Strange Things Happen: A Life with the Police, Polo, and Pygmies


When Stewart Copeland gets dressed, he has an identity crisis. Should he put on leather pants, hostile shirts, and pointy shoes? Or wear something more appropriate to the tax-paying, property-owning, investment-holding lotus eater his success has allowed him to become? This dilemma is at the heart of Copeland’s vastly entertaining memoirin- stories, Strange Things Happen. Most people know Copeland as the drummer for The Police, one of the most successful bands in rock history. But they may not know as much about ...

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Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies

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When Stewart Copeland gets dressed, he has an identity crisis. Should he put on leather pants, hostile shirts, and pointy shoes? Or wear something more appropriate to the tax-paying, property-owning, investment-holding lotus eater his success has allowed him to become? This dilemma is at the heart of Copeland’s vastly entertaining memoirin- stories, Strange Things Happen. Most people know Copeland as the drummer for The Police, one of the most successful bands in rock history. But they may not know as much about his childhood in the Middle East as the son of a CIA agent. Or be aware of his filmmaking adventures with the Pygmies in the deepest reaches of the Congo, and his passion for polo (Brideshead Revisited on horses). In Strange Things Happen we move from Copeland’s remarkable childhood to the formation of The Police and their rise to stardom, to the settled-down life that followed. It’s a book of amazing anecdotes, all completely true, that take us backstage in a life that is fully lived.

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Editorial Reviews

Sacramento Book Review
“The well-written and funny memoir is an entertaining journey through the strange rhythms, adventures, ritual, and mojo after the breakup of [The Police]...This is the stuff that makes rock-n-roll memoir.”
Publishers Weekly
Best known as the drummer for the rock power trio, the Police, Copeland has developed a successful career composing for film and stage, post-Police, as well as a deep passion for polo. Given such a pedigree, his autobiography might be read as that of a seriously rarefied man—a rock star, composer and English country gent. Yet Copeland's natural humility and sincerity encourage a most intimate, even familiar read. However, his memoir emerges as a series of extended but sometimes haphazardly arranged reminiscences, which occasionally distort his personal chronology. During such disjunctures, Copeland's otherwise smart and easygoing prose morphs into a rather laborious, even confusing read. But the work is worth it. Copeland's confessions from the 2007–2008 reunion tour of the Police, which make up the more engaging second half of the book, form a seamless and irresistible narrative. The ego-driven tempests that have articulated the life and times of the Police are laid out by Copeland in a fresh and honest way, not without self-implication either. More than anything else, however, Copeland makes readers feel as if they were on stage with him, Sting and Andy Summers, sharing with us the thrill of performing with one of the great bands of all time. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In this unusual memoir, Copeland, the drummer for the Police, includes all of the usual components—his rise to fame, backstage stories and on-tour escapades, glittering names and places, the inevitable reunion, and more. While all of this is absorbing and written with breezy appeal, Copeland's other pursuits are just as engrossing. He writes an opera about the Crusades, becomes involved in a movie project with Pygmies in the Congo, studies the musical roots of far-flung cultures firsthand, and relishes an active family life—and these represent only a small percentage of his adventures. Copeland's love of music and performing certainly shine through; however, his multifaceted and generous embracing of many kinds of experiences give this book an especially rich texture. He has an entertaining style and a flair for the witty and well-timed anecdote. VERDICT Fans of the Police will want to read this, and others who crave an adventuresome memoir should certainly take a look at this story of a Renaissance man whose life is closely intertwined with but not ruled by fame.—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A lively, somewhat disjointed memoir by the former drummer and founder of The Police. The American-born son of a CIA agent and his archaeologist wife, Copeland grew up a "diplo-brat" in Beirut, where he played drums in the American Embassy Beach Club ballroom at age 12. His idol was drummer Buddy Rich. In 1977, he formed The Police with singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani, who was later replaced by Andy Summers. The group broke up in 1984, reuniting in 2007 for a world tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their hit song "Roxanne." In these sometimes rambling scenes from his life, Copeland describes his self-imposed exile as a rock star in the 1980s, when young fans would congregate outside his London home singing Police songs. While longing for a normal life in his post-rock years, he finds himself "in the constant company of a distantly remembered mythical being" and still having strange adventures. The adventures include playing polo with royalty, making a movie with hundreds of Pygmies in the northern Congo and singing ancient folk songs with 40,000 frenzied celebrants at Night of the Tarantula festivities in Italy. In other snippets, the author recounts serving as a judge on a BBC TV show, scoring music for a movie directed by Anjelica Huston and hanging with the Foo Fighters at an MTV marathon. Working in recent years as a Hollywood music writer, he describes taking time out for the Police reunion tour, which included locations in Europe, Asia and Latin America and concluded at Madison Square Garden in August 2008. Unsure at first what to say to one another, the reunited rockers soon warmed up, had their customary disagreements (often Sting-centered) and made greatmusic. With the passion of a musician enamored of his art, Copeland conveys his entire musical journey, from spraying the name of the just-formed Police on walls in London in the late '70s to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several years ago. Bound to please fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061791512
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 804,264
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Steward Copeland counts himself fortunate to have been a founder of the most played and successful trio of the 1980s. His ongoing travels in search of exotic rhythms and musical celebrations have taken him all around the world. Copeland is the father of seven children. He lives with his wife and three daughters.

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Table of Contents

I Strange Things Happen 1

1 A Letter to a Childhood Friend (2009) 3

2 Wardrobe (Late 1980s) 5

3 Lebanon (1957-67) 8

4 Music (1968) 15

5 Curved Air (1975) 28

6 Tagging London (1977) 34

7 Klark Kent (1978) 36

8 A Quick History of the Police (1976-78) 46

9 Police Rule (1979-84) 51

II Learning to be Normal 57

10 Congo (1984) 59

11 Horses (1987) 75

12 Opera: Holy Blood, Crescent Moon (1989) 90

13 Bake-Off in Fort Worth (1990) 103

14 Horse Opera (1992) 108

III Still not Normal 113

15 Oysterhead (April 2000) 115

16 Hall of Fame (March 2003) 131

17 La Notte Della Taranta (August 2003) 136

18 Incubus: The Hybrid (December 2004) 151

19 Dancing with the (Poll) stars (February 2004) 157

20 Scoring with Anjelica (March 2005) 161

21 For Flying with the Fly Foos (June 2005) 168

22 Gizmo (2005) 178

23 Judge Hard Place and the BBC (2006) 195

24 The Grateful Dad (2007) 208

25 Sundance (2005) 214

IV Abnormal Again 223

26 Lock up your Mothers: We're Back (February 2007) 225

27 Will this Fly? (2007) 231

28 Eberhard Sets us Free (1978) 234

29 A Mighty wind in the Magic Stingdom (May 2007) 237

30 The Disaster Gig (May 2007) 239

31 Angry in Edmonton (June 2007) 242

32 Conquering Heroes (June 2007) 245

33 Malibu Fey Choir (June 2007) 251

34 How Big is my Amp! (June 2007) 253

35 Aftershow Ritual (July 2007) 259

36 Tuba in Turin (October 2007) 263

37 Four Beers and the President (October 2007) 270

38 Raging Kumbaya (January 2008) 277

39 Slav on a Slab (June 2008) 282

40 Burning the Golden Goose (1984) 286

41 Singapore Showdown (February 2008) 288

42 Toast in the Machine (August 2008) 293

43 Elvis is Leaving the Building (August 2008) 302

Afterword: The Green Flag (2009) 309

Appendix A Who 313

Appendix B What 323

Acknowledgments 330

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 23, 2010

    A different side of Stewart Copeland

    When I sat down to write this review, it was difficult to describe what this book is really about. It is not a strict biography written in chronological fashion. It is not a detailed history of Stewart's career with The Police. To put it in simplest terms...this book is a collection of experiences spanning a 60 year period from Stewart's childhood abroad to his days as a senior citizen rocker. There is no definitive timeline with these stories, and most of the subjects will appear to come out of nowhere...

    But that's what makes this book unique. This book shows us the other Stewart Copeland. A man who has shared a polo field with British royalty and shared a concert stage with the Foo Fighters. A man who gives hot showers a religious quality to the point where they become a staple in almost every tale he weaves for us.

    This is not a simple rock and roll mud slinging fest. This is a look at Stewart's life and career told through his own words. The story can be hard to follow since the topics change frequently; and for those readers who only want to know about The Police, this may not be the book for you. However, if you want to get an in-depth look at a great rock drummer, this is a book worth reading. Some people will say the book does not make sense, but perhaps that is the author's intent here. "Strange Things Happen" is a fitting title because it reflects the adventures and strange happenings that accompany rock star life.

    As I read this book, I watched Stewart Copeland develop from a one-dimensional rock drummer into an artist and a man with diverse talent and interest. This book is similar to life: some of it you'll like, some of it you won't like, but you'll come to appreciate most of it in time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2010

    An American in Old York

    Copeland covers what he's been doing since the original The Police broke up through the end of the second coming of The Police. It's a wild self deprecating ride on polo ponies, Indie movie making, the movie music business, Italian rock stardom, British reality television, all-star celebrity parent bands, all star jam bands, and finally the isolation and exhilaration of re-living the rock god life.

    I found myself skimming some of the overly long and detailed descriptions of certain events. Subjects seem to change abruptly with no discernable transition. But, it's more about how it feels than linear story telling. I found it an enjoyable read.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Love Stewart, but book is slow in places...

    The first chapter engages right away, and many of the revelations about Stewart's "Diplobrat" childhood are fascinating. However, I found that the tale began to drag when the too-detailed chapter on polo began. I know...blasphemy...Mr. Copeland...but for this reader/Police fan it's a bit too much! I thoroughly enjoyed the parts that documented the rise of The Police (in my opinion one of the greatest bands ever!) and found much of the writing laugh-out-loud funny. ("leather pants, pointy shoes, hostile shirts.") What the heck makes a shirt "hostile"??? :0 I'm guessing the polka dot one you favored in the '80's is Exhibit A. Overall, an enjoyable, witty recollection that Police fans...or fans of Copeland in general...will thoroughly enjoy. The cover shot alone is worth the price of the book. sigh. Brings back SO many lustful memories. It's not hard to see why he's the father of SEVEN! Go Stewie!

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    This was a fascinating bio of the Police drummer. Although I'm not necessarily a big Police follower, I enjoyed the stories, the glimpses of the life on the road - unbelievable. After reading this, though, I was so grateful for my boring life. His life just seemed so empty of deepness and very one-dimensional.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2009

    If you ever wondered what it's like to be a drummer in a band this is the book for you!

    Having been a drummer since the age of 5 I have been asked many times what it's like. Making a living playing drums is pure joy, followed by pure agony, followed by pure joy once again. Stewart has a no nonsense way of putting you in his chair and explaining in perfectly understandable terms what being in a band is all about. This is a very entertaining book written by a very open and honest guy. It is definitely a great read for any music fan, especially those of you living with that great far off fantasy of playing drums in a band. The author is one of the most widely respected drummers in the world. Stewart Copeland, I salute you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    This book explains WHY musicians play!

    I am a lifelong drummer, and Stewart describes the reasons we do this music stuff very adequately. It's not money! A good read!

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