Extra-Police Activities, Early Rarities And Other Police Oddities! - Part Two
Last month, we looked at the Police's official releases, concentrating on all the many different variations that have cropped up since the release of the band's first single, Fall Out, in May 1977. But besides all the coloured vinyl, alternate picture sleeves and rare 12" releases that we looked at in January, the Police's career has thrown up a number of other very fascinating, and often extremely rare, records, that were ignored when they were first released, but have now gained an additional value from their connections with Sting, Stewart Copeland or Andy Summers.
Sting is very much the focal point of the group, as frontman, chief composer, bassist and lead vocalist; and not surprisingly it's his early career that is now attracting the most interest from collectors. Sting (then still Gordon Sumner) made his first appearance on record with the Newcastle Big Band's first album, issued in 1972 on the small independent Impulse Sound Studios label (cat no. IS/NBB/106). The album was recorded live, half at the University Theatre in Newcastle, and half at the Pau Jazz Festival.
The Big Band were led by keyboard player Andy Hudson, and gained quite a reputation for live performances in the Newcastle area. Sting had originally auditioned for the bassplayer's job in the band, but was turned down because he couldn't read music. Within six weeks, he came back for a second audition, having learnt to sight read perfectly - and this time got the job. He played on all the tracks on the LP: Adam's Apple, Mac Arthur Park, Li'l Darlin' , Hey Jude, Mercy Mercy, Trane Ride, Love For Sale and Better Get It In Your Soul, recorded on a simple two-track tape recorder! Only 2000 copies of the album were ever pressed, and although we haven't heard of any copies being auctioned recently - making it hard to put a definite value on this item - we'd expect a Mint condition album to fetch at least £20, and probably even more! Sting was never really a full-time member of the Newcastle Big Band, although he continued to play with them occasionally as late as 1976.
But three other members of the Big Band, Jerry Richardson, John Hedley, and Ronnie Pearson, combined to form a group with Sting called Last Exit, which also achieved some local success in the North-East in the Mid-Seventies. They released just one single, Whispering Voices/Evensong, which was again recorded through the auspices of the Impulse Sound Recording Studios in Newcastle.
Both songs were written by Jerry Richardson, and the record was issued on the Wudwink Studio label, WUD 01, and featured Sting's characteristic lead vocals and bass playing on two very jazz-orientated numbers. Again, only a couple of thousand copies were pressed, and like the Big Band LP, Whispering Voices has never been reissued - so this is another very highly priced record, which would surely fetch at least £15.
That was the only record featuring Sting which Last Exit recorded. The group have now reformed with three of the original members, but minus (not surprisingly!) their original bassist and singer. His place has now been taken by David Blackwell, and the new group are reported to be looking for a record deal at the moment.
Stewart Copeland's pre-Police recordings were made in rather more illustrious company that Sting's. Having travelled with his family to Beirut from his original birth-place in Virginia, Stewart spent much of his childhood in the Middle East. He then went to school at Millfield in England, and formed his first band soon afterwards, influenced first of all by the straight rock and roll of Chuck Berry, and later the powerful Cream sound.
He went to college in the States, by which time his elder brother Miles had become a rock manager, handling, among other artists, Joan Armatrading. Stewart became Joan's tour manager for her first American visit.
His big break as far as drumming went came when Miles Copeland took over the management of British band Curved Air, who had been very popular at the start of the Seventies, but where going through a period of personnel changes. Group leader and vocalist Sonja Kristina was putting together a new line-up for a British tour, and suggested that Stewart should be the drummer. It meant that he had to give up his university course, but he decided to take the chance, and joined a line-up that included Kristina, violinist Darryl Way, bassist Tony Reeves, and guitarist Mick Jacques.
He recorded two albums with Curved Air, Midnight Wire (BTM BTM 1005, issued in October 1975) and Airborne (BTM BTM 1008, July 1976), and the singles Desiree (BTM SBT 103, August 1976) and Baby Please Don't Go (BTM SBT 106, October 1976), both of which were quickly deleted, and might prove rather hard to find now.
Andy Summers actually began life as Andrew James Somers, and only changed his name in the mid-Seventies. He is easily the oldest member of the band, with a musical pedigree that goes back to Zoot Money's Big Roll Band in 1964.
He stayed with Money for several years, even taking part in the brief experiment when the Big Roll Band became Dantalion's Chariot in 1967, for one psychedelic single. Andy therefore appears on the group's only Decca single (The Uncle Willie), and all nine singles they made for Columbia: Gin House, Good, Please Stay, Something Is Worrying Me, The Many Faces Of Love, Let's Run For Cover, Big Time Operator (actually a small U.K. hit in 1966), The Star Of The Show and Nick Nack - plus that sole Dantalion's Chariot recording, The Madman Running Through The Fields. He also played on the Bigg Roll Band's only EP (Big Time Operator, Columbia SEG 8519), which is now a much sought-after collector's item, plus both their Columbia albums, It Should've Been Me (33SX 1734) and Zoot (SCX 6075), neither of which is at all easy to find.
Together with Zoot Money, Andy Somers spent some time in 1967 working with Eric Burdon as part of the `new Animals'. This was undoubtedly the most confused period of Eric's career, and keeping a track of who actually played on the variuos albums produced at that time is virtually impossible; but it seems most likely that Somers was featured on Every One Of Us (MGM SE 4553) and possibly on the Love Is double set as well.
During this period, Andy also played with Soft Machine for a few months; but he doesn't seem to have recorded with them.
Andy then spent three years taking a classical guitar course in California; and returned to Britain to play on stage with a number of popular artists, including Neil Sedaka. Over the next few years, he worked mainly as a session guitarist, backing Mike Oldfield when he toured with his Tubular Bells show, and playing on records by Joan Armatrading (Back To The Night, A&M AMLH 68305), who of course was being managed by by Miles Copeland, and Kevin Coyne. He became more or less a permanent member of Coyne's band in the mid-Seventies, besides playing on three albums: Matching Head And Feet (Virgin V2033, April 1975), Heartburn (Virgin V 2047, February 1976) and the double set In Living Black And White (Virgin VD 2505, January 1977), together with a number of singles: Lorna (VS 126), Don't Make Waves (VS 136), Walk On By (VS 148), Fever (VS 160) and Marlene (VS 175), all of which have now been deleted. Finally, since joining Police, Andy has also appeared on an album by Kevin Lamb, Sailin' Down The Years on Arista (SPART 1026).
Andy was also the link between the Police and Eberhard Schoener, whose Video Flashback LP (Harvest SHSM 2030) featured contributions from all three members of the band. Sting sang lead on several tracks on the LP, including Codeword Elvis (which you may have seen Schoener playing with the Police on television a year or so ago), Video Magic, Trans-Am, Only The Wind and Speech Behind Speech.
Video Magic was also released on Harvest as a single, in a special picture sleeve - another likely collector's item of the future! RADIO ACTORS Besides Eberhard Schoener's releases, Sting also sang lead on a record credited to the Radio Actors, issued as a protest against the nuclear power industry. Nuclear Waste/Digital Love (Charly CYS 1058) featured two songs written by Harry Williamson, with Sting singing and playing bass on the A-side, and Stewart on drums. The flipside was an instrumental. Original picture sleeve copies now seem to be selling for about £3 in Mint condition.
One of the most highly-publicised Police spin-offs has been Stewart Copeland's solo career, under the guise of Klark Kent. Copeland has never actually admitted taht he is Kent, but he hasn't denied it recently, either.
Lately the Kent pseudonym seems to have taken second place to Stewart's work with Police, as there have been no new Klark Kent releases for over a year. Kent's first record was issued on the small Kryptone label, and was a three track maxi-single with Thrills as the plug track. Since then, Kent's singles have appeared on A&M, almost all in green vinyl with picture sleeves. Don't Care was the first A&M release, on AMS 7376, followed by Too Kool To Kalypso (AMS 7390), Away From Home (AMS 7532) and Rich In A Ditch (AMS 7554). In addition, there was also a a Klark Kent 10" LP issued in 1980 (A&M AMLE 68511), which included aight tracks and was pressed (of course!) in green vinyl. Promo copies were sent out in a K-shaped cover, and are now yet another addition to the almost endless list of Police collectables! The green vinyl copies of the Klark Kent singles are also attracting some attention from collectors, and are selling at about £2.50 each - although the original Kryptone maxi-single is now much rarer. However at the moment you shouldn't have to pay much more than about £4 to get hold of Klark/Stewart's 10" album.
Besides their regular single and album releases, the Police have also appeared on a number of `various artists' compilations. Many of these fall into the cheap TV-promoted category and are unlikely to have any real value in the future; but some of the others are now getting harder to find, and may well end up as collector's items. A&M collected together tracks by several of their `New Vawe' artists on an album called No Wave in February 1979 (AMLE 68505). Another similar venture, called Propaganda (issued with a cover which showed a picture of Mao playing electric guitar!) was released in September 1979 (AMLE 64786).
Both albums contained tracks by the Police. The band's Walking On The Moon was also reported to be due to inclusion on the soundtrack album to Eddie Kidd's film Riding High, but we've been unable to confirm wether it actually appeared on the LP. Finally, two otherwise unobtainable live Police recordings were included on the soundtrack double album to the film Urgh! A Music War, in which the Police themselves appeared.
Despite the fact that Sting seems to have some problems coming up with an album's worth of new songs for the last couple of years, he has still been generous in giving songs away to other people. An artist called Lee Stirling used Sting's Soul Music as the flipside to his Earthquake Landslide Hurrican (Charisma CB 358, March 1980).
Grace Jones recorded the first released version of Sting's excellent Demolition Man as a single last year, and then included it on her very successful Nightclubbing album in the summer of 1981. Many people actually felt that her version topped the Police's own recording on Ghost In The Machine - but despite some reports to the contrary, the song wasn't specifically written with her in mind, unlike (for example) her versions of a couple of Pretender's songs. Finally, the debut album recently released by the dance troupe Hot Gossip included another new Sting composition, Burn For You. It will be interesting to see whether this song turns up on 1982's Police studio album! There is one more Police-related recording that hasn't yet appeared on vinyl. Sting recorded a version of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released for the soundtrack of the American film Parole, so no doubt we can expect to see that appear on an album or single in the future.
A small book was issued under Sting's name last year. I say `issued under his name' rather that written because Message In A Bottle is actually the song lyric, with one line printed on each page, and a page drawing used to illustrate each line. Before it was published, advance publicity described it as a specially-written children's story, but that seems to be rather overstating the case, as there is NO new material by Sting contained in the book! The paperback was bottle-shaped and retailed at £3.95 - whether it becomes a collector's item remains to be seen.
Two records that we didn't mention last month that are available only through the Police's merchandising company are the Gold Discs of Don't Stand So Close To Me and Invisible Sun. Obviously, they aren't the actual awards presented to the group, but facsimiles; but the singles are plated in gold, and come mounted on a plaque. The band's merchandising outlet are selling these for £20 plus postage, so it seems likely that when supplies run out, the valued of these items will rise - although whether collectors may feel that the gold discs are perhaps a little too `manufactured' to count as real rarities is a moot point.
Besides all the normal overseas Police issues, there are just as many variations of picture sleeves, coloured vinyls and especially promos in other countries as there are in Britain. It would take up the rest of the magazine if we were to list all these different releases country by country, but it's worth mentioning some of the rarest items here.
When the latest Police `badge' disc was being planned in the States, a different design was originally proposed. Twenty five copies were made as test pressings, before A&M rejected the design and decided to go ahead with the Don't Stand So Close To Me/De Do Do Do picture disc that was eventually issued. Some of these original test pressings seem to have come on to the market, with an asking price of around £80 - definitely the most expensive Police rarity we've come across yet! American 12" promos of Police material abound, with a dazzling collection of different track couplings; and most of them sell for between £8 and £12. Besides the obvious single releases, there are also promos available of tracks from albums, which are generally a little rarer than those for the 45s. There are also test pressings of all their U.S. albums on the market, which include a promotional folder, group biography and history, photos, time sheets and (of course!) the record. £20 is the going rate for each of these at the moment. More confusingly, there is a promotional U.S. A&M sampler LP which mixes tracks by Joe Jackson and the Police - the two `New Wave' acts who brought most success to the label in the States at the end of the Seventies. The price for this is about £12 - and rising! The complete panoply of Police picture sleeves and coloured vinyls is staggering. With each new release, more and more `limited edition' rarities are created, all round the world - but especially in America and Japan, two of the biggest rock markets in the world. It's already quite possible to spend a year's record allowance just tracking down different variations of Police releases; and as the band now seem established as one of the world's most successful rock groups, no doubt the Police story for collectors is only just beginning!