He ran the police, founded a punk rock label … and has close ties to Alabama.

When the police arrived in Alabama in the early 1980s, Miles A. Copeland III had a special mission in Birmingham.

Copeland, who led the famous rock band, hired a limo and told the driver to head to Birmingham-Southern College. The limo pulled up in front of his old fraternity house at school. Copeland walked in straight in, greeted everyone and offered them free tickets to the police concert that night at the BJCC Arena.

“It was my moment of glory,” says Copeland. “Everyone was very impressed.

Copeland, 77, laughs as he recounts the story in a phone interview with AL.com. Sure, he was showing off in front of the people at his alma mater – Copeland graduated from Birmingham-Southern in 1966 – but as Muhammad Ali said, it’s no bragging if you can back it up.

Yesterday and now, Copeland can save it.

For proof, take a look at his new memoir, “Two steps forward, one step back: my life in the music world”. The book, published in June by Jaw press, details Copeland’s career in the entertainment industry – as music director, band manager, agent, producer and label founder – and offers a wealth of information on his involvement with the Police, Sting, REM, the Bangles, Go-Gos, Squeeze, Cramps, Buzzcocks, Timbuk 3, Fine Young Cannibals and more.

Copeland’s memoir also speaks of his roots in Alabama – his father, Miles Copeland Jr., was originally from Birmingham and went on to become a jazz musician, CIA agent, and author – and talks about his time in Birmingham-Southern.

“Two Steps Forward” is one of eight books featured this month in Birmingham-Southern Virtual Book Club, which is open to the public and organized by the college’s alumni office. Discussions on the books will take place via Zoom, Nov. 7-14, and Copeland says he plans to participate in the session on his memoirs. Entrance is free, but registration is required via Eventbrite.

Copeland, who says he was determined to be truthful in his memoirs, doesn’t paint a glowing picture of his college days.

“You don’t need to dwell too much on those years in Alabama,” Copeland writes. Suffice it to say I learned about racism, I started saying ‘yawl’, I joined a fraternity (SAE), I bought my first car (a 1957 Ford convertible, which had holes in the floor) and got to know my grandmother and various aunts and cousins. It was 1962, so I got to Alabama just in time for the race riots, Selma, Bull Connor, George Wallace, etc.

Copeland, who was born in London during World War II, spent much of his childhood in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, as well as stays in the United States near Washington, DC by the time he entered university, Copeland had a cosmopolitan background and an international experience. perspectives, and he says he experienced a distinct culture shock in the South.

“Very few of my classmates cared about the rest of the world,” Copeland told AL.com. “They were very bright students, but most of the kids had no idea what was going on outside of Alabama. When they found out I was living in the Middle East, they thought I was riding a camel there.

He did, however, find a few bright spots. Copeland saw their first rock concert in Birmingham: a “Shower of Stars” broadcast on May 7, 1965, when WVOK radio station brought the Rolling Stones and Beach Boys to Legion Field. The 7-hour show – billed as a musical battle between England and the United States – also featured The Righteous Brothers, Marty Robbins, Sonny James, Skeeter Davis, Del Reeves, Archie “Rindercella” Campbell and Cannibal and the Headhunters. .

“It was a weird mix of acts,” Copeland recalls. “Everyone played 20 minutes. But I remember this show, one of the first real concerts I attended. The second I went to was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, in a smaller theater in Birmingham.

Copeland would later be involved in a traveling music festival, StarTruckin ’75, which featured several of its management clients, such as Wishbone Ash, Climax Blues Band, and Renaissance. (He tells AL.com the idea wasn’t inspired by that “Shower of Stars” concert, but maybe the seed was planted in Birmingham.)

Additionally, Alpert would play a key role in Copeland’s professional life, via a deal with A&M Records, a label founded by Alpert and Jerry Moss.

“I was just a music fan when I lived in Birmingham,” Copeland says. “I never imagined myself being in the music business.”

In “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,” Copeland points out that his career path has never been mapped out. But he was flexible, hardworking, intuitive, rebellious and enterprising. These qualities served him well in the music world, especially when punk rock exploded onto the English scene in the mid to late 1970s.

By the end of the decade, Copeland had founded IRS Records – a very influential label with a roster of renegades that included Concrete Blonde, Oingo Boingo, Buzzcocks, Lords of the New Church, English Beat, Fleshtones and Genitorturers – and he managed the police, a power trio which included his brother, the drummer Stewart Copeland.

“I don’t like the idea of ​​making rules or having a plan,” Copeland says. “If I had had some sort of set route, I wouldn’t have done what I did. I use an example in the book, when the police played their first tour of America, they were playing in every dive and shit club we could get our hands on. For one of these shows, only four people bought tickets to see this unknown group. But the police said, “Let’s give them a hell of a show. “

One of the four spectators of this show was Oedipus, a promising DJ at MIT University Radio Station in Boston. He loved the police, was blown away by the song “Roxanne” and started playing it consistently on his radio show in the late 1970s. It was a huge step for the band on their way to fame.

“When people ask, ‘What’s the most important gig you’ve ever done? “It was four people,” says Copeland.

While his memories of working with the police are likely to be a major draw to readers, Copeland has plenty of other stories to tell — about bands big and small, wild and tame, renowned and obscure.

“My role has always been, I thought I was the guy who opened the door,” Copeland says. “Those who crossed were successful. I have met a lot of talented actors who questioned themselves. I have always done well with artists who were ready to go through the door.

According to Copeland, his book wasn’t meant to dig up dirt or spread gossip.

“I wasn’t interested in dirty stories,” Copeland says. “I didn’t write about some of the people I knew who had unhappy things. There were a few crazy jobs, but it’s more like they’re crazy than like they’re bad people. Lots of editors have said, “Where’s the dirt? We need more dirt on Sting.

It is true, however, that Copeland can be downright dismissive in his recollections of certain musicians, calling Tracy Chapman a pessimist and admitting that he found REM’s first catalog quite boring. (The group from Athens, Georgia released their first five albums on the IRS label, 1983-1987, then moved to Warner Bros. for blockbusters such as “Out of Time” and “Automatic for the People.” )

“I have total admiration for REM,” says Copeland. “They just didn’t appeal in the same way, instinctively, the Cramps, or Wall of Voodoo. They were just good boys from the south. They’ve evolved. The niceties weren’t what the IRS was into.

Under Copeland’s direction, the IRS specialized in punk, New Wave, college rock and alternative acts, and eventually sponsored a monthly show on MTV, “IRS Records Presents The Cutting Edge”. The label folded in 1996 after acquiring semi-legendary status. Copeland moved on to ARK21 Records and several other projects, including forming and managing the Bellydance Superstars, a touring dance troupe that arrived in Alabama in 2006.

The idea, Copeland told AL.com’s Lawrence Specker, was similar to Riverdance: take a cultural tradition that has had relatively little trade exposure; add talent, choreography and theatrical elements; and hit the road with full production.

“I realized that the biggest market for this music would be American women who, for some strange reason, had adopted belly dancing as a feminine celebration of the female spirit,” Copeland said before a performance at the Saenger Theater. from Mobile. “I found this very intriguing.”

Copeland’s mindset has always been international and idiosyncratic, so those who read his book are unlikely to be surprised when they get to the chapters of belly dance. “Two Steps Forward” covers many fields, from music publishing and cinematic forays to a songwriter retreat at Copeland Castle in France.

There is no index in the book, alas, but many celebrities appear in the text: Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, Jello Biafra, Johnny Rotten, Prince, Belinda Carlisle, Keith Urban, Karen Carpenter, David Gilmour, John Cale, Susanna Hoffs, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Lou Reed, Jerry Garcia … the list goes on and on.

One name of particular interest to readers in Alabama is Courteney Cox, a native of Birmingham who turns out to be Copeland’s cousin-in-law.

“During family conversations, Courteney told me that she was hoping to be a model, so I volunteered to help her get started with some contacts I had at Ford Modeling Agency in New York,” writes Copeland. “At the Ford dealership they were worried about her size, but they said they would put her in the teenage division and see what they could find. I rewarded them with tickets to an upcoming Police concert. Ford had a variety of jobs, including the famous dance video with Bruce Springsteen, and Courteney later accepted a receptionist position for (my brother) Ian’s booking agency, the FBI. …

“Eventually, Courteney was hired by one of the big Los Angeles movie companies,” Copeland continues. “From there, of course, she became one of the stars of ‘Friends’ and she became very famous. Years later, when my brother Ian died of cancer, Courteney was there to help with the huge hospital bills. It’s always nice to see when a big star is there to help someone who has helped them rise through the ranks. “

Countless people urged him to write a book, Copeland says, but he never had the time or motivation until he was locked up during the coronavirus pandemic. Her goal was to write something autobiographical and motivational, inspiring others to achieve success.

“Fortunately, I had a lot of moments that were really interesting,” Copeland says. “Do I want to entertain? Yes. But if people read the book and take away something from it that they can apply to their own lives, then it has done its job.

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