EARLY RARITIES AND
OTHER POLICE ODDITIES!
BY MARK BAKER
Taken from Record Collector #30 - Feb 1982.
NOTICE: The Pound Sterling symbol has been substituted by a sharp sign '#'.
Click HERE for the Part One of this article.
Last month, we looked at the Police's official releases, concentrating on
all the many different variations that have cropped up since the release of
the band's first single, ``Fall Out'', in May 1977. But besides all the
coloured vinyl, alternate picture sleeves and rare 12" releases that we looked
at in January, the Police's career has thrown up a number of other very
fascinating, and often extremely rare, records, that were ignored when they
were first released, but have now gained an additional value from their
connections with Sting, Stewart Copeland or Andy Summers.
Sting is very much the focal point of the group, as frontman, chief composer,
bassist and lead vocalist; and not surprisingly it's his early career that is
now attracting the most interest from collectors. Sting (then still Gordon
Sumner) made his first appearance on record with the Newcastle Big Band's
first album, issued in 1972 on the small independent Impulse Sound Studios
label (cat no. IS/NBB/106). The album was recorded live, half at the University
Theatre in Newcastle, and half at the Pau Jazz Festival.
The Big Band were led by keyboard player Andy Hudson, and gained quite a
reputation for live performances in the Newcastle area. Sting had originally
auditioned for the bassplayer's job in the band, but was turned down because
he couldn't read music. Within six weeks, he came back for a second audition,
having learnt to sight read perfectly - and this time got the job. He played
on all the tracks on the LP: ``Adam's Apple'', ``Mac Arthur Park'', ``Li'l
Darlin' '', ``Hey Jude'', ``Mercy Mercy'', ``Trane Ride'', ``Love For
Sale'' and ``Better Get It In Your Soul'', recorded on a simple two-track
tape recorder! Only 2000 copies of the album were ever pressed, and although
we haven't heard of any copies being auctioned recently - making it hard
to put a definite value on this item - we'd expect a Mint condition album
to fetch at least #20, and probably even more!
Sting was never really a full-time member of the Newcastle Big Band,
although he continued to play with them occasionally as late as 1976.
But three other members of the Big Band, Jerry Richardson, John
Hedley, and Ronnie Pearson, combined to form a group with Sting called
Last Exit, which also achieved some local success in the North-East
in the Mid-Seventies. They released just one single,
``Whispering Voices''/``Evensong'', which was again recorded through
the auspices of the Impulse Sound Recording Studios in Newcastle.
Both songs were written by Jerry Richardson, and the record was issued
on the Wudwink Studio label, WUD 01, and featured Sting's characteristic
lead vocals and bass playing on two very jazz-orientated numbers. Again,
only a couple of thousand copies were pressed, and like the Big Band LP,
``Whispering Voices'' has never been reissued - so this is another very
highly priced record, which would surely fetch at least #15.
That was the only record featuring Sting which Last Exit recorded. The
group have now reformed with three of the original members, but minus
(not surprisingly!) their original bassist and singer. His place has
now been taken by David Blackwell, and the new group are reported to be
looking for a record deal at the moment.
Stewart Copeland's pre-Police recordings were made in rather more illustrious
company that Sting's. Having travelled with his family to Beirut from his
original birth-place in Virginia, Stewart spent much of his childhood
in the Middle East. He then went to school at Millfield in England, and
formed his first band soon afterwards, influenced first of all by the
straight rock and roll of Chuck Berry, and later the powerful Cream sound.
He went to college in the States, by which time his elder brother Miles
had become a rock manager, handling, among other artists, Joan Armatrading.
Stewart became Joan's tour manager for her first American visit.
His big break as far as drumming went came when Miles Copeland took over
the management of British band Curved Air, who had been very popular
at the start of the Seventies, but where going through a period of
personnel changes. Group leader and vocalist Sonja Kristina was putting
together a new line-up for a British tour, and suggested that Stewart
should be the drummer. It meant that he had to give up his university course,
but he decided to take the chance, and joined a line-up that included
Kristina, violinist Darryl Way, bassist Tony Reeves, and guitarist
He recorded two albums with Curved Air, ``Midnight Wire'' (BTM BTM 1005,
issued in October 1975) and ``Airborne'' (BTM BTM 1008, July 1976), and
the singles ``Desiree'' (BTM SBT 103, August 1976) and ``Baby Please
Don't Go'' (BTM SBT 106, October 1976), both of which were quickly deleted,
and might prove rather hard to find now.
Andy Summers actually began life as Andrew James Somers, and only changed
his name in the mid-Seventies. He is easily the oldest member of the band,
with a musical pedigree that goes back to Zoot Money's Big Roll Band in 1964.
He stayed with Money for several years, even taking part in the brief
experiment when the Big Roll Band became Dantalion's Chariot in 1967, for
one psychedelic single. Andy therefore appears on the group's only
Decca single (``The Uncle Willie''), and all nine singles they made
for Columbia: ``Gin House'', ``Good'', ``Please Stay'', ``Something
Is Worrying Me'', ``The Many Faces Of Love'', ``Let's Run For Cover'',
``Big Time Operator'' (actually a small U.K. hit in 1966), ``The Star
Of The Show'' and ``Nick Nack'' - plus that sole Dantalion's Chariot
recording, ``The Madman Running Through The Fields''. He also played on
the Bigg Roll Band's only EP (``Big Time Operator'', Columbia SEG 8519),
which is now a much sought-after collector's item, plus both their Columbia
albums, ``It Should've Been Me'' (33SX 1734) and ``Zoot'' (SCX 6075),
neither of which is at all easy to find.
Together with Zoot Money, Andy Somers spent some time in 1967 working with
Eric Burdon as part of the `new Animals'. This was undoubtedly the most
confused period of Eric's career, and keeping a track of who actually played
on the variuos albums produced at that time is virtually impossible; but
it seems most likely that Somers was featured on ``Every One Of Us''
(MGM SE 4553) and possibly on the ``Love Is'' double set as well.
During this period, Andy also played with Soft Machine for a few months; but
he doesn't seem to have recorded with them.
Andy then spent three years taking a classical guitar course in California;
and returned to Britain to play on stage with a number of popular artists,
including Neil Sedaka. Over the next few years, he worked mainly as a session
guitarist, backing Mike Oldfield when he toured with his ``Tubular Bells''
show, and playing on records by Joan Armatrading (``Back To The Night'',
A&M AMLH 68305), who of course was being managed by by Miles Copeland,
and Kevin Coyne. He became more or less a permanent member of Coyne's
band in the mid-Seventies, besides playing on three albums: ``Matching
Head And Feet'' (Virgin V2033, April 1975), ``Heartburn'' (Virgin V 2047,
February 1976) and the double set ``In Living Black And White''
(Virgin VD 2505, January 1977), together with a number of singles:
``Lorna'' (VS 126), ``Don't Make Waves'' (VS 136), ``Walk On By'' (VS 148),
``Fever'' (VS 160) and ``Marlene'' (VS 175), all of which have now been
deleted. Finally, since joining Police, Andy has also appeared on an album
by Kevin Lamb, ``Sailin' Down The Years'' on Arista (SPART 1026).
Andy was also the link between the Police and Eberhard Schoener, whose
``Video Flashback'' LP (Harvest SHSM 2030) featured contributions from
all three members of the band. Sting sang lead on several tracks on
the LP, including ``Codeword Elvis'' (which you may have seen Schoener
playing with the Police on television a year or so ago), ``Video
Magic'', ``Trans-Am'', ``Only The Wind'' and ``Speech Behind Speech''.
``Video Magic'' was also released on Harvest as a single, in a special
picture sleeve - another likely collector's item of the future!
Besides Eberhard Schoener's releases, Sting also sang lead on a record
credited to the Radio Actors, issued as a protest against the nuclear power
industry. ``Nuclear Waste''/``Digital Love'' (Charly CYS 1058) featured
two songs written by Harry Williamson, with Sting singing and playing bass
on the A-side, and Stewart on drums. The flipside was an instrumental.
Original picture sleeve copies now seem to be selling for about #3
in Mint condition.
One of the most highly-publicised Police spin-offs has been Stewart Copeland's
solo career, under the guise of Klark Kent. Copeland has never actually
admitted taht he is Kent, but he hasn't denied it recently, either.
Lately the Kent pseudonym seems to have taken second place to Stewart's
work with Police, as there have been no new Klark Kent releases for over a
year. Kent's first record was issued on the small Kryptone label, and
was a three track maxi-single with ``Thrills'' as the plug track. Since
then, Kent's singles have appeared on A&M, almost all in green
vinyl with picture sleeves. ``Don't Care'' was the first A&M release,
on AMS 7376, followed by ``Too Kool To Kalypso'' (AMS 7390), ``Away
From Home'' (AMS 7532) and ``Rich In A Ditch'' (AMS 7554). In addition,
there was also a a Klark Kent 10" LP issued in 1980 (A&M AMLE
68511), which included aight tracks and was pressed (of course!) in
green vinyl. Promo copies were sent out in a K-shaped cover, and are now
yet another addition to the almost endless list of Police collectables!
The green vinyl copies of the Klark Kent singles are also attracting
some attention from collectors, and are selling at about #2.50 each -
although the original Kryptone maxi-single is now much rarer. However at
the moment you shouldn't have to pay much more than about #4 to get
hold of Klark/Stewart's 10" album.
Besides their regular single and album releases, the Police have also
appeared on a number of `various artists' compilations. Many of these
fall into the cheap TV-promoted category and are unlikely to have any
real value in the future; but some of the others are now getting harder
to find, and may well end up as collector's items. A&M collected
together tracks by several of their `New Vawe' artists on an album called
``No Wave'' in February 1979 (AMLE 68505). Another similar venture,
called ``Propaganda'' (issued with a cover which showed a picture of Mao
playing electric guitar!) was released in September 1979 (AMLE 64786).
Both albums contained tracks by the Police. The band's ``Walking On The Moon''
was also reported to be due to inclusion on the soundtrack album to Eddie
Kidd's film ``Riding High'', but we've been unable to confirm wether
it actually appeared on the LP. Finally, two otherwise unobtainable live
Police recordings were included on the soundtrack double album to the
film ``Urgh! A Music War'', in which the Police themselves appeared.
Despite the fact that Sting seems to have some problems coming up with
an album's worth of new songs for the last couple of years, he has
still been generous in giving songs away to other people. An artist
called Lee Stirling used Sting's ``Soul Music'' as the flipside to his
``Earthquake Landslide Hurrican'' (Charisma CB 358, March 1980).
Grace Jones recorded the first released version of Sting's excellent
``Demolition Man'' as a single last year, and then included it on her
very successful ``Nightclubbing'' album in the summer of 1981. Many
people actually felt that her version topped the Police's own recording
on ``Ghost In The Machine'' - but despite some reports to the contrary,
the song wasn't specifically written with her in mind, unlike (for
example) her versions of a couple of Pretender's songs. Finally,
the debut album recently released by the dance troupe Hot Gossip
included another new Sting composition, ``Burn For You''. It will be
interesting to see whether this song turns up on 1982's Police studio album!
There is one more Police-related recording that hasn't yet appeared
on vinyl. Sting recorded a version of Bob Dylan's ``I Shall Be Released''
for the soundtrack of the American film ``Parole'', so no doubt we can expect
to see that appear on an album or single in the future.
A small book was issued under Sting's name last year. I say `issued
under his name' rather that written because ``Message In A Bottle'' is
actually the song lyric, with one line printed on each page, and a page
drawing used to illustrate each line. Before it was published, advance
publicity described it as a specially-written children's story, but that
seems to be rather overstating the case, as there is NO new material
by Sting contained in the book! The paperback was bottle-shaped and retailed
at #3.95 - whether it becomes a collector's item remains to be seen.
Two records that we didn't mention last month that are available only
through the Police's merchandising company are the Gold Discs of
``Don't Stand So Close To Me'' and ``Invisible Sun''. Obviously,
they aren't the actual awards presented to the group, but facsimiles;
but the singles are plated in gold, and come mounted on a plaque. The
band's merchandising outlet are selling these for #20 plus postage,
so it seems likely that when supplies run out, the valued of these
items will rise - although whether collectors may feel that the gold
discs are perhaps a little too `manufactured' to count as real rarities
is a moot point.
Besides all the normal overseas Police issues, there are just as many
variations of picture sleeves, coloured vinyls and especially promos in
other countries as there are in Britain. It would take up the rest of
the magazine if we were to list all these different releases country by
country, but it's worth mentioning some of the rarest items here.
When the latest Police `badge' disc was being planned in the States,
a different design was originally proposed. Twenty five copies were made
as test pressings, before A&M rejected the design and decided to go
ahead with the ``Don't Stand So Close To Me''/``De Do Do Do'' picture disc
that was eventually issued. Some of these original test pressings seem to
have come on to the market, with an asking price of around #80 - definitely
the most expensive Police rarity we've come across yet!
American 12" promos of Police material abound, with a dazzling collection
of different track couplings; and most of them sell for between #8
and #12. Besides the obvious single releases, there are also promos
available of tracks from albums, which are generally a little rarer than
those for the 45s. There are also test pressings of all their U.S. albums
on the market, which include a promotional folder, group biography
and history, photos, time sheets and (of course!) the record. #20 is
the going rate for each of these at the moment. More confusingly,
there is a promotional U.S. A&M sampler LP which mixes tracks
by Joe Jackson and the Police - the two `New Wave' acts who brought
most success to the label in the States at the end of the Seventies.
The price for this is about #12 - and rising!
The complete panoply of Police picture sleeves and coloured vinyls
is staggering. With each new release, more and more `limited edition'
rarities are created, all round the world - but especially in America and
Japan, two of the biggest rock markets in the world. It's already quite
possible to spend a year's record allowance just tracking down different
variations of Police releases; and as the band now seem established as
one of the world's most successful rock groups, no doubt the Police
story for collectors is only just beginning!
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