It wasn’t easy being Andy Summers. Through his decade-long membership in The Police, Summers’ duties extended far beyond just that of being the band’s guitarist. Summers was required to stay up on modern technology as the band continued to evolve, as well as contribute keyboard parts to the band and even throw in an occasional song or two when Sting came up short.
But most importantly, Summers’ main job was to play mediator between Sting and Stewart Copeland. With two hotheaded and aggressive band members constantly having it out for each other, Summers was leaned on as the calm voice of reason that often broke the ties and provided them with wisdom. A decade older than his bandmates, Summers had seen it all by the time he joined The Police. Even during their biggest fights, Sting and Copeland would still turn to Summers to the crucial third vote.
To appease his hot-tempered counterparts, Summers adopted an unobtrusive and laid-back style. His personality bled into his guitar playing as well, with Summers being happy to simply play understated lines against Copeland’s manic drum work and Sting’s frenetic lead singing. With a little bit of chorus and reverb, Summers could fill up the sonic space without ever getting in the way.
Another secret to The Polices’ signature sound came in Summers’ love of sus2 chords. The diminutive guitar player preferred smaller necks that didn’t require him to stretch his fingers to death in order to play those iconic chords in ‘Message in a Bottle’. The results automatically sound like The Police, and Summers would continue to use the shape all the way through the band’s final album, Synchronicity.
When it came time to play the guitar part for ‘Every Breath You Take’, Summers once again turned to the sus2 chord in order to add maximum drama to the song’s longing and obsession. Appropriately, Copeland was unhappy with the song… minus Summers’ guitar work.
“In my humble opinion, this is Sting’s best song with the worst arrangement,” Copeland told Revolver Magazine in 2000. “I think Sting could have had any other group do this song and it would have been better than our version—except for Andy’s brilliant guitar part.”
Listen to Summers’ brilliant guitar part down below.