The Police began their first U.S. tour in 1978 with two late-night sets at New York’s CBGB. Fans will soon be able to hear what that night sounded like, thanks to a recently discovered tape that is being prepped for future release.
Guitarist Andy Summers spoke with UCR in the midst of promoting Fretted and Moaning, his latest book, and Harmonics of the Night, a new solo album. We asked him about details regarding the rare recording and other reissue plans.
There hasn’t been much in the way of Police reissues, but now there’s word of a four-disc Regatta de Blanc. Is there any extra material?
Oh, no, it’s all repackaged. I don’t know if there’s any extra material. There may be some vague outtakes. We don’t have thousands of outtakes. We were one of those bands that recorded every song we ever practiced and put it on a record. That’s it. I proudly put that down to our abilities as players. We don’t have hundreds of outtakes, trying to work up one song. We were kind of better than that. We got to it pretty quickly. But I think it’s a great package. There’s vinyl and a CD, there’s probably a booklet with it.
And then after that we’ve got this fantastic film coming out, Police Around the World. It came out in about 1982 on VHS tape and was around for a while, and then it just sort of disappeared. I’ve always been upset about it. Actually, I’m the one that really got this going again. It’s taken about five years of pure bureaucracy and [then] one thing after another. But it is coming out now. They found the 16-millimeter film and brought it all up to date. It’s been digitized and it’s incredible looking.
The tracks have been remixed, and it’s [from] concerts all over the world, with the lads larking about, as it were. I’m very pleased that that’s finally going to come out. Only because I think it’s a historical piece that should be seen at that time, as a sort of jewel from the ‘80s. It introduces the band to a younger audience.
The band is pretty well-recorded as far as live material. How organized are the band’s archives?
I would guess that it’s not very well-organized. I mean, it should all be in one place, completely organized. That’s what you would hope for in a perfect world. But I think record companies, somehow, they don’t pay attention to what they’ve got, deep in a cellar and in a basement. I’ve never had a complete accounting of like, “Okay, where are the Synchronicity tapes? Where are they? Who’s got ‘em? Where are they exactly?” One wonders. Actually, that would be another project, let’s see if we can get them all.
But yeah, it’s kind of depressing. I’d like to tell you that everything’s in one room, it’s dry and it’s clean and well-stored and accounted for. I don’t think that’s the case. I mean, pretty much everything is out, one way or another, so they’re not lost. But if you’re talking about the original tapes, that’s another story.
Bands either have that stuff or they don’t.
I know in my own career post-Police, in the early days, I was recording on two-inch tape. I just started keeping them in the end, because the record companies, they were legally the owners, and they’d literally forget to ask you for them. So I thought, “You know what? I’m going to keep them.” So I’ve got a lot of my records. I have the original tapes. I just didn’t hand them over, and they forgot to ask for them. Amazing.
What’s the plan for the 16-track recording of the CBGB show that’s surfaced from 1978?
I don’t really know yet. We’re looking at it. This is brand new. It’s just sort of hot off the press, it just turned up. Somebody found that. I’ve heard it, and it’s very raw. It’s really in your face, not finessed at all. So I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen with it yet. I would love to see it out, of course, because I think it’s historical and important. There we were.
Does listening to material like that bring back memories?
It’s sort of interesting, because it’s early days. It sounds enthusiastic! [Laughs] We’re pounding away. I think later, we finessed some of the material. I mean, we got better at doing what we did. But it’s very interesting to hear these early takes when I didn’t even have the guitar pedals to really get the sounds that I sort of became known for later on. It was too early. I really didn’t have much. It was pretty much into a Fender Twin amp and that kind of thing. But the band is playing great, with very fierce, strong playing. You know, it’s kind of raw and violent!
You guys were a fierce live band.
I take that as a compliment, actually. We were very into playing. So yeah, I think the CBGB show should come out. It’s a real collector’s item if you’re into history and all of that, and CBGB was the mecca of punk. It was very important for us to play there. Because we were getting the official seal, the stamp of authenticity. Our punk credentials were dubious, but once you played at CBGB, it was, like, okay, you guys are the real thing. Not that any of that matters, really. It’s all rubbish. But in that political climate, that was an important gig.
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