I have not been much of a book reader during my adult life. Instead of books, music has been the diversion of choice during my free time. So, it’s fitting that I just finished a book that combines both – and is written by one of my all-time musical heroes.
My “history” with Andy Summers goes back to the first cassette tape I ever purchased. I remember spending Christmas money on the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta and later graduating to hunting rare Police “import” singles in the college town of Lincoln, Nebraska with my older brother. The Police started a musical obsession in me – one that I possess even today.
Ten or so years ago while working for the Voice of America, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Summers one-on-one during his tour of the Last Dance of Mr. X record. It was in a tiny club in Washington, DC and he took nearly an hour of his time and was incredibly gracious in light of my interviewing inexperience. He seemed like a genuinely good guy. There was no smug “star” pretense about him. It was a blast because he made it so.
So, in picking up “One Train Later” I felt like I knew a little bit about the man who penned the book. As I said, I was a fan and I know just how the arc of the Police rose and fell. However, I had no idea how interesting his life was before the Police. Summers is like a real life Forrest Gump having smoked, snorted, tripped, jammed, guzzeled and run with the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Belushi, Richard Branson, and a who’s who of the music world before the Police were even a figment of his imagination. He’s a journeyman and a total pro.
Summers is also a great writer. I ripped through his book in less than a week and hated putting it down at the end of the day. His passion for his art is reflected on every page and his stories of life on the road on the way up, down and back up again are funny and self-deprecating. And, though it would seem that this may give him the platform to take swipes at past acquaintances or associates, he takes the high road. This is no tell-all tome by a musical has been. It is a warm, revealing, inspirational look back by a guy who has been there and back again several times.
Finishing this book made me realize that I am lucky to have grown up with a band like the Police as much of the soundtrack to my life. They were original and loved what they did. Their fans loved them for it. After reading One Train Later, it’s easy to see why.