. It's very true that we have a certain amount of control over what we do, which is fairly rare. Of course, the ultimate control would be to say that we're not going to make an album, but it doesn't work that way. But we've certainly tried never to compromise ourselves musically or to do what we felt wasn't right or good musically."
Sting, dressed in tight leather pants, walks in and bellows for the three-piece Chops Band to have their mugshots taken with the Police. "Get your arse in here!"
"We found 'em in New York, and they're great," Sting says. "I taught 'em everything they know..." This is a joking reference to Sting's modestly soulful sax riffing on 'Ghost in the Machine'.
"It's a fair comment to say that there's a little more of a rhythm and blues feel on the new album," admits Summers. "We never said, 'Okay, let's make this a more soul-oriented album,' but on some of the tracks there's definitely that sort of James Brown edge to it."
Summers bristles at the frequent accusation that the Police dislike touring America. "We never STOPPED touring America. This is our eighth American tour! I don't understand what makes people say that. It's like when we do Germany, someone always comes up and says, 'Why don't you ever tour Germany?' At the same time, we all have outside interests, just to keep our perspective, if nothing else," he adds. "Sting's got his acting, and I'm a fairly serious photographer. I have some exhibitions now in Dublin, and I've just recorded an album with King Crimson's Robert Fripp, which will be out in the spring.
"But the group takes so much time, it can be very claustrophobic. It's strange, because everyone thinks they'd love to be in this position, but when you're actually here, it changes perspective. You don't want to do it. I'm familiar with Sting's quotation about wanting to dissolve the band after three or four albums. But we haven't even peaked yet. And you must remember that when you've done a million tours, a million interviews, you say things... "
Sting finally coaxes a grudging Copeland away from his book and the three assume, as if by reflex, the triangle formation familiar to millions of record buyers. The photographer blasts a few shots, then faces the three square-set jaws before him.
"Try to look more lively. More lively!" he urges enthusiastically. Sting, for once, looks quizzically at his Police partners. "He wants us - Live!" Miles Copeland, standing in the doorway, surveys the scene with a sardonic chuckle. "But... they're DEAD," he murmurs. And they all laugh.
© The Washington Post
The Police - Working the rock beat; inside the machine with Sting and friends: Andy Summers sinks his small, rumpled frame into a tattered backstage couch. His face wears the sallow gray of sickbed and night patrol, and a vein throbs a blue sentry over his right eye. Seated, Stewart Copeland squints determinedly into a Stephen King horror story - a wasted attempt to stare down the wall of noise around him; one leg waves a tired surrender over the chair arm. Sting, meanwhile, is in an anteroom, testing the flexibility of the twice-sewn stitches in his right hand...
Between the pleasant song hooks and facile photogenia of the Police there lies a sophistication and urgency that has justly brought Andy Summers, Sting and Stewart Copeland to the top of everyone's pops. August in the Canadian woods sure beats the hell out of August in the sweaty East Coast city where I spend most of my time, so I can easily appreciate why the Police had chosen Le Studio in the tiny village of Morin Heights, Quebec, to mix their upcoming live album. With clear skies above and cool, clean air all around. the group displayed its outdoorsy side as we talked; Stewart Copeland repeatedly slammed a baseball into his mitt, confessing that "I haven't got a clue of what to do with it," while Sting decided to undergo his interview while paddling across the small lake behind the studio...
The Pop Life: When a rock group creates a distinctive new sound that takes it to the top of the best-seller charts, the last thing anyone wants the group to do is change. But the Police, the English trio whose third and most recent album was a million-seller in the United States and a worldwide hit as well, have never had much faith in the conventional wisdom of the music business. In l978 they promoted their first album, 'Outlandos d'Amour',' by touring America on a shoestring budget, riding with all their equipment in a single van. Instead of accepting the usual advance against royalties from their record company, A&M, the Police negotiated a contract guaranteeing them a higher royalty rate than is customary. If their records had been unsuccessful, they would have received little or no money. But their unusual decision proved extremely profitable for them: their second album went gold and their third went platinum...
"There's a wind in Munich," explains Andy Summers, "that makes people go crazy." Oh Yeah? "It blows at certain times of the year and people who are susceptible can... y'know..." - he rolls his eyes around the dressing room and bares a fine set of pearlies - "lose control. It's like the effect a full moon has.
You don't believe me, do you?" Well since it's coming from somebody who's taken the art of the gentle winD-up further than a Swiss clocksmith it does, perhaps, require a smidgen of the old sodium chloride for an easy passage...
The Police - They're a fair cop! Their arresting style and personalities have earned the Police a much-deserved and lawful place at the top of the charts. All of a sudden, getting to talk to the Police has become, well, tricky. It isn't that they're too big to bother, now that they're one of Britain's best-selling new bands, it's just that in 1979 and 1980 their feet don't seem to have touched the ground...!