Andy has written 45 short stories ‑ one for every rpm of a seven-inch single (Image: Rebecca Sapp/Getty)
His new book, Fretted & Moaning, is already exciting TV interest ‑ and it’s not published yet. “I met with someone this week to talk about adapting it,” guitarist Andy tells me from his home in Santa Monica, California. “There’s definitely room for something oddball and quietly weird on TV.”
He’s written 45 short stories ‑ one for every rpm of a seven-inch single. All feature a dark twist.
Fans won’t be surprised by the deftness of Summers’s writing ‑ his droll, honest One Train After is one of the best rock autobiographies ‑ or by his sense of humour.
Andy wrote two of The Police’s funniest songs, Mother and Be My Girl ‑ Sally, about one man’s love for his inflatable doll.
“You need a sense of humour in this business,” he chuckles. “Gallows’ humour to get through the life of a musician.”
Andy’s stories introduce us to rival country stars Carter Lewis & Lewis Carter, and Sullivan ‑ “a composite rock star,” he says. “I liked him, so he’s in four of the stories.”
His own favourites are Western saga Sagebrush, and the 1930s-set A Corpse In Tinsel Town.
Characters include an, ahem, inventive publicist ‑ affectionately inspired by rock PR Keith Altham, the man who told Jimi Hendrix to set fire to his guitar and handled the Police’s press for years. “I liked Keith, but we were so innocent we went along with whatever he suggested.”
Lowbrow culture rubs shoulders with highbrow. Ivan Ilyich and Zen Buddhism are both mentioned. One story riffs on Casablanca, and classical guitar piece Etude No 11 features in a vivid fantasy.
All of the tales are music related, many drawing on first-hand experiences. Even The Stalker ‑ “I had one standing outside my house,” says Andy, 78. “So it wasn’t difficult to go from that to this made-up scenario.”
The Police “went through it all,” he says. “We spent a night trapped in a dressing room in Italy while riots raged outside. Another time we couldn’t leave our hotel for three days. We got a toilet roll and rolled it out with the word ‘help’ written on it…
“I’ve had a lifetime on this scene, so I had a lot to draw on.” He isn’t kidding. Lancashire-born Summers has been a global star for 42 years and a pro musician for twenty more.
All of the stories are music related and draw on personal experience (Image: Rebecca Sapp/Getty)
Five years after The Police were pushing their broken van through the streets of London after “playing to no one”, they were headlining New York’s Shea Stadium. That same year, 1983, they topped the US chart with their last studio album, Synchronicity, for four consecutive months.
The band became a multi-million-dollar industry, notching up unforgettable hits like Walking On The Moon, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Don’t Stand So Close To Me.
Andy’s mastery of complex chords, harmonics and effects were an essential part of The Police’s sound. His guitarwork on Every Breath You Take took the song to a different level.
Summers is “a pretty literary person”, he says. “As a teenager I read Herman Hesse, Siddhartha, that kind of s***. My buddy was pretty bookish too. We read Dostoyevsky, but I’d get a better grip of it if I read it now.”
The Police became a multi-million-dollar band (Image: Jeff Kravitz/Getty)
Born Andrew Somers, war-baby Andy grew up in Bournemouth. His father was in the RAF, his mother worked in a bomb factory. He was 13 when he formed The Midnights playing US folk standards like Midnight Special with school pals, but jazz (along with Brigitte Bardot) fired his teenage dreams.
“Jazz was where I started ‑ Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Courtney Pine,” he says. “I listen to pretty esoteric music now.”
His first proper group was Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, an R&B combo popular on the early sixties Mod scene. Some weeks they’d play thirteen gigs over a weekend, packing in regular shows, all-nighters and a Sunday afternoon set.
Their only hit was Big Time Operator in 1966. A year later they became psychedelic acid-rock band Dantalian’s Chariot. When the Chariot’s wheels came off, Andy joined avant-garde combo Soft Machine, and then a late US based line-up of The Animals with Zoot.
He lived in Los Angeles throughout the hippy era, and met Kate, his wife and the love of his life there.
The couple split in 1981 for four and a half years at the height of the Police’s stardom, for standard rock ’n’ roll reasons, but reconciled. They have three grown-up children.
After the Police’s first final gig in Melbourne in 1984, Summers played more jazz and pursued his interest in photography. He’d published Throb, his first photo book in 1983 and contributed to film scores, including Down And Out In Beverly Hills.
The band’s heady but turbulent years were covered in the documentary, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police, based on his memoir.
The Police reformed for a redemptive 2007-8 comeback tour, ending on a triumphant high. Andy, who has also released fifteen solo albums, is now toying with a novel.
“I’ve been working on a story as a screen play, but yesterday I started writing it as a novel instead and immediately came up with a bunch of new ideas. I think it’ll be at least a novella. It’s like making music, you have to go away and come back a couple of days later, get perspective on it, let the subconscious do the work.
“I’ve woken up with a story in my head before; lots of good ideas come at odd moments.
“Short-story writing seems to be more prevalent here in the US than England. I like Sam Shepard. I’m slightly thinking about a second collection. I have more stories, the well hasn’t dried up yet…”
Andy owns “about 150” guitars (Image: Mark Sullivan/Getty)
Guitars are still one of Andy’s great pleasures ‑ he owns “about 150” ‑ along with TV from the old country.
“I love the British sense of irony which most Americans don’t have. I watch a lot of British TV. Ricky Gervais makes me laugh. Afterlife was fantastic, a knockout, and his stand-up absolutely brilliant.”
Line Of Duty hooked him too. “Jed Mercurio is such a good writer. I love the tension and the complex layering, and also the authenticity of it. You’d think he was a cop.”
He’s waiting to hear when he’ll tour again. “I’m hoping this Spring. At the moment, I’m on Instagram every day, social media, it’s the only gig there is.
“I have a photography show in London on 21st October, depending on the pandemic. I had a Latin American tour of nine countries cancelled, with a band based in Brazil.”
He has recorded with Brazilian star Roberto Menescal, and worked with Fernanda Takai.
“My other band does Police covers, it’s an all-star band with Brazilian musicians. I play bossa nova with Roberto. We’re supposed to be in Glasgow in November, for the World Environmental Congress.
“I have a solo multi-media show too with photographs, all worked out and orchestrated; I play some solo guitar pieces. I’m keen to go back to work!
“Being courageous is what keeps me going, it’s what I’ve always done. I’m happy. I live in paradise, I’m not hard up. What more do you want? Give me a few more medals?
“I feel pretty good. I got all my dreams. I don’t want to be Prime Minister. I’m happy to be a creative artist.”
Andy Summers Fretted and Moaning short stories is published by Rocket 88 Books on August 19. Available to order ONLY at www.andysummersbook.com