Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...

Season 1 Episode 6

The Police

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Jan 07, 2009 on Sundance Channel
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Episode Summary

The format of Elvis' fantastic interview/performance show changes this week as Elvis interviews The Police both as a group and individually (perhaps wise as Andy, Sting and Stewart have always been a bit combustible in tandem). Elvis and The Police have toured together recently and it shows in their music. Sting performs the original version of the Police's big hit Roxanne and then Elvis duets separately with both Sting and Andy. For the grand finale Elvis and The Imposters join forces with The Police for what the Sundance web site promises is "an unprecedented 'mash-up' of a Costello classic and a Police essential, as well as a surprising cover of a time-tested hard rock anthem".moreless

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  • More great tunes, personalities and newcomer spotlights.

    Police fans will be thrilled, and newcomers will find out what made them so successful. Elvis quizzes each of the three band members on how the group dynamic works, musically, and gets three different answers. By interviewing each one separately before bringing them together, Elvis creates space for the audience to see their wildly different personalities.

    Of course, Sting is the big draw here, naturally. Andy's funniest moment comes when he tells the tale of how he and Sting ended up sharing a bed in a French "flea-bag" hotel. Drummer Stewart has a boyish effervescence that contrasts with the more low-key and deadpan personalities of Andy and Sting, respectively. Overall, this installment was great fun.moreless
Jim Johnston (II)

Jim Johnston (II)



Pete Thomas

Pete Thomas

Himself - Drums

Recurring Role

Davey Faragher

Davey Faragher

Himself - Bass/Vocals

Recurring Role

Steve Nieve

Steve Nieve

Himself - Keyboards

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Song List

      Every Breath You Take (The Police-Written by Sting)
      Performed By Elvis Costello (Guitar, Vocal) and band
      (Davey Faragher, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas)

      Weird Nightmare (Written By Elvis Costello/Charles Mingus)
      Elvis (Vocal), Andy Summers (Guitar)

      Roxanne (The Police-Written by Sting)
      Sting (Guitar, Vocal) - Alternate Arrangement/Snippet

      Allison (Written By Elvis Costello)
      Elvis (Guitar/Vocal), Sting (Vocal) - Alternate Arrangement/Snippet

      Flow My Tears (Written By John Dowland)
      Sting (Lute/Vocal), Elvis (Vocal)

      Watching The Detectives (Written By Elvis Costello)
      Elvis Costello (Guitar, Vocal) and band (Davey Faragher, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas)
      The Police … Sting (Bass, Vocal), Andy Summers (Guitar), Stewart Copeland (Drums)

      Walking On The Moon (The Police-Written by Sting)
      Elvis Costello (Guitar, Vocal) and band (Davey Faragher, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas)
      The Police … Sting (Bass, Vocal), Andy Summers (Guitar), Stewart Copeland (Drums)

      Sunshine Of Your Love (Cream-Written by Bruce/Brown/Clapton)
      Elvis Costello (Guitar, Vocal) and band (Davey Faragher, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas)
      The Police … Sting (Bass, Vocal), Andy Summers (Guitar), Stewart Copeland (Drums)

  • QUOTES (21)

    • Sting: I remember … the first night … I was ever in America, we played CBGB's. There was a kind of, they loved us, and they're screaming "More, More, More", and we were in the back dressing room, and Stewart and I were hitting each other. Then we went out (big posed smile), all smiles. But that was quite a few nights we did that.
      Stewart (shaking his head): Yeah.
      Stewart: "You schmuck!" … "You're playing it wrong!"

    • Andy: I was very much around … the sort of birth of Jimi Hendrix, which really happened in London, England. Of course, he was playing in the states and was actually in New York, but it was when he was brought to London by Chas Chandler, the bass player with The Animals, that his career really took off, and I was part of that whole scene, so I witnessed it. But with Jimi, it was like a whole new paradigm of guitar playing that just about blew everyone out of the water. You know, there was a lot of us playing guitar in London and … trying to be sort of virtuosos, but this guy set a whole new standard and it was like we had to start all over again.

    • Elvis: I think that all that experimentation in that period opened up a lot of doors, didn't it? It wasn't just simply "Hey, some drugs kicked in and we're now going to play difficult music badly …"
      Andy: No, because, you know, ultimately behind all the recreational chemicals that were out there … really, the quest was music, to play music. And, you know, all these incredible influences that were around to take them in and put them into your group … I mean, we've got the three instruments and the voice, but I feel like my job is to make as big a sound and colorful a sound as possible, and over, like, a two-hour show, to keep … I'm the only sort of harmonic instrument, really, so I try to keep changing the colors. It's like I'm the orchestra, so I'm using all kinds of, you know, fingerings and harmonics and different pedals and making … the guitar very sort of magical rather than just a straight, you know, into the amp and it's one sound …
      Elvis: I mean, it's the role of strings, it's the role of keys, but it's all through the guitar … and then you've still got to burn on the solos.

    • Andy: If you were interested in Jazz, it was sort of … almost mandatory that you'd be listening to Mingus, as well as Coltrane, Monk and all the great American giants of it.
      Elvis: He seems, more than any other jazz composer, to really speak to people from a rock and roll experience, though, who have got their ear open.

    • Stewart: I don't need a huge gong. Let's get this straight, I don't need a huge gong. I have the biggest gong in the world …
      Elvis: That's what they tell me.
      Stewart: But I don't need it. I have seven children.
      Elvis: Well, you have the proof.

    • Stewart: There's a Lebanese rhythm called the Baladi, which just means it's country … (vocalizes beat) and the beat is on the third beat of the bar … two, three, four. And that is something I grew up with, even though I would get my one hour a week of Voice Of America, and the BBC World Service, which had one hour a week of pop music, which was what I lived for, and I sucked up every measure of that. What I was surrounded by all day, every day, was Arabic music with that drop on the third beat. That's just there, you know, walkin' down the road … (vocalizes beat) there, on beat three. It's just there … I live it. And so, when I heard reggae : "I know that." And besides the fact that the first reggae that I heard was Bob Marley, and never mind whether you know it or not, it works.

    • Stewart: No, no. That was The Clash … and I think it's rather poetic. Actually, the first punk band … to play reggae was The Clash, and I love the fact that we ripped them off. We stole the haircut from The Sex Pistols, we stole reggae from The Clash, and the best part was that their reggae song was Police And Thieves. How beautiful was that?
      Elvis: … My confession is that when the first Clash record appeared in my local shop in the suburbs, I'd read about it, these guys on the front with their combat clothes and everything, I took it home. I had lived in an apartment block so I had to put headphones on to play music. I stayed up all night trying to work out what was going on in this record. (Stuart again vocalizes the beat) Yeah, not just the reggae thing, the whole thing …
      Stewart: And he does the rim shot at the same time as the kick. That's not right, but it's very cool.
      Elvis: But, it's cool … and at the end of that 36 hours of listening to that record constantly, I wrote Watching The Detectives. So that was …
      Stewart: Now, we've got to figure this out. That drum fill … (vocalizes the beat) Did your guy rip it off me or did I rip it off him? Or did we both get it from Toots and The Maytals?

    • Elvis: Do you ever hear yourself in some other drummers, do you hear things?
      Stewart: Well, I take credit for everything … as one does.
      Elvis: So, you've played with Oysterhead with Trey Anastasio, and in those bands there is a lot more space to express yourself, a lot of space …
      Stewart (laughs): That's all there is … We don't have any bother with these "song things".

    • Stewart (on composing vs. playing): They're two different guys. The composer guy is very sophisticated …and the drummer guy, who ain't.

    • Stewart: You know, we go on stage and we've worked out what we're gonna do. But then, when you get this thing from the audience and focus it on the stage, you really are infused with some extra kind of energy - I don't wanna get all hippy-dippy or nothin' here - but it's real.

    • Sting: I think you got my title wrong - I'm actually "Commander"
      Elvis: Oh, you're a Commander. Even better … sounds more forceful … Were you backstage? Could you hear the kind things your bandmates were saying about you?
      Sting: Yes … my lawyer and I were listening to it.

    • Sting: It's a great place to control a band from, a bass, because you hold the bottom, you know, like holding the bottom (gestures with hands).
      Elvis: That's always a good thing.
      Sting: Exactly. In other words, you could play a C-chord, it's not a C-chord unless I play C. Right? Exactly. So I'm controlling the harmony of the band, you're underneath it, and the top - the singing. So you can keep them in control. Well, I try. Of course, when you have Stewart there, it's difficult. He is a handful.

    • Sting: I get a lot of … flack for rhyming 'Nabokov' with 'shake and cough' … Uh, technically, it's known as a feminine rhyme, where it's written for the sake of humor. And … it's hilarious to me that you can put 'Nabokov' in a song and get away with it.

    • Elvis: There's a lot of images of pain and anxiety throughout The Police songs. I mean, although they're "anthemic" and driving, were you speaking from within and putting them in an arena, where, like. "I've pushed those out into these songs and that's left me now?"
      Sting: It's interesting … singing that you're so lonely, surrounded by all of this attention … 20-30,000 people, you know, looking at you … and yet there's something poignant about that, or singing it in a major key. You know that sad songs are usually in a minor key. Sing something in a major key that has a sad undertone and it's … it distorts things in a good artistic way, it puts people not at ease, so I like that.

    • Sting (on appearing in an opera with Elvis): You and I share this … curiosity … about music, as well as being fearless, and so, we learn what we do by pretending or just trying it out, and we do it in public. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed … You have no choice. If someone says "Do you want to sing in an opera?", you say "Yeah, I'll give it a go." But you know, it's a risk and the critics will be there, sharpening their knives, but you know, this is what we do. We put ourselves out there and say "Okay, we're going to try and make something new."

    • Sting: John Dowland lived at the beginning of the 17th century … He was probably the archetype that we both followed in that he was a lute player, or you can say guitar player in modern parlance. He wrote his own songs and he traveled Europe, and this is basically what we do. So he was the first one, the first singer-songwriter that England ever produced, that we know of.
      Elvis: And there's something of the blues about it, as well, because his motto was "semper dole, semper dowland," "Always doleful, always Dowland." So people knew what the were getting if they, if his songs were sung, and they were famous, they were famous in England and in France.
      Sting: That was the fashion at the time, to be melancholy. Everyone had to be melancholy.

    • Elvis: It's well known that all bands, I think, go through this moment that's a little bit like a couple who are fighting. Where you're like "You're gonna play that, are you? Yeah, mm-hmm." "You're happy with that, then?"
      Stewart: No, no, no, no, no. Maybe that's how it is in your band. We don't do passive-aggressive.
      Elvis: Is that true?
      Sting: We go straight to the aggressive, yeah.

    • Elvis: Was there anything disquieting about how much people took on a song like Every Breath You Take, which has a sinister undertone?
      Sting: You know, I would never contradict people about their interpretation of songs. Everybody has a different thing. Every Breath You Take is used at a lot of weddings … and, you know, it's a song about surveillance and jealousy and control. Ah-h-h, I always say, "Well, good luck."
      Elvis: It's … yeah, I've had this experience, I've had people come up and say … I have a song called I Want You which shares some of the repetitive … And I've had people come up and say, "That's the most romantic song I've ever heard." And I've thought, "You're in for a powerful amount of pain."
      Sting: We are wedding singers, basically.

    • (after he and Elvis perform "Alison", Sting wipes his right eye)
      Sting: I need to tell a story about that song, singing with you. Um, when Elvis expresses himself vocally, there's a lot of moisture around. And sharing a microphone with him, can be challenging. And when he sings, My Aim Is True, he is right!

    • Sting: Roxanne's an interesting case in point. I'd written Roxanne, I was in The Police, and it was at the time when it was punk, and you had to have song titles like, "I'm Gonna Kill You, You Bitch."
      Elvis: That's one of my big hits.
      Sting: And, well, there's a story here … I'd written this song, Roxanne, I was kind of reticent about taking it to the band, it was a girl's name, you know, that's … (grimacing) and then, I heard your album and there's this beautiful song, Alison. So it gave me the confidence … to take this song with a soppy girl's name and say, you know, "Elvis has done it, so we can do it." "Okay, then." But, It was originally written as a kind of … bossa nova or a sort of rumba, which then was Police-ified and it became whatever it became, a kind of punk tango.

    • Andy: Well, the great irony for me was, you know, having come back to England to have a sort of last ditch attempt at a career as a guitarist, having been sort of fully loaded with music theory and all the rest of it, to join a punk band and to join in this new scene where really you didn't have to be able to play at all.
      Elvis: And the next thing you know, you're on … a bus with the The Damned I think it is, and The Clash, and The Jam, on your way to a French Punk Rock festival, and I have to say, I was on a trip similar to that to Belgium with some of the same people. Well I, I sort of got – maybe unwisely drank about fifteen Pernods, fell asleep, and woke up to find my mouth, which had obviously fallen open, full of an ashtray ... and my shoelaces on fire. So have you got any confessions that you want to make right now?
      Andy: Well, yeah, I mean … those were grim times in a way, we were very … as you personally know. After that gig you were talking about, you know, we came back from the Mont de Marson Punk Festival and we stopped overnight in Paris and … we actually had another guitar player in the band at that point, there was actually four of us. And I remember we got taken to some real flea-pit of a hotel on the outskirts of Paris, and they said "Oh, you're upstairs in, like, room 14", and, uh, there was four of us … and there are three beds … So, you know, we raced up the stairs … like "Who's gonna get …", you know … and Henry, the other guitarist, leapt on one bed and Stewart leapt on the other, and Sting looked around and went, "Guess, well, we're sleeping together tonight." And we did. We had to sleep together in the same bed.
      Elvis: And you've been happy ever since … So, all of this, all of this legend of you being daggers drawn … this isn't true, it's all a love-fest, really?
      Andy: Yes, yes … we're very close.

  • NOTES (2)

    • Elvis Costello toured with The Police on the final leg of their huge 2007/2008 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour, the third highest grossing tour of all-time ($340+ Million).

    • This Week's Guest Musicians

      Davey Faragher (Bass/Vocal)
      Steve Nieve (Keyboards)
      Pete Thomas (Drums)