By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
I imagine it isn’t very often that you get a chance to see a concert tour that features a combination of music, photography, and spoken/written word in one evening. Not to mention that all of it is literally being delivered by only one musician onstage— the inimitable Andy Summers— putting a unique spin to the word solo.
Even better, this performance is taking place at one of the best (and criminally underrated) venues in town to see an intimate show of this caliber, the MIM Music Theatre. Sorry my friends, the show this Wed. Nov. 1 is sold out as of this writing.
Earlier this week, I got to chat briefly with Summers over the phone about the tour, his new book of photography A Series Of Glances, and of course, The Police.
BADS: Andy, it’s a pleasure and an honor to speak with you today. Congratulations on your newly-published photography book, A Series Of Glances. The pictures that I’ve seen throughout it are incredibly moving, and definitely have a “mood” to them, if you will. How did your interest in photography develop?
Andy Summers: Thank you for that mate! Well, as you may know I started taking photos around 1979 or so during the early years of The Police. Part of the reason was because we were touring so much and at times, it seemed like it wasn’t going to end (laughs). The long and short of it, I decided to buy a good camera one day while the band was in New York. From then on, it just became something I really enjoyed doing— and haven’t stopped since.
BADS: You’re incorporating some of your photography into your current solo tour, which is called The Cracked Lens + A Missing String— that’s a mouthful for me. How has the tour been going so far?
Summers: (Laughs) Oh, it’s been a great time. I started in July, and to date I’ve done about 21 shows. From the smiling faces I’ve seen in the audience; I think they agree. I try to mix up the set list with solo material over the years, and of course, some hits from The Police.
Honestly, I’m not one of those guys who likes to play the same set over and over. I like to throw in a lesser-known song here and there, which keeps the show fresh for me and the audience. The show lasts about two hours, and along with the photography, I also read some excerpts from my book of short stories called Fretted and Moaning (2021).
The term is a little overstated, but it’s what you might call a “multi-media” approach, if you like. There’s no opening act and no band accompanying me either— it’s just myself onstage.
BADS: If you haven’t played at the MIM before, I think you’ll love it.
Summers: Actually, I played there a few years ago, and yes, I do love it! It’s a beautiful facility, and the museum itself with all the instruments everywhere is absolutely incredible. It’s the perfect place for this particular show I feel. Great staff as well.
BADS: Let’s go back in time when you played guitar on (late Deep Purple keyboardist) Jon Lord‘s second solo album, Sarabande, from 1976. What are your recollections of recording it?
Summers: I was in college around the time I met Jon. I was living in England, and he told me that he was working on a classical album. He wrote, arranged, and composed it all himself, and asked me if I would contribute guitar. The album also featured the Philharmonia Hungarica (orchestra). This was right before I joined The Police. It was a great experience, and Jon was a lovely guy, and of course, an amazing musician.
BADS: Were you of fan of Deep Purple?
Summers: I can’t say I was a big fan of the “heavier” music of that time. However, you couldn’t deny the talent within the band. I mean, Ritchie Blackmore? Obviously, he’s a great guitarist.
BADS: Next month will be the 45th anniversary of The Police’s debut album Outlandos d’Amour. What goes through your mind when you think of that?
Summers: It’s pretty crazy, yeah. I’m proud that our music has resonated with so many people all over the world. Our albums still sell to this day. The song Every Breath You Take has been played over a billion times on the radio, and we became one of the biggest bands in the world. Overall, there really isn’t much to moan about.
BADS: There isn’t a very diplomatic way to ask you this, but I’ll ask anyway. In retrospect Andy, do you think that the fans were cheated out of a final album from The Police? Even when the band reunited for its 2007-2008 world tour?
Summers: Actually, that’s a very fair question. And honestly, yes—they were cheated out of a final album from us. However, I would mostly attribute that to the “political” things surrounding the band, as opposed to anything to do with the music.
Truthfully, I loved Sting’s first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985). As good as it was though, I’ll also tell you that The Police would’ve made it even better. That I have absolutely no doubts of.
BADS: Before we conclude, I have to ask you about a band you’ve gone on record about being a big fan of, a band called King’s X. What were your impressions of them upon first listen?
Summers: Oh yes, I love King’s X! To me, they truly are one of the best rock bands in the world. It’s hard to believe that they aren’t bigger. I love the singer’s (Dug Pinnick) voice, and all three of them are absolutely incredible musicians and great songwriters as well. I have all of their albums.
I certainly don’t consider them to be a “metal” band like they’ve been promoted as, although I suppose it’s helped them to a degree. They’re so much more than that.
BADS: Have you seen them live?
Summers: No I haven’t, unfortunately. I’ve met their drummer (Jerry Gaskill) before, but I’ve yet to see them play live. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance.
Andy Summers is scheduled to perform this Wed. Nov. 1 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. This show is sold out.