This post and the several that follow are adapted from a series I wrote at the Stewart Copeland fan forum over the past year and a half. I’ve attempted to explain anything that’s too inside-baseball, so the story might make more sense to a general audience, assuming I ever acquire one. This is an attempt to convey some impressions of what led to the unprecedented events of 7 August 2008. Names of individuals, apart from those of three specific rock celebrities and their staff, are forum aliases.
Most people I mention Stewart Copeland to these days express confusion until I describe him as “the drummer for The Police,” at which point they nod and say something like “Yeah, Sting’s band.” I used to be one of those folks, but I now consider that sort of reaction an injustice to the concept of meritocracy.
Two years ago, I would have told you that yes, the Police were an interesting band that formed a good portion of the background wallpaper/radio soundtrack of my oblivious twenties.
But I felt that rock radio had done a terrible thing to popular bands: it overplayed their hits and ignored most of their other work, unless I happened to listen to one of several particular djs while working a midnight shift somewhere. Then I’d hear b-sides and some history. Finally.
My record-buying habits were keyed to work that I’d actually heard in its entirety, which normally required an afternoon at the home of a friend who had a decent collection. I’d already stopped buying albums (which at this time were mostly vinyl LPs) based upon the strength of one or two songs (that means no Internet to convey mp3s or flacs conveniently—the only alternatives were vinyl, cassette, 8-track, or recording off FM radio), because I didn’t have any kind of money to waste. Didn’t go to concerts much either. A sheltered upbringing will do that to a kid.
Radio also helped ruin my developing capacity to appreciate individual effort through its endless repetition of SAME. I’d hear fan worship of people like Ritchie Blackmore and Keith Moon, accept it academically, but be unable to appreciate the feelings being conveyed, having been stunned into the same stupor that long-term Star Trek fandom had created. Imagine watching the same 79 hours of television several dozen times each, since around 1971. You stop appreciating the content and just gaze at the images while thinking of more compelling subjects. It was a bit like that with music for me.
At the time, I was only just starting to discern the work of individual musicians, in whatever category you could name. By the mid-80s, I was sitting in small venues, ecstatically grooving on four-saxophones-no-waiting jazz bands whose expertise couldn’t be muffled by FM radio’s insulting equalization curve. Bands who were directly in front of my face, performing in the moment. Magic for a privileged observer.
So I stuck with artists I’d learned about through the music staff at my college newspaper (Gang of Four, XTC, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson), jazz/blues/swing history that would percolate through occasional exposure, 19th-century orchestral Romantic movie soundtracks, the dead-white-men classical music they’d rip off, and some embarrassing 1970s holdovers.
Some time later, I hooked up with DM (an abbreviation of my wife’s alias). Four years after that, we got married. And then, six years later, she told me that The Police were doing something that nobody had ever expected to see: a reunion tour.