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Andy SummersFame & Fortune: Andy Summers

'Police' guitarist profits with 'Every Breath You Take'

It took a Zen-like patience, expanded consciousness and a world of musical influences for guitarist Andy Summers to create such unforgettable Police classics as "Every Breath You Take," "Roxanne" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."

When Summers left Lancashire for London armed with a beat-up Spanish guitar, his dream was to create the kind of boundary-defying music he loved on AFN radio by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck.

But jazz was waning with the ascendancy of rock. Undaunted, Summers quickly gained prominence as the hot guitarist for a series of successful British bands, hanging out with the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix.

While Clapton and Hendrix rode the blues-based style of rock to superstardom, Summers resisted the temptation to follow. Instead, he continued to challenge himself with a dizzying variety of world music, from raga to classical to bossa nova, awaiting the right musical setting, even when it meant resorting to teaching guitar to make ends meet.

He did not have long to wait. During one famous encounter on the tube, he met American drummer Stewart Copeland and decided to form a rock trio with a former-schoolteacher-turned-jazz-bassist who called himself "Sting."

The Police rose to prominence with "Roxanne" in 1979, during the second British invasion known as punk. Their bleach-blond good looks, complicated rhythms and intriguing, intelligible lyrics made them instant mainstays on the new music channel known as MTV.

The band's combative creative process finally got the better of them and they disbanded in 1986, having sold 75 million records and earned five Grammy awards.

Now a happily married family man based in Los Angeles, Summers is still busy as ever, fronting a trio, recording solo albums, soundtracks and collaborations, and attending gallery exhibitions of his photography.

Bankrate spoke with Summers shortly after publication of "One Train Later," his memoir of life on the road as a latter-day guitar god.

Bankrate: As a hot young guitar player, you only just missed being part of the first British invasion, right?

Andy Summers: Well, sort of. I was slightly post. I don't know that I could cop to that exactly. I started out in the late '60s with all of those guys who are famous now, including myself I might add, certainly Jeff Beck and Clapton and of course Jimi Hendrix came to town then.

Bankrate: Did you feel like they all went to America and you were left behind?

Summers: Yeah, clearly I started out with all those guys and somehow I didn't have the right setting, which came later for me. It's just the way it worked out for me. It was somewhat more circuitous, you know? Although I was in a band in London (The Big Roll Band) that was very successful; the first band I was in hit really hard but we didn't get that whole thing like maybe the Yardbirds or somebody at that point. It sort of came later for me.

 
 
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