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Andy Summers

Andy Summers
Andy Summers in 2015
Background information
Birth name Andrew James Summers
Born (1942-12-31) 31 December 1942
Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England
Genres Rock, jazz/fusion, post-punk, new wave, reggae, progressive rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, photographer, producer
Instruments Guitar, vocals, piano, bass guitar, guitar synthesizer
Years active 1959–present
Associated acts The Police, Circa Zero, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, The Animals, Soft Machine, Robert Fripp, Kevin Ayers, John Etheridge, Gustavo Cerati, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Strontium 90

Andrew James "Andy" Summers (born 31 December 1942) is an English musician, born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.[1] Best known as the guitarist for the rock band The Police, he has also recorded twelve solo albums, collaborated with many other artists, toured extensively under his own name, published several books, and composed several film scores.


  • Early life 1
  • Musical career 2
    • Pre-Police career 2.1
    • The Police (1977–1986) 2.2
    • Post-Police (1986–2007) 2.3
    • The Police Reunion (2007–2008) 2.4
    • Circa Zero 2.5
  • Awards 3
  • Equipment 4
    • The Police years 1977–1984 4.1
      • Guitars 4.1.1
      • Amps 4.1.2
      • Effects 4.1.3
  • Photography 5
  • Discography 6
    • Studio albums 6.1
    • Singles 6.2
    • With the Police 6.3
    • With Circa Zero 6.4
    • Miscellaneous 6.5
  • Bibliography 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

During Summers' childhood, his family moved to Bournemouth in Dorset, England. After several years of piano lessons, he took up the guitar at the age of thirteen. By age sixteen he was playing in local clubs and by nineteen he had moved to London with his friend Zoot Money to form Zoot Money's Big Roll Band.[2]

Musical career

Pre-Police career

Summers' professional career began in the mid-1960s in London as the guitarist for the British rhythm and blues band Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, which eventually came under the influence of the spreading psychedelic scene and evolved into the acid rock group Dantalian's Chariot.[3]

After the demise of Dantalion's Chariot, Summers joined The Soft Machine for a period of three months and toured the United States. For a brief time in 1968, he was a member of The Animals, then known as Eric Burdon and the Animals, with whom he recorded one album, Love Is. The album features a recording of Traffic's "Coloured Rain", which includes a guitar solo by Summers. The LP also included a reworked version of Dantalion's Chariot's sole single "Madman Running Through the Fields".

After a period of five years in Los Angeles, mostly spent at California State University Northridge, he returned to London with his American girlfriend Kate Lunken.

Back in London, Summers recorded and toured with a number of acts, including Kevin Coyne, Jon Lord, Tim Essex, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayers. In 1975 he participated in an orchestral rendition of Mike Oldfield's seminal piece "Tubular Bells".

In 1977, Summers was invited by ex-Gong bassist Mike Howlett to join his band Strontium 90, along with future Police bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland.

The Police (1977–1986)

Summers achieved international fame as the guitarist for The Police, which he joined in 1977, replacing original guitarist Henri Padovani. Emerging from London's punk scene, the Police gained international renown with many hit songs, including "Message in a Bottle", "Roxanne", "Don't Stand So Close to Me", "Every Breath You Take", and "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". During his time with the band, Summers twice won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, first in 1979 with "Reggatta de Blanc" (co-authored with Copeland and Sting), and again in 1980 with his instrumental "Behind My Camel".

Although Sting was the lead vocalist of the band, Summers occasionally contributed lead vocals, as with "Be My Girl/Sally" (1978), "Friends" (1980), "Mother" (1983) and "Someone to Talk To" (1983). Other notable Summers' compositions from this period are "Omegaman" (which would have been released as the debut single from the 1981 "Ghost in the Machine" album had Sting not objected), "Shambelle" (1981), and "Murder by Numbers" (1983). In early 1984, after seven years together and record sales around eighty million, the Police disbanded.[4]

Although not officially credited, the "Every Breath You Take" guitar riff was written by Summers and recorded in one take with his Stratocaster during the Synchronicity sessions. The song was number one for eight weeks. Sting won the 1983 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, and The Police won Best Pop Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocal for this song. Summers provides an account of the session in his book, One Train Later.[5]

Post-Police (1986–2007)

Summers in 1989

Summers' solo career has included touring, recording, composing for films (including 2010, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, The Wild Life and Weekend at Bernie's), writing books, and exhibiting his photography.

Summers' solo debut, XYZ was released in 1987, and to this day is the only non-instrumental album in his entire catalogue. Although it featured some pop material, including the single "Love is the Strangest Way", it failed to dent the charts, prompting Summers to move from MCA to Private Music and embrace a more experimental sound.

In 1987 Sting invited Summers to perform on his second album ...Nothing Like the Sun, a favour the singer returned by playing bass on Charming Snakes (1990) and later contributing vocals to "Round Midnight" in Summers' tribute album to Thelonious Monk Green Chimneys in 1999.

In the mid-1990s Summers briefly returned to a more rock-oriented sound with Synesthesia (1995) and The Last Dance of Mr X (1997), before recording a string of jazz albums.

Over the years, Summers has collaborated with a number of guitarists, including Robert Fripp, John Etheridge, Victor Biglione and Benjamin Verdery. In December 2004, he and Copeland joined Incubus on stage in Los Angeles and performed "Roxanne" and "Message in a Bottle".

In March 2005, Summers made his debut at Carnegie Hall playing the premier of "Dark Florescence", a concerto composed for him and Verdery.

His 2006 biography One Train Later was voted music book of the year in the UK's Mojo magazine, and was released as a documentary film in 2012 by Yari pictures with the title Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police.[6] In July 2015, Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police will be released on DVD[7] along with his latest CD release Metal Dog.

Summers in 2006

The Police Reunion (2007–2008)

During the 2007 Grammys Award show, The Police appeared, playing "Roxanne" and subsequently announcing that they would be going on tour. The Police Reunion Tour began in Vancouver, Canada on 28 May 2007, and continued until August 2008, becoming the third highest grossing tour of all time.[8]

Circa Zero

Summers formed a new band, Circa Zero, with Rob Giles from The Rescues.[9] Originally, drummer Emmanuelle Caplette was also a member of the band.[10] Their debut show was 25 July 2013 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.[11] The band's debut album, Circus Hero, was released 25 March 2014.[12] It is titled after a malapropism of the band's name made by a radio disc jockey during an interview of Summers.[13][14] The first single, "Levitation," was released to US adult album alternative radio on 3 March 2014;[15] and reached number 36 on the Japan Hot 100 chart.[16]


Summers' five Grammy Awards includes one for "Behind My Camel" in the Best Rock Instrumental category. Summers wrote the instrumental for the Police. Sting, however, refused to play so Summers also played bass.

He was voted number one pop guitarist for five years in Guitar Player Magazine before being inducted into the Guitar Player Hall of Fame.[5]

In 2003, along with his band mates Sting and Stewart Copeland he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[17]

In 2007, the French Government appointed Summers (along with Sting and Stewart Copeland) a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.[18]

In 2008, Summers was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bournemouth University.[19]

In November of 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Summers as the eighty-fifth greatest guitarist of all time.[20]


The Police years 1977–1984



  • Marshall Stack and Roland Jazz Chorus Combo


The above is a list of equipment used by Andy from the ’80’s. Since that time Summers has built a collection of 200 guitars and uses a wide variety of amplifiers and electronic equipment.


Since the 1980’s Andy Summers has done 35 photography exhibitions including:

  • Leica Gallery Los Angeles (2013)
  • Paris LA Independent Photo Show (2014)
  • photokina Cologne (2014)
  • Shanghai Kunst-Licht Gallery2014 C-C-C Gallery Beijing (2014)
  • Leica Gallery Sao Paulo (2015)
  • Etherton Gallery Tuscon Arizona (2015)


Studio albums

  • I Advance Masked – 1982 (with Robert Fripp)
  • Bewitched – 1984 (with Robert Fripp)
  • XYZ – 1987
  • Mysterious Barricades – 1988
  • The Golden Wire – 1989
  • Charming Snakes – 1990
  • World Gone Strange – 1991
  • Invisible Threads – 1993 (with John Etheridge)
  • Synaesthesia – 1996
  • The Last Dance of Mr. X – 1997
  • Strings of Desire – 1998 (with Victor Biglione)
  • A Windham Hill Retrospective – 1998
  • Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk – 1999 (with vocals by Sting on the track "'Round Midnight")
  • Peggy's Blue Skylight – 2000 (with vocals by Deborah Harry on the track "Weird Nightmare")
  • Earth + Sky – 2004
  • Splendid Brazil – 2005 (with Victor Biglione)
  • First You Build a Cloud – 2007 (with Ben Verdery)
  • United Kingdom of Ipanema: Roberto Menescal Convida Andy Summers – 2011
  • Spirit Garden (Unreleased) – 2009 (with Andrew York)
  • Fundamental – 2012 (with Fernanda Takai)
  • Circus Hero – (Circa Zero) 2014 (with Rob Giles)
  • Metal Dog – 2015


  • "Parade" / "Train" – 1984 (with Robert Fripp)
  • "2010" / "To Hal and Back" – 1984
  • "Love is the Strangest Way" / "Nowhere" – 1987

With the Police

With Circa Zero



  • Throb (William Morrow Pubs 1983)[23]
  • Light Strings (Chronicle 2005)[24]
  • One Train Later (St Martins Press 2006)[25]
  • I'll Be Watching You (Taschen 2007)[26]
  • Desirer Walks The Streets (Nazraeli Press 2008)[27]


  1. ^ Welch, Chris (1996). The complete guide to the music of the Police and Sting. London: Omnibus Press. p. xii.  
  2. ^ Huey, Steve (31 December 1942). "Andy Summers". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  3. ^ Bennett, Graham (2005). Soft machine. London: SAF. p. 141.  
  4. ^ Welch, Chris (1996). The complete guide to the music of The Police and Sting. London: Omnibus Press. p. 25.  
  5. ^ a b Summers, Andy (2007). One Train Later: A Memoir. Macmillan.  
  6. ^ Frank W. Hoffmann, Howard Ferstle (2005). Encyclopedia of recorded sound. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 845.  
  7. ^ "2015 Theatrical Movies". Retrieved 2015-06-29. 
  8. ^ Leeds, Jeff (30 January 2007). "The Police Will Kick Off the Grammys". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Baltin, Steve (13 August 2013). "The Police's Andy Summers Goes Back to Basics With Circa Zero". Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Ragogna, Mike (26 March 2014). "Silver Rails and Circus Hero: Conversations With Jack Bruce and Andy Summers". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "CIRCA ZERO DEBUT SHOW EL REY THEATRE LOS ANGELES". 25 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Circa Zero's Circus Hero March 25, 2014 Release Date". 7 February 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Ragogna, Mike (26 March 2014). "Silver Rails and Circus Hero: Conversations With Jack Bruce and Andy Summers". Retrieved 1 May 2014. I was on this early morning radio station and the guy said, "Yeah, here he is with the new record from Circus Hero!" and I went, "Oh, god. It's Circa. Zero." But anyway I told Rob and he said, "Yeah, we should call the album that." Just to be a little bit weird. I thought about the early Police albums where we had all these weird titles that kind of got people's attention. Might as well have fun with it. 
  14. ^ Summers, Andy and Kerr, Jim (12 November 2012). Andy Summers Interview Promo Movie & Circa Zero. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Future Releases on Triple A (AAA) Radio Stations". All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "allmusic ((( Circa Zero > Awards > Japan Hot 100 Singles )))". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  17. ^ "The Police: inducted in 2003 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  18. ^ "Cérémonie de remise des insignes de Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres à Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers, du groupe The Police". 1 October 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "2008 Graduates – Graduation Ceremony – Bournemouth University". Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  20. ^ Browne, Davis; Doyle, Patrick; Fricke, Davis (2011-11-23). "100 Greatest Guitarists".  
  21. ^ fendermusical (15 April 2008). "Andy Summers Tribute Telecaster guitar demonstration video". Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  22. ^ "The Unofficial Andy Summers Website". Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  23. ^ Summers, Andy (1983). Throb. William Morrow Pubs.  
  24. ^ Summers, Andy (2004). Light Strings.  
  25. ^ Summers, Andy (2007). One Train Later: A Memoir.  
  26. ^ Summers, Andy (2007). I'll Be Watching You: Inside the Police 1980–83. Taschen America LLC.  
  27. ^ Summers, Andy (2009). Throb. Nazraeli.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Circa Zero official website
  • Andy Summers Fender tribute Telecaster homepage
  • Interview: "Andy Summers: The Blessing and The Curse" - 2015
  • BBC interview with Andy Summers including audio
  • Andy Summers in Fender News
  • Book Review of Andy Summers' One Train Later
  • Contemporary interview with Andy Summers
  • Andy Summers Detailed Discography, Timeline and Equipment List
  • Andy Summers Play-/Sound-Alike (German instructions)
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