Can’t stand losing you

New doc on The Police tells Andy Summers’s version

By Alan Sculley

Photo: Andy Summers and Sting warm up in their dressing room; photo: Watal Asanuma

The title of the new documentary on The Police by the band’s guitarist, Andy Summers, captures his perspective perfectly. The film is called “Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police.”

Along with his bandmates, singer/bassist Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland, Summers enjoyed what only a select few musicians experience—being in a band that rose to the absolute pinnacle of popularity during a whirlwind eight-year run.

“We were almost in a position where we couldn’t fail,” Summers says in a recent phone interview. “It was like everyone loved us. Everyone wanted us to keep succeeding. Everyone was enjoying it, not just the band, but the industry, the managers, the record company, the fans. I mean, in a way we were ‘it’ for a while. It was amazing.”

But making it to the top wasn’t easy internally, as the trio had a prickly relationship. “Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police,” which has now been released on DVD, doesn’t find Summers dishing dirt, but it captures several moments of debate over musical issues that illustrates the edginess that existed between the band members.

But as difficult and uncomfortable as tension within a band can be, Summers doesn’t complain about that dynamic. In fact, he said it was a big part of what made The Police special.

“That’s what makes for a very strong band. You need that kind of volatile chemistry,” Summers says. “You need strong personalities, if you want to make real sparky [music], especially for a rock band, you can’t have three mellow guys.”

The musical chemistry of the trio was obvious as soon as the group formed in 1977. Summers, though, said the trio also recognized early on they would probably have a limited future together.

“I certainly felt it at the time,” he says. “The band is three very driven guys and a very volatile chemistry. Clearly it seemed to me like… Sting would probably take off on his own one day. It felt like as he built his courage and his persona with the band, The Police, and it just felt like inevitable logic, which wasn’t easy to accept necessarily. But even so, with that being said, it was a phenomenal band that did so great.”

Sting indeed took increasing control over the band as it went from gaining its initial tastes of mainstream success with the hits “Roxanne” (from the 1978 debut Outlandos d’Amour) and “Message in a Bottle” (from Regatta de Blanc), to headlining larger venues with the third and fourth albums—Zenyatta Mondatta (1980) and Ghost in the Machine (1981)—and finally to arena and stadium filling heights with the band’s blockbuster final album, 1983’s Synchronicity.

In addition to feeling a growing separation from his bandmates—especially from Zenyatta Mondatta on—Summers also suffered on a personal level. Pulled apart by The Police’s nonstop touring, recording and promotional schedule, his wife Kate divorced him in 1981. This only added to the growing separation he was feeling within the band.

It all ended in March 1984 with Sting’s decision to go solo. Summers admits the dissolution of The Police and losing the epic lifestyle that went with the band was a shock to his system.

“I wasn’t lying on the couch sobbing all day long every day, but definitely it was something of a process,” he says. “I think it took me two years to kind of come down from that whole amazing experience.”

One thing that helped Summers was his reconciliation and remarriage to Kate in 1985.

“Things started to really come together again for me personally, especially when I got back with Kate,” Summers says. “That was the big changer.”

The ’80s and ’90s came and went, and Summers settled into a productive solo career that has seen the release of more than a dozen solo albums, including Metal Dog, which came out in July.

Then seemingly as suddenly as The Police ended, the group reunited for what became the highest grossing tour in 2007 and 2008. “Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police” features a good deal of footage from that tour.

Summers doesn’t wax poetic about the reunion tour, what it meant to the story of The Police, or how touring together again affected the relationships between the three band members.

“I don’t think it resolved anything. It just means we did a reunion tour,” he says. “No, what it does, in a weird way, it makes it worse.”

In fact, from where Summers stood, the tour left a sense that there was unfinished business for The Police.

“I think we did 150 shows on the reunion tour, and I think at the end it was ‘Wait a minute, why are we stopping? Why aren’t we doing any more?’” Summers says. “I think we were all confused about whether to carry on or stop or whatever.”

Summers doesn’t rule out the idea of another reunion. But it’s not like he expects it to happen, either.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he says. “I never shut the door on anything at this point.”

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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