Andy Summers

Andrew James Somers was born to Jean, a worker in a bomb factory and Maurice, an active serviceman with the Royal Air Force, on 31st December 1942 in Poulton-le-Fylde, a small market town three miles northeast of Blackpool, Lancashire. After the war, Mr. and Mrs. Somers, Andy, his sister Monica and brothers Tony and Richard moved three hundred miles south to Bournemouth, eventually settling in Malvern Road, Moordown. His father initially worked in the restaurant at the East Cliff Court Hotel, where he progressed to the position of manager. By 1968 Maurice and Jean were looking for a challenge and became the landlord and landlady of the New Inn pub in Fairmile Road, Christchurch where, according to an article in the Bournemouth Times, Jean’s tasty steak and kidney puddings were a big hit with the customers.

At an early age Andy’s mother bought him a piano, even though he had little or no interest in tickling the ivories, or in music. However, that all changed on his thirteenth birthday when his Uncle Jim presented him with an old Spanish acoustic guitar. From the outset he struggled to make sense of the instrument, but help was at hand when a family lodger gave him a chord book and taught him how to tune to concert pitch using the disused piano. Influenced by the excitement generated by Lonnie Donegan and armed with a handful of chords, Andy formed the Midnighters, a skiffle group with four school friends from Summerbee Secondary Modern (now the Bishop of Winchester Academy in Mallard Road). He expanded his chordal knowledge by listening to the radio programme Guitar Club presented by the jazz guitarist Ken Sykora and traded licks and riffs with like-minded kids at school. Like thousands of teenage boys, he idolised Hank Marvin from the Shadows and appreciated the excitement of American rock ‘n’ roll but, unlike most, he also became interested in the esoteric world of jazz and could name check Django Reinhardt, Thelonious Monk, Barney Kessell, Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane before he left school.

Photo Andy Summers Summerbee School
The class of 1959 Summerbee School, Andy Somers circled (Photograph Bournemouth Echo

Andy left Summerbee in the summer of 1959 and picked up a variety of jobs including deck chair attendant and beach photographer on the Bournemouth seafront and at Minns in Gervis Place selling musical instruments. One potential customer, a guitarist named Robert Fripp, insists that on a visit to peruse the stock, the sniffy shop assistant was rude to him. When he had accrued enough cash, Andy dumped his cheap German built Voss and splashed out on a quality guitar, a Gibson ES 175, which he inadvertently left on a park bench. Luckily for him it was insured, and he replaced it with a Gibson ES 335, which he used with The Stormers at a date at the Drill Hall in Holdenhurst Road. Guitarist Al Kirtley and singer Zoot Money had just left the group and Andy was roped into the unenviable position of covering both vacancies. On the night he covered the guitar parts with no difficulties and gamely tackled the vocals, an excruciating experience which brought home to him it was best to leave singing to others more ably qualified.

Every Friday night Andy and his saxophonist friend, Nigel Street, would frequent the Blue Note club held at the Lynton Court Hotel in Christchurch Road, to watch the Alan Kay Quintet, one of the top jazz bands in town. After a couple of weeks, he plucked up the courage and asked if he could sit in. His request was turned down flat, but he was offered the chance to air his talents during the break. Over a period of weeks, the interval spot became a regular feature and Andy would try, sometimes unsuccessfully, to piece together a duo or a trio to fill in the allotted time. More often than not he would fly solo, or team up with a trombonist, not the ideal musical combination to prove his worth or to be taken seriously. Alan could see that Andy had talent and finally relented by inviting him up to perform a rendition of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” with the quintet. As he climbed onto the podium to join saxophonist Alan Melly (Alan Kay), pianist Don Hardyman, vibraphone player and drummer Jack Horwood plus a double bassist named Stan, little did he know that the fifth member, second drummer and percussionist Colin Allen, would figure heavily in his life for the next five years.

Photo Andy Summers Quartet 1963
The Andy Somers Quartet at the Candlelight Club circa 1963, Left to Right: Colin Allen, Andy Somers, Dave Townsend & Barry Curtis (Photograph courtesy of Colin Allen)

Gradually the interval spots became a popular fixture at the Blue Note and Andy, Colin Allen and double bassist Dave Townsend, pooled their talents in the jokingly titled Poll-Losers Trio, named after the Barney Kessell / Ray Brown / Shelly Manne group Poll-Winners Trio. The addition of a pianist, Barry Curtis, later of the Nite People, brought about a name change to the less imaginative Andy Somers Quartet. Over time, the foursome spread their wings, augmenting the Blue Note dates with gigs around town in various clubs and hotels. Andy also supplemented his meagre earnings by playing “Hava Nagila” and a selection of Al Jolson songs at the Jewish run Majestic Hotel with The Majestic Dance Orchestra, after an invitation to join from pianist Don Hardyman. Comprising of Don, Jack Horwood and Alan from the Kay Quintet, Geoff Vine on trumpet, plus the bandleader, a miserable tyrant called Cyril Stewart on double bass, the orchestra recruited the guitarist to play “The Twist” and Shadows numbers as a sop to the teenagers in the audience. He was initially happy to take the cash, but soon regretted his decision, as he slept walked through a staid repertoire of waltzes, foxtrots and tangos, while Cyril continually harangued him over the volume of his amplifier. Andy’s misery was thankfully curtailed when he was fired, after the dictatorial bassist discovered he had carried out a late night assignation with the daughter of one of the hotel’s guests. His replacement was the young guitarist he had insulted in Minns, Robert Fripp.

The ballroom of the (Bay) Majestic, the hotel closed for good in 2020 because of the pandemic

In a small town like Bournemouth, it would only be a matter of time before Andy would run into the clown prince of the local music scene, Zoot Money. One night Zoot and a gang of his cronies walked into the Blue Note club where Andy’s quartet were performing (by this time the club had moved to the larger Highcliffe Hotel). Zoot, Andy and Colin got to talking, and the trio became inseparable, listening to Ray Charles records back at Zoot’s flat in Old Christchurch Road, while devising plans to resurrect Zoot’s old outfit, the Big Roll Band. Finally, it all came together in the autumn of 1963 with saxophonist Nick Newall and part-time bassist Roger Bone completing the line-up. They played the usual hangouts such as Le Disque A Go! Go! and the Pavilion ballroom, but Zoot and Andy were ambitious and thinking of bigger things and a chance to act on their aspirations came to fruition at the Ossemsley Manor while the pair were sitting in with the Don Robb Band. Alexis Korner’s manager was in the audience and invited Zoot to London for a short-term gig with Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Unsurprisingly, he grabbed the opportunity and left for the bright lights of the big city with Andy in tow for moral support. After a handful of dates with Korner, Zoot invited the rest of the Big Roll Band up to London for a gig at the Six Bells pub in Chelsea, followed by a date at the Marquee club. The gigs went well, and the time felt right for the band to make the big step and move up to the Big Smoke permanently. On 1st January 1964 Andy, Zoot and Colin moved into a flat at 11 Gunterstone Road, West Kensington, while Nick Newall, who didn’t fancy dossing down in the cramped conditions, found accommodation elsewhere.

The most pressing dilemma, after accommodation, was to find a permanent bass player. Zoot had already seen Paul Williams at a Wes Minster Five gig performing more or less the same material as the Big Roll Band. Impressed by the quality of his voice, he invited Williams to join and mentioned that he was looking for a bass player. Paul remarked he didn’t know anyone, Zoot fired back, “How about you?” then added “You could learn, rehearsals start in two weeks”, bass player sorted.

The band passed an audition for the Gunnell brothers at the Flamingo Club and took over the residency vacated by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames who were on the brink of stardom. They were an instant hit with the ready-made audience impressing with their authentic take on Ray Charles, James Brown and Jimmy Reed covers, plus Zoot’s onstage banter immediately endeared him to the crowd. As their popularity grew, Clive Burrows, another Wes Minster Five refugee, joined on baritone sax to give the brass more of a punch and the band took over the regular Monday night slot at the Flamingo billed as ‘Money’s Monday’.

The Big Roll Band outside the Flamingo Club, Wardour Street circa 1965, Left to Right: Nick Newall, Clive Burrows, Colin Allen, Paul Williams, Andy Somers & Zoot Money 

Their first single, a cover of The Daylighters “The Uncle Willie” backed with “Zoot’s Suit”, was a one shot-deal for Decca and credited to a solo Zoot. By March 1965 they were on Columbia, where over the next two years they released nine singles with “Big Time Operator” being the most successful, peaking at number twenty-five in August 1966. Ironically, the Big Roll Band didn’t feature on their most successful record, as their producer, John Harris, pulled together a bunch of faceless session musicians and invited Zoot to add his vocal on top. Their Rik Gunnell financed debut album, It Should’ve Been Me, featured their road tested live set honed to perfection after months of non-stop gigging. Recorded in a day at Pye Studios with a break for lunch at the local pub, the record garnered several glowing reviews including one from the scribe at the Record Mirror who posted, “The rather extrovert Mr. Money and a fair old L.P. Plenty of organ bashing and jazz blues sounds all round”. It sold moderately, which is a pity, as the musicianship on display is superb, particularly Andy’s excellent jazzy solos on “Bright Lights Big City” and “Along Came John” which would surprise fans of The Police who are more familiar with his sparse but clever chordal work.

Around the autumn of 1965, Clive Burrows moved on to the Alan Price Set, making way for Johnny Almond to come in from Tony Knight’s Chessmen on sax and flute, just in time for their next album, Zoot!. This time out they left the confines of the studio and decamped to Dick Jordan’s Klooks Kleek club above the Railway Hotel in West Hampstead on Tuesday 31st May 1966. The band had set an attendance record there the year before and could guarantee a packed house. On the evening of recording, hundreds of people were turned away but the lucky few who gained entry, joined invited guests Chas Chandler, Eric Burdon, Georgie Fame and Brian Auger for a night of high octane entertainment. Future Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon organised the recording by routing cables through the window and over the roof from the Decca studio’s next door. He captured the Big Roll Band at the top of their game, whipping up a storm with twelve slices of raw r&b including a rollicking six minute plus James Brown medley, a slowed down version of Earl King’s “Let the Good Times Roll” and rounding off proceedings with a romping cover of Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’”. This time the good reviews were reflected in sales, as it climbed to a respectable number twenty-three in October 1966. Shortly after the album’s release, Geoff Condon swelled the ranks to a septet by adding trumpet to the line-up.

The sixties music scene in London was a tight-knit community, and most of the groups knew each other. Over time, Andy became friendly with Eric Clapton, as their paths would often cross while working the same circuit. During 1965 Andy’s guitar of choice was a 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul bought from the Selmer shop in Charing Cross Road for £80. Eric was still using the Fender Telecaster he used in The Yardbirds, but wanted to get his hands on a Les Paul after hearing Freddie King playing a gold top model on his album, Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away. Eric asked Andy where he bought his and acquired a 1960 model from the same shop. He then went on to record the ground breaking John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, a.k.a. The Beano Album in the spring of 1966. The tone he created on that record with his Les Paul fed through a cranked up Marshall combo amplifier, sent reverberations throughout the UK and across the pond to America, inspiring a generation of guitar players to emulate their hero. The clamour to get their hands on a similar guitar to “God”, spurred Gibson into reintroducing the Les Paul model in June 1968, eight years after it had been discontinued. Shortly after Eric left Mayall to form Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, his pride and joy was stolen. By this time Andy had moved on to a Fender Telecaster as his guitar of choice and sold Eric his Gibson for £200, over twice what he had paid for it. The guitar can be heard on the band’s debut album, Fresh Cream.

Dantalian’s Chariot in 1967, Left to Right: Pat Donaldson, Andy Somers, Zoot Money & Colin Allen

During the first months of 1967, Andy sensed a wind of change, as their brand of sweaty no holds barred r&b was being engulfed in a haze of marijuana smoke. The amphetamine fueled Mod’s were slowly being usurped by the Hippies, who preferred to smoke dope and indulge in hallucinogens. In the eyes of Andy, Zoot and Colin, the Big Roll Band had become an anachronism. Spurred on by Andy’s keen ear for a new trend and their newfound appetite for dropping acid, the Big Roll Band dumped the brass section and replaced bassist Paul Williams with Pat Donaldson. The newly christened Dantalian’s Chariot made their debut on Saturday 12th August at the ‘Seventh National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival’ in Windsor. Two weeks later an appearance at the ‘Festival of the Flower Children’ at Woburn Abbey confirmed their hippie credentials when they took to an all-white stage dressed in white clothes and playing white instruments, while bathed in what was believed to be the best light show in the country.

Dantalian’s Chariot on stage, Left to Right: Pat Donaldson, Colin Allen, Andy Somers & Zoot Money

The band also switched allegiances from the Flamingo to new underground hangouts such as Middle Earth in Covent Garden and UFO at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, where their brand of trippy psychedelia was lapped up by the assorted heads and freaks. It was a different story outside of London, as most punters hadn’t bought into the hippie ideal. Instead of the usual raunchy, revved up r&b from the Big Roll Band, they got a self-indulgent band of acid heads rambling on about “High Flying Birds” and “World War Three”, the Summer of Love hadn’t quite reached the far-flung corners of Albion. One positive to come from the period was the excellent “Madman Running Through the Fields” single, a prime slice of psychedelia drenched in studio trickery. The only problem was that their label wasn’t enamoured with the new direction and dropped the band before an album could be released. With trippy titles such as “The Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud”, “This Island” and “Soma”, a Somers sitar workout written by Andy and his sitar teacher Nazir Jairazbhoy, the recordings sat locked in a vault until the specialist label Tenth Planet collected the tracks together on Chariot Rising in 1995. Instead, the band was picked up by the Direction label on a one album deal which produced the schizophrenic Transition, a cobbled together collection of old Big Roll Band recordings and three Chariot tracks.

Through Andy’s association with Jenny Fabian, he appeared as a character in her infamous cult novel Groupie co-written with Johnny Byrne. Published in 1969, it tells the story of Katie (a thinly disguised Fabian) in late sixties London, flitting from club to club and bed to bed with an array of trendsetters and musicians, while indulging in uninhibited sex and drug taking. In the book Andy was rechristened Dave and Syd Barrett became the enigmatic Ben. The band names also changed, with the Big Roll Band becoming Big Sound Bank, Dantalian’s Chariot morphed into The Transfer Project, Pink Floyd was renamed Satin Odyssey, Family became Relation and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation were lumped with the nonsensical Jubal Early Blowback. If you want to know what rock stars got up to in the hedonistic sixties, look no further, this trashy time capsule gives you all the sordid details you’ll ever need.

Published in 1969, Groupie by Jenny Fabian & Johnny Byrne

Early in 1968, after another less than successful gig in Newcastle, Colin was at the wheel of the bands Zephyr Six driving home across the Yorkshire moors during a snowstorm with Andy, Pat Donaldson and their roadie Phil, when it skidded off the road and rolled over into a field. Colin and Phil crawled out of the wreckage fairly unscathed, Pat kicked out the back window to escape, but Andy, who was also in the back, ended up in hospital with a broken nose. The next day the three walking wounded returned to London on the train after a night at the village police station, with Andy following on later. The band played a few more gigs with Andy’s nose patched up with plasters, but the writing was on the wall and the Chariot rolled out of town for the last time on 19th April 1968 after a gig at the Mistralle Club in Beckenham.

The dissolution of Dantalian’s Chariot in the spring of 1968 left Andy, for the first time in his professional career, without a band or the camaraderie of his friends from Bournemouth. During Chariot’s short life span sharing stages with the elite of the underground, he befriended the drummer Robert Wyatt who offered him the opportunity to join his band The Soft Machine. The proto progressive rock / psychedelic outfit was formed in Canterbury during the summer of 1966 by Wyatt, keyboard player Mike Ratledge, bassist Kevin Ayers and original guitarist, Daevid Allen. Andy was brought in to replace Allen, an Australian, who was refused re-entry into the UK because of an expired visa after a short tour of France. Allen returned to Paris where he took part in the student riots of May 1968, before moving to Majorca where he formed the slightly loopy, pot head conglomerate, Gong. Andy moved into the bohemian family home of the Wyatt’s in West Dulwich, where the nucleus of the band lived and began rehearsals. Within weeks, a much-anticipated return visit to America came to fruition, and the band left for a six-week run of dates that would climax with a string of shows supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience. By the time the band had hooked up with Hendrix, Andy had been ousted at the insistence of Ayers, because of the bassist’s unease at the direction the band was heading with Andy’s guitar prowess pushing them further into the realms of jazz.

Disappointed, Andy hunkered down at the infamous Chelsea Hotel in West 23rd Street, New York, until an opportune phone call to Zoot in California resulted in Andy, now known as Summers, flying out to join him in The New Animals replacing the recently sacked Vic Briggs. He arrived in time for the ‘Newport Pop Festival’ in early August and for the recording of the album Love Is. However, his stay was dramatically cut short when a jaunt around Japan in November turned bad after a run in with the local mafia, causing the band to break up on their return to America.

For the next five years he stepped away from the live arena and studied classical guitar at the University of California, married and then divorced Robin Lane and made a meagre living dispensing guitar lessons. After buying a battered and modified 1963 Fender Telecaster from one of his students for $200, (the guitar would become his number one instrument in The Police) he found a new lease of life and resumed live work backing the singer / songwriter Tim Rose of “Morning Dew” fame. In November 1973 he returned to England with his new girlfriend Kate and moved into the family home in Bournemouth, before relocating to London. A chance meeting with Robert Fripp at The Speakeasy put him in touch with Michael Giles, who handed him a lifeline with the hugely successful Neil Sedaka. Within a couple of weeks of the meeting, Andy was on stage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, decked out in a smart whistle and flute, playing “Oh Carol”, “Solitaire” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” for the Neil Sedaka Live at the Royal Festival Hall album. Two very successful and happy tours of the UK later, Sedaka called a halt to proceedings in the summer of 1974.

Photo Andy Somers and Kevin Coyne
The eccentric, but talented, Kevin Coyne takes a breather on stage with Andy Somers circa 1976

After the opulent venues and middle of the road crooning of Neil Sedaka, Andy’s next employer could not have been more different. Kevin Coyne was an unorthodox singer / songwriter, not just in delivery but also in content. His songs touched on controversial matters as diverse as fascism, the unjust treatment of the mentally ill and the elderly and the destructive nature of the music industry, a far cry from the “moon in June” lyrics of his previous boss. Coyne also liked a drink, Sedaka didn’t mind a social tipple, but Coyne was a heavy imbiber which led to alcoholism later in life. It made for a difficult working relationship however, Andy persevered with the likable but unpredictable rogue, appearing on three of his albums Matching Head and Feat, the live In Living Black and White and Heartburn, the last two with his old mucker from Bournemouth, Zoot Money. The constant nights on the road boosted Coyne’s profile, making him a relatively successful cult figure, but the constant drinking played havoc with relationships within the band and his mental health ultimatley unravelled. The frazzled singer withdrew from performing in 1977 for a period of rest and recuperation, leaving Andy unemployed.

If the two years with Kevin Coyne turned out to be a complete contrast to his previous job, his next employer was an unexpected bolt from the blue. Kevin Ayers, the main instigator behind his sacking from The Soft Machine invited Andy to join Zoot Money (yet again), ex Taste bassist Charlie McCracken, flautist Bill Evans and the former Family drummer Rob Townsend, in his new touring band. Before the grass could grow beneath Andy’s feet he was back trundling up and down the highways and byways of Britain and Europe for a further twelve months.

One of Andy’s extracurricular activities during this period is of significant interest. On 26th October 1975, he deputised for the ailing Mike Oldfield in a live rendition of “Tubular Bells” with the Northern Concert Orchestra conducted by David Bedford at the Newcastle City Hall. The support that night came from Last Exit, a jazz fusion group fronted by a Geordie bassist called Gordon Sumner, but everyone knew him as Sting, thanks to a distinctive hooped black and yellow sweater he wore making him look like a bee. The pair did not meet on that occasion, although Andy watched a few minutes of their set from the back of the hall. Two weeks later he met Curved Air’s American drummer Stewart Copeland at the Drogenheyer Hotel in Newcastle. In that fortnight, the stars began to align.

Bassist Mike Howlett formed Strontium 90 with Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy for a Gong reunion gig at the Hippodrome in Paris on 28th May 1977. The idea being that former Gong members would perform with their offshoot groups before coming together for the grand finale. On their return to London, the band played a couple of shows as The Elevators, but the consensus was that the two bass configuration didn’t work and Howlett was quietly dropped. Simultaneously, Sting and Copeland had their own trio, The Police with guitarist Henry Padovani, and had released a single, “Fall Out” earlier that spring. Impressed by Andy’s proficiency, Sting and Copeland were reluctant to lose him and invited Andy to play a couple of gigs with the band. It soon became apparent that tension between the two guitarists threatened to derail the group after an aborted recording session with producer John Cale. Padovani had bags of punk attitude and looked the part, but he didn’t have the chops and was told he was out of the band by a reluctant Copeland who had always championed the guitarist.

The Police 1978
The Police publicity shot in 1978, Left to Right: Stewart Copeland, Sting & Andy Summers

On 18th August 1977, the new trio performed their debut gig at Rebbeca’s in Birmingham, racing through a set of Copeland songs in twelve minutes flat. Riding on the coattails of the punk movement, they played a variety of small, dingy venues where being showered with spit was a sign of appreciation. A by-product of the scene, gobbing, not unsurprisingly, disgusted them, besides they had been around the block a few times and were definitely not teenage oiks with a limited musical vocabulary, particularly Andy who was fast approaching his thirty-fifth birthday. A side project with the respected German composer Eberhard Schoener, demonstrated their musical prowess. Andy and Sting were invited to Munich to perform a handful of shows and record an album of orchestral / progressive rock called Video Magic. They would repeat the exercise a few months later with an extended concert tour of Germany and a further album, Flashback, only this time all three members of The Police were involved.

In January 1978 Copeland’s brother, Miles, became their manager and financed recording sessions at Surrey Sound Studios with producer Nigel Gray, for what was to become their debut album, Outlandos D’Amour. At the time all three sported bleached blond hair dyed for a Wrigley chewing gum commercial, a move which defined their look and became their trademark. One track, “Roxanne”, Sting’s ode to a prostitute, was picked up by their label A&M and released as a single, although good reviews were nullified when the BBC. in its infinite wisdom, banned the song because of its subject matter. The follow up, “Can’t Can’t Stand Losing You”, stalled at forty-two in the charts. After a performance on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test in October, the band flew to America on a shoestring, taking advantage of Freddie Laker’s budget airline and played their first US gig at the infamous CBGB’s in New York as part of a twenty-three shows in twenty-seven days tour organised by Miles. His strategy of putting them on the road in an old van, crisscrossing the country, performing to college students in small venues to generate a buzz, reaped dividends later in their career. Meanwhile, back in Britain, Outlandos D’Amour hit the shops in November along with a third single, “So Lonely”, which highlighted their hybrid rock / reggae sound utilising Copeland’s tight syncopated backbeat, Andy’s use of delay, chorus and inverted shimmery chords and Stings simplistic riffy bass lines overlaid with soaring vocals.

1979 began with an energetic appearance on BBC TV’s Rock Goes to College filmed at Hatfield Polytechnic in February, where they aired some new songs including “Message in a Bottle”. Further exposure on Top of the Pops to promote the re-release of “Roxanne” helped push the single into the top twenty. Three months after the appearance of their debut album, they went back to Surrey Sound to record their sophomore effort, Reggatta De Blanc, over an intense three-week period. Miles also arranged another penny pinching jaunt around the US, before they returned home for their first headlining tour of the UK with support from The Cramps. A well-received top of the bill spot at the 1979 ‘Reading Rock Festival’ with Motorhead, The Cure, Wilko Johnson, The Tourists and Doll by Doll also helped their cause. The belated success of “Roxanne” pushed a re-released “Can’t Stand Losing You” to number two, and a fortnight later, “Message in a Bottle” performed one better by rising to the top spot. With their star in the ascendancy, Reggatta De Blanc topped the album charts, dragging Outlandos D’Amour in its wake to number six. In the autumn a big screen adaptation of The Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia opened to great fanfare in London. Starring Phil Daniels as the main protagonist Jimmy and a cast including Ray Winstone, Toyah Willcox and Leslie Ash, Sting made a memorable impression in a cameo role as the ‘Ace Face’, the leader of the Mods, bolstering both Sting’s profile and that of the band. The year ended on a high note with “Walking on the Moon” becoming their second number one.

By January 1980 they were having hits all over the globe, sparking an ambitious four month long trek around the world taking in the USA, Mexico, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Egypt and concluding in Sting’s hometown of Newcastle. For the duration of their travels, the band were shadowed by a camera crew for a future video release entitled The Police around the World. The downside to their meteoric rise and enormous earning potential meant that the band had to leave the country for tax reasons. Sting and Andy bought properties in Ireland, with Andy buying a house in Kinsale County Cork with his wife Kate and first daughter Layla, while Stewart Copeland remained in England as the tax situation didn’t affect him due to him being an American citizen.

For album number three, Zenyatta Mondatta, they left the security of Surrey Sound Studios and decamped to Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Holland. They then embarked on another lengthy world tour that finally ground to a halt in Perth, Australia on 26th February 1981. After the gig, the band withdrew from sight for five months to recharge their batteries. While they were away their stock rose so much that The Police became the biggest band in Britain with “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” reaching number five and “Don’t Stand so Close To Me” going straight to number one, closely followed by Zenyatta Mondatta. Later in the year, they began recording Ghost in the Machine with a new producer, Hugh Padgham, at George Martin’s Air Studios in Montserrat. The album marked a change in their sound by broadening their musical palette to include textured keyboards and saxophones, but despite the transformation, the hits kept on coming. “Invisible Sun” reached number two, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” became their fourth number one and “Spirits in the Material World” peaked at number twelve. In America the gruelling touring schedules over the last three years reaped dividends, as they sold out the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York and won a Grammy for Regatta De Blanc in the ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ category. The year also saw Sting pursue further extracurricular activities by taking the leading role in the film version of Brimstone and Treacle with Denholm Elliott and Joan Plowright. Meanwhile, Andy met up with Robert Fripp in New York for an exploratory jam. After finding common ground, they reconvened at Arny’s Shack studios in Penn Hill, Poole to record I Advance Masked with owner Tony Arnold at the controls. The thirteen instrumental soundscapes crept out to little fanfare with Fripp claiming, in typical forthright fashion, that he is still waiting for the royalties.

By 1982 The Police were at the height of their powers, winning ‘Best British Group’ at the Brits and two more Grammys with “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” in the long winded ‘Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal’ category and Andy’s “Behind My Camel” in the ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’. Their final album, Synchronicity, spawned yet more Grammy’s plus an Ivor Novello award for their most successful single to date, “Every Breath You Take”. Their follow up single “Wrapped Around Your Finger” cracked the top ten and “Synchronicity 2” and “King of Pain” crept into the lower reaches of the top twenty, while the album Synchronicity toppled Michael Jackson’s all conquering Thriller off the top spot.

The following year, they were back in America playing a sold out show in New York’s Shea Stadium in front of 67,000 people with the little-known REM supporting. The gig topped the attendance record set by The Beatles back in 1965. After the show Sting and Andy agreed things couldn’t get any better and when the tour finally wound down six months later at the Melbourne Showgrounds on 4th March 1984, The Police were virtually finished as a working band. The split was inevitable, as Sting’s introspective song writing was taking him away from the strict guitar, bass and drums format. Plus, right from the get go, Copeland and the bassist continually argued and antagonised each other like a couple of bickering brothers, usually with Andy in the middle trying and failing miserably, to keep them from each other’s throats. The ambition and unfettered egos that created the band ultimately caused the fractures and fissures that finished it. In an upward trajectory that barely stretched to six years, The Police became the biggest band in the world, selling in excess of eighty million albums.

To fill the void left from constant touring and band business, Andy took tentative steps towards a solo career. Publicly the band was still together, but privately they all knew the game was up. In the spring of 1984 Andy and Robert Fripp returned to Arny’s Shack to record Bewitched, a second collaboration of instrumentals, with an emphasis on melody over the meandering textures of its predecessor. The year also brought recognition for his guitar work when he collected the first of five awards from Guitar Player magazine in the ‘Best Pop Guitarist’ category. After the fifth win, he was inducted into their ‘Gallery of the Masters’.

In 1985 the awards kept coming with a Brit award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’, tellingly they did not perform. The following year they reconvened in the summer for the ‘Conspiracy of Hope’ tour, in celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Amnesty International. They appeared in Atlanta, Rosemont and the Giants Stadium in New Jersey, performing a six song set to ecstatic audiences. On a bill that also included U2, Bryan Adams and Peter Gabriel, The Police closed the show with Bono joining them on “Invisible Sun”, before the whole cast came together for a rousing singalong on Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”. A month later they tentatively planned to record a final album, but the day before they were due in the studio, Stewart Copeland broke his collarbone in a freak horse riding accident, scuppering any chance of a comeback. Instead, Andy busied himself with his first solo album, XYZ, named after the middle names of his children, Layla Z, and his twin sons Maurice X and Anton Y, it was the first and only record in his solo discography where he aired his tonsils. To date, he has released thirteen solo albums and collaborated with numerous musicians, including the drummers Michael Shrieve from Santana and Ginger Baker and the guitarists John Etheridge and Larry Coryell. The year 2000 was marked with a ‘Lifetime Acheivment Award’ from Gibson Guitars and an extensive tour of the Andy Summers Trio comprising of bassist Riccardo Fierabracci and drummer Anastasios Panos.

Photo The Police 2007
The Police reunite successfully in 2007 for a world tour, Left to Right: Sting, Stewart Copeland & Andy Summers

On the 11th February 2007, The Police performed “Roxanne” at the 49th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, before announcing a world tour starting in Vancouver on 28th May. They had performed twice before this surprising turn of events. The first was on 22nd August 1992 at Sting and Trudie Styler’s wedding reception, where after a few drinks, they got up and ran through “Message in a Bottle” using the wedding band’s equipment (Andover’s finest The Troggs). The other was in 2003 at their induction into the ‘Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’, where they played a three song set of “Roxanne”, “Every Breath You Take” and “Message in a Bottle”. The much-anticipated reunion tour lasted nearly two years, grossed in the region of £300 million and took in 151 dates throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and eight gigs in the UK, including a headline spot at the 2008 ‘Isle of Wight Festival’ and a final gig at the Madison Square Garden in New York on 7th August. The reunion was hailed a huge success from fans and critics alike and was the third highest grossing tour of all time to date. A recording of a show in Argentina, Certifiable-Live in Buenos Aires, was released on CD and DVD.

Andy Summers 2006 autobiography One Train Later

Apart from an ongoing solo career, Andy has contributed to the soundtracks of several movies including Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 2010End of the Line and Weekend at Bernie’s. He is also a keen photographer and has published four books of his images ThrobI’ll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980 to 1983, Desirer Walks the Streets and A Certain Strangeness. He has written a book of essays proclaiming his love for the guitar, Light Strings, with photographs by Ralph Gibson and penned a critically acclaimed autobiography One Train Later, which he turned into a documentary film called Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police. For his latest project he has turned away from the jazz / ambient music of his past and formed a rock band, Circa Zero, with LA multi-instrumentalist Rob Giles and drummer Emmanuelle Caplette. Their album, Circus Herowas recorded at Andy’s Bowl of Cherries home studio in Venice, California. Apart from being inducted into the ‘Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’ and ‘Guitar Player Hall of Fame’ he has the keys to New York City and was awarded the ‘Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Arts et Lettres’ by the Ministry of Culture in France. He lives in California with his wife Kate and their three children and is still in touch with friends from Bournemouth. In 2002 he sat in with a pick-up band comprising of Zoot Money, Al Kirtley, Paul Spencer McCallum and Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson at the Dormy Hotel in Ferndown for his friend, Colin Saunders, sixtieth birthday. In 2014 he was scheduled to attend the unveiling of the blue plaque at the Downstairs Club / Le Disque A Go!-Go! in Holdenhurst Road, but was delayed in Germany and missed the occasion, much to the disappointment of the gathered throng. In his absence he sent an email which stated, “Without the Downstairs club it is quite possible none of it, in my case, would ever have happened”. To this day he still remembers his humble beginnings despite the internet stating that his net worth is valued in the region of a staggering $100 million dollars! Not bad for a kid from Winton. 

For all the Police hits plus a few choice album cuts, try the double CD Greatest Hits from 1992. Or if you want the whole shebang in one neat package, look no further than the four CD box set Message in a Bottle: The Complete Recordings released in 1993.

A Selective Andy Summers Discography
 Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band Singles

The Uncle Willie c/w Zoot’s Suite: Decca (F11954) 1964

Gin House c/w Rockin’ Chair: Columbia (DB 7421) 1964 As Paul Williams and the Big Roll Band

Good c/w Bring it Home to Me: Columbia (DB 7518) 1965

Please Stay c/w You Know You’ll Cry: Columbia (DB 7600) 1965

Something is Worrying Me c/w Stubborn Kind of Fellow: Columbia (DB 7697) 1965

The Many Faces of Love c/w Jump Back: Columbia (DB 7768) 1965 Paul Williams on vocals

Big Time Operator c/w Zoot’s Sermon: Columbia (DB 7975) 1966

Let’s Run For Cover c/w Self Discipline: Columbia (DB 7876) 1966

Star of the Show (The La La Song) c/w The Mound Moves: Columbia (DB 8090) 1966

Knick Knack c/w I Really Learnt How to Cry: Columbia (DB 8172) 1967

Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band EP 

Knick Knack: Columbia (ESRF 1874) 1964

Big Time Operator: Columbia (SEG 8519) 1966

All Night Worker: 1960’s Records (REP 20) 2018 Although released on Record Store Day, this is an unofficial rip-off, avoid!

Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band Albums

It Should’ve Been Me: Columbia (33SX 1734) 1965

Zoot!: Columbia (SCX 675) 1966 Live

Transition: CBS Direction (8-63231) 1968

Were You There? Live 1966: Indigo (IGOXCD 518) 1999 Live

Fully Clothed and Naked: Indigo (IGOCD 529) 2000 Live and solo recordings

A’s & B’s Scrap Book Repertoire (REP 4796) 2003 Compilation

A Big Time Operator: Castle (CMDDD 1219) 2005 Double CD compilation

The Best of Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band: Repertoire (REP 5027) 2007 Compilation

Big Time Operator: The Singles 1964-66: Wah Wah Records (LPS143) 2014 Compilation

1966 and All That / Big Time Operator: Repertoire (REP 5343) 2018 Limited Edition 4 CD Box Set

Dantalian’s Chariot Single

The Madman Running Through the Fields c/w The Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud: Columbia (DB 8260) 1967

 Dantalian’s Chariot Albums

Chariot Rising: Tenth Planet (TP 015) 1995 Limited Edition vinyl of 1,000 copies

Chariot Rising: Wooden Hill (WHCD005) 1996 CD

Chariot Rising: Wah Wah Records (LPS113) 2013 Vinyl

Chariot Rising: Esoteric (ECLEC 2609) 2017 Remastered CD

Eric Burdon and the Animals Singles

Ring of Fire c/w I’m An Animal: MGM (MGM 1461) 1969

River Deep Mountain High c/w Help Me Girl: MGM (MGM 1581) 1969

 Eric Burdon and the Animals Album

Love Is: MGM Records (SE-4591-2) 1968

 Kevin Coyne Albums

Matching Head and Feat: Virgin (V 2033) 1975

In Living Black and White: Virgin (VD 2505) 1976

Heartburn: Virgin (V 2047) 1976

 The Police Singles

Roxanne c/w Peanuts: A&M (AMS 7348) 1978

Can’t Stand Losing You c/w Dead end Job: A&M (AMS 7381) 1978

So Lonely c/w Time This Time: A&M (AMS 7402) 1978

Message in a Bottle c/w Landlord: A&M (AMS 7474) 1979

Walking on the Moon c/w Visions of the Night:  A&M (AMS 7494) 1979

Don’t Stand so Close To Me c/w Friends: A&M (AMS 7564) 1980

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da c/w A Sermon: A&M (AMS 7578) 1980

Invisible Sun c/w Shambelle: A&M (AMS 8164) 1981

Every Little Thing She Does is Magic c/w Flexible Strategies: A&M (AMS 8174) 1981

Spirits in the Material World c/w Low Life: A&M (AMS 8194) 1981

Every Breath You Take c/w Murder by Numbers: A&M (AM 117) 1983

Wrapped Around Your Finger c/w Someone to Talk To: A&M (AM 127) 1983

Synchronicity 11c/w Once Upon a Daydream: A&M (AM 153) 1983

King of Pain c/w Tea in the Sahara: A&M (AM 176) 1984

 The Police Albums

Outlandos D’Amour: A&M (AMLH 68502) 1978

Reggatta De Blanc: A&M (AMLH 64792) 1979

Zenyatta Mondatta: A&M (AMLH 64831) 1980

Ghost in the Machine: A&M (AMLK 63730) 1981

Synchronicity: A&M (AMLX 63735) 1983

Every Breath You Take, The Singles: A&M (Every 1) 1986 Compilation

The Police Greatest Hits: A&M (540 303-2) 1992 Compilation

Message in a Box (The Complete Recordings): A&M (540 150-2) 1993 4 CD Box Set

The Police Live: A&M (540 222-2) 1995 Double CD Live concerts from 1979 and 1984

Strontium 90 – Police Academy: Virgin (7243 8 44635 2 6) 1997 Demos and Live Recordings

Certifiable-Live in Buenos Aires: A & M (06025 178 648-7) 2008 2 CD and 2 DVD Box Set

Every Move You Make – The Studio Recordings: A&M (676 325-0) 2018 Six vinyl records in a Box Set

 Andy Summers with Robert Fripp Singles

I Advance Masked c/w Hard Country: A&M (AMS 8264) 1982

Parade c/w Train: A&M (AM 217) 1984

Andy Summers with Robert Fripp Albums

I Advance Masked: A&M Records (AMLH 14913) 1982

Bewitched: A&M (AMLX 68569) 1984

Andy Summers Solo Albums

XYZ : MCA (MCF 3382) 1987

Mysterious Barricades: Private Music (2039-2P) 1988

The Golden Wire: Private Music (2048 2-P) 1989

Charming Snakes: Private Music (2069 2-P) 1990

World Gone Strange: Private Music (01005 82088-2) 1991

Synaesthesia: Times Square Records (CMP CD 1011) 1995

The Last Dance of Mr. X: BMG Classics (09026-68937-2) 1997

A Windmill Retrospective: Windmill Hill Records (01934 11316 2) 1998 Compilation

Green Chimneys: BMG Classics (09026-63472-2) 1999

Peggy’s Blue Skylight: BMG Classics (09026-63679-2) 2000

Earth and Sky: Golden Wire (GW 1001-2) 2003

The X Tracks: CNR Records (22 998822) 2004

Metal Dog: Flickering Shadows Productions 2015

Triboluminescence: Flickering Shadows Productions 2017

 Circa Zero Album

Circus Hero: 429 Records (17981) 2014

 Andy Summers Albums As a Guest

Neil Sedaka Live at the Royal Festival Hall: Polydor (513-291-2) 1974

Joan Armatrading Back to the Night: A&M (4525) 1975

David Bedford The Odyssey: Virgin (V 2070) 1976

John Lord Sarabande: Purple Records (TPSA 7516) 1976

Tim Rose Unfinished Song: Tiger Lily Records (TL 14055) 1976

Tim Rose The Gambler: President Records (POCM 1117) 1976, but not released until 1991

Eberhard Schoener and the Secret Society Trance-Formation: Harvest (C 064-32 526) 1977

Eberhard Schoener The Book: Ariola (28 706) 1977

Eberhard Schoener Video Magic: Harvest (IC 064-45 234) 1978

Eberhard Schoener Flashback: Harvest (IC 066-32 839) 1978     

Sting and The Police Brimstone and Treacle: A&M (UICY 94311) 1982

Sting Nothing Like the Sun: A&M (AMA 6402) 1987

Michael Shrieve Stiletto: Novus (PL 83050) 1989

Toni Childs House of Hope: Polydor (540 685-2) 1991

Paolo Rustichelli Mystic Jazz: Polygram (513415-2) 1992

John Etheridge Invisible Threads: Messa Records (RS 79066) 1993

The Pan African Orchestra Opus 1: Realworld (CDRW 48) 1995

Various Artist Twang: Pangea Music (33928) 1996

Anthony Moore Out: Voiceprint (VP165CD) 1997

Kevin Ayers Too Old to Die Young: Hux Records (HUX 006) 1998

Victor Biglione Strings of Desire: BMG Classics (09026-63326-2) 1998

Various Artists Outlandos D’America: Ark (21) 1998

Greg Bissonette Greg Bissonette: Mascot Records (M 7038) 1998

Various Artist As Long As You’re Living Yours: The Music of Keith Jarrett: BMG (31019) 2000

Manuel Barrueco Nylon and Steel: Angel Records (7243 5 56941) 2001

Victor Biglione Splendid Brazil: Indie Records (789842012459) 2005

Ben Verdey First You Build a Cloud: R.A.R.E. (RAR 1001) 2005

Fernanda Takai Fundamental: Polyson (33138-1) 2012

2 thoughts on “Andy Summers

  1. I think he was playing a Telecaster in 64, in the Big Roll Band. That’s what inspired me to buy one.
    And he lent me a plectrum at the Cromwellian in 1965 or 6, when I’d dropped mine and couldn’t find it. I never gave it back.


    1. It’s interesting you saying that, there are not a lot of photos of Andy playing with the Big Roll Band but I have never seen one where he is playing a Telecaster. I have only ever seen pictures of him with either what looks lie a cream finish Fender Stratocaster, his Gibson ES 335 or the 1959 Gibson Les Paul he bought in London and subsequently sold to Eric Clapton.
      As for the plectrum, put it on Ebay and treat yourself to a Rolls Royce.
      Thanks for getting in touch Tim, always good to hear from you.


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