Andy Summers, guitarist for The Police, penned a very solid bio in 2006 before the band had even thought of doing their high profile reunion gig last year. The resulting "One Train Later" is an interesting recounting of Summers' life as a young man growing up to become a professional guitarist and one of the most under-rated guitar heroes of the 1980s as lead guitarist in The Police.
Summers had a career as a rock-and-roll gun-for-hire long before he joined The Police. By the time he was 23 he'd already toured with UK's Soft Machine and Eric Burden and the Animals, sold his sunburst Les Paul to Eric Clapton and consumed enough drugs to sink the Royal Navy, finally settling in near LA. At the risk of becoming another Laurel Canyon burnout, Summers hunkered down and studied guitar full time 8 hours a day earning a degree in music. After a few years and with a chop shop Telecaster bought for $200 from a student, he headed back to London with his new bride and scratched out a living touring with various bands around the UK.
When Summers joined The Police they were a band with no songs, no signature sound and no gigs. They were bottle-blonde poseurs with little besides a faith in each other. It wasn't until they blended the reggae style with Sting's pop song-writing sensability that they found a unique voice. And it was Summers' subtle off-beat chords and open spacing that made room for Sting's melodies. One can only imagine Summers' frustrations with the punk rock "no solo" ethos at the time. Here was a guitar player who had jammed with Hendrix and was now subject to the narrow confines of punk rockers who didn't have the ability to play a 10 second guitar break. Summers recounts the tale with candor including the ups and downs, the fame, fortune, drugs and divorce.
For fans of The Police and aspiring guitar players, it's a good read about the years of hard work required to become an overnight sensation. Also worth checking out are Summer's coffee table photo book "I'll be Watching You" and drummer Stewart Copeland's DVD home movie "Everyone Stares ".
- Amazon: One Train Later, I'll be Watching You, Everyone Stares, Anthology
- Andy Summers: Official Site, News, Photography, Music