Andrew James Somers (born 31 December 1942), known professionally as Andy Summers, is an English singer and 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 Summers' 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' 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 4minute 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".
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."
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.
Summers in 2006
The Police reunion
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 3March 2014; and reached number 36 on the Japan Hot 100 chart.
Call the Police
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.
Summers was married to his first wife, the singer Robin Lane, in 1968. They divorced two years later in 1970. He married his second wife, Kate Lunken, in 1973 and they had one daughter in 1978, Layla Zoe Summers. They divorced in 1981 although they would then remarry in 1985. In 1987, Kate and Andy's twin sons Maurice X and Anton Y were born.
Awards and honours
Grammy Award, Best Rock Instrumental, "Reggatta de Blanc", 1979
Grammy Award, Best Rock Instrumental, "Behind My Camel", 1980
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction with the Police, 2003
His autobiography One Train Later (2006) was voted music book of the year by Mojo and was turned into the 2012 documentary Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police. The documentary was released on DVD in July 2015.
^Welch, Chris. The Complete Guide to the Music of The Police and Sting. London: Omnibus Press. p. xii. ISBN978-0-7119-5302-4. Andy Summers was born Andrew James Summers on December 31, 1942, in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire
^Ragogna, Mike (26 March 2014). "Silver Rails and Circus Hero: Conversations With Jack Bruce and Andy Summers". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2014. I was on this early morning radio station and the guy said, "Yeah, here he is with the new record from Circus Hero!" and I went, "Oh, god. It's Circa. Zero." But anyway I told Rob and he said, "Yeah, we should call the album that." Just to be a little bit weird. I thought about the early Police albums where we had all these weird titles that kind of got people's attention. Might as well have fun with it.