Did Andy Summers Almost Join the Rolling Stones?: Exclusive Interview
A position with the world's greatest rock and roll band doesn't often open up. When one did in 1974, after the departure of Mick Taylor, the Rolling Stones sought the best of the best.
One candidate was pre-Police guitarist Andy Summers. "I was a struggling musician," Summers recently told UCR. "Well, I say 'struggling,' I was actually doing pretty well. I was pretty noted. I wasn’t in the Police yet. At that particular time, I was getting quite a lot of write-ups in the press. Just from being in bands, people noting me as this sort of guitar player on the scene."
At one point, a rumor circulated that the final decision had come down to Summers and Ron Wood (who ultimately got the job), but this was inaccurate. "I was sort of put out with the job, but it’s all bullshit. It just got talked about a lot, but I had to wait a while to join a much better band," Summers told Louder Sound in 2016, with a laugh.
Summer's presence on the shortlist was flattering, but he eventually opted for the unknown. "I kind of threw it all away when I joined the Police," he told UCR, "which had absolutely no future whatsoever, just pure instincts!"
Summers and the Stones would, however, continue to cross paths from time to time. "I met Keith [Richards] and Bill Wyman. I hung out with them in the South of France," Summers said, also recalling a circa 1983 Police concert at which Mick Jagger turned up in his dressing room. "[Jagger] just sort of walked in and went, ''Ello!' 'Hello, Mick!' He stood at the side of the stage and watched the whole show. He was checking us out, like, 'Okay, what’s this all about?' But he was great and very nice."
According to Summers, having one of rock's best-known frontmen watching from backstage didn't unnerve him, but instead pushed the show to the next level. "It probably made it even fiercer, if anything," Summers admitted, with a laugh.
The Police occasionally dropped by the odd Rolling Stones gig as well. Wood once remembered an early '80s show at which an innocent message from the crew inadvertently sent the band into a panic.
“We were doing drugs in the dressing room,” Wood told the Los Angeles Times in 2005, “when suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the corners and said, ‘The police are here!’ ... We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. And then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in.”
At that time, the Police were dominating the charts and packing stadiums, actually outpacing the Rolling Stones. "We were the No. 1 band in the world and heavy competition. No one could get past us at that point," Summers told UCR. "We were the biggest tour in the world at that point. We did Paris and did two nights at 80,000 a night, and the Stones had just played there and had 16 thousand. I mean, not to piss on the Stones, but that’s the difference."
Regardless of status, Summer's decision to join the fledgling Police in 1977 turned out for the best, in his mind: "The rest all worked out."