I found this old review in the files from the old blog. I thought it would make a good follow-up to yesterday’s post (without knowing what sort of feedback that was going to get…)
Strange Things Happen : A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies is a hugely enjoyable and unusual rock autobiography.
The dust jacket states the facts. Over 50 million records sold. 5 Grammy Awards. 2 Brits. Members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Police were the biggest band in the world.
But what came before? What came afterwards? And what happened when, 23 years on, the band members reformed for one final tour? Stewart Copeland answers all these questions and more.
The book is a really easy read, not least for the fact that its 313 pages of narrative are spread over 43 chapters and one afterword, not one of which is more than 13 pages long – and even then, that particular chapter deals with the teenage years. The story of The Police from 1976-1984 are given the briefest of mentions in as far as it is told over a measly 11 pages. It is quite clear that their drummer considers what has happened in his life since to be of far more significance and far more interest to the casual reader.
Whether he’s composing operas, being part of an Italian twenty-piece orchestra, shooting movies in Africa, playing with some new rock stars who look upon him as a legend, taking part as a judge in a TV show or playing polo with the next King of England, the author does so with a sense of adventure and fun. He’s got enough fame and fortune to seemingly not worry about a single thing, and is therefore able to lead a full and hugely diverse life that takes him to places and puts him into situations which are often almost a state of self-parody.
But Copeland never ever leaves the reader feeling that he is boastful about anything. Far from it. His style of writing is often self-deprecating – one example being his realising that now he is no longer a high-profile pop star, there is very little in his everyday wardrobe that he can safely wear without looking or feeling ridiculous. And the tales he tells about his stint as a judge on Series One of the BBC show Just The Two Of Us which aired in February/March 2006 are enlightening in terms of the manipulation that goes on behind the scenes to make entertainment out of a mediocre show.
The final third of the book however, is when it really does come into its own as a rock memoir which is a cut above most, as it deals with the period from February 2007 when The Police get together and go on an ever-extending world tour that was seen by over 3 million fans. He doesn’t hide from the fact that for a while it was fun and enjoyable, but all too quickly the novelty wore off and it was just a job that had to be done. His description of some of the Stingo (his word) temper tantrums and pursuit for on-stage perfection are a real joy.
There are tales of missed cues, bum notes, vocal mishaps, near fights breaking out on stage……..despite which every gig was lapped up by an always-adoring audience of tens of thousands, no matter the city.
And then there’s the day that Stewart hung out with the boys from Rage Against The Machine. I won’t spoil it by revealing the outcome, but it shows up a fantastic and different side to the angry young men who spoiled Simon Cowell’s Christmas a few years back.
An articulate and funny man has written an articulate and funny book that is well worth investing in.
mp3 : The Police – Truth Hits Everybody
mp3 : Klark Kent – Don’t Care
mp3 : The Police – On Any Other Day