jeff rey's
Tracks...the Wild Ones
Chapter 16. POLICE STORY
Tracks got to play with the Police on their first U.S. tour in the Fall of 1978 because Keith Moon died. Well, that and some pretty slick maneuvering from Lorry Doll and me. Here’s the story:

It’s the end of summer and we’re sitting in Eppy’s office out on Long Island. Eppy owns
My Father’s Place which is twenty miles or so outside of New York and kind of like Boston’s Paradise – they book B level national acts as well as some local talent in support. Billy Joel played there in his early years. So did Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Money, Patti Smith, Television and other up and coming talent. Our single, “Brakes On You” was starting to get some airplay out that way so we figured it might be a good idea to do some live shows. So we’re sitting there playing The Dating Game. The same game we had played countless times with Jim Harold at the Rat, Hilly Kristal at CBGB and just about every owner/manager we had ever dealt with. That being the owner sits down with a calendar in front of him, trying to figure out just what date would be the worst possible one for us. All the while he’s also trying to see if just maybe our band can bring in the big bucks for him.

The Police played at the Rat from October 26th through the 29th. They also played a series of gigs at CBGB the week before and again a couple weeks later. The pictures here are from those CB’s gigs and are taken from the CBGB website listed on our LINKS page. The band looks the same as they did at the Rat. I’m pretty sure we played with them on their second night in Boston. The Rat’s soundman, Granny, was a really big Police fan and he couldn’t stop raving about them. Granny had seen them all come through the Rat and we respected his opinion. Tracks did the first set which was pretty solid and we unexpectedly got a good audience response. After our set, I remember being taken aback that although the Police were on a major label with a rising hit and strong management (drummer Stewart Copeland’s brothers Miles and Ian), the band members were moving their own gear on stage and setting it all up themselves with just the help of a lone tour manager and Granny. These weren’t pampered rock stars, but real musicians, paying their dues and taking care of their own hard-earned equipment – just like us. I had to respect them for that.

The Police were impressive from their first note. It was pretty obvious this band would either be huge or obscenely screwed by their record company.
Sting was a natural star. Playing the role of the bad-assed-prettyboy-with-the–heart-of-a-poet to the hilt. Though he bounced around the stage in his orange jumpsuit, his bass was in perfect syncopation with Copeland’s drumming. The two of them laying down a powerful and infectious groove that you couldn’t help but move to. Guitarist Andy Summers weaved in and out of that rhythm with his Echoplexed Telecaster. Joining with them for a perfect oneness on that funky reggae beat. Talk about a power trio – and I didn’t even like this music!

I think the crowd was as awed as we were with that first set the Police delivered, but I don’t remember a big response. I think most of the audience only knew the single “Roxanne” and hadn’t expected such a display of powerful material – almost all of which would wind up on their debut Outlandos D’Amour and take the world by storm. I guess Rat owner Jim Harold wasn’t that impressed with the band’s hype. He didn’t give them his office for a dressing room which he usually did for big stars, but rather stuck them with us. Backstage, Sting was aloof, saying little except for “Hi” and “Bye” to us and his band mates and pretty much kept to himself. A budding diva’s personality? Perhaps, but at the time we thought maybe he was just shy, being in a foreign country and a strange club and all. Meanwhile, we got a kick out of Stewart’s bawdy jokes delivered in his pseudo English accent. It was good, and he only let it slip for a word or two, but we all knew he was American born. Andy Summers was a real personable guy and Lorry and I talked guitars and music with him for quite a bit. He was impressed that we had real Fenders and Gibsons. Andy told us that back in England, most bands had to settle for Japanese copies since American guitars were so expensive there. He was proud his own axe was a real Telecaster that had set him back a ridiculous amount by American standards.

Though the band we played with was great and seemed destined for some form of stardom, we had no idea the Police would evolve into one of the biggest bands on the planet within just a few months of our gig with them. They were still riding high and mighty when they disbanded in the mid-80s (many blaming Sting’s ego), but all members have continued with successful careers over the years.

Several years after that show at the Rat, probably 1983, Lorry and I were driving to one of our Wild Ones gigs with Pseudo Carol sitting in back. Carol was going to do her Rentals single “I Got A Crush On You” and join Lorry on vocals for a few more songs. So we’re driving along and the radio is talking about the Police being the biggest rock band in the world and they start playing a block of their tunes. Lorry and I turn to each other at the same moment and instantaneously crack up. Poor Carol in back has no idea why we’re laughing our asses off. We’re on the way to our very first show at ... My Father’s Place on Long Island.

Photo: Ebet Roberts
Photo: Stephanie Chernikowski
TRACKS never did play with ATV as advertised on this poster. But their cancellation due to Keith Moon's death led to our gig with The Police.
It was a subtle and somewhat devious game that Lorry and I had down pat. Lorry would be her usual out-going self with that edge of toughness. Trading friendly small talk back and forth. Little anecdotes here and there. Waiting for an opening. Lorry genuinely enjoyed this mano a mano kind of thing. Meanwhile, I played the silent and serious partner, trying to get a peek at what prime dates were open on the calendar and with whom. Every now and then I would try to drop a line or two about why we deserved a primo gig. Eppy looks at his calendar, shakes his head and says, “You guys are from Boston, who’s gonna come?” Lorry rolls her eyes playfully and laughs. I give him a list of the local college stations that are airing our single. My Father’s Place and just about all clubs depend on college kids crowding their joints and drinking their beer taps dry. These are the days of the 18 year old drinking laws. Eppy starts to lightly circle a date on the calendar. A Monday. “Doing a benefit at NYU that day,” I lie. He moves on to Tuesday. “Radio interview in Boston.” Wednesday. “Rhode Island gig.” Thursday. “Spread it over into Friday to make it worthwhile,” Lorry chimes in. He can’t do that. But we finally wear him down enough into conceding a weekend gig. But the one he picks, we really do have another gig, and a big one. Jim Harold had booked us into the Rat with ATV, a band that was getting the big buzz from New Musical Express and Melody Maker back in Merry Old England and also seemed about to catch on here in the States. Lorry had done a lot of cajoling to get that show and we were really geared up for it. I figured that should impress Eppy. So I let Lorry tell him. “They’re not coming. They cancelled,” says Eppy. Now, I knew they had moved the Rat gig up a week to settle up some business, but they were still coming. “No,” Eppy says, “they were supposed to play here in two weeks. But the guy is friends with what's-his-name from the Who that died.” This was starting to turn into an Abbott & Costello routine. “Keith Moon. There’s a big deal with the authorities. An inquest he’s gotta be at. They’re not coming.”

Well, that was that. We don't take the date Eppy offers and drive back to Boston for a gig that night at the Rat. Lorry tells Jim about ATV. He doesn’t believe it. He makes some calls only to find out he has an upcoming weekend with no headliner. Well he’s ever so grateful to get the early warning and promises a gig with another British band he’s got coming into the Rat the following month, the Police. Lorry tells him they’re just a reggae band and he still owes us big time. She’s not joking.

We had had our fill of reggae. The straight media in Boston refused to acknowledge the existence of new wave and punk. Radio might play some of the milder
Patti Smith stuff the rare time or two; and Maxanne Sartori had gotten WBCN to air commercial bands like the Cars and Reddy Teddy on occasion. What they did play and what was considered “cutting edge” by Boston standards was reggae. Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and of course Bob Marley. Traditional rockers like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton had released a few reggae flavored tunes that were also getting heavy airplay. It was a time when The Harder They Come was being screened on a constant basis in Harvard Square. Reggae was a Big Deal in late 70’s Boston. So when three blonde haired blokes from England released “Roxanne” as an A&M single, they were embraced by the media like the Beatles had gotten back together fronted by the reanimated Elvis Presley. Commercial radio played that song over and over and over again. By then, Lorry and I had been reggaed out. You know, we never felt threatened by the proliferation of Disco which appealed to an audience we weren’t trying to reach. But we both felt something like reggae was a real distraction from the innovative new wave of city music we were a part of. So although we looked forward to playing with a band that was getting all that attention (and the people they would pull in), we really weren’t too psyched for a gig with the Police. Didn’t even make up any show flyers. Guess we figured the event would be hyped enough anyway and we would save a few bucks on the printing expense.