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18 August 2021

Andy Summers Q&A: “Maybe Richard Branson will save us all“

The musician discusses The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, Line of Duty and cancel culture. 

By New Statesman

Andy Summers was born in Lancashire in 1942. Best known as a member of the rock band the Police, he has also composed for film and exhibited photography in galleries.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being carried down the steps of a railway station at night somewhere in the south of England, through a fog. I was in my mother’s arms, maybe with the Luftwaffe buzzing overhead.

Who are your heroes?

Doctor Dolittle. I read all of the stories between the ages of eight and 11. I was – at that glorious time – a complete nature freak. I tried to live out all of Dolittle’s adventures in the countryside around me.

What book last changed your thinking?

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt – a fantastic true story about an obsessive 15th-century book-collecting monk, Poggio Bracciolini, who discovers the last copy of Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things – his theory of how the world is made of atoms.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Marcus Aurelius, a stoic and a philosopher king.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Akira Kurosawa films. He was a cinematic genius. I first saw his films as a teenager and have watched them many times since.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

In the court of Elizabeth I, as a lutenist.

What TV show could you not live without?

We are in an enforced viewing life now, which really is not so unpleasant. The couch potato in me has emerged. I was upset to reach the end of The Bureau – fantastic! But then there’s The Bridge, Spiral, Babylon Berlin, The Flight Attendant, Line of Duty

Who would paint your portrait?

Rembrandt. I made a trip to his house in Amsterdam and tried, in some touristy way, to soak up the vibes. I don’t think he’s ever been surpassed as a portrait painter.

What’s your theme tune?

“Where Corals Lie” from Sea Pictures by Elgar, as sung by Janet Baker.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be true to yourself. Probably said to me numerous times by my mum, who was full of unending aphorisms like that. I’ve tried to follow it.

What’s currently bugging you?

PC and cancel culture. Crap politicians in both the US and the UK. The US Republican Party. Mitch McConnell. Anti-vaxxers…

What single thing would make your life better?

To cure the whole world of this dreadful virus. I like travelling and right now we all seem to be in chains. It’s tragic.

When were you happiest?

Running though the meadows and woods of Dorset at about nine years old. It got more complicated after that.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Concert pianist or violinist, or maybe king of a small, very rich country.

Are we all doomed?

It sure seems like it. It seems to be more and more apparent that humans aren’t really up to the job; we’re lousy planet custodians. Maybe females will save the species as they gradually absorb the male. However, one remains optimistic: perhaps Richard Branson will save us all…


“Fretted and Moaning” by Andy Summers is published by Rocket 88 and available at

[See also: Caitlin Moran Q&A: “I owe Nye Bevan almost all of my pain-free wazzing”​]

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