No Title (Archivio ARC CD 016)
Mont-de-Marsan, France – August 5, 1977
Fall Out (actually studio version), Next To You (actually Landlord), Visions of the Night, Games to Play (actually Kids to Blame), Clouds in Venice, Three O’Clock (actually Three O’Clock Shit or Three O’Clock Shot), Nothing Achieving, To Fuck I Want (actually It’s My Life), Fall Out, How Are You, I Don’t Wanna Be Your Number (actually Dead End Job), Visions of the Night (Encore), Nothing Achieving (says demo version, actually studio version)
In the summer of 1977, punk ruled Western Europe. As Andy Summers says in his memoirs, One Train Later, it was “a moment when if you aren’t gelled, spiked, and ripped, you might just as well go home and forget it.” Four struggling musicians, Sting, Stewart Copeland, Henri Padovani, and Andy Summers, have joined forces in a punk band called the Police.
The band had been a trio consisting of Sting (bass and vocals), Stewart (drums), and Henri (guitar). Henri certainly looked the part of a punk musician, and had only been playing guitar for a few months (a badge of honor in the punk world), but Sting was becoming frustrated with Henri’s playing ability. Andy was invited to join the band and, although Andy wasn’t interested in sharing guitar duties with such an inexperienced player, Sting and Stewart weren’t ready to kick Henri out of the group. For a brief period, the Police performed as a foursome.
The band was invited to perform at the second annual Mont-de-Marsan Punk Festival in France, playing low on a bill showcasing better-known bands like the Damned and the Clash. This festival will be the second and final performance of the Police as a foursome. Within days, Sting will tell Henri he is no longer in the band.
In 1991, Archivio released No Title, which captures this moment – the first performance of the Police preserved on silver CD. Sourced from a very rough-sounding audience recording and clocking in at less than 35 minutes, No Title is not for everyone. It is, however, an important historical document, capturing a band struggling to find its place in a punk music scene, and offering glimpses of what would come.
The packaging is pretty bare-bones and replete with errors. Many of the song titles are incorrect, and Andy is omitted from the listing of the band. The first track, Fall Out, is a studio track taken from the Police’s first single. The concert begins with the second track. After the Police are introduced, Sting says to the French audience: “We’re gonna play some songs you won’t understand.” Then the band launches into Landlord, which would be a set list staple for many years to come. Towards the end of the song, there is a glaring guitar miscue, and such mistakes continue throughout the concert. It is not clear who made them, and though it is tempting to blame Henri, it should be noted that Andy can be heard making mistakes on many other Police bootlegs.
Kids to Blame is a song from Stewart’s old band Curved Air. Whoever wrote the track listings clearly guessed at many of the song titles – here the song is mislabeled as Games to Play. Between songs, Sting says: “This tune … can you turn these monitors off? I can’t hear myself. This tune is called Clouds in Venice.” Introducing the next song, Sting says: “Here’s a tune that’s called Three O’Clock Shit. You don’t understand that.” There is some confusion regarding the actual title of this song. The release Strontium 90 – Police Academy lists this song as “3 O’Clock Shot.” Whether this is the actual title or merely a sanitized version is not known.
[Note: Strontium 90 was a short-lived band created by Mike Howlett, the bass player for the disbanded group Gong. Howlett recruited Andy from the Kevin Ayers Band, and Sting and Stewart from the already-formed Police to create the four-man group Strontium 90 (a band with two bass players!). At a May 28, 1977 Gong reunion concert in Paris, the opening acts consisted of each ex-Gong member playing with their new bands. The one and only Strontium 90 release Police Academy (an official release, not a bootleg) contains a few songs from that show, including “3 O’Clock Shot.” The Police Academy version is sourced from a monitor mix and is about a thousand times clearer than the version on No Title.]
Regardless of the actual title, this song is notable for having lyrics which Sting would later re-work into the song O My God on the album Synchronicity: “every one I know is lonely, and my god’s so far away, and my heart belongs to no one, so at night sometimes I pray, take this space between us, and fill it up some way, I’ve been waiting for my brother, since fucking Christmas day”
There is a gentle cut following Nothing Achieving. Then, before a cover of the Animals’ song It’s My Life, Sting says: “this is called it’s my life and I’ll do what the fuck I want!” Whoever wrote the track listing somehow took this to mean the song was called To Fuck I Want. Introducing Fall Out, Sting says: “this tune is our single. Its our record.” There is another cut before Visions of the Night, which the track listing identifies as the encore. After Visions of the Night, the announcer outtros the band. The track listing says the final song is a demo version of Nothing Achieving. Actually, it’s the studio version taken from the B-side of the Landlord single. It is amazing that the musically tame (and, some would say, lame) Sting of today started out as a punk rocker. No Title provides indispensable proof.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)