"I had no interest in writing a traditional autobiography", claims musician, actor and environmental campaigner Sting in Broken Music. It is, as he says, a book that explores "specific moments" of his life, mainly his upbringing in Tyneside (unavoidably part Hovis ad and part Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads) and the years he spent paying his musical dues in numerous bingo-hall jazz combos and Last Exit--a group he fronted prior to the Police and which Sounds magazine "Picked to Click in 76". So, nothing on tantric sex, those embezzled millions or, for that matter, a great deal on the Police. This is a slight pity as you're left yearning for a smidgen less about the chicken-in-a-basket gig circuit and a bit more about the quibbles over royalties that he hints led to the multi-platinum trio's "ultimate demise", or the battle with Virgin publishing to regain copyrights, or an aside on "Message in a Bottle" storming the charts. Something for the second volume, perhaps.
Still, this being Sting, the book does open with the singer and his second wife Trudie Styler hunkered down in the Brazilian jungle imbibing mind-bending Ayahuasca in an Indian ritual. The drug awakened memories of his childhood and forced him to think about his recently deceased parents, thus kicking off the whole autobiographical endeavour. (Proust had to make do with a soggy Madeleine.) His relationship with his milkman dad Ernie and mum Audrey and their unhappy marriage provide the real backbone to the tale of how Gordon Sumner evolved into Sting, and he writes thoughtfully and honestly about the strengths and failings of his parents and himself. One for the fans, perhaps, but it does offer a chance to discover sides of the songwriter usually obscured by the glare of celebrity. --Travis Elborough