Listen to this track by mysterious Kryptonian-monikered one-man band, Klark Kent (reprinted in some quarters as Klerk Kant to avoid legal entanglements with Warner Brothers, who own DC Comics…). It’s “Don’t Care”, a knocked-off 1978 UK top 40 single, eventually appearing on the 1980 10″, green-vinyl EP recorded quickly and cheaply while another band – the Police – were on a golden track to becoming the world’s biggest stadium draw.
You see, Klark Kent was the pseudonym for Police drummer and founder Stewart Copeland, who wrote all of the songs on this side project EP and played all of the instruments, taking the name to shed the glow of fame while he was doing it.
But, was that all there was to it?
In some ways, this was Copeland’s return to what he’d originally envisioned for the Police when he conceived and founded the group . That is, this is a record comprised of short, snide songs that get in, get on with it, and get out, with the punk rock spirit that he’d been trying to capture, despite being too old (Copeland was an elderly 25 by 1977), and too skilled to really pull off the trick. This wouldn’t stop him from writing songs that parody the punk attitude.
And “Don’t Care”, the single is certainly one of those, written during a very brief time when Copeland ran the Police unresisted. Copeland saw the Police initially as a punk band, with short, and purposefully basic lyrical themes with an equally direct musical backdrop. Early material like the single “Fall Out”, and other tracks like “Nothing Achieving”, “Dead End Job” and “Landlord” bear this out.
This was fine, until bassist and singer Sting began to assert himself more and more as a writer of hit singles that not even Copeland could dispute, knocking a song like “Don’t Care” off of the recording schedule in the studio, at least where the Police were concerned. The new songs Sting was writing would eventually determine a new trajectory for the band, expanding in terms of production, thematic depth, and greater musical complexity, abetted by a new guitarist in Andy Summers.
But, even if this tune “Don’t Care” can be considered something of a novelty track in comparison, it reveals a few other things, too. First, it demonstrates Copeland’s range as a musician and songwriter in his own right, with an undeniable influence on the early Police sound. And those sounds would continue with other Klark Kent singles, like “Too Kool To Kalypso”, and “Away From Home”.
Second, it showcases an ability to conceive and create solo material while experiencing the rigours of international attention with the Police. This would position Copeland very well in terms of his parallel work as a film music composer, with his first foray being on Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish in 1982.
And third, in its simplicity, and because it’s delivered through the filter of a pseudonym too, “Don’t Care” serves as a kind of comment on the whole business of being a pop star, once removed; that the ego it takes to become famous in the pop charts is basically about walking a fine line between spectacle and ridicule. So, even if you’re not meant to take this tune as seriously as, say, “Invisible Sun”, there is something worth thinking about at its heart in any case.
Once his cover was blown, Copeland never followed up the Klark Kent EP. But, a compilation emerged in 1995, complete with a number of other songs that reveal ironic comment on the whole pop star trip – Kollected Works.
For more information on the Klark Kent story, check out this review of the Klark Kent EP, and the Kollected Works compilation.