Now Read This: Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies, by Stewart Copeland
I snagged this one at the same time I picked up the Tammy Wynette biography from last week, mainly because, while I’m not the biggest fan of The Police, I could not resist that title. Pygmies? Polo? A rockstar with a (kind of) secret double life? Sign me up!
I am pleased to tell you that I had once again invested wisely, because Stewart Copeland definitely comes through in the hilarious / compelling anecdote department.
In addition to his time with The Police, his adventures as a documentary film maker and his trials and travails amid the ponies, the book also covers his childhood in the Beirut and England (his dad was founding member of the CIA!), his college years in California, his forays into the world of opera and ballet, the period he was in a band with Les Claypool and Trey Anastasio, a little bit about the making of Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, his work writing movie scores, his stint as a judge on Just The Two Of Us, the many years he’s participated in La Notte Della Taranta, and ever so much more.
The stories are presented chronologically, but as independent anecdotes, so its possible to skip around and jump over times and topics that may not be of interest. That said, I read it straight through, and don’t feel my enjoyment of the work suffered at all.
Some observations: if you are looking for the nitty-gritty day by day (fight by fight?) story of The Police, this is not the book for you. Copeland hopscotches through their history fairly efficiently, assuming a certain amount of reader familiarity with their story and also with his and Sting’s complex and stormy relationship.
Best bit: the part where Copeland describes Sting trying to conduct Copeland’s drumming with subtle but increasingly furious movements of his guitar. And also the part where Copeland observed that, to the venerable members of Crosby, Stills & Nash, Copeland might as well be as Jonas brother, which nearly caused me to snort my tea out of my nose.
Though the part where I had to put the book down because I was laughing too hard to hold it upright was when Copeland was discussing the perils of being a Los Angeles PTA parent, i.e. that it’s possible Gene Simmons will leave you phone messages like – I’m paraphrasing here – Hi, this is Gene Simmons, you know, the one with the tongue?
The non-The Police related stories were excellent too; I definitely want to attend La Notta Della Taranta now, and his descriptions of his forays into the world of fine arts and movie making and scoring – especially pre-digital recording movie scoring – were fascinating.
In summary: A++, grab it if you find it and be prepared to stifle laughter if reading it in a public place.
I leave you with some videos; first, here he is at La Notta Della Taranta in 2003:
This is the first part of his Horse Opera. The rest is on YouTube and it is all totally ridiculous:
This is half an hour of actual opera, specifically, The Tell-Tale Heart which is not ridiculous at all. Or at least not any more ridiculous than opera is supposed to be.
Oysterhead performing on Conan:
And finally, Copeland jamming out with Matt Stone, Taylor Hawkins, and Chris Chaney at the Sacred Grove, his home studio: