When The Police triumphed in the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category at the 1982 Grammy Awards, guitarist Andy Summers was delighted… not least because bandleader Sting hated the song, refused to play on it, and actually buried the tape of the original recording in a garden to try to ensure it would never be finished by his bandmates.
Summers, who wrote the song, Behind My Camel, for The Police’s third studio album, Zenyatta Mondatta, relates this tale with some glee in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is on-sale now. The guitarist laughs off the tension around the recording as “typical band stuff.”
“I was always much more interested in weirder stuff,” says Summers. “And the commercial hit songs always seemed to come out of Sting anyway. But we didn’t have enough songs to fill the album, and I had this Behind My Camel thing. I said: ‘How about doing this, then?’ And Sting said: ‘I’m not playing on that!’ I actually believe he did bury the tape in the garden [laughs]. Stewart [Copeland, The Police’s drummer] was actually up for working on it, so I just played the bass.”
Upon its release in October 1980, Zenyatta Mondatta went straight to number 1 in the UK: it later peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 chart in the US, where singles Don’t Stand So Close To Me and De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da both reached the Top 10. Don’t Stand So Close To Me also picked up a Grammy Award (for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) in 1982, but the success of Behind My Camel was less anticipated.
“I loved the irony,” laughs Andy Summer now. “I’m sure there was some smug self-satisfaction: ‘’See? I fucking told you!’”
For more insight into the making of Zenyatta Mondatta pick up the new issue of Classic Rock, in which Foo Fighters’ drummer Taylor Hawkins hails The Police as “the Led Zeppelin of the ’80s.”