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Interview

Stewart Copeland on The Police’s restored tour film and their reissue plans

“We really need to do better with regard to looking at the reissue stuff”

The Police / Around The World
Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland and Sting in ‘Around The World’

The Police drummer reveals how The Beatles have inspired the band to finally open the vaults on their unreleased material. John Earls asks the questions.

In August 2021, The Police guitarist Andy Summers unexpectedly revealed to SDE that the trio were finally looking at letting their unreleased music see the light of day. There was, Andy explained, a “10-year plan” for The Police’s back catalogue to be overhauled and reissued.

One of the band’s releases Andy mentioned as being restored was Around The World. By The Police’s standards, it’s a lost treasure: a fun and enlightening tour film of their 1979-80 tour which captures the electric power of their gigs at the time when they really were taking over the world. Alongside concerts in Japan, Greece and Australia, Around The World sees The Police play in countries rarely visited by touring rock bands at the time, including India, Hong Kong and Egypt, with suitably touristy capers included in the film too.

Released on VHS in 1982 and laserdisc in 1996, the film had been ignored since. Restored by Andy, it finally arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray today, alongside a new live album from the tour, also titled Around The World. SDE talked to The Police drummer Stewart Copeland about his memories of the film – and found out a wealth of new information about that promised reissue campaign, as Stewart explains why he, Andy and Sting have completely changed their mind about the value of reissues at last.


SDE: Hi, Stewart. How does it feel to have Around The World coming back out into the world?

Stewart Copeland: It’s long overdue. When Around The World first came out, nobody saw it, so it disappeared. It was Andy Summers who rediscovered it. He did a lot of the cleaning up on it, so Andy gets a lot of credit for bringing it back to life. It’s an adventure, that film. It captures the band at a very interesting place. I thought we got better and better, even into the last albums. Right at this point shown in Around The World, we weren’t yet an arena or stadium band. We were still hungry, still co-dependent and there’s an energy to the performances in there, as well as those incredible locations we had on that tour. It’s a fun movie.

There was no record industry in India, Hong Kong or Egypt to speak of. Miles persuaded us to go there just for the adventure

Stewart Copeland

What was the thinking behind making the film?

I think the BBC might have had something to do with it, but maybe I’m confusing that with another Police film that’s probably out there. My brother Miles had the crazy idea of taking the band to literally conquer the world, as opposed to figuratively conquering it. That was an incomplete mission for us at that point. Miles had this wild idea of going to these photogenic, crazy places. He wasn’t picking new ‘markets’, because they weren’t markets at all – there was no record industry in India, Hong Kong or Egypt to speak of. He persuaded us to go there just for the adventure. In Miles’ mind, it was for the shots and the photos, the concept of The Police Around The World. For Miles, it was sexy marketing-wise, creating new markets by doing cool stuff. For us, it was just a great adventure, playing to new people from different cultures and lighting them up regardless. That was very exciting for us. Miles and I had grown up in what was then called the third world (Stewart grew up in Egypt and Beirut), and he had the sensibility to pull it off. Miles knew how to deal with promoters in Cairo or Mumbai, whereas Jake Riviera or any other rock & roll manager wouldn’t know how to do that. It wouldn’t even cross their mind to try. Miles had that inspiration.

What were your own favourite memories of that tour?

I was glad we got to play Mumbai. That was the show where we played to the audience who had the least expectations, who knew the band the least. They had no idea about any of our songs, they were just people who swarmed over to storm the gig without tickets. They didn’t know who we were but, man, what a cool show that was. To light them up without any cultural stature on our part, with no status or preconceptions, was very exciting.

Andy says in the sleeve notes that the show in Mumbai is where The Police played their best ever version of ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’. Do you agree?

It’s maybe the best version that we recorded. It was a great song that closed the show and rocked the house every night, so I’m not sure if Mumbai was the best time we ever played it, but it was pretty good and maybe the best one on record. ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ was always a barnstormer. The middle part of it when we played it on that tour was a jam that turned into another song on our next album, Reggatta De Blanc.

The blu-ray+CD combo of Around The World

How exciting was Japan? You all look so damn cool playing So Lonely in the Japanese subway.

Japan was always a lot of fun. They were the most attuned to rock music. They knew rock and pop and were following western culture, even though their own culture had no overlap at all. Western bands playing Tokyo was an eye-opener because, although it looked like Manhattan for its buildings and architecture, the food was so different. Back then, you wouldn’t know if it was hot or cold, meat or fruit, soup or something to dip your fingers in. It was a completely alien culture, but completely fascinating. India looked like another planet, but there was a lot of cultural overlap. Their lingua franca was English, and England had learned a lot from India without knowing it. India felt more homelike.

How would you have fared against the sumo wrestler who pummels Andy in the film?

I’d have taken him easily. I don’t know what we were thinking. Why did we send a guitarist in there, for God’s sake? If you want to collect your money from a club owner, you send the drummer.

Did you enjoy being filmed, having all those adventures documented?

Mostly. One adventure – the sumo wrestling – not so much. Andy caught a horrible flu which put him down for a couple of weeks. Being naked in that cold environment for the sumo wrestling was a great idea that made for a great scene in the film. Andy stepped up to the plate, but he paid the price for it. In India, Athens and everywhere else, the adventures were great, but that one was quite dour.

We were always a guerrilla band, so we were psychically equipped to play weird places

Stewart Copeland

What do you remember of the show in Cairo? Andy writes well about how chaotic it seemed.

It was adverse conditions, with the PA, the electricity and all the other conditions around the show not what we’d find at Madison Square Gardens. But we weren’t playing Madison Square Gardens yet either. Cairo was fairly chaotic, but we were always a three-piece garage band and adversity was what we did, back to filling in when The Snivelling Shits couldn’t make a gig in Birmingham in 1976 and we could. We were always a very guerrilla band, so we were psychically equipped to play weird places. As there were only three of us, it wasn’t a complicated show. It wasn’t seven guys on stage all needing soundcheck. For us, it was just two amps and a drum set and we could rock. By day in Cairo, we were galloping around the pyramids on horses which was, wow, what an adventure! You can’t do that in Manchester.

Having the film come out again is great, partly because it’s nice to have an unusual Police release. Andy told us last year that Around The World would be part of a “10-year plan” of The Police going over your catalogue. What else will be coming out?

We’ll tell you in due course, but we’ve had a kind of epiphany. We’ve been very stingy, and that’s worked to our benefit. When we did our reunion tour in 2007, we’d left everything on the shelf untouched, unscratched and unbesmirched. When we went back out there, we were pristine. We had a good feeling about that. We’d all been off to conquer our own worlds in our own way, never looking back. In my case, I had to downplay The Police. I was a hired gun film composer, not even an artist. I was a craftsman in the employ of directors, and directors don’t want to hire a rock star – they want to hire someone who’ll work for him or her. I enjoyed that work, I wanted that career, so I was ready to get rid of my snakeskin trousers and be a professional. It was all absorbing.

When we came back for that reunion tour, nobody was more surprised than us at the interest, that stadiums were selling out around the world in seconds. It blew our minds. It made us appreciate the value of our stinginess, because we’d been pristine. But I’m a fan of those who came before me. A lot of my friends are in bands who would have been 16 back in our day – Foo Fighters, Primus, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Pearl Jam. They’re all really interested in our past and I’ve learned from those guys, who treat me like a Beatle. Now, above me, there are the actual Beatles, before whom I bow and scrape, as I properly should.

We didn’t want you to see behind the curtain. We don’t want you to see us in our underpants, the imperfect versions of ourselves that it took to get us to perfection. But that’s wrong and I now see that’s wrong

Stewart Copeland

The Beatles’ ethos is that their fans want to hear their demos. We’d thought in terms of “What’s out there is perfect. We got it to perfection and released that. That’s the deal.” We didn’t want you to see behind the curtain. We don’t want you to see us in our underpants, the imperfect versions of ourselves that it took to get us to perfection. But that’s wrong, and I now see that it’s wrong. When The Beatles released the Get Back film and their demos, I want to see that film and to hear those demos. It doesn’t diminish their importance, their stature or any aspect of The Beatles by seeing what it took to get them to the incredible material they produced. It doesn’t diminish them even slightly to see their demos. This is a new philosophy for us, that’s beginning to take hold in The Police. We’ll see how that works out.

I gather from Andy that there’s a Reggatta De Blanc boxset on the horizon. Can you say when that will be released?

Yes, there might be. We’ll let you know when stuff comes out. But first, we’ve got to find it and curate it. We’re still doing all of that. Andy and I live near each other, a few miles away, but we’ve all got our lives. The three of us are deeply attached to each other, but we aren’t in touch every day, and we have different visions we’re engrossed in. Coming back to The Police business is interesting, but it’s not the most exciting thing for us to do. I say that with respect to those people for whom it is really interesting. I’m appreciative of that interest, and we really need to do better with regard to looking at this stuff.

To further those Beatles comparisons, they’ve had Giles Martin do new mixes of their albums. Would you be interested in having a specialist mixer do 5.1 surround mixes or Dolby Atmos mixes of The Police’s albums?

We’d certainly have to find a third party if we were to look into that. We love each other at the dinner table, and at all times when we’re not trying to make music together. We love each other on stage, when we’re in front of an audience and getting that response. That’s an amazing response and you can’t ignore it. But, when we’re not on stage and we’re in the band room, that’s when it gets very tough for us, because music has a purpose in each of our lives. For absolutely honourable reasons, we just have different perspectives on music: how to do it, what its value is, what it should be. We don’t want to get back into that warzone when we’re getting along nicely, so we’d have to
find a third party to deal with all that.

Could there be a 4K physical or streaming release of Around The World? Andy had said he was restoring it to that level.

That’s all technical, so I don’t know, sorry.

Now Around The World is in sharp definition on DVD and Blu-Ray, 48 minutes in, during ‘Shadows In The Rain’, we get to clearly see the infamous “Fuck off you cunt” message aimed at Sting written one word each on four of your drums. How do you feel about that message now

It wasn’t a message to Sting. The truth is, that was a jocular moment during soundcheck. We were fiddling over Andy’s foot pedals. While I was waiting for the crew to get their act together, I was sitting at the drums when the record company guy came over, seeing his opportunity to get some albums signed. He took off with his signed albums and I’m left with his Sharpie. Writing “fuck off you cunt” with it on my drums was a moment of self provocation. The nihilism in that statement, under any circumstances, there’s a certain joy to the magnitude of the fuck offedness of it. It’s almost Wagnerian in its fuck offedness. It was an entirely cheerful “fuck off you cunt” and, if it was directed at anyone, it was probably at myself. There was no hostility to that statement on my drums at all. But you know what? Let’s not spoil a perfectly good myth.

What else are you working on?

I’m doing a show I’m hoping to bring to England next summer, The Police Deranged For Orchestra. I spent 20 years as a film composer, which gave me an involuntary education on how to use orchestra. It’s Police songs fully arranged for orchestra. I took Police songs I’d used in the Super-8 film I made, Everyone Stares, in 2006. For the film, I cut Police songs up and lobotomised them from the masters to suit the film. I liked that, so I’ve combined my orchestra chops and derangement chops to make this show. I’ve played about 10 shows so far, with national symphonies, the Cleveland Orchestra and Seattle Symphony, and I’ll be doing shows in Europe. I’ve got three soul sisters singing and it’s a really popular show. We do two-and-a-half hours rehearsal as it’s all on the page, and those orcs are really good at playing what’s on the page. It burns the house down every night.

Nostalgia has a connotation that’s not great for some, but it’s great for me. During the reunion tour, we learned that those songs are so much more powerful than better newer songs because they have an emotional impact. ‘Message In A Bottle’, ‘Roxanne’, ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’: they burn down the house because of the profound emotional baggage they carry. During the derangement of ‘Roxanne’, where I hide that hit and then reveal it, that’s powerful. I’m also playing my Satan’s Fall oratorio with a choir and orchestra in the States. My opera, The Witches Seed, premieres this summer, with some songs contributed by Chrissie Hynde. That’s a fun project, taking place in a quarry in the Italian alps. I’m playing with my jam band, Oysterhead, in Atlanta. What else? Oh yeah, I just won a Grammy.


Of course, congratulations for Best New Age Album Of The Year Grammy for Divine Tides. How pleasing was that?

The best thing is that it was for New Age. How about that? “Rock drummer is now a new age god”. Technically, I’m a punk rock drummer as of 1976, with all my leather, spiky hair and bad attitude. So, it’s “Punk drummer wins New Age Grammy”. That’s even better. I’ve finally got to tick that box.

If you had to choose, are you punk or new age?

I’ve got to choose? In my 70th year, I’m going to go with new age.`


Thanks to Stewart Copeland who was talking to John Earls for SDE. The Police’s tour film Around The World is released by Mercury Studios today. It’s available as CD+DVD or CD+blu-ray combo sets and as an LP+DVD edition.

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The Police

Around The World - Blu-ray + CD edition

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The Police

DVD + silver vinyl - in USA - and blue vinyl elsewhere

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The Police

Around The World - DVD + CD edition

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Tracklisting

Around The World The Police / Blu-ray or DVD

    • Features performances of:
      1. Next To You
      2. Walking On The Moon
      3. Born In The 50’s
      4. So Lonely
      5. Man In A Suitcase
      6. Can’t Stand Losing You
      7. Bring On The Night
      8. Canary In A Coalmine
      9. Voices Inside My Head
      10. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around
      11. Shadows In The Rain
      12. Don’t Stand So Close To Me
      13. Truth Hits Everybody
      14. Roxanne
      Bonus Features:Complete live performances of:
      1. Walking On The Moon (Live from Kyoto)
      2. Next To You (Live from Kyoto)
      3. Message In A Bottle (Live from Hong Kong)
      4. Born In The 50’s (Live from Hong Kong)

Tracklisting

Around The World The Police / CD

      1. Walking On The Moon – Live from Kyoto
      2. Next To You – Live from Kyoto
      3. Deathwish – Live from Kyoto
      4. So Lonely – Live from Kyoto
      5. Can’t Stand Losing You – Live from Kyoto
      6. Truth Hits Everybody – Live from Kyoto
      7. Visions Of The Night – Live from Hammersmith
      8. Roxanne – Live from Hammersmith
      9. Intro
      10. Born In The 50’s – Live from Hong Kong
      11. Message In A Bottle – Live from Hong Kong
      12. Bring On The Night – Live from Hong Kong

Compare prices and pre-order

The Police

Around The World - Blu-ray + CD edition

Currency:

Compare prices and pre-order

The Police

DVD + silver vinyl - in USA - and blue vinyl elsewhere

Currency:

Compare prices and pre-order

The Police

Around The World - DVD + CD edition

Currency:

Tracklisting

Around The World The Police / Blu-ray or DVD

    • Features performances of:
      1. Next To You
      2. Walking On The Moon
      3. Born In The 50’s
      4. So Lonely
      5. Man In A Suitcase
      6. Can’t Stand Losing You
      7. Bring On The Night
      8. Canary In A Coalmine
      9. Voices Inside My Head
      10. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around
      11. Shadows In The Rain
      12. Don’t Stand So Close To Me
      13. Truth Hits Everybody
      14. Roxanne
      Bonus Features:Complete live performances of:
      1. Walking On The Moon (Live from Kyoto)
      2. Next To You (Live from Kyoto)
      3. Message In A Bottle (Live from Hong Kong)
      4. Born In The 50’s (Live from Hong Kong)

Tracklisting

Around The World The Police / CD

      1. Walking On The Moon – Live from Kyoto
      2. Next To You – Live from Kyoto
      3. Deathwish – Live from Kyoto
      4. So Lonely – Live from Kyoto
      5. Can’t Stand Losing You – Live from Kyoto
      6. Truth Hits Everybody – Live from Kyoto
      7. Visions Of The Night – Live from Hammersmith
      8. Roxanne – Live from Hammersmith
      9. Intro
      10. Born In The 50’s – Live from Hong Kong
      11. Message In A Bottle – Live from Hong Kong
      12. Bring On The Night – Live from Hong Kong

Tracklisting

The Police / Around The World DVD+vinyl LP deluxe edition

Around The World The Police / Vinyl LP

    • Side A
      1. Walking On The Moon – Live from Kyoto
      2. Deathwish – Live from Kyoto
      3. So Lonely – Live from Kyoto
      4. Can’t Stand Losing You – Live from Kyoto
    • Side B
      1. Truth Hits Everybody – Live from Kyoto
      2. Roxanne – Live from Hammersmith
      3. Born In The 50’s – Live from Hong Kong
      4. Message In A Bottle – Live from Hong Kong
      5. Bring On The Night – Live from Hong Kong

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