Stewart Copeland with The Police: an ICA

Most of the Police’s great big hits (and duds) were written by StingStewart Copeland also wrote a number of songs for the Cops, but his contributions are few and far between.  Kinda like how Paul Weller let Bruce Foxton squeak a tune onto a Jam album once in a while.  Definitely not like the great Colin Moulding, XTC’s auxiliary songwriter, who didn’t get in as many tracks as Andy Partridge but still had his share of singles (see ICA #26).  I got to wondering if Copeland wrote enough Police songs for an ICA.  Turns out there are exactly 10, so here they are, in alphabetical order.

1.     A Sermon

B-side of the UK single “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.”  The chorus sounds like a Sting song, the verses are a little stilted.  A respectable choice for a b-side.  Better than the A-side anyway.

2.     Bombs Away

Album track from Zenyatta Mondatta One of the band’s best songs.  Lovely middle-eastern sounding solo (“phrygian mode,” says my lead guitarist) by Andy Summers.

3.     Contact

Album track from Reggatta de Blanc.  Hmm…I’d call this filler. It’s got the band’s trademark sound, but doesn’t do anything special.  Next.

4.     Darkness

Album track from Ghost in the Machine.  Here’s a good one.  Unrushed and moody, fits really well with the rest of the band’s fourth album, which I always thought didn’t get the recognition it deserves.  Well, it did, sales-wise, but I like it more than their other ones.

5.     Does Everyone Stare

Album track from Reggatta de Blanc.  The drummer got three solo credits on their second album, as well as three tunes co-written with his bandmates.  This one’s my favorite.  Police tunes don’t feature a lot of keyboards, and I like what Copeland does here on piano.

6.     Fall Out

The band’s debut single on Illegal Records, before Andy Summers joined the band.  Wiki says original guitarist Henri Padovani was too nervous in the studio to play anything but the solo, so Copeland played the rest of the guitar parts.  This non-album track was the only Police A-side Copeland ever got.

7.     Miss Gradenko

Album track from Synchronicity.  Great melody.  Summers does some beautiful finger-picking before peeling off another stellar lead.  Summers actually wrote a few tunes for the band, too, but they’re pretty weak.  Can’t touch his guitar playing, though.

8.     Nothing Achieving

B-side to Fall Out.  Co-written with big brother Ian.  Copeland’s playing the guitar parts again with Padovani on the solo, such as it is.  Meh.

9.     On Any Other Day

Album track from Reggatta de Blanc.  Copeland starts with the spoken words, “You want something corny?  You got it!”  Then the lyric is about the day of a hapless idiot, which I guess was meant to be funny.  Or corny.  Not sure—is ‘corny’ a word in the UK?  Does it excuse the homophobic dis in the chorus?  Probably not.  Maybe that’s why Sting didn’t sing lead on it.  Despite its daft lyrics, I love this song because it’s got such a great bass line.  Sting is noted as a songwriter and singer and heartthrob and actor and lutist.  But no one ever talks about his bass playing, which is outstanding. He always plays an interesting line that serves the song.  He doesn’t get fancy unless he has to.

10.  The Other Way of Stopping

Album track from Reggatta de Blanc.  On my bass forum there was a poll recently asking if you could play with any drummer who would it be?  Lots of folks picked Copeland and you can hear why on this instrumental.  His timekeeping is perfect.  His fills are fast and unpredictable.  He has great touch—he can smack away or brush gently.  Love or hate the Police, you can’t deny they were all awesome musicians.

Bonus Track.  Don’t Care

 Released under the pseudonym Klark Kent on Kryptone Records back in 1977.  I guess Sting was more interested in trying to nail down the Police sound so Copeland put it out himself.  It’s a great little new wave tune with Copeland singing and playing all the instruments.

Copeland made a hell of a lot of music after the Police.  Film and TV soundtracks, collaborations, solo projects, and as a member of Oysterhead—a supergroup including Les Claypool (Primus) on bass and Trey Anastasio (Phish) on guitar.  You can always tell it’s him drumming.  I’d be curious if anyone’s familiar enough to do a separate ICA drawn from his lengthy post-Police career.



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