Posts Tagged ‘the police’

Review: Chris Campion’s “Walking on the Moon: The Untold Story of the Police and the Rise of New Wave Rock”

December 17th, 2009

Review by sockii (Nicole Pellegrini)

As a die-hard fan of The Police, I was looking forward to reading this recently-published book about the band.

Unfortunately, Chris Campion’s Walking on the Moon: The Untold Story of the Police and the Rise of New Wave Rock is, quite simply, the most negatively-toned rock “biography” – and I use that term very lightly in this case – I can recall ever reading. While there is some interesting information contained within its 300 pages, each of those pages is so thoroughly laced with such glaring disdain on the author’s part for his subject matter, one is left truly puzzled over what motivated him to write the book in the first place. Is it pure sour grapes over the success of a band whose music he clearly dislikes, a band whose popularity he can’t understand unless dismissed away as the result of clever, aggressive marketing and the political climate of the time? Is it just a cheap shot at trying to cash in on the band’s name before buzz over their reunion tour fades away?

I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that Campion has put considerable time into researching his subject, if only to make sure there is no negative comment ever made about the band or its members, nor any questionable or scandalous incident about them, that he misses including.

The negativity starts subtly, but begins to creep in through even the simplest word choices used to describe the band members, their associates and their actions. Andy Summers “fumes”, “whines” and “sneers” throughout the book, painted by Campion as an intensely bitter man of questionable skill as a guitarist, clinging desperately to The Police as his last chance at stardom after failing to make it earlier in his career. Stewart Copeland is portrayed as a spoiled youngest child, an immature “frat boy” type, a pothead whose drumming is only referred to by Campion when he can bring up criticisms of Copeland’s time-keeping. Sting is a cruel egotist who Campion spends considerable effort trying to psychoanalyze, repeatedly referring to his Catholic upbringing and mother’s infidelity as the root of his many problems. Miles Copeland III is focused on nearly much as the band members themselves, illustrated as the ruthless force behind their success through his promotion and marketing schemes – even as all of his problems with other acts and artists (and later the Police themselves) are thoroughly detailed. The only one who gets off relatively unscathed is Ian Copeland, “the only good one of the bunch”, supposedly. Oh, and of course any of the band or Miles’ associates through the years who were interviewed directly by Campion so that they could air their personal grievances, including Cherry Vanilla, Jayne Country, Nigel and Chis Gray, and members of the band Squeeze.

Those looking for any real analysis of the band’s music? Look elsewhere. Campion has little interest in doing so beyond taking shots at Sting’s lyric writing and discussing the struggles they had in the studio, recording. Those hoping for good details on the three band members’ post-Police careers? Not to be found here. Sting is given the greatest focus, but mostly so he can be taken to task for everything including his poor acting, profiting off of black music and musicians, his dubious charitable causes and also his financial and personal relationship woes. Stewart is mostly dismissed except for Campion going into great detail over criticism of Copeland’s opera “Holy Blood and Crescent Moon”. Andy’s solo years barely merit two pages of coverage, primarily devoted to Campion mocking his photography as “little more than nicely-composed snapshots printed in black and white to give them a semblance of artsiness.”

The band’s reunion tour is briefly covered in the last chapter, primarily rehashing details well-covered in the press already and here used to further Campion’s argument that the band had no real impact on music except as an extreme marketing success story. He repeats much of his earlier criticism of the entire new wave movement, which has been almost as central a subject of the book as the band it’s advertised as being about. What he seems completely unaware of – or chooses not to acknowledge – is the lasting influence the band’s music has had on generations of musicians who have followed them. The Police made solid pop-rock music that was well-crafted and featured musicianship that was inspired, and inspiring. Whether they were as groundbreaking or revolutionary as The Beatles or Elvis Presley is not and should not be the question, nor the only meter by which their merit as musicians should be measured.

Looking through the notes and sources at the end of the book leaves the impression that Campion was quite thorough in his research, as previously noted. But he was also careless and sloppy. He makes numerous small mistakes that devoted Police fans are sure to pick up on, and it leads one to cast doubt on the veracity of all matters presented in the book as a result. For example, he gives the wrong date for the band’s final concert of the reunion tour at Madison Square Garden (August 9, 2008 when in fact it was August 7, 2008). He also claims they came out on stage in Police uniforms for the show, which was untrue; Sting donned a Police hat at the beginning of the show but that was it. He makes mistakes about which songs were cut from the second leg of the reunion tour and which ones were added. All minor details, yes, but it adds up to contribute to this reader’s poor impression of the work as a whole.

He devotes little effort to covering the fandom for the band, except again where he can potentially derive the most scandal and shock value from it. For instance, he devotes a page to the “bizarre” phenomenon of “slash fiction” about the band, misrepresenting bandfiction‘s roots and showing his lack of understanding of the genre and its motivations as being something undertaken by “female groupies”. That said, he does seem rather taken by the work of FanHistory’s own administrator, sidewinder, describing her fiction as “extraordinary” (in fact it seems to be one of the few things in the entire book he has any positive words for!) The only other times he talks about the fandom at all is when he can bring up kerfluffles and incidents such as Stewart’s infamous “Disaster Gig” blog post, and an incident involving a Police website set up by Miles Copeland that was accused of cheating money out of fans until the problem was addressed by Stewart and Andy. Perhaps given how little Campion seems to understand about the band’s popularity, it would have done him some good to actually interview some fans of the band to get their perspective, instead of trying to force his theories and hypothoses onto them.

Which in the end is all a shame, as a good book thoroughly covering the band’s complete history without an obvious agenda and bias would be much appreciated. This book simply isn’t it. One is much better off reading the respective autobiographies of each of the band members, and looking to find the truth somewhere in the middle of their individual recollections and points-of-view.

Review: Strange Things Happen by Stewart Copeland

September 29th, 2009

Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies by Stewart Copeland hits bookstores today, September 29. Review by Nicole Pellegrini (sockii)

* * *

I feel a little bit like pulling a Jedi Mind Trick here to start off this review. Or that perhaps Stewart Copeland has pulled one over on all of us readers, or that he should do before the angry shouts and rampant confusion surely begins.

Police fans looking for, at long last, Stewart’s definitive statement on The Police?

*handwave*

“This is not the book you are looking for.”

As far as I see it, Stewart made his definitive statement on the early Police years with Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out. (You can read my original review of that film in my archives.) If you’re expecting much more here, you’ll be disappointed, although there are a few brilliant gems of observation that slip through the cracks when and where you least expect it.

Diehard Stewart fans–the self-proclaimed Nutters and Snarks–looking for deep personal insight and a detailed history of Stewart’s life and all his various projects?

*handwave*

“This is not the book you are looking for.”

Stewart Copeland is not here to divulge all his secrets, nor dish the dirt on his past relationships, musical or personal. If you’re looking for either type of information, you’ll be highly disappointed (go read band mate Andy Summers’ book “One Train Later” instead). What Stewart is here to do is share some stories with us, and most of these stories are quite lighthearted and fun in their nature and tone. They’re the kind of stories you’d share at a dinner party to good friends, people who will get all the in-jokes and references you’ll be making. It’s no wonder that when Stewart first shared some of these stories on his website, it was in a section of the site entitled “Stewart’s Dinner Tales”.

But if you’re looking for a traditional autobiography? Seriously, listen carefully to me, right now:

“This is not the book you are looking for.”

* * *

Structurally? Strange Things Happen is kind of a massive hot mess. It’s divided into four sections: Stewart’s early life (where he sticks The Police); immediately after The Police; the years 2000 – (roughly) 2007; and lastly the reunion tour. I found myself oddly reminded of a Kurt Vonnegut novel as I read through it all, with the various chapters jumping here and there through time–some very short, some longer; the narration from Everyone Stares stuck in-between the prose as a substitute for a developed chapter on the Police’s early years.

However this jumpy shatter-shot structure seemed to emphasize the surreal nature of some of these events and adventures Stewart describes in his tall (drummer) tales. How does one go from being at the top of the world with The Police to seeking out pygmy tribes in Africa? Playing polo matches against Prince Charles? Becoming a reality show “celebrity”/villian? It’s a wild life story that probably could have filled several volumes if described in detail, but that’s not the intent here. We get the highlight reel instead–and with Stewart’s clever prose and eye for pertinent, well-chosen detail, a great deal is often revealed in just a few words or sentences.

Some Police fans seem put off by the fact that The Police (v 1.0) is dismissed so quickly in the book. I think the important points Stewart wants to share about that time were, again, already made in his movie and then emphasized in the brief chapter that follows here, “Police Rule”. He doesn’t talk about the band, his bandmates, the creative (and other) tension between them. He talks about the disorientation of being The Rock Star, an idolized one, and the effect it has on one’s mental well-being.

It was getting claustrophobic. Privacy deprivation is something like sleep deprivation. The love that surrounds you becomes vexatious.

I often wished that I could merely turn my collar up and shun the light.

But Police fans really should relax and take a deep breath, as they get more than enough about the band in the last section of the book. Again mostly snippets from here and there as the reunion tour rumbled along, it is an enjoyable look into the machinery of the band: rehearsing and road rituals, major tensions and how and where they were resolved; what brought out the best and worst in each of them as musicians (and individuals) and why it was painfully, clearly obvious that there could never be a “new” Police album after all of this was over. As far as individual incidents go, I especially enjoyed the chapter “Raging Kumbaya”, Stewart’s story of hanging out with Rage Against the Machine as well as the section in the “Toast in the Machine” chapter on what happened when Sting and Les Claypool crossed paths.

* * *

The book’s Afterward, entitled simply “The Green Flag”, apparently seems troubling to some members of Stewart’s fandom and is getting very mixed reactions so far. I personally find it a very suitable ending in its ambiguity and the quandary presented. The afterword is placed side-by-side in the book by a full-page picture of Stewart with his wife and family, with the caption “This is who I really am”. The message is not very subtle, I don’t think: “I am not a superhero (Halloween costumes excluded.) I’m just a regular family guy who has had some strange things happen to me.”

The story of The Flag has been told well by others elsewhere, and will continue to be told by the fans who participated in its travels for years to come. (Goodness knows, whenever I can finally find the time to edit together my book of fans’ recollections from the tour, that story will be told many times over!) But fandom is a funny thing. I spend a lot of time thinking about and writing about fandom, having been involved in various ones for most of my life. Fandoms very much are communities which develop their own rules and rituals, symbolism and language, as Stewart hints at here in the Afterward. And they can develop an almost religious fervor about them. Fans converge at conventions and at concerts, often donning ritual gear and costumes to identify themselves in a crowd and feel united. Fandom can by joyous; sharing in a common love for a band, artist, film or tv show can be great fun. Yet it can also turn ugly very quickly and harmful quite easily, both for the members of that fandom and for those at the center of all that attention. Everyone Stares certainly gave many of us a first-hand view of what it could be like to be in the middle of that kind of fannish mania and attention, and one gets the sense that Stewart is rather cautious about anything that could encourage or set off that crazed adulation again.

Which is not to say I necessarily believe that Stewart “reads” the Flag as such. But I do get the feeling that there’s a sense of caution in embracing it too closely lest it get out of control–for those waving the Flag as much as for him. Throughout the book, we’ve read his stories of what it’s like to try to find a normal life in the aftermath of being The Rock Star one time around. And as much as he may have enjoyed the ride this second time during the reunion tour, there’s an understanding of where taking it too far can lead.

“The folks at the concerts aren’t bowing down so much as rising up in exultation, but I’m just saying that I have an idea of what it feels like to be a golden calf.”

It’s cautionary in tone as much as it is a loving (well, I think so, anyway) acknowledgement of this “nutty” fandom that Stewart has, which he’s long been more than generous with supporting and encouraging for these many years.

In the end, this is a book I’m very happy to be able to add to my collection of materials related to The Police and the members of the band. At times it’s frustrating, at times it’s hysterical, and some times it’s utterly brilliant. It’s another piece to the puzzle that is/was The Police that probably has no solution nor answer, but a piece I’ll enjoy going through again from time to time for a good chuckle and to mull over in my mind–like any good dinner tale that deserves retelling amidst the best company.

Follow up: Most human revised articles on Fan History

April 9th, 2009

The last post was heavy in terms of bot revised edits on Fan History. It is that way because our data collection bots update every day and some have been active since September 2008. This is the last of non-bot, human edited entries on Fan History.

The following data is cached, and was last updated 18:45, 9 April 2009.

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Keyword peaks for fandoms and fansites on Fan History in 2008

December 31st, 2008

The following are when interest, based on keyword (not keyphrase), spiked in 2008 on Fan History according to Google Analytics…

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December 1

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December 29

Police-fandom after the reunion tour.

November 25th, 2008

With the release earlier this month of “Certifiable”, the official tour documentary and concert video, it fully feels that this most recent chapter in the history and fandom of The Police has come to a conclusion. Between February of 2007 and August of 2008, the band enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with many fans both new and old coming together at concerts, gatherings, and on the internet. Many of these fans had either not been involved in organized fandom activities before, or came back to it after a long absence, perhaps having only been active in the band’s offline fandom through the original fanclub Outlandos.

So it is interesting to me to look at what’s been going on in the fandom in the months that have followed: which messageboards and communities are still active and thriving? Which communities have grown quiet? What new communities are being formed?

The “new” official fanclub launched in February 2007, ThePolice.com (wiki), is still active, but primarily in promoting “Certifiable” and a few other projects coming up related to the band members. The messageboard, however, has grown much quieter since the end of the tour, and it is uncertain what the site’s future will be come next year when membership renewals will be up again. Will there still be a fanclub after next February, or will it be reabsorbed back into Sting’s official fanclub? Only time will tell, and given ThePolice.com was one of the primary sites used by those who claimed to be new to organized fandom, one wonders how many will look for new homes for certain or will disappear again from active fandom entirely.

policefans.org (wiki), which was largely created as a fan-driven response to the corporate-sponsored official site, has seen a definite pick-up in contributions to the PoliceWiki, but the messageboard activity has been very low and primarily focused on concert-trading and off-topic chat.

Speaking of off-topic chatter, that appears to be what the bulk of fans are engaging in after many established either (or both) Facebook and LiveJournal accounts to stay in touch. Because of the friendships formed during the year and a half of the tour, many fans have found these blogging and social networking sites provide a good avenue for staying in contact beyond fannish activities and concert get-togethers.

The forums on Stewart Copeland’s Official Site(wiki) have remained quite active since the end of the tour, even if at reduced posting levels (although many long-time members of the site felt the board had become too active during the peak of tour activity and are glad to see it return to a more manageable posting volume per day). The current active members include those who have been members of the site for years as well as those who were new to it during the tour.

The Police section of the StingUS (wiki) forums has fallen very quiet, but the Sting section has picked up activity now that Sting has resumed solo projects. As many members of that forum had expressed preference for Sting-solo over Sting with The Police, this trend makes sense, and the site should continue to remain a fairly vibrant community for Sting-related discussion along with the official website Sting.com.

What all of this means for the production of creative fanworks in the fandom remains to be seen. A fan-produced documentary of the tour and the fandom is set to be screened early in 2009, and a fanzine collecting stories from the tour is also set to be produced around the same time period. There has been no noticeable increase in activity as far as the production of fan-fiction and fan-art in this fandom, even as there has been more discussion of slash and subtext between the band members in such new communities as hungry_4_you (wiki).

It will be interesting to re-examine the fandom in another year’s time, and see where activity has continued, grown weaker, or perhaps even grown stronger as all the band members return to their solo activities.

How a fandom organization could serve fandom and those fandom fans

June 24th, 2008

Fans and those they fan over frequently have competing interests. This can and does inevitably set the two parties up for conflict. Unlike objects of fannish adoration, fans aren’t unified; there is no group which has networked in fandom, which has worked with fans to organize them. There is no fan group which has stepped up, explained the position of the fans, explained the position of those they fan and offered to mediate the disputes that have happened. Such an organization, one which had respect and support from both parties could prove to be beneficial for business operating in fan space and for fans themselves as it would allow both parties a good platform for their positions with the idea of creating a more open environment where more effective communication can take place. Similar organizations and efforts have been made in other spaces. The most notable of these probably is UStream facilitating a town hall event for Digg users.

In the past year and a half, a number of fan conflicts with those they fan have happened. As an outsider with occasional insider knowledge, both sides have their strong points, valid concerns that get lost in the struggle that both sides go through. The struggle can hurt those who are fanned and fans. Below is my list of conflicts where such an organization could have done the most good for everyone one involved. They are in no particular order.

  • Quizilla: Quizilla is a blogging, social networking community owned by Viacom, run by Nickelodeon’s The N Network. There is a large fan fiction community on the site, thanks to the ability to add stories. The Quizilla incident occurred in early 2008. Quizilla announced that they were removing the ratings system on the site, as adult content was in violation of the Terms of Service so the rating system for such content wasn’t necessary. Quizilla also said they would enforce the rules against posting content featuring death. Many of the users were upset about this as they felt these restrictions, along with losing the ability to customize their profiles, were an affront to their creativity.
  • LiveJournal: LiveJournal is a blogging service and social network. The site has had a number of run ins with fandom in the past year and a half over such issues as what content is allowable on the network, how the abuse team handles fandom related situations, advertisement placement and privacy concerns.
  • FanLib: FanLib is a service which hosts fan fiction, video, and fan art. It also hosts contests for intellectual property holders. Fans were upset over the commercial nature of the project and how the site first engaged fandom on various message boards and LiveJournal.
  • Wikia: Wikia is a wiki host and wiki community. They provide, free of charge, tools for people running wikis to help grow the content of the wiki. In June 2008, Wikia announced that they would be putting advertisements in the content area of some wiki articles on the service. Users were upset because of the lack of notice, how they felt the ads were implemented, the types of ads appearing in their wiki and the disruption to the formatting of articles.here was some talk of the major wikis moving. They list of fandom wikis which were supposed to have contemplated moving included Wookieepedia, Creatures Wiki, and MemoryAlpha.
  • The Police: The Police are a band with a fan club. During 2008, fans were upset with the fan club because they were expecting members to sign up at the same rate for the previous year ($100) without any information about what the club would do for them in 2008 as the tour dates had already been announced, being told concerts were the final concerts only to find several additional shows added to the tour, having good seats for the final show swapped out for bad ones without notifying buyers, asking for members to submit pictures from the tour for a DVD the fanclub would sell with out offering compensation, such as giving contributors a free DVD.
  • TokyoPop: TokyoPop is a manga distributor. In May 2008, some fans were upset over the Manga Pilot program. They felt that the contract involved with the program was not fair and took unfair advantage of contributors.Related Fan History articles: Quizilla, LiveJournal, FanLib, Wikia, Creatures Wiki, ThePolice.com, Tokyopop
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