Andrew James "Andy" Summers (born 31 December 1942) is an English multi-instrumentalist, born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England. Best known as the guitarist for rock band The Police, he has also recorded twelve solo albums, collaborated with many other artists, toured extensively under his own name, published several books, and composed several film scores. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Summers as the eighty-fifth greatest guitarist of all time.

 

Early Life

During his early childhood, his family moved to Bournemouth in the county of Dorset. After years of piano lessons, he took up the guitar at the age of thirteen. By age sixteen he was playing in local clubs. By nineteen, he had moved to London with his friend Zoot Money to form Zoot Money's Big Roll Band.

Musical Career

Pre-Police career

Summers' professional career began in the mid-1960s in London as the guitarist for the British rhythm and blues band Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, which eventually came under the influence of the spreading psychedelic scene and evolved into the acid rock group Dantalian's Chariot. After the demise of Dantalion's Chariot, Summers joined The Soft Machine for a period of 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 guitar solo by Summers that runs a full 4 minutes and 15 seconds. The LP also included a reworked version of Dantalion's Chariot's sole single "Madman Running Through The Fields".

After a period of five years in Los Angeles, mostly spent at California State University Northridge in the Los Angeles suburbs, he returned to London with his American girlfriend Kate Lunken. Back in London, Summers recorded and toured with a number of acts, including Kevin Coyne, Jon Lord, Tim Essex, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayers. In 1975 he participated in an orchestral rendition of Mike Oldfield's seminal piece Tubular Bells.

In 1977, Summers was invited by ex-Gong bassist Mike Howlett to join his band Strontium 90, along with future Police mates Sting and Stewart Copeland.

The Police (1977–1984)

Summers achieved international fame as the guitarist for The Police, which he joined in 1977, replacing original guitarist Henri Padovani. Emerging from London’s punk scene, the Police gained international fame 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 tenure with the band, Summers twice won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, first with "Reggatta de Blanc" (co-authored with Copeland and Sting in 1979), and then with his song "Behind My Camel" in 1980.

Although Sting was the lead vocalist of the band, Summers occasionally contributed lead vocals, as with "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 if Sting had not objected), "Shambelle" (1981) and "Murder by Numbers" (1983). In early 1984, after seven years and record sales around eighty million, the Police disbanded.

Although not officially credited, the famous "Every Breath You Take" guitar riff was written by Summers and recorded in one take with his Stratocaster during the Synchronicity album 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 EBYT. Summers provides an account of the session in his book, "One Train Later."

Post-Police (1984–2007)

Summers' solo career has included touring, recording, composing for films (including 2010, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Wild Life and Weekend at Bernie's), writing books, and exhibiting his photography. In 1992, he served a brief stint as Musical Director on the short-lived Dennis Miller Show.

Summers' solo debut, "XYZ" was released in 1987, and to this day is the only non-instrumental album in his entire catalogue. Although it featured some fine pop material, including the single "Love is the Strangest Way", it failed to dent the charts, prompting Summers to move from MCA to Private Music and embrace a more experimental sound. In 1987 Sting invited Summers to perform on his second album "...Nothing Like the Sun", a favor the singer returned by playing bass on "Charming Snakes" (1990) and later contributing vocals to "Round Midnight" in Summers' tribute album to Thelonious Monk "Green Chimneys" (1999). In the mid-1990s Summers briefly returned to a more rock-oriented sound with "Synaesthesia" (1995) and "The Last Dance Of Mr X" (1997), before recording a string of jazz albums that highlighted his eclectic guitar talent.

Over the years Summers has collaborated with a number of fellow-guitarists, including Robert Fripp, John Etheridge, Victor Biglione and Benjamin Verdery. In December 2004 he and Copeland joined Incubus in Los Angeles and performed "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle". In March 2005, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall playing the premier of Dark Florescense, a concerto composed for him and Verdery. His 2006 biography One Train Later was voted music book of the year in the UK’s Mojo magazine, and was released as a documentary film in 2012 by Yari pictures with the title Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police.

The Police Reunion (2007–2008)

On the 2007 Grammys Award show, The Police appeared playing "Roxanne" and subsequently announced that they would be going on tour. The Police Reunion tour began in Vancouver, Canada on 28 May 2007, and continued until August 2008 becoming the third highest grossing tour of all time.

Circa Zero

Summers has formed a new band, Circa Zero, with Rob Giles from The Rescues. Originally, drummer Emmanuelle Caplette was also a member the band, but she is not anymore. Their debut show was 25 July 2013 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. 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; it reached number 36 on the Japan Hot 100 chart.

Equipment

The Police years 1977–1984

Guitars

  • Fender
    • 1963 Fender Telecaster either purchased from Eric Clapton and then customized by Summers after he bought it (as he stated in '97 to Guitar World Magazine), or purchased from a student with most of the customization already done (as he told Fender when they wanted to make a tribute guitar)
    • 1961 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster
  • Gibson
    • 1958 Gibson ES-335
    • 1957 Gibson Les Paul
  • Roland
    • Roland G-303 Guitar Synthesizer controller

Amps

  • Marshall Stack and Roland Jazz Chorus Combo

Effects

  • Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress Flanger and Deluxe Memory Man Delay
  • MXR Dynacomp Compressor
  • custom Pete Cornish Guitar pedalboard
  • Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer
  • Moog Taurus 205A Synthesizer Pedals

Bibliography

  • Throb (William Morrow Pubs 1983)
  • Light Strings (Chronicle 2005)
  • One Train Later (St Martins Press 2006)
  • I'll Be Watching You (Taschen 2007)
  • Desirer Walks The Streets (Nazraeli Press 2008)

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