The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles held a special screening of the new documentary from legendary guitarist and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Andy Summers. As a member of the groundbreaking The Police, a band that set chart records then called it quits at the top, he was part of a trio famously dysfunctional off stage but uniquely harmonious when playing together. Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police is based on his memoir, One Train Later, and documents a seemingly doomed chronology of failed bands and relationships. Lucky for those in attendance, Summers was on hand for a post movie discussion to add more to the story.
The elder of The Police by about a decade, Summers was born during World War II in Lancashire, England to a military man and a mother who packed bombs in service of the Queen. By age 6 he was playing piano followed by guitar. At sixteen he was playing in Jazz bands at local clubs. In 1965 at eighteen he made the decision to be a professional guitarist and moved to London in the thick of the growing Rock movement. With his friend and band mate Zoot he landed a residency at the legendary Flamingo which placed him in a social circle that included The Animals, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and a new U.S. transplant named Jimi Hendrix (whom Summers would later share a manager with while in his band Soft Machine). Despite the timing and good fortune at the Flamingo, this is where everything starts to go downhill beginning with the split of the Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and later the break up of Soft Machine. This sets the foundation for much of what Can’t Stand Losing You is about.
From this point the movie follows his 1st attempt at starting over in LA to his 2nd attempt back in London. As the theme progresses you see him suffer more band break ups but they seem to be offset by meeting his wife and the birth of his daughter. It’s around this time that serendipity (and a high level of respect for his abilities) brought him into contact with both a vocalist/bassist named Sting and a brash American drummer named Stewart Copeland on numerous occasions. Upon a second encounter, the two reveal they have a new Punk band called The Police and would like him to join. According to the two, in the UK during this time you either go Punk or you go nowhere. This proves to be nothing more really than a marketing ploy for as Summers states, “we were sort of over qualified for the job.” Being 3 classicly trained virtuosos in a 3-chord world with reasonably good manners would ultimately prove beneficial. Upon their first U.S. tour, American radio and publications were too afraid of the anarchist sound of UK Punk but found The Police, in all poser glory, to be a safe and friendly alternative. I could only assume in today’s social media driven environment, they would have been shamed for claiming “Punk” by the diehard community before having a chance to see the success of their first hit “Roxanne”. Lucky for them this was a different era.
So the legend goes: 5 albums in 5 years, all top 10 U.S. and #1 in the U.K. (Synchronicity was #1 in the U.S. for 8 consecutive weeks), multiple Grammy awards, over 70 million records sold world wide plus even more stats make them the biggest band in the world by 1983, only to disband (thanks to Sting) at the height of their popularity. Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police, may come off as a history of the band but is really an honest tale of Summers two greatest relationships: his wife and his band mates. The tragedy ends up being that he trades in his successful familial marriage for a doomed marriage to the band, leaving him with nothing. Just another loss in a never-ending series of losses. A lesser man would curl up and disappear but the film is actually a tale of survival, redemption and making amends with the past. Can’t Stand also serves as a spotlight on a passion he discovered happenstance during his years on tour, photography. Shooting on tour helped him find autonomy within the group by doing something solely his own, documenting shows, roadside scenery and backstage debauchery. What remains is an archive of images he now exhibits world wide and in several published books. Survival is often spurred on by your passions, in his case he has two, music and imagery. Sting may be the ultimate winner professionally but the 3rd wheel in the Sting/Stewart circus show, the elder statesmen may be the one most at peace. For a fan there is much in the film to inform and entertain but what is most profound about it is the sense that nothing is totally lost and time can fix many things. Well, with the one exception being Sting’s ego.
Directed by Andy Grieve and based on the book One Train Later, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.
The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is open daily
Mon-Fri 11:30am – 7:30pm
Sat-Sun 10:00am – 7:30pm
800 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015