04.06.05 Sting & I...

Jim Berryman's book 'A Sting in the Tale', originally published in 2000 has been reprinted and published under a new title 'Sting & I' with two new chapters. The book remains as funny as before so if there's every excuse for you picking up this latest version.

For the benefit of anyone that hasn't read the earlier book, here's our original review from the March 2000 Fan Club newsletter...

Whilst there have been plenty of such biographies published in the past they all shared something in common - they were all unauthorised. Whilst Sting has never tried to halt the publication of any of these biogs neither has he actively contributed to them. A dignified tolerance has been the chosen method of dealing with them. 'A Sting In The Tale' is however, very different. As Sting puts in his foreword...

"Jim Berryman once told me after a particularly bad day at the race-track, that he felt so low he wanted to hang himself and would I lend him the money so he could buy himself the rope. As I had already funded many of his previous failures, indeed positively heroic failures as a bookie, I had no faith that he would pull this one off either. I declined, told told him to give up the horses and do something creative, like needlepoint or writing. "Hell, you could always spin a good yarn when you needed to borrow a few quid. Why don't you write about yourself, or me, for that matter? None of the clowns who've written biographies about me have ever even met me. They get their "facts" from tabloids. You've known me for 35 years, you couldn't do any worse!"

Well, Jim took Sting's advice and did just that, so when the thick manuscript arrived, we dived in with great anticipation. But before we go further, let's establish some facts. First, this is not, and makes no attempt to be, a biography of Sting's 'career'. If you want details of his records, release dates and grammies you won't find them here. Look elsewhere for those. No, what we have here is a collection of anecdotes, tales and funny stories. The kind of anecdotes that all of us have experienced, but so few of us have the ability to describe and retell. Jim Berryman does have that ability, and manages to tell the story of his friendship with Sting in unflinching and eye-wateringly funny detail.

The author met Sting on their first day at grammar school. Sting was pretending to be a laconic cowboy whilst Jim was searching for someone that didn't speak like they had a mouthful of marbles. Something clicked, and the two became best friends at school - the inseperable sort of friendship that we can all identify with from those times.

Well over half this book recounts their escapades at school, introducing us to a wide cast of characters - pupils, priests and teachers. The tales are relentlessly funny. Some of the highlights include the time that Sting talked Jim into confessing to the school priest that he had broken the seventh commandment (poor Jim not realising that this relates to committing adultery) resulting in the poor priest nearly suffering a heart-attack as he listens, horrified, to the 12 year old through the thin wall of the confession box. Or the time that Sting booby-trapped the Benediction by inserting way too much incense in the thurible, nearly causing the suffocation of the school congregation.

Inevitably, the innocence of schooldays gives way to the demons of drink, gambling and work. Sting's recounting to Jim of how he failed to secure employment as an estate agent had us holding back the tears, and the promise of work in the 'Canaries' led only to further dis-appointment. Sting's interest in music was leading him in one direction, whereas Jim's ambition to be a successful bookmaker was taking him in another. Their paths were still crossing, although less frequently, and Jim was horrified to learn in the pub one evening of Sting's new nickname - given to him because of the black and yellow hooped jumper he habitually wore. "It's a bloody good job you're not still wearing that crappy brown jumper you had a few weeks ago or the bloke in the band might have called you 'Shite'," Jim told him.

Perhaps the funniest stories inevitably crop up as Sting's star starts to rise. Jim recalls tuning into "Rock Goes To College", and seeing a snarling, blond-haired Sting strutting round the stage 'pandering to the pathetic whims of students', and how, on his first visit home after the Police are starting to be successful, a bunch of old friends talk Sting into accompanying them on an overnight trip to Beverley Races. This is of course, the cue for much mayhem, discomfort and unintentional vandalism.

Jim is a natural storyteller with the happy knack of also being able to translate this ability to the written page. His irreverant attitude and colourful language accurately reflect life in the North East, and you won't need a "Geordie" dictionary to get by. "A Sting In The Tale" is a highly entertaining read, with a laugh on every page. Watch out for it in the shops during March and learn why Sting wraps up his foreword thus: "Why didn't I keep my big mouth shut? I never thought he'd do it, but here it is on my desk, a big, fat manuscript from the fat ex-grammar school boy, ex-bookie, ex-bon-vivant and man-aboot-the-toon, who has lightened up my life with his humour and darkened my doorstep with his tales of woe for more years than any self-respecting pop-star should sensibly admit to. So here's the book and as to it's veracity, I can only say that there's enough truth here for me to wish I'd lent him the money for the rope after all."