Guide to British Music of the 1960s

June 2020

Book Review

One Train Later by Andy Summers

Andy Summers is probably best-known as the guitarist in the Police, enjoying global fame with a string of hit singles and albums and sell-out tours. He brought a lot of new sounds to the guitar which helped to define the unique sound of the Police. However, by the time he joined the Police Summers had had a long career in the industry. This makes this book a fascinating read as his career transcends different musical genres and trends.

Andy Summers grew up on the south coast in Bournemouth, starting to learn guitar and then quickly moving on to skiffle. He starts to play in local bands, at one point being replaced by another young local guitarist called Robert Fripp. Their paths would cross later. He was then introduced to Zoot Money and they started playing together. The Big Roll Band gigged in Bournemouth but they became very popular when they moved to play the London circuit. There were line-up changes but Zoot and Andy Summers remained constant. They both moved onto the New Animals later in the decade playing in Eric Burdon's new band and becoming part of the West Coast hippie scene.

The next move was a radical change from the soul and R&B when Summers joined Soft Machine. Although this does not seem to have been a huge success, he did team up with the Soft Machine bass player in the Kevin Ayers Band. During the 1970s, Summers was a jobbing guitarist, always looking for the next gig but his ability to transcend styles gave him various openings. Through these ventures he met up with Gordon Sumner (Sting) and Stewart Copeland. There was clearly some chemistry and eventually the Police was formed with Summers replacing the previous guitar player. While the three members clearly gelled with original songs mostly written by Sting chart success was elusive. Then a re-release of early single Roxanne changed everything. The Police became one of the most popular bands on the planet. As Summers relates, success is double-edged. Massive album and single sales around the globe alongside packed concert venues are one thing but it left little room for personal relationships and his marriage failed as he could give little time to his wife and daughter. They did get back together again later though.

The book is a very enjoyable read, not only an eye-opener to the Police but also also how bands developed in the 1960s. It was not all Beatles and the Stones!

Published: 31 March 2020

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