Friday, November 03, 2006

One Train Later, by Andy Summers

(hb; 2006: memoir)

" guitarist Andy Summers provides a revealing and passionate account of a life dedicated to music. From his first guitar at age thirteen and his early days on the English music scene to the ascendancy of his band, the Police, Summers recounts his relationships and encounters with the Big Roll Band, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Animals, John Belushi, and others, all the while proving himself a master of telling detail and dramatic anecdote.

"But, of course, the early work is only part of the story, and Summer's account of his role as the guitarist for the Police -- a gig that was only confirmed by a chance encounter with drummer Stewart Copeland on a London train -- has been long-awaited by music fans worldwide. The heights of fame that the Police achieved have rarely been duplicated, and the band's triumphs were rivaled only by the personal chaos that such success brought about, an insight never lost on Summers in the telling."


Engaging and possessing a quirky, journal-veracious immediacy, this is a fast read. Summers cuts to the chase, with nary a boring passage in this often-funny, always classy read. Even when summers talks about his hippie-era, chemical- and music-fueled past (he gigged with some of the most famous of the Sixties rockers prior to the Police), he never loses his amiable air of respectability. (Anybody can write about drugs and squalor; an accomplished writer can take it to the next level, make it about something more.)

Any readers looking for dirt on Sting or Stewart Copeland (his Police bandmates) or anybody else will be disappointed. Summers is direct but polite in a mildly earthy way -- as he comments a few times, it must be his British upbringing -- and he's more prone to admit to his own failings (with humorous self-deprecation) than he is to point out others'.

As precise as the Police's music (which distilled reggae, jazz and post-punk into a distinctive pop package), Summers has written a wonderful memoir that charms the reader -- this reader, anyway -- and shows that Summers, whether he's making music, taking photographs or writing, is a force to admire.

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