Saturday, February 24, 2007

"You'll see me come running to the sound of your strumming..."

"Clearly things are starting to move in a weirder direction and it's becoming a fight to keep up the camaraderie. But despite these internal frictions, the truth that Stewart and I have to acknowledge privately is that without Sting's songwriting talent, it wouldn't happen - and this gives him power over the two of us. On the other hand, where would he be without the two of us? It always comes back to the indivisible sum, and in the all-pervasive group life, lines like this become an interior monologue. But in this moment and put crudely, it becomes either Sting's way or no way; almost all ideas are carried out on a confrontational basis, and the idea of a group democracy fades." (Andy Summers, One Train Later: A Memoir)

Ah, that indivisible sum. There has to be an indivisible sum, that gives its heat to everyone... (Arf.) Two cherished box sets sit on top of my Ikea-built/battered-together CD shelves: The Police's four-disc Message In A Box, and The Jam's five-disc Direction, Reaction, Creation. Except the four-disc Police collection has been three CDs for a while, after I was generous/foolish enough to lend to a friend and the fourth disc - including the sumptuous Synchronicity album and the brave, synth-soaked '86 restyling of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" - never made it back.

I have, of course, since iTunes-ed it - and would hardly have hoped to eBay off the package anyway. Then again, the fifth Jam CD seems rather superfluous, mostly slapdash-ish versions of "Stand By Me", "Every Little Bit Hurts" and "Rain" inferior to the covers and out-takes on the superiorly intriguing Extras album, for some reason not included here...

Ah, but now we have the prospect of not only fresh live performances from The Police, but also The Jam... Well, part of The Jam, anyway. Two-thirds. That's a majority verdict, that's worthwhile, right?
Er, maybe wrong. Okay, Rick Buckler on drums and Bruce Foxton on wandering melodic bass were quite the sturdy rhythm section, nowhere near as virtuoso as guitar maestro Andy Summers and drummer-cum-reality-show-judge Stewart Copeland for The Police.
(Stop me before I become too Homeresque, rhapsodising over Grand Funk Railroad, "the wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner. The bone-rattling bass of Mel Schacher. The competent drum work of Don Brewer...”)

But, come on, fellas - no Weller, no Jam. As Foxton's pre-"Turning Japanese" songwriting efforts demonstrate, his lyrics ("News Of The World", "Smithers-Jones") typically being even clunkier than the teenage Modfather's earliest, callowest efforts - though Weller does win overall, for "If we tell you that you got two days to leave - well, don't complain 'cos it's one more than you get in Zaire!"
If The Police can patch up their differences and clamber back on stage together, then surely The Jam can too? After all, Weller may have been a bristly type throughout, but intra-band punch-ups don't seem to have gone on record quite as they have done for The Police.
Then again, The Police - including 65-year-old Summers, ten years the other two's senior - may have made it to the Grammies intact, but a two-year tour? Believe it when the last clanging chord and agonised reggae-ish yelp have echoed away into nothingness. I'd love to see them try, nevertheless - count me well and truly in, as soon as tickets go on sale.

I know Sting's meant to be rather a figure of ridicule these days - the more so, the more often he allows "Every Breath You Take" to be bastardised, or trills the line about the umbrella from "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" over the fade-out to unrelated, inferior tunes...

But a Royal Albert Hall gig he did in 1993, one of the first I attended with friends only, no family, was one of my best and most memorable (less so, only than Blur-Pulp-Supergrass-and-er-Corduroy at Ally Pally the following year, and various, separate Sir Macca or Manics happenings over the years) - despite the odd, Muppetational setting.
His band that evening sounded both impeccably-tight and expressive, despite his on-record distaste for guitar solos, and I can only imagine how charged, punchy and sweeping the original top-notch, attuned trio could be, if the moods and the moment are right.
(And Sting doesn't produce his lute.)

Of course, it can't be quite right, quite as they were - even if the full three become one. Those raw, raspy 1977 demos and live hollers of "Fall Out", "Dead End Job", "Roxanne" and on and on, can't be replicated by three thirty-years-older, many-millions-richer middle-aged-and-then-some men.

I attended a gig at the Hope And Anchor in Islington last week, somewhere I'd only previously been to drink rather than see bands, despite having read a little something of its proud punk-and-new-wave history. It's mentioned in the Summers book, in fact. But I was surprised just how small and poky the basement venue was, elbow-room-only even for such unknowns as my friend's band Straightjacket, the Jyrojets, the Genome Project and the laughable photocopy punks The Vapours (an immaculately-slicked Eddie Cochran ducks-arse hairdo, a mad-eyed glare, and a few hacked tracks of petulantly foul-mouthed racket - hm...)

Wow, to see a properly exciting band like The Jam or The Police, in their prime, right here... (cf. my previous vague'n'envious musings about the 100 Club). Well, unless some random intervention of Fate is willing to go all Life On Mars on me, such an experience will have to remain a, ahem, "hole... in my life" (thank you, Mr Sumner).

All the more reason to catch what might now come around. Police-wise, anyway. A Jam by any other main man just wouldn't be anywhere near enough the same.
So, think on, think again please, Paul. The Jam doesn't just have to be for "when you're young".
"The world is your oyster, but your future's a clam."
Uh-Huh (Oh Yeah). Well, help out.

Oh, and if Morrissey and Marr could patch things up with each other, and with Joyce and Rourke, that would be handy too.
A triple-bill tour to excite indeed.
Now wouldn't we have a nice time?


Toxic said...

Andy Summers is one of the most underated guitarist of all time, Sting stil a twat but great band.

Not waiting out for the Van Halen reunion tour then ;¬)

Aidan said...

Well, I, er...

Sorry, did you say the Crowded House reunion? Why yes, yes, that does sound tempting... :)