The Police are but a small episode in this busy life …

Strange Things Happen by Stewart Copeland

The emphasis is on fun in this memoir – for Copeland is a hyperactive sort, a workaholic but easily bored, loving a challenge, never playing anything quite the same way twice, liking to be boss, and he’s also much more than a mere drummer.

Jumping about in time with flashes back and forward, the book opens with pages about his childhood in Beirut, where he played with Harry Philby – yes, son of that Philby, and where his Dad was big in the CIA, through moving to boarding school in England, learning the drums and then in 1975 joining his first professional band Curved Air where he must have broken many a boy’s heart by marrying the elfinly beautiful lead singer Sonja Kristina. Then – The Police – the band that made him world famous.

Copeland deals with their initial years in just ten pages. It’s clear that our mission, should we choose to accept it, is really to read about what Stewart did next …

The next big chunk of the book takes us up to 2007, and there’s a lot to tell. Playing polo against Prince Charles, making a film in Africa, playing with many other bands, and developing a love for the pizzica music of Salento in Southern Italy, meeting his second wife Fiona, and having a ball being a judge on the BBC celebrity duet show ‘It takes two’ … all great fun. Then, there’s the main day job as a composer. Copeland studied composition at college, and post Police, he composed an opera – not a rock one, a proper, grand one – with a plot based on the crusades; it was staged in Cleveland to a largely enthusiastic response. Following this is a long career, in between all these adventures, as a film and TV composer, having composed scores for many movies and lots of TV work, notably starting with Coppola’s Rumblefish.

Then it all comes round again. Copeland’s hobby project of editing all the film he took during the Police years into a movie is entered for the Sundance festival. For the first time in ages, the three musicians are reunited at the festival when Sting turns up for the premiere. This event sows the seeds for the Police reunion tour which takes up the final 100 pages.

Stewart & Sting’s stormy relationship is the stuff of legend. Now they’re both older and wiser, you might expect them to have mellowed. It starts off well, but these guys have had years of being top dogs now, and before long they’re circling around each other, spoiling for a fight. They cope though, letting the music do it’s work and manage eighteen months on tour.

This book is mainly about his career and working families, rather than the loving one at home. We find out very little about his parents, siblings, and even less about his seven (yes!) kids, although there’s a nice photo of them all at the end. Copeland however, is an aimiable yet sparky host, always capable of seeing the funny side of things; his straight talking and writing style always lets us know what he thinks. What also come through strongly are what he sees as the shamanistic properties of music to inspire and inhabit a body – any music has the possibility to do this, and refreshingly he embraces this philosophy throughout.

Copeland is anything but a normal rock star – and this is an excellent read for any music fan, I really enjoyed it. Finally, a big thank you to Scott who arranged to get me a signed and dedicated copy of this book – much appreciated indeed.

Leave a Reply