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Strange Things Happen: A Life with The…

Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies (2009)

by Stewart Copeland

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873212,012 (3.58)1
When Stewart Copeland gets dressed, he has an identity crisis. Should he put on "leather pants, hostile shirts, and pointy shoes"? Or wear something more appropriate to the "tax-paying, property-owning, investment-holding lotus eater" his success has allowed him to become? This dilemma is at the heart of Copeland's memoir. The world knows him as the drummer for The Police, one of the most successful bands in rock history. But they may not know about his childhood in the Middle East as the son of a CIA agent. Or be aware of his film-making adventures with the Pygmies in the deepest reaches of the Congo, and his passion for polo. Here we move from Copeland's remarkable childhood to the formation of The Police, their rise to stardom, and the settled-down life that followed. It's a book of amazing anecdotes, all completely true, which take us backstage in a life that is fully lived.--From publisher description.… (more)



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Wish I would have read this before I saw The Police in concert a few years ago. Interesting read about the band's personal dynamic. ( )
  mandersj73 | Apr 27, 2015 |
Copeland would have us believe that The Police and his time with that important band had become almost a vague and rarely thought of memory such is the intensity of his life and achievements since however the ghost in the machine presides over all and is only exorcised through an ecstatic and exhausting reunion tour.
Copeland is an effervescent character, born into an unusual family of the world, surrounded by celebrity and infamy, and not wanting for anything, this is no rags to riches story. One senses that he would have found fame and fortune at something, somewhere, such is his drive, talent, thick skin, and appreciation of good fortune. When a door opens he swaggers through, all except his favoured polo club which stubbornly refused to bow to his celebrity, and rising to the challenge he achieves acceptance through sheer hard work, sweat and determination.
What I found most intriguing was that Copeland is a learned and disciplined writer, arranger and performer of music, whether for TV and movie scores, or as part of a euphoric Italian folk ensemble, yet it is with The Police that his wild child emerges and he revels in a chaotic drumming style which creates perfect tension against the perfectionist Sting, Andy Sumner providing the oft needed sanity to prevent the polar opposites from tearing everything apart.
The book contains many anecdotes as one may expect but this is no tale of rock and roll excesses, no drugs, some booze but only in moderation, and Copeland's principal vice seems to be an obsession with the post performance power shower.
Strange Things Happen is an enjoyable and insightful read. ( )
  DekeDastardly | Nov 4, 2011 |
The emphasis is on fun in this memoir - for Copeland is a hyperactive sort, workaholic but easily bored, loving a challenge, never playing anything quite the same way twice, liking to be boss, and he's also much more than a mere drummer.

Jumping about in time with flashes back and forward, the book opens with pages about his childhood in Beirut, where he played with Harry Philby - yes, son of that Philby, and where his Dad was big in the CIA, through moving to boarding school in England, learning the drums and then in 1975 joining his first professional band Curved Air where he must have broken many a boy's heart by marrying the elfinly beautiful lead singer Sonja Kristina. Then - The Police - the band that made him world famous. Copeland deals with their initial years in just ten pages. It's clear that our mission, should we choose to accept it, is really to read about what Stewart did next ...

The next big chunk of the book takes us up to 2007, and there's a lot to tell. Playing polo against Prince Charles, making a film in Africa, playing with many other bands, and developing a love for the pizzica music of Salento in Southern Italy, meeting his second wife Fiona, and having a ball being a judge on the BBC celebrity duet show 'It takes two' ... all great fun. Then, there's the main day job as a composer. Copeland studied composition at college, and post Police, he composed an opera - not a rock one, a proper, grand one - with a plot based on the crusades; it was staged in Cleveland to a largely enthusiastic response. Following this is a long career, in between all these adventures, as a film and TV composer, having composed scores for many movies and lots of TV work, notably starting with Coppola's Rumblefish.

Then it all comes round again. Copeland's hobby project of editing all the film he took during the Police years into a movie is entered for the Sundance festival. For the first time in ages, the three musicians are reunited at the festival when Sting turns up for the premiere. This event sows the seeds for the Police reunion tour which takes up the final 100 pages.

Stewart & Sting's stormy relationship is the stuff of legend. Now they're both older and wiser, you might expect them to have mellowed. It starts off well, but these guys have had years of being top dogs now, and before long they're circling around each other, spoiling for a fight. They cope though, letting the music do it's work and manage eighteen months on tour.

This book is mainly about his career and working families, rather than the loving one at home. We find out very little about his parents, siblings, and even less about his seven (yes!) kids, although there's a nice photo of them all at the end. Copeland however, is an aimiable yet sparky host, always capable of seeing the funny side of things; his straight talking and writing style always lets us know what he thinks. What also come through strongly are what he sees as the shamanistic properties of music to inspire and inhabit a body - any music has the possibility to do this, and refreshingly he embraces this philosophy throughout.

Copeland is anything but a normal rock star - and this is an excellent read for any music fan, I really enjoyed it. Finally, a big thank you to Scott who arranged to get me a signed and dedicated copy of this book - much appreciated. ( )
1 vote gaskella | Oct 7, 2009 |
Showing 3 of 3
Above and beyond the Police, Stewart Copeland has had a pretty wild life... In “Strange Things Happen,” though, he glosses through these events at such high speed that at best, we get a wisecrack or a flip observation, but no real sense of what any of it means to him.
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