ONE TRAIN LATER
BOOKLIST REVIEW – 09.15.06
“The guitarist of the Police begins his entertaining, highly readable memoir of superstardom near the end, on August 18, 1983, at Shea Stadium, when the band became the first to play there since the Beatles. It was one of the band’s last concerts. Thereafter, Summers discusses, quite eloquently, the Faustian pact fame seemingly involves, which in his case entailed divorce and estrangement from his daughter. He also spends a good portion of the book on his earlier life: his English seaside childhood in Bournemouth, his parents’ difficult marriage (he and his younger brother were placed in an orphanage for six months), the first inklings of musical talent. He reports years of struggle, later moderate success in nationally known bands, and stints in the internationally known Soft Machine and the Animals before the Police. By his lights, life on the road with the Police was one hotel room in a strange city after another.”
“A candid appraisal of the cost of celebrity.”
Engaging memoir by the guitarist for megaselling rock band The Police. Summers’s account of his eventful career as a journeyman musician focuses squarely on his devotion to music and the process of mastering his instrument; those hoping for a lurid, behind-the-scenes tell-all will be disappointed. For the record, he paints Police front man Sting as self-involved and high-handed, drummer Stewart Copeland as motor-mouthed and overbearing ‚ but he doesn’t dwell on these traits. Nor does he dwell on drugs consumed and groupies enjoyed, describing such diversions as mundane aspects of the itinerant musician’s life. More interesting is his life as a perennial cusp-of-fame British Invasion utility man ina career theat included stints with the Animals; Zoot Moneyís Big Roll Band; and Neil Sedaka. He rubbed shoulders with Clapton and Hendrix, toured relentlessly and practiced, practiced, practiced, finding himself at the end of it broke and giving guitar lessons to survive for an extended period in the 1970s. But then he met Sting and Copeland. The author analyzes incisively the unique sound of The Police, which benefitted greatly from his past forays into jazz and classical guitar, bringing an unprecedented degree of musicianship to the era’s requisite “punk” sound. The most arresting passages here describe the groupís mammoth world tours: He sharply observes the cultural strangeness of Japan (where he falls foul of the yakuza) and his experiences in Easyern Europe and the military dictatorships of Argentina and Chile ‚ simultaneously terrifying and surreally amusing, as are his adventures as John Belushi’s drug buddy. Summers is refreshingly endearing, with a self-deprecating wit, brisk pacing and elegant turns of phrase.
A pleasant journey through some of pop musicís more interesting times. (Agent: Susan Schulman/Susan Schulman Literary Agency)
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW
Summers-a musician best known for playing guitar in the seminal 1980′s band the Police-recounts the details of his time in the spotlight and his circuitous and fantastic journey toward fame in a memoir that is just as generous (and sometimes meticulous) in providing details as it is in exploring the human toll of living out the “collective fantasy” of being a “rock god.” There are many great rock moments that dazzle ‚ hanging with Clapton, jamming with Hendrix, hallucinating with John Belushi-but the less extraordinay memories make for a more compelling narrative: he recalls his childhood in England, where, after an “immediate bond” with the guitar, “the spiritual side of life slowly fills with music.” Narrated in the present tense and with occasionally vivid language (Summers recounts “the familiar backstage” as “the taste of Jack stuck on a Wheat Thin”), every rock cliche is described (drugs, sex, ego), but refreshingly, little is romanticized. This is a stage-side account of the birth, rise and dissipation of the Police-and fans of the band will not be disappointed-but it is also an honest travelogue of a British kid who, subsisting “on a diet of music and hope,” traversed the most coveted lanscapes of pop culture and lived to write about it. (Oct.)
Copyright 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsivier Inc. All rights reserved.
DAILY VAULT REVIEW – 2006
Andy Summers: A Life In Music
Police guitarist delivers One Train Later
There’s a familiar feeling I get when reaching the end of a book I’ve really enjoyed. It’s a bittersweet, slightly disorienting sensation of departing — against your will — a world that’s thoroughly captivated you, even if some part of you knew all along that your time there was destined to be limited.
In this insightful musical autobiography, guitarist Andy Summers shares in intimate detail how he came to experience that same sensation, arriving — after great tribulation — at the peak of a legend-making career with the Police, only to face the inevitable yet all-too-soon breakup of the band that transformed him from a rock and roll footnote into a global superstar.
One Train Later — so named out of karmic respect for the chance meeting on a train with Police drummer Stewart Copeland that would change the course of Summers’ life forever — is hardly an “insider’s expose,” though. Rather, it’s a knowing rumination on the joys and trials of a life devoted to making music, told with self-effacing and thoroughly endearing wit. Every person who picks up this book knows where it is headed — to the collision of Summers, Copeland and bassist/vocalist Sting and their 1979-1983 ascendance into the ranks of rock demigods — but the journey turns out to be at least as interesting as that glittering destination.
Summers speaks frankly but unsentimentally of a difficult family life as a child, dwelling only long enough to establish the roots of a passion for making music that blossomed from the first time he held a battered old Spanish guitar: “It is an immediate bond and possibly at that moment there is a shift in the universe because this is the moment, the point from which my life unfolds. I strike the remaining strings, which make a sound like slack elastic. It’s horribly out of tune and I don’t know even the simplest chord, but to me it is the sound of love.”
From that pivotal moment, Summers tracks forward into his adolescent initiation into the secret brotherhood of chord-sharing among poor teenaged Brits who learn by ear off the radio and a handful of LPs; no lessons, no music books. His adventures as a young adult, after moving to London to try to make it in the music business, are the stuff of a serio-comic Dickens novel, full of great expectations and dashed hopes, daft bandmates and ridiculous gigs. As Summers’ skills and reputation grow and he links up with Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band, which evolves into Dantalion’s Chariot, which lands him a gig with Soft Machine, which leads to touring and recording with the 1968-69 lineup of Eric Burdon’s Animals.
Through this period Summers relays anecdote upon wonderful anecdote — told with a rich mixture of classically British deadpan humor and entirely appropriate amazement – of life in the mid-60s London music scene. From scamming beers and gigs to jamming with Jimi Hendrix, Summers lives through a remarkably fertile musical era that sees him cross paths with the likes of Jimmy Page, James Brown and Eric Clapton, to whom Summers sells the Les Paul guitar that Clapton makes famous while playing in Cream.
The path to the top is hardly a straight one, though. The vicissitudes of the rock life eventually land Summers in Los Angeles, jobless, in 1969. Almost five years, hundreds of guitar lessons taught and one ill-advised marriage later, he returns to London with a new bride for one more shot at making it as a professional musician. It takes another three-year slog through various groups of varying merit – highlighted financially by a stint as the hired-gun guitarist for (this is not a misprint) Neil Sedaka – before Summers runs into Copeland on the tube, and his life begins to change once again. This is the halfway point of the book.
From there, things take off like a rocket. The acceleration of the narrative parallels the acceleration of the life being lived within it. Things spin faster and faster and faster until it becomes dizzying. Gigs, tours, recordings, singles, more gigs, press, fans, more recording, and the rocket leaves the launch pad and heads off into its well-chronicled orbit. It feels like a matter of weeks — though in fact it was three years – before Summers the struggling, near has-been guitarist with wife and child finds himself a single, rootless millionaire rock star, drowning his celebrity sorrows on a shroomed-out madman’s safari across the island of Bali with John Belushi. Three more years, many lines of cocaine and a great deal of in-studio tension later, the Police quietly call it quits at the very height of their popularity.
The beauty of this book is that Summers, having been to the mountaintop and returned to tell the tale, appreciates in equal measures the glorious affirmation and the absolute insanity of life in the rock and roll circus. He renders in vivid detail the rapid disconnect from the everyday, the protective bubble in which one must exist or be rent limb from limb by one’s ravenous, hysterical “fans,” and the seductive, destructive nature of the machine which works 24/7 to feed both itself and the egos of the trio at the top. Managers are carted off to jail, marriages disintegrate, and wild times and assorted odd injuries ensue (note: it’s always handy to have an ENT on your small Caribbean island when you absent-mindedly stuff a candy wrapper all the way into your ear canal).
For all that, Summers the author never loses sight of what propelled him — his passion for the guitar and for the power of music as tool of self-expression, spiritual exploration and connection with an audience. Fittingly, the book proper — embellished with a brief afterword — ends not with the band’s breakup but with the band launching itself onstage at Shea Stadium in August 1983 to play the first concert there since the Beatles. “We walk into the center, the luminescence, the incandescent blaze of electric power, and there is a deep roar like the end of the world. Eighty thousand lighters go on in the stadium, an incendiary salutation. Like a prayer, it is now, it is forever. I strike the first chord.”
For the curious, Summers is frank but generally kind when speaking of his former bandmates, and contrite about his failings as a husband and father. Sting does come off as aloof, controlling, and taken with his own celebrity, but that hardly qualifies as news. Summers still speaks of him (and Copeland, for that matter) with the affection of a long-time mate who stood shoulder to shoulder with him more times than toe to toe.
Writing entirely in the present tense — a device which lends immediacy to every moment — Summers renders one scene after another with a rich mixture of clarity and bemusement, conveying both the intimate details and, with the benefit of twenty years’ perspective, the greater significance and/or absurdity of any given situation along his twisting path. One Train Later is a captivating ride through both a musical era and a life made in music, narrated by a gifted storyteller — a treat for any music lover, and essential for any Police fan.
All content © The Daily Vault unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any article or any portion thereof without express written consent of The Daily Vault is prohibited. Album covers are the intellectual property of their respective record labels, and are used in the context of reviews and stories for reference purposes only.
LIGHT STRINGS: IMPRESSIONS OF THE GUITAR
Photographs by Ralph Gibson with text by Andy Summers
Los Angeles: September 21 through October 15, 2004
New York: November 4 through December 17, 2004
September 21 through October 15, Hermes will inaugurate its Los Angeles gallery with Light Strings: Impressions of the Guitar, a collaboration between photographer Ralph Gibson and guitarist Andy Summers. The exhibition will include twenty-five never-before-seen photographs by Ralph Gibson. The exhibition can be seen, from November 4 through December 17 at the Gallery at HermËs in New York City. A book featuring images from the exhibition will be published simultaneously by Chronicle Books. The Gallery in Los Angeles is located on the third floor at 434 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills; the Gallery in New York City is located on the fourth floor at 691 Madison Avenue.
Ralph Gibson started playing ukulele when he was twelve and got his first guitar at thirteen. He never lost his love for the guitar especially during his stint in the U.S. Navy, where he first learned to take photographs. He still plays every day in his studio, where the amplifier is never turned off. Andy Summers began his artistic career at fourteen, working at a photo booth on the pier of his English seaside hometown. He dreamed about owning a Gibson guitar even then, but he never lost his appreciation for photography. Friends for many years, and each now the master of his medium, they have wanted to collaborate on a project for years.
Together, Gibson and Summers have created in Light Strings: Impressions of the Guitar, a poetic meditation on the guitar. Both artists honor the instrumentís sensual form and its aesthetic relationship to the human body. ìWorking with Ralph on Light Strings was a great pleasure,î said Summers, ìbecause not only did we have fun messing about with guitars, but I was also able to observe the process of a great photography master.î Gibson said, ìDoing this project with Andy was an opportunity for me to express in visual terms my feelings for the guitar that I could not express in musical terms.î
Andy Summers achieved enormous fame as the guitarist for The Police. The band sold more than seventy-five million records, gathered nine Grammy awards, and toured stadiums worldwide in the 1980s. Summers was inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame after being voted number-one guitarist for five consecutive years in Guitar Player magazine. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His new recording The Xtracks (R & M records) is scheduled for worldwide release in September. Summers lives in Los Angeles.
Ralph Gibson began his career as an assistant to Dorothea Lane and went on to work with Robert Frank on two films. Beginning with The Somnambulist in 1970, he has produced more than thirty-five monographs. His photographs have been shown in more than two hundred one-man shows, most notably at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the MMK in Frankfurt, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Gibson’s awards include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Leica Medal of Excellence. He is a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. Gibson lives in New York.
Recent exhibitions at the Gallery at HermËs in New York City include Rene Burriís architectural photographs and Bruce Davidsonís Subway, which coincided with the New York City Subway centennial.
LIGHT STRINGS REVIEW – BY EVAN HAGA OF JAZZTIMES
Photo Exhibit Displays Guitars as Art
Can you not possibly get enough guitar? Neither can photographer Ralph Gibson and guitarist Andy Summers, whoíve come together to create ìLight Strings: Impressions of the Guitar,î an exhibit touring the Hermes galleries of New York, Los Angeles, and Paris this fall.
The show focuses on the way in which the guitarís design mirrors the human form, highlighting the instruments often overlooked and underrated artistic visual qualities. Andy Summers contributes text to accompany the photographs both at the galleries and in printóChronicle Books will publish a folio in conjunction with the exhibitís gallery appearances. The shows and book boast 25 previously unreleased Ralph Gibson photographs. Additional material unavailable for viewing in New York, Los Angeles, and the folio will be on display at the Hermes Gallery in Paris.
Ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers has spent the years since his rock groupís 1985 breakup pursuing his love for jazz and perfecting his craft as a guitarist. Two of his most critically lauded albums interpret the work of monumental jazz composers. Green Chimneys: The Work of Thelonious Monk was released in 1999 and Peggyís Blue Skylight, an album of compositions by Charles Mingus, was released in 2000. Summersí original compositions synthesize a number of genres and display the artistís jazz influences alongside his affinity for textural and sonic experimentation.
Ralph Gibsonís work has been featured in solo exhibitions at such prestigious locations as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. “Music has played an important role in Ralph Gibson’s development,î writes International Center of Photography curator Miles Barth, author of Tropism: Photographs by Ralph Gibson.
Light Strings: Impressions of the Guitar
Photographs by Ralph Gibson with text by Andy Summers
Los Angeles: September 21 through October 15
New York: November 4 through November 17
Hermes New York City is located on the fourth floor at 691 Madison Avenue.
Hermes Los Angeles is located on the third floor at 434 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills.
©1999-2004 JazzTimes, Inc. All rights reserved.