Andy Summers has revealed the process that led to the creation of one of the most popular songs of all time, saying that The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ was “crap” until he added his signature guitar sound to it. The former Police guitarist made his comments whilst chatting exclusively to eonmusic at the Progressive Music Awards, which took place in London on 1st September.
Speaking about the recording of the celebrated ‘Every Breath You Take’; a song that has since gone on to become one of the most playlisted tracks of all time, and is estimated to have earned around $20.5 million in royalties, Summers said that the session in 1983 had not been without tension.
Written by Sting, and featuring the singer / bassist along with Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland, the song was recorded at a time when the band were going through what the guitarist describes as a testing time. Said Summers: “All the interaction between us at that particular point was really difficult - we were not in a really good place”.
Going on to talk about how he approached the song, Andy revealed that ‘Every Breath You Take’ had been very different until he added his now instantly recognisable guitar parts to it. He recalled: “No one knew what to do with it. He [Sting] came in, and he had this song that actually sounded very prog rock; it sounded like Jon Anderson, with big rolling synthesiser chords. It didn’t sound anything like how we eventually did it, and there was a lot of argument about the drums and bass, and how to get the basic rhythm track down”.
With tension within the trio was at its height as the band recorded the track – the first single to be released from their swansong ‘Syncronicity’ album, Andy recalled that he was driven to just go in and do his parts straight: “I think one day we were going through this bullshit, and Sting said; “go on then, go in there and kick it around”, which was very challenging. So they were all sitting there like that [cross arms and looks sternly]”, he revealed.
Under that pressure, the song “emerged”, says Andy. He continued: “It was crap until I played on it, and then it emerged. I went in, and of course I had my Police guitar style down; it was very simple chord sequences, standard pop, and I laid that track down, virtually in one take. I just knew what to do with it; the licks. I had it right there, and they all stood up, and applauded”.
Andy was attending the Progressive Music Awards which were held at the prestigious Globe Theatre in London, where he picked up the ‘Guiding Light’ Award. Other award winners included Jon Anderson, who was given the ‘Prog God’ accolade, Trevor Horn who was lifted into 'The Outer Limits', and founding Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips, who lifted the ‘Storm Thorgerson Grand Design’ award.
Read eonmusic’s full interview with Andy Summers here.