Outlandos d'Amour

Newport, GB
Sting from ''Broken Music'': ''Our first gig with Cherry Vanilla takes place in Newport, Wales, at a shabby little nightclub called Alexander's next to a railway line. There is a vicious March wind blowing newspapers down the narrow alley between the club and the embankment, as a coal train clanks noisily overhead. Inside, the club is cold, damp, and dingy, and there is a pungent smell of stale smoke and the sickly hop-infused stink of last week's beer. Stewart and I have driven cross-country with Chris, our roadie, in a Ford Transit van. We set up the gear and PA on a tiny stage covered in angry cigarette burns and sticky underfoot with spilled drinks and old sweat. We will play scores of these clubs up and down the country, with dressing rooms no bigger than toilets, covered in the self-aggrandizing graffiti and puerile obscenities of our fellow musicians, resentful that they've been lured into this circus of seedy glamour by the vague promise of the big time just a little farther down the road. The rest of the band arrive as we finish the setup, and while the American visitors don't seem all that impressed by the decor, they do not complain unduly. I get the impression that this is exactly the kind of place they play back home. They arrange themselves in the dressing room while I dismantle my amplifier, which seems to be broken again. I remove each of the valves in turn, shake them gently next to my ear to make sure they're okay, and then replace them so they are snug in their sockets. The ritual, for it is no more scientific than that, seems to work and the valves begin to glow a reassuring red. The club begins to fill up and the colored lights above the stage make a brave show at a kind of gaiety, veiling the squalor in the same kindly red glow as the valves in my amplifier. Everything's going to be fine tonight.

The Police set begins at ten to eleven and is finished on the stroke of the hour. It blisters along at such a pace - no gaps between the songs, defying the audience to be critical or appreciative, as if we don't give a fuck either way, and then we're off before they know what's hit them. When we burst into the dressing room we're all laughing as if we've just pulled off a successful bank raid. Louis and Zecca are duly impressed, Louis particularly with my singing.

''Hey!'' he tells me, ''you're gonna be a big star someday.''

''Oh yeah, sure,'' I say, but there is a small part of me that wants to believe him, no matter how unlikely it seems.

There is a half-hour break and Henry decamps to the bar at the back of the club while Stewart and I take the stage again, this time with Cherry's band. Cherry really is dynamite and she goes down a bomb, the audience rabid for every bump and grind, lusty innuendo, and knowing wink. We may make a few first-night mistakes but we perform well enough for them to be forgotten in a warm sea of approval. It's not a bad start. After a few congratulatory beers in the emptying club, we dismantle the equipment, load it back into the van, and are on the road by two a.m. I get home at seven in the morning, having dropped everyone else off at their digs. I have my wages for the evening in my pocket. Six pounds and fifty pence...