'A paradigm for the cosmos...'
Whilst the release of 'Every Breath You Take - The DVD' sees a long overdue release of fourteen of The Police's videos in the DVD format, it is the bonus material that has been included which undoubtedly forms one of the main attractions of this release. Chief amongst this material is the full 47 minute documentary "Police in Montserrat".
This BBC documentary was only shown on UK television a couple of times back in the 1980's - indeed it's first showing almost pre-dates home video recorders! - and to the best of our knowledge it has never been broadcast outside of the UK. To make this release even more interesting this version includes several clips that did not make one of the previous broadcasts (the second we believe). These take the form of an extended intro, and additional footage of all three band members being interviewed.
So, what's the story behind the documentary Well, in mid 1981, a youthful pre-'Tube' Jools Holland flew out to Montserrat with a small camera crew to film The Police at work recording their fourth album, 'Ghost In The Machine'. After cold Leatherhead and rainy Holland where the first three albums were recorded, the island of Montserrat and George Martin's homely Air Studio offered a welcoming, warm environment for the recording of what many fans still consider to be the band's best album. After Jools' introduction to the island we see Sting running up a hill to the studio, and are thrust straight into a series of fascinating interviews and videos.
Jools talks to each band member in turn, asking Andy to explain how he gets some of his effects and gets him to demonstrate his Roland guitar synthesiser. Andy plays licks from several songs including 'Message In A Bottle' to demonstrate and 'Bring On The Night' and Jools ask him about his influences before unceremoniously pulling out his guitar lead after Andy plays a little 'funk' for him with the comment "I think that's best left to James Brown...". Joined by Jools on keyboards the pair then jam some blues tune and we get to see Andy play a little bottleneck guitar - quiet a rare sight.
Sting is interviewed in the studio where he explains to Jools a little about the pressures of songwriting, the desire to always try and better your last hit, and tells how he wrote both 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Invisible Sun'. The explanation for Sting's almost boyish enthusiasm during this interview can now be revealed - he had just written a new song, 'Invisible Sun', and this clip was not in one of the previous broadcasts. These few minutes are practically worth the price of the DVD alone, with Sting breaking the songs down and explaining in detail how they were constructed.
In further 'new' footage, Sting then introduces his customised stand-up Van Zalinge bass, 'Brian', before he and Jools start jamming away where they are joined by Andy Summers.
Jools moves to Stewart Copeland and gets him to explain his drum set-up and demonstrate some of the effects he employs. Stewart describes how important the role of the drummer is at the start of recording and explains in layman's terms his fascination for reggae, demonstrating the key differences between the reggae beat and the traditional backbeat. Stewart's obvious enthusiasm is almost contagious, and at one point he neatly sums up the reggae beat as 'a paradigm for the cosmos'. As if this wasn't enough, intercut between all these clips are four full length videoclips shot in the studio for 'Spirits In The Material World', 'One World (Not Three)', 'Demolition Man' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.
Other special features include a discography, and two live tracks from October 1978's appearance on the "Old Grey Whistle Test" TV show 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Next To You'. This was The Police's big break on UK television and featured The Police at their bleach blonde best. Although memorable to many for Sting's nose twitching and lip curling, this wasn't 'attitude' but explained by the fact that moments before going on set he'd had an accident in makeup when trying to help out a make-up assistant with a jammed aerosol. Result Stinging, painful eyes that he hid behind an oversize pair of sunglasses that kept sliding down his face - hence the twitching! Despite this, these two tracks are great performances.
In addition, a TV promotional clip for the Synchronicity album is included. This atmospheric black and white film features music clips from a variety of album tracks as the camera swoops around a room full of objects and imagery related to the album and close ups from the album sleeve photo session. Speaking about these photographs back in 1985, Sting said "My idea was that each member of the band would just go out and be photographed in an environment that he chose and that the three things would somehow relate, and they actually did. Mine was all involved with skeletons; the skeleton of a dinosaur... I guess mine was concerned with extinction." Prophetic words as this of course would be the band's last studio album...
Lastly, we must not overlook the fourteen full length videos - all the hits are covered from 'Roxanne' to 1986's reworking of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', and it is wonderful to see them get a crisp transfer to DVD. Coupled with a choice of audio formats in Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 they sound terrific too! It is also worth noting that the Montserrat documentary is subtitled in both Spanish and Portuguese. This is a wonderful release that really reinforces the magic of The Police and demonstrates just why they were the biggest band around in the early '80's.
Dave & Wendy, Spring 2003