Around the World’ Documentary, now reissued decades later
By 1980, British rock trio The Police had already established themselves as a hit band in the UK and US with hit songs such as “Roxanne”, “Can’t Stand Losing You”, ” Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon.” That year, the band members – drummer Stewart Copeland, guitarist Andy Summers and bassist/vocalist Sting – were on their first and most ambitious international tour which saw them stop in Mexico, Egypt, Japan , Australia, Greece, Hong Kong and India. It’s a memory that still lingers in Copeland’s mind more than four decades after the fact.
“This tour was probably the most fun tour ever. [Police] adventure,” he says. “We were the first rock band in Greece and Bombay. They really weren’t markets, they were just extremely exotic places where the bands didn’t tour. But we did, and it was damn photogenic.
Footage of this tour was filmed and then released in 1982 as The police: around the world on VHS and Laserdisc. Out of print for decades, the documentary has just been restored and is available in three formats: Blu-ray + CD; DVDs + CDs; and DVD+LPs; his extras include four full live performances. This new re-release via Mercury Studios is another indication of the continued interest in Police music as well as a sign of potentially more archival material to come from the band’s vaults.
“Recently, for some reason, we pulled ourselves together and are now on social media,” Copeland said of his former band. “And the incoming message was, ‘No more product.’ ‘What do you have?’ ‘What about The police: around the world that no one has seen but everyone has heard of? Because when it was released before, it was on Laserdisc. No one had Laserdisc, which very quickly became an orphan technology. So while it was technically released before, it hasn’t been released. And it’s been remastered and all the stuff has been remastered… they’ve gone out and cleaned it up a lot and found a lot more live material and so on.
The idea to play outside of mainstream music markets at the time came from Miles Copeland, the band’s visionary manager (and brother of Stewart), in an effort to maximize publicity for the band. “I would give Miles 100% credit for this idea,” Copeland says. “We, of course, get credit for jumping on it – ‘Are you kidding? Yes!’ But Miles had this vision. And also, he had the global know-how to succeed. Other real rock managers don’t know who to call in Cairo or how to deal with what was then called the Third World. But Miles had this worldly experience.
“They were cool places to visit. We had a lot of fun doing it. That was the best part. But also, we have a cool movie. It was very photogenic, and Miles’ vision was to establish this global police presence.
the original Around the world documentary captured the band members performing on stage across the world while soaking up the local environment and culture that revealed the camaraderie and humor of a band that was known to go head-to-head. But “bands bond,” Copeland explains, “and we were a long way from the studio, where all of our tensions arose. When we were on the road playing shows and having fun, we got along really well. You can see that in the movie. Also in my own movie which I shot at the time with a super 8 and then released it later as Everybody’s watchingyou can also see how much we enjoyed each other’s company.”
As seen in the documentary, the public reaction to the group’s energetic performances was enthusiastic, especially in Bombay. “It was an open-air hall with a capacity of around 100 people or something,” he recalls. “But in the afternoon, when we soundchecked outside, people thought there was a concert going on. They climbed over the walls and stormed. By the time we finished the soundcheck, the place was filled with, I don’t know, 3,000 to 4,000 people. It wasn’t a standard fire department regulation audience there. And there were people just at side of the street. So it was a very visceral response. We were struck by the fact that when Sting goes “Eee-yohhh!”, people on the streets of Bombay go “Eee-yohhh!” on humanity.
For Copeland, the police trip to Egypt seemed fitting given that he spent his youth in the Middle East where his father worked for the CIA. “We toured the pyramids,” the drummer recalls of his band’s activities in that country. “At that time you go to Giza and you walk to [someone] who will rent you a camel or a horse for 50 piastres, and you will set off through the desert and ride unsupervised and unconstrained. It was like the Wild West. We hired these horses and galloped around and visited the three big pyramids there. It was just an amazing adventure that you could never have today.
1980 was an eventful year for the police, not only with the world tour, but they also recorded the Zenyatta Mondatta album, which later generated the hits “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”. From Phil Sutcliffe’s liner notes for the Police 1993 box set retrospective message in box, the band went back on tour just hours after the album was completed in the studio. “We were living the dream,” Copeland says. “That’s what our whole life was for: playing gigs in cool places night after night. This is the reason why we breathed every day. I am now in my 70th year. There are other things in life that get attention, you know, grandchildren and things. But when you’re 29, you just want to play shows.
Coincidentally, the reissue of Around the world comes the 45th anniversary of the band’s formation in the UK at the height of the punk explosion, a milestone not lost on Copeland. “When we made these records, we didn’t envision them as high culture that will persist through the ages,” he says. “We’ve designed them more as eat-it-now sandwiches, and we’ll be offering another one next week. We just ‘slam, bam, thank you ma’am.’ We produced them with love, joy and excitement in our hearts, but we didn’t expect them to last, much to our surprise. They died out and were supplanted by the next generation of bands and everything.
“But a strange miracle happened around the turn of the millennium when kids started rediscovering Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC and the police, and there was kind of a resurgence of interest in the originals. My kids are now listening to Led Zeppelin AC/DC and even Police, which is something none of us expected.
Meanwhile, Copeland (who recently won a Grammy for Best New Age Album for Divine Tides, a collaboration with composer Ricky Kej) continues the legacy of his former band. He has done the Police Deranged for Orchestra tour, which sees him revisit the Police back catalog with an orchestra and singers. The Copeland rearrangements of such Police classics such as “Roxanne”, “Every Breath You Take”, “King of Pain” and “Demolition Man” present them in a new light while retaining the essence of the originals.
“They have an emotional baggage,” Copeland says of his band’s music. “People grew up with these songs. And even though I can sometimes play “hide the hit” – where I extrapolate beyond recognition and then come back to crochet – it really has a lot of impact because it’s kind of new but it hits that emotional point than a known song – and only a known song can strike. It was a really fun show. Orchestras love it too because I turn them into a rock band for the night. I use the orchestra with all its huge vocabulary to do what a rock band does, which is to wake up the room and rock the house.
In addition, Copeland, who is also a composer for film and television, should create his last opera The seed of witches at the Tones Teatro Natura located in the Italian Alps in July. “It’s about the persecution of women in the Alps in medieval times,” he explains. “It’s a fun piece. It takes place in the Alps and takes place in a quarry transformed into a theater. They project themselves onto the huge working face of the stone quarry and they put these productions there. In fact, the reason I said yes to the commission was simply to go there and do opera in Italy, there. It’s living the dream: ‘The rock drummer dreams of being a real musician and composer’.