Andrew James Somers (born 31 December 1942), known professionally as Andy Summers, is an English guitarist who was a member of the rock band the Police. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the band in 2003. Summers has recorded solo albums, collaborated with other musicians, composed film scores, and exhibited his photography in galleries.
Andrew James Summers was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. During his childhood, his family moved to Bournemouth, then in Hampshire, England (it was reassigned to Dorset in 1974). After several years of piano lessons, he took up the guitar. At an early age he played jazz guitar. In his teens he saw a concert by Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie in London that left a lasting impression. By sixteen he was playing in local clubs and by nineteen he had moved to London with his friend Zoot Money to form Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band.
Summers’s professional career began in the mid-1960s in London as guitarist for the British rhythm and blues band Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, which eventually came under the influence of the psychedelic scene and evolved into the acid rock group Dantalian’s Chariot. In September 1966, Summers was the first guitarist encountered by Jimi Hendrix after landing in the UK. The young Summers is portrayed in fiction as one of the “two main love interests” in Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne’s 1969 book Groupie, in which he is given the pseudonym “Davey”.
After the demise of Dantalion’s Chariot, Summers joined Soft Machine for three months and toured the United States. For a brief time in 1968, he was a member of the Animals, then known as Eric Burdon and the Animals, with whom he recorded one album, Love Is. The album features a recording of Traffic’s “Coloured Rain”, which includes a 4 minute and 15 second guitar solo by Summers. The LP also included a reworked version of Dantalion’s Chariot’s sole single “Madman Running Through the Fields”.
After five years in Los Angeles, mostly spent studying classical guitar and composition in the music programme at California State University, Northridge, from which he graduated in 1972, he returned to London with his American girlfriend, Kate Lunken.
In London, Summers recorded and toured with acts including Kevin Coyne, Jon Lord, Joan Armatrading, David Essex, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayers. In October 1975 he participated in an orchestral rendition of Mike Oldfield’s seminal “Tubular Bells”.
In 1977, Summers was invited by ex-Gong bassist Mike Howlett to join his band Strontium 90, but was soon coaxed away by future Police bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland.
Summers achieved international fame as the guitarist for the Police, which he joined in 1977, eventually replacing original guitarist Henry Padovani. Emerging from London’s punk scene, the Police gained international renown with many hit songs, including “Message in a Bottle”, “Roxanne”, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, “Every Breath You Take”, and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”. During his time with the band, Summers twice won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, first in 1979 for “Reggatta de Blanc” (written with Copeland and Sting) and in 1980 for “Behind My Camel”.
Although Sting was the lead singer of the band, Summers occasionally contributed lead vocals, as in “Be My Girl/Sally” (1978), “Friends” (1980), “Mother” (1983), and “Someone to Talk To” (1983). Other notable Summers compositions from this period are “Omegaman” (which would have been released as the debut single from the 1981 Ghost in the Machine album had Sting not objected), “Shambelle” (1981), “Once Upon a Daydream”, and “Murder by Numbers” both co-written with Sting (both 1983). In early 1984, after seven years together and record sales around eighty million, the Police disbanded.
Though not given songwriting credit, Summers wrote the guitar riff for “Every Breath You Take”. It was recorded in one take with his 1961 Fender Stratocaster during the Synchronicity sessions. The song was number one for eight weeks. Sting won the 1983 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, and the Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocal for this song. Summers provides an account of the session in his memoir, One Train Later.
As a member of the Police, Summers created a trademark guitar sound, which relied heavily on a chorus effect. He explained in 2017 how the sound came about:
“I created it sort of out of necessity; my mission was ‘We’re going to play for two hours each night as a trio,’ so I wanted to have this fantastic, coloured guitar sound that was different for every song. So, I used the Echoplex, then a chorus, and a few other pedals…envelope filters. As we went on, I acquired more stuff and got a Pete Cornish board. But what was driving it was to invade and push the edge of what the guitar was supposed to sound like, and make it really interesting over a show. So, it wasn’t just one straight sound all the time. I could move it around. And it was appreciated by many millions of people (laughs). Of course, it’s very tired and a bit ‘retro’ now; I’m not very keen on it anymore. But in those days it was new, fresh, and exciting.”
Summers’s solo career has included recording, touring, composing for films (including 2010, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Rumble Fish, The Wild Life and Weekend at Bernie’s), and exhibiting his photography in art galleries around the world.
He recorded the duet albums I Advance Masked (1982) and Bewitched (1984) with guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson, as well as duet albums with Victor Biglione, John Etheridge, and Benjamin Verdery. His solo debut album, XYZ, was released in 1987 and is the only non-instrumental album in his catalogue. Although it included pop material, such as the single “Love is the Strangest Way”, it failed to dent the charts. In 1987 Sting invited Summers to perform on his second album …Nothing Like the Sun, a favour the singer returned by playing bass on Charming Snakes (1990) and later contributing vocals to “‘Round Midnight” on Summers’ tribute album to Thelonious Monk, Green Chimneys, in 1999. In the mid-1990s Summers briefly returned to a more rock-oriented sound with Synesthesia (1995) and The Last Dance of Mr X (1997) before recording a string of jazz albums. He also participated very early in the formation of Animal Logic.
During the 2007 Grammys Award show, the Police appeared, playing “Roxanne” and subsequently announcing that they would be going on tour. The Police Reunion Tour began in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on 28 May 2007, and continued until August 2008, becoming the third highest-grossing tour of all time.
In August 2013, Summers announced he had formed a new band, Circa Zero, with Rob Giles from the Rescues. Originally, drummer Emmanuelle Caplette was also a member of the band. Their debut show was 25 July 2013 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The band’s debut album, Circus Hero, was released 25 March 2014. It is titled after a malapropism of the band’s name made by a radio disc jockey during an interview of Summers. The first single, “Levitation,” was released to US adult album alternative radio on 3 March 2014; and reached number 36 on the Japan Hot 100 chart.
In March 2017, Summers announced he had formed Call the Police, a Police tribute band, with two Brazilian musicians, Rodrigo Santos (Barão Vermelho aka Red Baron) on bass guitar and vocals and Joao Barone (Os Paralamas do Sucesso) on drums.
On 25 June 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Summers among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. (wikipedia)
While guitarist for the Police, one of the most popular rock bands of all time, andy Summers never felt he had the professional oportunity to properly express his chops. Casual fans of the Police may be surprised to learn that Summers’ career did not begin with them. Born on New Years Eve, 1942 in wartime Lancashire, England. Summers recorded in the late 1960s with Eric Burdon ans the Animals and later with Joan Armatrading and Kevin Ayers. Then came the Police, where his keenly sharp sense of time and rhythm, full of reggae, ska, South African and world music ambiance made him a household name.
But Summers was antsy and started recording his own in 1982, even before the Police disbanded in 1985. Over the next decade he released a string of well received, mostly art-rock recordings before he veered into the jazz arena and put out two pivotal albums: Green Chimneys – The Music Of Thelonious Monk and a recording of Charles Mingus compositions called Peggy’s Blue Skylight. Both established Summers as a bona fide jazz cat with a serious fusion jones. While Summers’ post-Police recordings head off in headier directions, he does bring his pop-y Police guitar style to bear, here and there, on his new recording.
Overall, Earth & Sky effectively draws and efficiently walks a very fine line between Adult Contemporary jazz and fusion. For example, “The Diva Station” and “Parallels” will appeal to fussiest Boney James and Bill Frisell fans at the same time. On the other edge of the spectrum Summers produces an acid fusion on “Above The World” and a title cut that recalls the guitar-drumming pyrotechnics experienced on jazz improviser Jonas Hellborg’s late ‘90s Bardo recordings. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta propels this recording powerfully. Andy Summers, for his part performs deftly both electrically and, on the organic “Roseville” and “Parallels” acoustically.
Nixed at Summers’ Divine Mother Studio, the album has a warm and full sound spread fairly even over the sonic landscape. As such, along with the intelligent mix of the contemporary and fusion elements of jazz, Earth & Sky serves as a good introduction to both Summers (independent of the Police) and to jazz itself. (by Grapevine Culture)
John Beasley (keyboards)
Katisse Buckingham (saxophone)
Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
Abraham Laboriel (bass)
John Novello (keyboards)
Andy Summers (guitar)
01. Above The World 5:21
02 Now I’m Free 5:26
03. The Diva Station 5:44
04. Return 4:31
05. Earth & Sky 5:37
06. Parallels 4:37
07. Circus 5:00
08. Roseville 4:19
09. Red Stiletto 5:46
10. I Choose You 4:49
Music composed by Andy Summers