Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (DVD)

Stewart Copeland

Hip-O/A&M, 2007

http://www.stewartcopeland.net

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/29/2007

One of my first luxury item purchases as a young adult was a video camera.  And that about covers the parallels between my life and that of Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who spent some of the first actual cash he earned off of the Police’s debut album Outlandos D’Amour purchasing a Super 8 video camera. 

Copeland then proceeding over the course of the next five eventful years to take over 50 hours of film of the band, crew, management, fans, airplanes, busses, street scenes and who knows what else.  Twenty years later Copeland had the footage digitized and began assembling and editing what would become a 74-minute peek behind the curtain of a rock band in the process of conquering the world, full of moments and vignettes that alternately entertain, amuse and enlighten.

Copeland’s first challenge was that his footage covers only about 70 percent of the band’s lifespan; as a result his direction employs all manner of creative tricks to cover the ground necessary to fill out the band’s story.  The first two years of the group’s existence is reconstructed via a series of clever stills and crossfades as Copeland’s narration leads you up to the point where the camera was purchased, just after the release of Outlandos.

Over the course of the film, Copeland’s narration in fact turns out to be as much a highlight as any of the sometimes grainy footage.  With the benefit of two decades’ hindsight he views with deep clarity the surreal experience of going in less than three years from a struggling London club band to instantly-recognizable global superstars.  A segment titled “1981: Life becomes a Duran Duran video” is especially piquant and on point:bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

“We’re getting kind of disconnected from the world.  Inside our bubble, the suitcase life feels normal.  Stepping out into the streets among regular folks feels alien.  When people come rushing at you, even with love in their hearts, the instinct is to recoil; a wall goes up.  Pretty soon the real world that most people live in just seems like wind rushing past the car window.  If you grab hold of anything, you’ll lose an arm.”

The ensuing footage, full of agitated, sometimes screaming Japanese fans encircling Copeland and bandmates Andy Summers and Sting as they wander the streets of Tokyo, plays to one of Copeland’s whimsical “derangements” (remixes) of the band’s then-hit single “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” its meaning transformed from “stop flirting with me” to a more visceral “get out of my face, now.”

There is also a wonderful, superbly constructed sequence where Copeland lays the band’s brilliantly evocative instrumental “Reggatta de Blanc” over a ridiculous bit of footage involving sheep hired for a video shoot running wild all over the set, culminating with a documented example of Sting’s notable sheepherding skills.  As he approaches the camera with a babe in arms, the caption reads: “Can’t Stand Losing Ewe.”  (Ba-dump-bump-pshhhh.)

From there we cut to Montserrat, where the band is recording its troubled fourth album Ghost In The Machine amidst increasing internal tensions as Sting begins to dominate the musical proceedings.  The segment is a short overview of what was by most accounts an unhappy time for the band as egos collided and the trio’s divergent views of the future became more and more evident.

The end comes mercifully quickly after that, as Copeland intones “This is it – the target moment – this is what we came for.” “Synchronicity 1” plays in the background with perfect, well, synchronicity.

Copeland’s closing narration, over faintly hilarious footage of the band’s management sorting a mountain of bills into stacks after getting paid in cash for what one presumes must have been an earlier gig, is appropriately elegiac: “Bands don’t get any higher than this.  The screaming fans are gone, or at least if they’re still screaming we’re too far up in our ivory tower to hear them anymore.  Looking at all this money makes me think it’s time to jump off this pirate ship and abscond with the loot...  You know what?   We’re done.  When you get to where you’re going, the ride is over.”

Indeed it was, but with Everyone Stares, Copeland has given Police fans a chance to relive the ride from the inside out, and it’s a worthwhile trip led by a witty guide who knows intimately whereof he speaks.

[Editor's note:  Yes, the DVD case credits the Police as the artist, but Copeland shot, wrote, produced, directed, edited and narrated the film on his own.  So the DV is crediting it to him!]

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hip-O/A&M, and is used for informational purposes only.