Drummer Stewart Copeland of rock icons The Police wasn’t particularly happy with the band’s performance in Vancouver as they began their first world tour in 23 years May 30th:
“This is unbelievably lame,” Copeland wrote [in his blog at his web site] of last Wednesday’s show at the GM Place arena. “We are the mighty Police and we are totally at sea.”
According to Copeland, the band played out of time on a tune or two, missed cues for ending songs, and generally just flummoxed their way through the performance:
“It usually takes about four or five shows in a tour before you get to the disaster gig. But we’re The Police so we are a little ahead of schedule,” he said.
What might be most interesting for fans who paid healthy sums for tickets to see their rock idols is Copeland’s attitude towards the poor performances:
“Screw it, it’s only music. What are you gonna do? But maybe it’s time to get out of Vancouver.”
Well, he’s got their money – what can he say? “Here, everybody take back ten bucks ’cause we made a couple of mistakes…”?
That is SOOOO not rock and roll, boys and girls…. The mantra in that business (I say this as a wily veteran) is “get your money or someone else will.”
So, how to take Copeland’s words?
One of the problems with any live performance is that things can go wrong – trust me – having done many live shows in my own musical career, I saw my share of “problem” shows. Often the audience barely notices the problems (if at all), but musicians notice, and they care.
Knowing the perfectionists the Police are, Copeland’s comments are meant, I’m sure, as sardonic humor at his and his band mates’ expense. No musician of Copeland’s professional stature feels anything but lousy if he gives what he considers less than his best performance. It’ll make future Police shows all the better – but he (and Sting and Andy) will still be haunted by the Vancouver problems….
Still it never hurts to hold their words up to them – as colleague Pat Vecchio notes, the words most often associated with “reunion tour” are “wretched excess.”
But this is rock and roll – so that’s to be expected.
(Thx to musician pal Michael Leffew for the tip.)
Categories: Generations, Music/Popular Culture
This is probably Stu being Stu – he’s one of the two or three best drummers in the history of rock and you don’t get that way by being something other than a perfectionist.
This being the Police, we’ll now see if Sting responds by being Sting….
Fuck Stewart Copeland. I was already miffed about their overpriced reunion tickets, but Copeland basically says jazz is shit. Tough talk coming from a white guy named Stew who hasn’t done a damn thing worthwhile since Sting broke up the band.
“Q: I read something where a writer said that you have some sort of aversion to jazz?
Stewart Copeland: It’s a fun party trick, but I am allergic to jazz. I was raised to be a jazz musician, my father was a jazz musician and I was steeped in jazz from the moment my ears blinked open, which is why I am immune to jazz. And my main reason why I love dissing jazz is jazz musicians. The problem with jazz musicians is that they are all crap. It’s sort of like jazz is the refuge of the talent-less. If you really want to be a musician and you are prepared to really work hard at it, but you don’t have the gift and you don’t have any soul and you don’t have any talent, jazz is what you should do; because all you need to do is just spend hours training your fingers to wiggle very quickly and you’ll be a hero in the jazz world. Not so in blues. In blues you need talent, you need X factor, you need heart, you need to have lived a life, you have to have something to say, you need to be an actual musician to play the blues. Jazz, any fool can do it; all you gotta do is practice.
Q: And do you think that hold true for the elite, for folks like Jack DeJohneete?
SC: I love Jack DeJohneete. Some of the others
Not to draw any more fire than I already do, but it’s kinda nice to hear Copeland speaking truth here. Yeah, some jazz players are really talented, but if you’re playing and you make a mistake and nobody can tell, isn’t there something a little off?
Jazz is the art of improvisation, not the art of studio perfection. You can stick with the pop crap and Stewie Copeland’s extensive library of classic solo compositions, I’ll take junkie Coltrane muttering “a love supreme.”
Well, I’ll venture into the fray…
For years I lived by John Lennon’s dictum – “Jazz is shit music.” (I can’t help but think that this probably appealed to Stew Copeland at some point, too.)
I have a healthy respect for jazz now, though I do find that I prefer more traditional forms to progressive. I never cared much for jam band/prog rock “stretch-outs” either, though, so it’s partly a matter of taste. And I say that as a bass player whose role models were Sir Paul, Entwistle, John Paul Jones, and Jack Bruce – guys who could move it on the fretboard….
And I have to agree with Sam – there’s that issue (and it’s particularly true in progressive jazz) of the mistake that no one can tell is a mistake.
While I respect jazz players’ instrumental virtuosity, I lean toward those who work the side of the street where I can tell when they’re on and when they’re not….
“And the reason is because they don
John Lennon also thought Yoko Ono was a genius and despite his enormous talent made a lot of forgettable music throughout his solo career. Not gonna hold it against Lennon, whom I love, but I won’t even go into Stewie anymore. He is nothing without Sting, no one is gonna pay $100 a cheap seat to see him do sixteenth-note runs and self-indulgent fills. I can’t help but think his jabs at jazz are a snide, petty way of getting back at Sting, who is a jazz devotee (particularly Gil Evans).
Sorry, but I will stick by jazz till my dying day. It’s as valid as any other music, more so to some degree, and to naysayers I say, stick to your pop trash all you want. You get exactly what you deserve.
“John Lennon also thought Yoko Ono was a genius and despite his enormous talent made a lot of forgettable music throughout his solo career.”
Isn’t that what everybody still blames Yoko for?
Jim, he kinda has a point on the Yoko thing. And he’s probably right about Copeland poking at Sting a bit.
That doesn’t make him right about jazz, though. He still hasn’t addressed the point about how you can’t tell if a guy butchers a note yet…. 🙂
How can you even stand to listen to Space Team Electra then if all you’re after is note-by-note perfection? They did messy little masterpieces. I couldn’t tell if Myshel was fucking up or off on an ingenious tangent, but I didn’t care. I like music from the heart, I could give a shit about a slipped note, a botched phrase or a missed beat. I can feel Bud Powell’s pain, I can sense Monk’s whimsy, Miles Davis’ bitterness, Jaco’s passion, Wayne Shorter and Zawinul’s melancholy, Herbie Hancock’s funky madness, etc. etc.
Fuck Stewart Copeland. He has no heart. Just listen to him talk… he’s more full of himself than the artists he rips on. He doesn’t move me. And neither do the rips on a beautiful art form that the rest of the world seems to appreciate more than the country it was born in.
I’m not going to argue Yoko, she’s beside the point – most everyone thinks John was wrong about Yoko, including me. What’s his being wrong about Yoko have to do with his comment about jazz? That it proves he’s wrong about jazz, too? As we rhetoricians say, “It does not follow….”
(John’s jazz comment was motivated more by problems beat groups had getting places to play during the “trad jazz” craze of the early ’60’s than any real feeling for/against jazz, btw. But I only learned that years later. Proof once again that even our heroes can sometimes mislead us without meaning to, perhaps….)
While I love rock and will defend it, I’m aware of its limitations. I pointed some of them , as I see them, out. Surely, Mike, you feel that some jazz isn’t all it should be. I suspect, for instance, that you’d feel uncomfortable trying to defend “smooth jazz” like Kenny G, for instance…just as I’m uncomfortable defending “jam band” rock….
Jazz has its limitations for some listeners – like this one – that’s my point. I love Errol Garner, Wes Montgomery, and lots of other jazz artists. Great, great players…but some of it, I find too obtuse (Coltrane at times) or smarmy (Kenny G all the damned time) to engage me….
Also, I wasn’t defending Stew Copeland – I agree he’s taking cheap shots in the interview material you provided. Sorry I wasn’t clearer about that.
What may be “pop trash” to some is “rock treasure” to others. And jazz is a wide ranging musical form – just like rock.
Let me close with an example – it occurred to me as I was closing this – I adore Cannonball Adderly’s treatment of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” I also adore The Buckinghams’ treatment of the same tune. One I think you’d agree is an all time jazz great. The other is a “pop trash” band (to use your term) from the ’60’s. But a great song by Joe Zawinul (a jazz-rock kind of guy) gave both of them the chance to make something transcendent.
Cannonball was able to repeat that feat again and again. The Buckinghams – well, not so much.
It’s always the “principle of moments” at work….
Mike, I have never set about asserting that there was something innately superior about shoegazer as a form. When somebody from My Bloody Valentine tries to lay a snoot trip on me the way a lot of jazz aficionados do, then we can have that discussion.
“Surely, Mike, you feel that some jazz isn
Well, I only wish Pat had told us how he really felt about Kenny G. 😉
Priceless, Mike – thanks for sharing.
Well, can’t speak for Stew, but for me it comes from a few places. One I note above – if a listener can’t tell the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong, I really don’t want to hear the kinds of attitude you often hear from jazzies.
Some of it is more rooted in taste, though, and this I would never assert in a critical discussion. As a rule, I’d a lot more song-driven, whereas jazz and stuff like jam bands are driven by virtuosity (whether real or imagined). As a rule, I don’t really care how well you play if WHAT you play isn’t worth listening to. It takes discipline to construct a song that works (and even more to construct a suite of songs that cohere in the sorts of ways that make albums great instead of merely good).
And by the way, I used to listen to jazz. Not a lot, but some. I think I migrated away because it was so cold and distant – it exalted the ability to play a lot of notes (that may or may not sound good together) over the ability that music has to connect with the SOUL. Maybe that’s the core of a more satisfying critical comment, then – music shouldn’t put a part – in this case, technical precision – ahead of the whole?
Very cool. Thanks, Elaine. 🙂
It dawns on me why I do like certain jazz…weekly trips to the drive-in all through the 70s in South Africa. Lots of ‘jazzy’ musical film scores.