Monday, July 20, 2015

Grammy Museum screens new Police documentary 'Can’t Stand Losing You' with Andy Summers

My article originally appeared at 

On July 15 in Los Angeles, the Grammy Museum hosted a special showing of Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police.

The documentary – which had a limited theatrical run last spring and just came out on DVD and Blu-ray – is based on Andy Summers’ acclaimed 2006 memoir, One Train Later. The Police guitarist participated in a post-screening discussion about the project and his career with Grammy Foundation Vice President Scott Goldman.

An insightful 83-minute film, it is narrated by Summers. He frequently took photos while touring with The Police (later exhibiting them worldwide) and many are featured within, alongside seldom seen archival clips and interviews. All play a major role in the visual story. Back-and-forth juxtapositions between the past and footage from the hugely successful rock group’s record-breaking 2007-08 reunion tour (primarily LA’s Dodger Stadium) is unusual, but works ok.

A latter day glimpse of Summers relaxing at home, doing yoga, runs on a guitar and swimming in his pool sets the opening tone for his life story, often told with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Casual fans might be surprised to discover how Summers cut his musical teeth in the UK’s psychedelic 1960s music scene, played with Eric Burdon & The Animals, then spent five years struggling as an artist in LA before returning to London right at the height of punk rock.

photo by Watal Asanuma
Summers describes the unlikely meeting with Sting and Stewart Copeland and their rise to fame with fascinating details that even the most diehard enthusiasts might not know.

Several scenes contrast early disagreements with similar ones decades later (namely Sting dictating song keys and changes and pointing out mistakes).

But there are also clips portraying good natured fun between the young musicians too. Among the more poignant segments in the film are when Summers describes how being in The Police took a major toll on his marriage and the relationship with his daughter. Flashing forward, an appearance by the reunited trio on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle cable TV program finds Sting answering a question about whether it was indeed the final tour. Summers and Copeland stoically watch his answer offstage.

All told, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police is not your average music documentary and highly recommended.

During the Q&A segment at the Grammy Museum, Summers recalled when The Police dissolved, yet never officially broke up. “Management told us, ‘don’t say anything.’ The band mythology was strong. But after a year or so, I sort of leaked it because I felt we were living a lie.”

Although the influential guitarist said much of his time spent playing and hanging around with Soft Machine, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix in the tight British psychedelic scene was “a blur,” he did remember jamming with Hendrix in an LA recording studio.

“He was shy, but a tangible force. He was always with a guitar and came up with a new language…I saw so many Hendrix clones, but I stayed away from that blues mindedness. I heard music differently from people like Thelonious Monk. Later, that ultimately surfaced in The Police.” 

photo from Andy Summers archive
When asked how his musical aspirations around The Police’s formation were different than punk rockers like the Sex Pistols, Summers said “we weren’t punk at all; We were all overqualified for the gig. At that time, if you weren’t punk, you were out of business. It brought the record companies to their knees.”

Other interesting tidbits Summers revealed at the museum…

* The Police sound: “It’s miraculous we got together. The sound reflected the chemistry of us three…it was a new harmonic vocabulary. Sting and I were both well versed in many types of music and we discovered a mutual voice.”

* Playing New York City’s infamous CBGB punk club during an early U.S. tour: “It was considered the mecca of punk and we were thrilled to be there.”

* How that tour was undertaken without label support in America: “We were outsiders. A&M Records initially didn’t want us to come. Then WBCN-FM in Boston started playing our music and we packed a club there” and execs thought maybe we weren’t so bad.

* Breaking radio in America: “When we came here, radio was locked into formulas. ‘Roxanne’ is what got us in. We would go to stations and explain to them what [English] punk was all about” in a relatable way.

photo by Norman Golightly
* The reunion tour was The Police at its best: “During our early gigs, we’d jam for hours. Since we’d amassed 15-20 hits [at the height of fame], we couldn’t go on a jazz odyssey [in 2007-08]. I didn’t see the reunion tour as an exercise in nostalgia. We played better than ever...The bigger the tour; the more orchestrated it becomes. It was absolute precision on that tour.”

Other questions from Goldman and the audience revealed that the guitarist really enjoyed The Police’s trio format because “I like soloing over bass and drums and creating a harmonic pallet.”

He admitted to feeling adrift and lost in the first few years after The Police fizzled out and said some of the band’s most memorable moments included hitting No. 1 for the first time in America and playing Buenos Aires on the reunion tour.

Summers also touched upon his new instrumental jazz fusion album Metal Dog, where he played all the music (“freaky, beautiful textures using a bunch of quirky guitar pedals”) and how he hopes to do a one-man show tour incorporating his photography.

The album release was done at Summers' studio in Venice, CA. It features his unique guitar sound layered with multiple instruments including bass, drums, keyboard, a variety of electronics and a Paloma (Indian stringed instrument that depresses notes along the neck with accordion like buttons).

“My original inspiration for this was music for contemporary dance,” he said in a press release before the Grammy Museum event. “Which still holds, but as I got further into the music it became a thing unto itself til it presented as a collection for a release, but definitely it scores by experimental music.” 

To purchase Can’t Stand Losing You: or 

For more information and other projects: 

Film trailer: 

Film website:

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