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Klark Kent, the punk band that Stewart Copeland of the Police had nothing whatsoever to do with
05.09.2017
12:25 pm
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From 1978 to 1986 the Police were an undeniable musical force, with five classic albums and ten U.K. singles cracking the Top 10. It’s a curious fact, however, that the Police were beaten to the charts by one of their own. In 1978 an act going by the name of Klark KentStewart Copeland would always vigorously deny having anything to do with it—released a single called “Don’t Care,” which managed to hit the U.K. charts in advance of any song by the Police. In the summer of 1980, Klark Kent released a peppy mini-album of frenetic punk-pop.

Klark Kent took its moniker seriously. The name was obviously a riff on Superman’s alter ego, and in that spirit all of the original Klark Kent releases were on Kryptonite Records, and as many releases as possible were done up on green vinyl in honor of the one substance in the universe that can bring Superman to his knees. Klark Kent used green as much as possible in its album artwork and had a knack with serifs. 
 

 
In his essential book Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter’s Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982, George Gimarc describes the promo party for the release of the album on June 25, 1980:
 

Someone supposed to be Klark Kent showed up in a Darth Vader mask being towed around the room by Stewart Copeland of the Police. It’s a ruse that is transparent and well-blown, but Stewart is adamant that, “It’s not me, honest. Why do people keep saying that?”

 
Indeed, it was Copeland on all of the instruments—even the most cursory listen will reveal that the band sounds a whole lot like the Police circa Outlandos d’Amour.

The U.S. release of the 10-inch came in a 12-inch sleeve bearing a sticker that stated the following: “You have just purchased an I.R.S. product. Keep in mind, however, that this is no ordinary record. It has been specially sealed under clinical laboratory conditions guarded by 12 armed security officers. Upon contact with light, this 8-song album will shrink to 10 inches and turn green. Exercise extreme caution.” (Cleverly, the labels had a reduced diameter to give the visual impression of a shrunken 12-inch.)

The liner notes explaining the origin story of “Klark” find Copeland channeling Thomas Pynchon. The purported author is, ahem, “Sir Robinson Jeffries-Elder, Q.C., M.P., ex-diplomat, lecturer, bon vivant, and principal stockholder in the Klerk Kant Foundation, Limited”:
 

“Klerk Kant”, as appears to be his name, first came into my life as he was sitting next to me on the Concorde flight from Washington, D.C., to London. Speaking in what he claimed to be his native Sanskrit, he explained that he had been in Washington testifying before a congressional committee on church politics. His expertise in this subject had been attained while studying in a Moslem seminary in India. He underlined his religiosity (he claimed to be a “Sufi”, a kind of Islamic mystic that is rarely seen on the Indian sun-continent) by saying his noonday prayers in the aisle of the jet air-plane, jostling the stewardesses as they were trying to serve lunch, and annoying the passengers with his shouts of “Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca? Which way is Mecca?” while shifting his body to accommodate to the turns in the direction of the aircraft.

Later, he confessed, in sub-standard broken English, that he was “a mere computer programmer”, currently out of work but living on the sum of one million four hundred thousand dollars which he had won from I.B.M. in a successful suit against the company for stealing his “invention”. He was most secretive about the invention (“Do you want me to sue you? he asked coyly when I questioned him about it), but he adumbrated the notion that it had to do with capturing radio signals from distant galaxies, systematizing them through computer analysis, and reducing them to simple melodies which he played on the various instruments on which he is proficient.

I saw a great deal of Kent over the following weeks, sometimes in his elegant suite at the Dorchester and sometimes at my more modest digs, a bed-sit on Grosvenor Square. Sometimes he was morose to the point hostility, barely replying to my concerned questions with monosyllabic grunts. At other times, he was almost euphoric, waxing eloquent on his wide-ranging political philosophies. He would often descend to the vernacular, but his normal mode of speech was iambic pentameter in a-a-b-a rhyming pattern in which he produced perfectly worded, poetically beautiful expressions of deep moral intensity. (“I am a child ancient Syria / Suffering the pains of all this area” is an example.)

It is this peculiar combination of the profane and sacred which gives his music its unique appeal to young and old, simple and sophisticated, bovine and leontine, illiterate and intelligent, A/C, D/C, and A/C/D/C I, for one, like the underlying jazz sub-motif. My sons, being of primitive mold, see nothing in him but what they call “white collar punk”. In any case, to one and all, Klerk Kant’s music is the work of “true genius come home from a visit to the cosmos”, as the New York Times critic says. The eight songs of the disc run the gamut of KK’s extraordinary talents.

 
More on this mystery after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.09.2017
12:25 pm
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The German electronic music made by all three guys from the Police but totally wasn’t the Police
03.08.2017
01:01 pm
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Sting with Eberhard Schoener, 1986
 
The Police were always very proud of their musicianship—all three members were top-notch musicians. For years the band’s line on the subject was that they found themselves in a punk scene in the late 1970s where lack of musicianship was held up as a virtue in and of itself, which made it a bit confusing for the guys in the Police because they could actually play. Obviously this wasn’t too much of a problem for them—in very short order they became the biggest musical act in Britain, a position they would occupy for a few years before breaking up in 1986.

Shortly after the Police formed, a project came their way that provided an ideal venue for their chops, if perhaps an unexpected one. The Police are associated with punk and reggae, not German experimental music—in any case, in the first year or so of the band’s existence, Sting and Summers recorded about a full album’s worth of music with Eberhard Schoener, who was a respected German experimental composer who had released a number of albums; his music was more or less comparable to Tangerine Dream. At some point in 1978 and 1979, after the Police had garnered some success, the members of the Police supported Schoener on some live dates and sessions that were broadcast on German TV.

It’s surprisingly difficult to nail down details about how this came about, but it seems that Andy Summers had made some arrangements to work with Schoener before joining the Police, and somehow his new situation led to Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Summers all recording with Schoener in that early Reggatta de Blanc phase. Some material was released in 1977-1978, and some was re-released in 1981, in part to capitalize on the Police’s remarkable chart successes.
 

 
It seems clear that Copeland was the least involved of the three. On Schoener’s 1978 album Video Magic, Sting and Summers are credited but Evert Fraterman is credited on the drums. On the 1981 compilation pictured above, it appears that Copeland may have played on 5 out of the 7 tracks, at least according to Discogs. If I had to guess I would speculate that Copeland only toured with Schoener and the other two Police guys and did TV dates, in other words never did proper studio work with them.

Here’s a summary from the indefatigable George Gimarc’s Punk Diary:   
 

The Police kept a promise they made back in October of ‘77 to Eberhard Schoener. Before they had made it, and were living from gig to gig, they agreed to play the role of backing band for German electronic musician Eberhard Schoener. The sessions went well and Eberhard invited them back for a second the next year. They needed the money and did the job. The results of these sessions came out in Germany as Eberhard Schoener albums and disappeared into the musical swamp of cut-outs and returns. Now those sessions have risen up to haunt the Police on their home turf. The Schoener album “Video Flashback” will give you an idea of what the police would sound like without their songwriting and an additional member. ... The Police are augmented by an avant-garde orchestra and Sting handles all the vocals. Odd to say the least.

 
I like the music Schoener and the Police dudes put out together, but I am hard pressed to say anything about it aside from the obvious, which is that it sounds like high-quality German experimental music from the 1970s. Schoener had a knack for coming up with funny and somewhat stiff titles for his compositions—examples from these Police-ish sessions include “Video Magic,” “Flashback,” “Code Word Elvis,” and “Trans Am,” all of which endears this material to me even more powerfully.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but in his book 1000 UK Number One Hits, Jon Kutner explains that Sting wrote “Walking on the Moon” after enduring a late-night Schnapps crawl with Schoener:
 

In January 1979 Sting was visiting German avant-garde composer Eberhard Schoener. One night they went out on a Schnapps drinking session. The next morning, Sting awoke and tried to clear his head. He began pacing up and down the room, humming and muttering to himself, “Walking round the room… I hope my legs don’t break… walking round the room.”

 
In 1979, the four men performed on Bavarian TV—here is “Trans Am/Rhein-Bow Medley”; both songs are off of Flashback:

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.08.2017
01:01 pm
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Super-early video of The Police performing at legendary Boston rock club the ‘Rat’ in 1978
09.19.2016
11:24 am
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The Police circa 1978.
 
A huge tip of my hat goes out to the excellent Boston-based music and culture blog Vanyaland and their equally excellent editor-in chief Michael Marotta for posting this previously unseen footage of The Police performing at legendary Boston club “The Rat” (or the Rathskeller if you prefer) back in 1978. The footage was captured during the band’s four-night stand at the Rat in October just before Halloween.
 

The legendary ‘Rathskeller.’
 
During the club’s heyday it played host to pretty much every band you’ve ever loved like Mission of Burma, Thin Lizzy, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads and the subjects of this post, The Police are just a few off the top of my head. Local rock and roll radio station WBCN (where yours truly got her start as an engineer and producer during the late 80s) was championing the single “Roxanne” from the band’s 1978 debut Outlandos d’Amour which was also rotating heavily on college radio airwaves. According to Jan Cocker who shot the footage, nobody—not the band themselves—has ever seen it. Until now.

Watch the video after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.19.2016
11:24 am
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‘Fuck NWA’ T-shirt
02.05.2015
12:10 pm
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This shirt has been making the rounds on Internet for a while now and I wish I would have blogged about sooner, but better late than never, right? Anyway, here it is in all its dog-whistle glory: the supremely droll “Fuck N.W.A.” t-shirt. If you don’t get it right away, that’s okay.

The shirt is available here for $20.00 + shipping.


 

Posted by Tara McGinley
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02.05.2015
12:10 pm
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BASS IN YOUR FACE: Isolated bass parts of Sonic Youth, Rolling Stones, The Police, Rick James & more


 
Poor bass players. In the hierarchy of rockbandland, even the mercenary backup singers get more love. Like a drummer, a crummy one can wreck your band, but unlike a drummer, even a superb bass player can fade into the background, seeming for all the world like a mere utility placeholder while the singer, guitarist and drummer all get laid. Before the ‘80s, the bass player was perceived as the would-be guitarist who couldn’t make the cut and got offered a reduction in strings as a consolation prize. Since the ‘80s, bass has been the “easy” instrument a singer hands off to his girlfriend to get her in the band.

It’s all a crock of utter shit. A good bass player is your band’s spine, and is a gift to be cherished.

An excellent online resource for bassists, notreble.com, has links to an abundance of isolated bass tracks, from celebrated solos to deep cuts to which few casual fans give much thought. There are, of course, song-length showoffs like “YYZ” and “Roundabout,” but there are unassuming gems to be found too. Check out how awesome Tony Butler’s part is in Big Country’s kinda-eponymous debut single. It wanders off into admirable weirdness, but when the time comes to do the job of propelling the song forward, this shit is rocket fuel.
 

 

 
Though Sting has been engaged in a long-running battle with Bono to see who can be the most tedious ass to have released nothing of worth in over 25 years, listening to his playing in the Police serves as an instant reminder of why we even know who he is. The grooves in “Message In A Bottle” are famously inventive and satisfying, but even his work on more straightforward stuff like “Next To You” slays. You can practically hear the dirt on his strings in these.
 

 

 

 
Funny, as much of a trope as “chick bass player” has become, loads of time spent searching yielded almost no isolated tracks from female bassists. Which is ridiculous. The only one I found was Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, heard here on “Teenage Riot.” It takes a bit to work up to speed. Taken on its own, it’s a minimal, meditative, and quite lovely drone piece.
 

 

 
Here’s a gem—a live recording of Billy Cox, from Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, eating “All Along The Watchtower” for breakfast.
 

 

 
This one was a revelation—the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman on “Gimme Shelter.” I knew this was a great bass part, but there’s stuff in here I’ve never heard before, and it’s excellent. I should have been paying more attention.
 

 

 
But is there “Super Freak?” Oh yeah, there’s “Super Freak.”
 

 

 
I searched mightily to find isolated bass tracks from Spinal Tap’s gloriously excessive ode to both low-ends, “Big Bottom,” before I realized there would be absolutely no point in doing that. So I leave you with the unadulterated real thing.
 

 
Previously on DM: The incomparable James Jamerson: isolated

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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05.02.2014
11:11 am
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Sting, Puff Daddy, Andy Summers, and the case of the misplaced bajillion dollars


 
The website Celebrity Net Worth has an article about the royalty situation on The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” that is absolutely, utterly fascinating.

Because of the vagaries of music authorship rules, every penny of royalties that is generated by both “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You” goes into the bank account of one Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, a.k.a. Sting. Not Puff Daddy—or P. Diddy either. Not Andy Summers, who is the only member of the Police whose musicianship can be heard on “I’ll Be Missing You” directly. Not Stewart Copeland, who also had a hand in writing the song. All the money goes to Sting—and that money amounts to roughly two thousand dollars a day—seventeen years after the Puff Daddy song was released and thirty-one years after The Police song was released. According to Celebrity Net Worth, more than a quarter of all the money Sting has ever earned comes from “Every Breath You Take”/“I’ll Be Missing You.” The number’s a little more eye-popping when presented in annual form: It comes to $730,000 a year, each and every year for the foreseeable future.

The short version of why this came about is that Puff Daddy forgot to ask Sting for permission to use “Every Breath You Take” before the fact. If he had done so, he would have ended up paying Sting a mere 25% of the royalties. But Puff Daddy didn’t ask, which allowed Sting to take legal action, and that resulted in Sting receiving 100% of the royalties generated by “I’ll Be Missing You.” The other part of this is that Sting is listed as the sole songwriter on “Every Breath You Take”—not The Police, not Sting/Summers, just Sting alone. So he receives 100% of the songwriting royalties generated by “Every Breath You Take,” which in this case happens to include all the royalties to “I’ll Be Missing You” as well.

Famously, the members of The Police couldn’t really stand each other a high proportion of the time, and the recording of 1983’s Synchronicity, The Police’s last album and the album on which “Every Breath You Take” appears, was every bit as acrimonious as the sessions for the Beatles’ Let It Be. Everyone agrees that Andy Summers wrote the undying guitar riff featured on “Every Breath You Take.” But Sting was savvier, and Sting secured sole songwriting credit.

Understandably, Summers is more than a little annoyed about all of this; he’d like to see some of that $2,000 a day flowing into his bank account! Summers has called the song “the major rip-off of all time,” adding, “He actually sampled my guitar… that’s what he based his whole track on. Stewart’s not on it. Sting’s not on it. I’d be walking round Tower Records, and the fucking thing would be playing over and over. It was very bizarre while it lasted.”

Celebrity Net Worth quotes a chunk of a Revolver magazine interview from 2000 with all three members of The Police—the first such interview in fifteen years:
 

Summers: We spent about six weeks recording just the snare drums and the bass. It was a simple, classic chord sequence, but we couldn’t agree how to do it. I’d been making an album with Robert Fripp, and I was kind of experimenting with playing Bartok violin duets and had worked up a new riff. When Sting said ‘go and make it your own’, I went and stuck that lick on it, and immediately we knew we had something special.

Copeland: Yeah, Sting said make it your own – just keep your hands off my f***in’ royalties. Andy, since we’re here, I’m going to back you up on this. You should stand up right now and say, ‘I, Andy, want all the Puff Daddy money. Because that’s not Sting’s song he’s using, that’s my guitar riff.’ Okay over to you Andy, Go for it…

Summers: [meekly] Okay, I want all of the Puff Daddy Money.

Sting: Okay Andy here’s all the money [pours some change on the table]. Unfortunately, I’ve spent the rest of it.

Copeland: So Sting’s making out like a bank robber here, while Andy and I have gone unrewarded and unloved for our efforts and contributions.

Sting: Life… is… fucking… tough. Here I am in Tuscany…

Copeland: And don’t we know it! You’re in Tuscany in your palace with wine being poured down your throat and grapes being peeled for you. Sting can you buy me a castle in Italy too? With the proceeds from the longest running hit single in the history of radio? Just a little chateau somewhere?

Sting: We don’t have fucking chateaus in Italy, They’re called palazzos. I’ll lend you a room.

 
By the way, the full interview is completely enthralling reading for anyone who is into The Police. The weird animosity and yet chemistry that Sting, Copeland, and Summers share is one of a kind. They clearly kind of hate each other, or at least Copeland clearly kind of hates Sting, but insofar as they share a friendship and a bond, it’s largely made up of a kind of grudging respect and a taste for rough humor. When the interviewer, Vic Garbarini, decides to join in on the verbal horseplay, he’s rebuked by Copeland: “Now, now Victor, we’re all here pulling each other’s chains, having a bit of fun at each other’s expense. But you can shut the f*** up!” (Asterisks in the original version.)

It’s tempting to think that Andy Summers deserves all of the royalties from “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You.” And surely he does deserve some of them. But if you ask the question, who was responsible for the success of “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You,” surely the names Sting and Puff Daddy are pretty high on the list, right? This is not to deny that the irresistible guitar riff is a major, major part of the appeal, it’s merely to admit that the emotional content of Puff Daddy’s feelings for the (then) recently departed Notorious B.I.G. and Sting’s own spooky, overly serious persona were doing a lot of the work as well. And we’re only even talking about this because Diddy made a stupid error in terms of not requesting permission to use “Every Breath You Take.” But for all we know, that kind of cautiousness would have ruled out “I’ll Be Missing You” ever being recorded or released or becoming such a massive hit. We just don’t know! What we need is a Solomonic figure somewhere to adjudicate who gets what part of the money.

Until then, Sting gets all of it—reportedly, all of it until 2053, when he’ll be 102 years old, should he live that long. As Sting himself once said, “Life is fucking tough!”

Except for him!

All you musicians out there, try to think more like an attorney once in a while!
 
UPDATE: As satisfying as it is to hate on Sting, I have learned since posting this, that unfortunately, the Celebrity Net Worth article is apparently not accurate. Vic Garbarini, the journalist who conducted the 2000 interview with the Police quoted in the post, writes in comments: “The basic premise that Sting gets all the royalties/publishing for Police songs is simply not true. Early on it became apparent that Andy and Stewart’s unique contributions to Stings songs, really gave them a whole other dimension. So Sting agreed to give each of his bandmates 15% of royalties each, on all his songs.”

So give Sting credit: he recognized an injustice and adjusted the royalty arrangements on his entire Police catalog even though he didn’t have to, from a legal perspective.

 
Thank you John Kalman!

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Mister Sting’ pusherman? Communist group in Russia calls for ‘drug pusher’ Sting’s arrest

Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.06.2014
12:46 pm
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Cherry Vanilla: Lick Me

The very charming Cherry Vanilla discusses her new memoir, Lick Me: How I Became Cherry Vanilla, a book with far more sex, drugs and rock-n-roll per page than probably any book you will ever read! Topics include her role as “Amanda Pork” in Andy Warhol’s Pork in 1970; working for David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust/MainMan era; her punk backing band (young Sting and The Police) and, of course, being a rock super groupie.

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.10.2011
11:57 am
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Walking on the Moon: New Police bio stings
11.16.2009
07:46 pm
Topics:
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image
 
In Walking on the Moon, British journalist Chris Campion reframes the story of the Police into the wider world of 1980s rock and draws connections between the trio of bleached blonds who somehow convinced the world of the unlikely charms of “white reggae” and the culture war that took place between the fall of disco and the rise of MTV.

The subtitle of your book is the ?

Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.16.2009
07:46 pm
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