It was 1976 and Copeland had a night off from his band at the time, Curved Air. The drummer reached out to journalist Phil Sutcliffe to see if there were any gigs worth checking out.
“Sutcliffe took us to see the local hot cool jazz band which was called Last Exit,” Copeland recalled during an appearance on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast. “And they had rather a useful looking bass player.”
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Copeland had already been plotting to break away from Curved Air to form his own band, and he was on the look for talented musicians who could join him. Specifically, he needed a bassist and someone who could sing, both of which he watched Sting do in Last Exit.
“But better than any of that was the obvious charisma of the guy,” Copeland noted, “just this charisma flashing out of every pore. And I looked at that guy and I said, ‘Now there is a meal ticket.’”
Copeland soon convinced Sutcliffe – or, more specifically, Sutcliffe’s girlfriend – to give him Sting’s phone number.
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Days later, Copeland called Sting to make his pitch. The drummer was clear – he only wanted Sting, not the rest of the band, and he tried to woo the bassist with promises of photo sessions, gigs and success.
“Keep talking,” was Sting’s two-word reply, just enough for Copeland’s enthusiasm to ratchet up even further.
“So I kept talking, and I bent his ears with my grandiose schemes and convincing certitude,” the drummer recalled.
Weeks later, Sting arrived at Copeland’s London apartment to jam.
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“He comes up, and I put a bass in his hand, and I get behind the drums and we start playing,” Copeland remembered, noting their instant chemistry. “And oh my god, we surge high, we rocket forth into the outer galaxies. We dig deep into the bowels of the earth. We thrust forward like an invading army. We were tracked and retreat into subtle, subtle poignance. And just like everywhere we go, it rocks and it’s cool, and we are locked at the groove. It’s the holy grail of all ensemble playing, which is called the pocket. We had a pocket.”
The electrifying jam session convinced Copeland he’d found his new bandmate.
“He’s a complete stranger, this guy. He’s a complete stranger standing in my house and we’re playing this cool stuff,” the drummer declared. “We knew that we were in the right company.”
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Gallery Credit: Matt Wardlaw