by Stuart Copeland; It Books, 2010; 336 pages; $19.99
Police drummer and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Copeland’s memoir in stories, Strange Things Happen, is a fascinating and often hilarious look into the life and career of a founding member of one of the most successful trios in rock ‘n’ roll history.
From his early years as the son of a CIA agent stationed in the Middle East, Copeland’s affinity for music — drums in particular — was apparent. Upon returning to the US in his teens, Copeland attended the San Diego School of Performing Arts, where he honed the skills that would serve him so brilliantly in later endeavors. After college, he moved to London and immersed himself in the burgeoning mid-’70s music scene, joining the up-and-coming prog-rock band Curved Air. Although the band achieved only minimal success, Copeland’s abilities as a drummer were lauded by fans and critics alike. It’s at this point he took on the alter ego of the masked Klark Kent, and released several singles in which he played all the instruments. The Klark Kent single, “Don’t Care,” became a modest UK hit, but bigger and better things were awaiting Copeland.
His eventual rise to international super-stardom began in 1976 when he met singer/bassist Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, and formed The Police along with guitarist Andy Summers. With their reggae-inspired songwriting style and superior musicianship, they soon took the U.K. punk scene by storm.
Following the release of their first album, Outlandos d’Amour, in 1978 (featuring the hits “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing”), the band had achieved bona fide rock star status. Subsequent albums spawned hit after hit for the group, and they toured constantly, playing large halls and stadiums worldwide.
But after eight years of touring and recording, the trio decided to call it quits amid growing animosity and a desire to pursue solo careers and separate interests.
After the breakup of The Police in 1984, Copeland was tapped by acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola to score the coming-of-age-film Rumble Fish, thus beginning his long career scoring film and television. He also caught the acting bug, starring in the pseudo-documentary The Rythmatist, in which he travels throughout Africa in search of exotic and interesting beats. After relocating to the English countryside, Copeland soon became interested in the elite sport of polo, forming a semi-professional team and competing all across Europe.
With an already impressive musical resume, opera seemed the next mountain to climb. In 1989, he was commissioned to score the Crusades-themed opera “Holy Blood and Crescent Moon” for the Cleveland Opera Orchestra.
Now married for the second time and raising a family, it would seem the world of rock ‘n’ roll was behind him. But in 2007, The Police set aside their differences and embarked on a world tour. Although the tour was a huge success, the trio claimed it would be their last.
It’s Copeland’s candid remarks about his love/hate relationship with Sting that accounts for some of the funniest moments in the book, and his anecdotes from the road about the touring life of a rock star are proof that indeed, Strange Things Happen.
Buck McPherson is the frontman for the rock band McPherson Struts.