Sunday, October 5, 2014

reggatta de blanc

The Police took a giant step forward and made contact with this energetic white reggae S.O.S. sent out on the rising new wave.  After their debut 'Outlandos D'Amour' made them a sensation in the UK, they went to work on a new album that expanded their sound.  

Sting says:   "People thrashing out three chords didn't really interest us musically. Reggae was accepted in punk circles and musically more sophisticated, and we could play it, so we veered off in that direction. I mean let's be honest here, So Lonely was unabashedly culled from "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley. Same chorus. What we invented was this thing of going back and forth between thrash punk and reggae. That was the little niche we created for ourselves...The other nice thing about playing a reggae groove in the verses was that you could leave holes in the music. I needed those holes because, initially, I had a hard time singing and playing at the same time. So if we had a signature in the band it was...using silence - more is less...On the first tour we had a very short set - only about ten numbers. The songs only lasted two minutes each. And when Stewart was on form they'd last even less time. So we had about a nine-minute set, right? People would tend to want their money back after that. So we had to extend the songs ad nauseum so we could get paid at the end of the night. Eventually, all the songs began to develop a free form jazz aspect to them, and that growing sophistication was reflected on the album.  We made both albums ['Outlandos D'Amour' and 'Reggatta de Blanc'] in the same old converted dairy in Surrey, with egg cartons on the wall for insulation...I think the two albums cost about five pounds each to record ... I'd always wanted to make a connection between the energetic music of punk and more sophisticated musical forms.  There was this amazingly aggressive music full of energy on the one hand, and I wanted to take it and bridge a gap between interesting chords and harmonic variations and this wild energy.  And what eventually allowed me to do was listening to reggae.  Bob Marley especially.  I saw a rhythmic connection between the fast bass of punk and the holes in reggae.  I got interested in writing songs that combined these apparently diverse styles"

Summers elucidates:    "I wanted to exploit the openness of the band’s arrangements, so Icouldn’t play Steve Jones-style, punk power chords. . . . I’d seldom play full chords that had a major or minor third in them—which I considered old-fashioned harmony. Instead, I explored a much cooler, sort of disinterested chord style that utilized stacked fifths or an added ninth to get the harmony moving without the obvious sen-timental association of major and minor thirds...Under the influence of Bob Marley and the groove of reggae, the bass parts move away from the thumping eighth-note pattern into a sexy, loping line that is as much about notes not played as those struck.  Over the top of these patterns I begin playing high, cloudy chords that are colored by echo and delay, and Stewart counters this with back-to-front paterns on the hi-hat and snare. From a dense in-your-face assault, the songs now become filled with air and bring about a sound that no trio in rock has possessed before...We can take almost any song and, as we say, 'policify' it - even a piece of material by Noël Coward or a folk song from the Scottish Isles.  From an instinctive and self-conscious journey, we discover a sound for which there is no previous formula, a space jam meets reggae meets Bartók collage with blue-eyed soul vocals."

Copeland confesses:    "I've stolen all my licks from different sources. You see, all the licks get passed back and forth, most of them, and the trick is to ‹nd new ones,turn them around a bit, camou›age them a bit...My source of licks has been South America, and, of course, the West Indies...Let’s examine this word reggae.  In the main rock and roll stuff that everything’s based on, even since the jazz days . . . there’s always abackbeat...on two and four. Now reggae turns the whole thing upside down...and invented something really different...the bass drum and the snare drum both land on the same place, [three]."

Nigel Gray produced the album with the band at Surrey Sound Studios.  The sessions featured Sting on bass guitar, lead and backing vocals, and double bass;   Andy Summers on guitar, piano, and backing vocals;   and Stewart Copeland on drums, guitar on verses and chorus of "It's Alright for You", lead vocals on "On Any Other Day", piano and intro of "Does Everyone Stare", and backing vocals on "It's Alright for You" and "Bring On The Night".  The title 'Reggatta de Blanc' embraced the label that had been thrown on the band by music critics.  

Summers would express at the time:  "You could say we've dove further into our 'Police style.' The new album is more sophisticated than the last one ['Outlandos D'Amour']. I think at this point we can mold ourselves into anything we want to become. There's stuff on this new record where we go out on the limb that's quite different from the first album. Generally, we're very pleased with it. It's a better album, I think." 

Copeland reveals:    "It was a real easy album for us to record; it only took three or four weeks. 'Outlandos' was recorded over a six-month period in bits and pieces. On 'Reggatta' we actually cancelled two weeks of studio time. This time the material wasn't rehearsed but the band was. We knew each other's styles because we'd been playing together constantly for eight months, which we hadn't been doing when we recorded the first album...'Reggatta de Blanc' took us three weeks to record. We just went into the studio and said 'right, who's got the first song!' We hadn't even rehearsed them before we went in."
Sting sums up: "That was where it all clicked. There was so much happening in my writing and singing, Stewart's and Andy's playing, and suddenly it all meshed together. We had reggae influences in our vocabulary and they became synthesised into our infrastructure until it was utterly part of our sound and you couldn't really call it reggae anymore. It was just the way we played. That's the great thing about rock'n'roll. It bastardises everything, and I much prefer mongrels over pure races. As a musician, you learn your craft and emulate and copy people, and suddenly there's a moment in your development when you grow up and finally become yourself. I think 'Reggatta' was that moment for us."
'Reggatta de Blanc' went to number twenty-five in the US; twenty-one in Sweden; sixteen in Germany; four in New Zealand; three in Canada; and number one in Australia, France, the Netherlands, and the UK.  It has since been certified platinum in Canada, France, the UK, and the US.

"Message in a Bottle" became an international sensation, charting at number seventy-four in the US; forty-eight in Italy; thirty-five in Germany; eleven in New Zealand; five in Australia and France; two in Canada and the Netherlands; and number one in Ireland, Spain, and the UK.

Sting:  "I was always sort of proud of that, yeah. As a narrative, it had a beginning, middle and an end. The story actually developed. It wasn't just 'I'm lonely, isn't it terrible!' - which is what a lot of my other songs were about. If I'm lonely, but I realise everybody else is too. I feel better. I think the Germans call that Schadenfreude - enjoying the misery of others."

Stewart Copeland:   "My favorite thing about Message In A Bottle, apart from all the money we made off it, was hearing cover bands trying to play my drum parts. I'd overdubbed about six different parts, and to watch some band in a Holiday Inn struggling to play all those overdubs still gives me great joy. Now that is really Schadenfreude."

Andy Summers:   "I've always said it was Stewart's finest drum track, plus great guitar riffs, lyrics, the song - it was one track where everything came together. We had also just learned the trick of playing a song two or three times in a row to let the energy build, then we'd come straight in for another take with the tape still rolling."

"Walking on the Moon" bounced to sixty-five in Canada, twenty in Spain, twelve in New Zealand, nine in Australia and France, eight in the Netherlands, two in Italy, and number one in Ireland and the UK.  


"Bring on the Night"

'Reggatta de Blanc'
full album:

Side one
"Message in a Bottle" (Sting) – 4:51
"Reggatta de Blanc" (Andy Summers, Sting, Stewart Copeland) – 3:06
"It's Alright for You" (Sting, Copeland) – 3:13
"Bring on the Night" (Sting) – 4:15
"Deathwish" (Summers, Sting, Copeland) – 4:13
Side two
"Walking on the Moon" (Sting) – 5:02
"On Any Other Day" (Copeland) – 2:57
"The Bed's Too Big Without You" (Sting) – 4:26
"Contact" (Copeland) – 2:38
"Does Everyone Stare" (Copeland) – 3:52
"No Time This Time" (Sting) – 3:17

"Landlord" (Sting, Copeland) – 3:09
"Visions of the Night" (Sting) – 3:05

Rock Goes To College - The Police live at Hatfield Polytechnic 21.02.1979

Can't Stand Losing You 00:00
So Lonely 05:52
Fall Out 11:58
Hole In My Life 14:43
Truth Hits Everybody 18:52
Message In A Bottle 21:42
Peanuts 26:02
Roxanne 29:45
Next To You 36:55

John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 recorded  23 July 1979 

1. The Bed's Too Big Without You (0:07)
2. Next To You (4:55)
3. Can't Stand Losing You (The Bit We Left Out) (7:14)
4. Message In A Bottle (9:10)

1 comment:

  1. Nice! And a fun coincidence. As I'm reading along, suddenly I hear Sting talking on the radio, and then "Walking on the Moon" comes on. Turns out Sting was on this week's TED Radio Hour talking about getting over writer's block. (The whole show is on creativity--worth checking out.)