October 9, 2009 / 5:02 PM / 9 years ago

After The Police, Stewart Copeland feels lovely

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, has always had a few choice, four-letter words for his bandmate Sting. And while that is not news for fans of the 1980’s megagroup, his new word may be. It is “love.”

Drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police performs during his band's farewell concert at Madison Square Garden in New York August 7, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Well, “Strange Things Happen,” which is the title of Copeland’s new autobiography. It spans his 57 years from learning to beat on drums to The Police reunion of 2007/2008.

Still, Copeland being who he is and his relationship with the bassist he calls “Stingo” being what it is, the idea of love is not arrived at easily. In fact, it is preceded by words like “claw” at his mate’s neck or worse, “murder” him.

“The Police is not a cozy place. We push and prod and challenge each other. We rattle each other’s cage,” Copeland told Reuters.

Yet, he is quick to explain that all the conflict that led to their bitter breakup 20 years ago is not rooted in the sort of deep-seated animosity that fans may assume, given their history. Rather, they are artists who often have different visions but who share the same passion for music.

Born of the creative need to get their songs right, The Police ushered into the musical arena their own blend of reggae- and punk-infused pop hits such as “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”

“I don’t think there is anything to hide in the story I have to tell,” Copeland said. “I think it’s pretty clear to the reader, the love and respect I have for my two colleagues. (Sting and Andy Summers on guitar)

“I use some pretty colorful language to describe them because they are pretty colorful characters.”


Copeland is the first to say there is no mystery to him, nor deep introspection that comes from “Strange Things Happen.” But upon a close read, fans discern that great art — whether music, books, painting or theater — is born from a combination of training, talent, luck, passion and sometimes conflict.

In Copeland’s case, he had them all, but none of it came together in quite the way it did when The Police took the stage. The band formed in the late 1970s as punk rock was taking hold in clubs in London and New York, and after a lot of hard work and some experimentation, great music flowed.

Individually, however, the trio differed in the way they heard and felt music, and their arguments led to a bitter breakup in the late 1980s.

All that history has been covered before. Copeland even made a documentary movie about it in 2006, “Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out.” What his fans may not know is how Copeland’s changed after The Police, which is what “Strange Things Happen” truly addresses.

There is Copeland’s work composing musical scores for movies and operas; his playing with musicians in Italy and other countries; his adventures in tribal African and his life as a husband and father of seven kids living in Los Angeles.

What emerges is a picture of an artist as an everyday guy — a sort of “everyday Joe” for music fans and artists.

Yet, always hanging over Copeland’s adulthood is the long arm of The Police, and in 2007, the old group reunites.

“I can take not one more word from you about anything,” Copeland writes about his thoughts when listening to Sting complain in their first rehearsals.

“Do not even make eye contact with me, let alone make another suggestion about how I would play my drums ... you (expletive) piece of (expletive.),” he writes.

After the tour starts, things get better. Then, they get worse, before getting better, then worse once again.

Stewart Copeland, drummer for the band The Police, poses for a portrait in Los Angeles October 5, 2009. Copeland's new book "Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies" spans his 57 years from learning to beat on drums to The Police reunion of 2007/2008. Picture taken October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The tour, which encompassed 151 shows worldwide, sold over 3 million tickets and took in $358 million. Fans loved it.

“Here’s the thing: we wouldn’t be any good at music unless we cared a lot about it,” Copeland said. “We really care that we go out there and terrify the world, that we slash and burn. It’s really important to us. That’s why we start shouting.”

“Strange Things Happen” hit bookshelves on October 6

Editing by Jill Serjeant

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