If you can get past the adjective-heavy writing, Stewart Copeland‘s book Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies has a couple of core messages making it worth the read.
CREATIVITY’S A BUFFET
Copeland is known first and foremost as the drummer and founder of The Police. His drumming style was innovative for pop-music and he managed to constantly stay “out front” during the band’s run from 1977-1984. He didn’t stop there, though. Copeland’s been a songwriter, scored films and television shows, created films, composed operas and authored a book. Creativity’s a buffet and Copeland’s been daring enough to visit the table several times to fill his plate with new and unknown flavors.
This, by the way, speaks not only to a sense of creative adventure, but a significant level of creative confidence that has paid off. I suspect the core of his conflict with Sting is largely that both are capable, confident and clear on their creative sense. Copeland goes so far as to praise Sting for his prowess at knowing what he hears in his head and what needs to happen to realize that vision in an ensemble, and chastises him for exercising that vision on the rest of the band. Copeland seems to have the same sense even though he finds it hard to harness his energy to make it happen.
ENJOY THE PROCESS AND LEARN FROM IT
It’s clear throughout the book that Copeland’s made the most of every project he’s been a part of. Whether it was Curved Air, The Police, his film making and composing work, Copeland has immersed himself — fully — in the experience. Despite or perhaps because of the conflict built in to some of his more prominent projects (read: The Police), Stewart has found a way to extract the most from his role and the participants around him. He doesn’t just learn from his own contributions and revelations, he observes others and gains insight from their contributions — even if he’s resistant at first glance.
I also learned that Stewart’s analytical to a fault. His book is peppered with explorations and language that made Strange Things Happen a clunky read at times. However, I’ve interviewed Copeland before (bonus interview footage here) and it helped that I could hear his voice saying the words I read. This of course means he wrote the book in his own voice. Copeland is nothing if not authentic.
I’d love to interview him, again, about life after life after the Police. :)