the police are ready

Publié le par henry padovani

We were ready. Every day we’d meet at Stewart’s, with or without Sting’s son. Whatever may happen, we were impatient for our first gig. It was Miles, Stewart’s brother, who gave us our first break. Miles had offices at Dryden Chambers, near Oxford Street. I remember Miles wearing mittens in the office because it was so cold. He had already taken a few groups under his wing: The Cortinas, Chelsea, and he had just signed up Squeeze. In the same building were the offices of Sniffing Glue, the punk fanzine run by Mark P (P for Perry), which reported on all our favourite bands. Mark was also setting up his own group, Alternative TV. He wanted nothing to do with us. Miles was the same. He was already doing business with real punks and he regarded us as imposters. Well, he certainly thought that about Stewart and Sting. But he had been pleased with the fact that we had managed, on our own, to record our first single. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that he had been impressed, but I think he appreciated the effort and determination. With Miles, and I know him well, determination and the lowest cost have always been important factors in the success of a band. I believe him to be right, and he has always shown himself this example in his own life.  It was with this approach to business that he advised the Police to sign a very lucrative first record deal with A&M, whereby they went for a percentage of sales instead of choosing a large advance. In this way Miles made them very rich very quickly.

Miles had the idea of bringing American groups over to England. That was his job, after all. Well documented by Mark P, he realized that the New York new wave scene was very popular in the UK and he could easily set up a tour. All the punks were listening to the Max’s Kansas City compilation which included Wayne County and the Back Street Boys, the Fast, Harry Toledo, Pere Ubu, Cherry Vanilla and her Staten Island Band, The John Collins Band and Suicide. And then there were the others: Richard Hell, Television, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Blondie, etc.  He was thinking that he could also release some of these bands on his label, Illegal Records.

Cherry Vanilla was a so called ‘groupie’ who had been involved in the Andy Warhol scene of the 1960s; she had been David Bowie’s press assistant. Miles had managed to convince her to come over without her rhythm section (bass and drums) as he said she could easily hire some locally. He was thinking of Sting and Stewart. In this way, he was saving on air fares and hotel bills, and he’d also get the Police to support Vanilla. Genius, as often with Miles. He always liked this idea. How many times in the future, with IRS or Zucchero, did I see him try to sell this idea to other groups. Not easy, but the economies certainly were there. And sometimes, when there’s no choice, it has to be done. For us, it was an opportunity. Sting and Stewart got paid for playing with Cherry, and we got the opportunity to play. I can’t remember whether the Police was paid for our own set at the time. In any case, any money I would have made at that time would soon end up as beer.

Cherry arrived with her guitarist, Louis, and a pianist, Zecca. Two amazing musicians. Louis was going out with Cherry, who must have been about ten years older than him. She was very sexy and good looking, and must have been a bombshell when she was younger. In any case, this was saving the cost of an extra hotel room and Miles was pleased. Zecca was gay and Porto Rican. Cherry’s set was maybe a bit more theatrical than rock for my punk rock tastes. She was very provocative and sexual. All things considered, she was an extremely nice person and I enjoyed every moment of our short encounter (we are still in contact today). It was pretty hard for Stewart and Sting to play two sets each night, but they knew the score and they were OK with it. A series of rehearsals started for Cherry and her new rhythm section.

We, the Police, had ten numbers and we played them in exactly seventeen minutes. The type of gig where each number rolls straight into the next leaves the public very little time to applaud or to boo. In any case this was a good attitude to adopt. All the punk groups did the same. To play and to provoke, that was important. To wait for applause, that was really naff and old fashioned… On the contrary, to show appreciation the audience would spit on you. I embraced this philosophy. I had changed.

Being twenty-four and living this adventure was a gift from the heavens. I was afraid of nothing. I knew all of London and all of London knew me. I was the Corsican. The Corsican guitarist. I no longer needed anybody to take me out. I no longer had to wait for Stewart.

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