Book Review: Walking On The Moon

Walking On The Moon:  The Untold Story Of The Police, by Chris Campion

Like many people, I have enjoyed the music of the Police as well as Sting’s solo career [1].  This is by no means rare, as for a brief period from the late 1970’s to the middle of the 1980’s, the Police were an immensely popular act, and this book captures at least some of the complexity of the trio and how it is that they remained popular but at the same time were unable to effectively work together once Sting became so large as far as a creator within the group was concerned.  Many groups require a delicate balancing act and when that balance is disrupted, the creative energies of the group and the willingness of everyone to work together dissipate as well.  It is a rare artist who can remain hugely popular as a solo artist and at the same time be able to blend in with a functioning and prolific band.  Ultimately the Police were unable to keep it together, but after Sting’s solo career was no longer as massively popular they were able to work together again on the legacy tour circuit, which makes a fitting ending for the book.

This book is between 250 and 300 pages long and is divided into sixteen chapters.  The author begins his study with a look at the family background of the members of the Police (1) and the way that they were carpetbaggers, and were seen as such, by the punk community at the time (2).  The author then discusses the struggles that the group had to craft popular music in England (3, 4, 5), before finding success in America through Roxanne (6), which led to a successful US tour (7), and eventually the building of an organization (8) that led to worldwide success (9).  But the success would not last, as the delicate balance of the Police sound became tilted towards Sting, who grew increasingly unwilling to see his songs edited by the other two to fit their own taste and approach.  The end result was increasingly troubled recording sessions and frosty relations between the members until they were simply unwilling to perform with each other any longer, even failing to unite after a charity appearance, until enough time had passed that allowed them to get along with each other with a sense of friendship and respect once again as aging rockers.

In reading this book, I was struck by the fact that the Police could have been considered a plant and likely suffered at least some hit to their credibility at the time because others thought so as well.  It is not really Sting’s fault for this–he was a talented and creative person who earned his popularity and developed plenty of talent in multiple areas along with having a rather dark charisma that balanced well with his life experience and general dark personality.  Nor is it Andy Summer’s fault, as he had been a longtime background musician who had genuine talent but had always been in the shadows.  Really, it is Stewart Copeland, whose brother Miles was the svengali-like producer for the group responsible for their early gigs and the attention they received before they delivered the musical goods, and the background that the Copelands had as CIA royalty, that accounts for the nature of the group as being somewhat shady in the eyes of the punks at the time.  Nowadays, of course, it is no big deal to be a plant, but even nowadays being a CIA plant might raise a few eyebrows.  On this ground alone the band has a great deal of interest as a case of success and a struggle to cope with it that makes a suitable cautionary tale.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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