Sunday, August 11, 2019

Certain Songs #1606: The Police – “Reggatta de Blanc” | Medialoper

Album: Reggatta de Blanc
Year: 2019

. . .

We don’t do a lot of instrumentals here at Certain Songs, which is a thing I’m probably going to write at the outset of every single instrumental.

And so “Reggatta de Blanc” is a rare bird, not just in the context of Certain Songs, but also in the smaller context of The Police, where it’s the only song I’m writing about that also wasn’t a single. It’s also the title track to what is generally considered their weakest album, though since it was also the first Police album I ever bought, I’ll admit to a soft spot for it.

. . .

And that’s probably because Reggatta de Blanc has my two — maybe my three — favorite Police songs on it, one of which was the rip-roaring title track, which somehow showed off their stellar musicianship as well as their ability to mindlessly rock out, led by their untouchable drummer, Stewart fucking Copeland, who is utter fire.

And I mean right from the opening, when is swirling around on his hi-hat while also making a series of rimshots that sound like multiple gunshots, under which Sting is muttering phrases in Spanish and Andy Summers is lazily floating through the whole thing, until with a bass run, Copeland alternating a double tom backbeat with full-on snare whacks doubled by Sting chanting “cha”, “Reggata de Blanc” arcs skyward, with Sting singing what aren’t lyrics — because this is an instrumental — but nonsense syllables.

Ree-ooooo, ree-ooooooo, reeeeee-yooo-yo
Ree-ooooo, ree-ooooooo, reeeeee-yooo-yo
Ree-ooooo, ree-yayyyyy, reeeeee-yayy-yo
Ree-ooooo, ree-yayyyyy, reeeeee-yayy-yo
Ree-ooooo, ree-yayyyyy, reeeeee-yayy-yo

So far, it’s all been pure tension, as Copeland’s double tom backbeat barely keeps a handle on the momentum, but after the third “reeeee-yay-yo” Copeland gives in to the inevitability and suddenly, it’s full speed ahead, Copeland gliding his ride cymbal, Sting having so much fun he shouts “yeah!” off-mike before continuing.

Ree-ooooo, ree-yayyyyy, reeeeee-yayy-yo
Ree-ooooo, ree-yayyyyy, reeeeee-yayy-yo
Reeeeee-yayy-yo, reeeeee-yayy-yo, reeeeee-yayy-yo
Ree-yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay

With Copeland double-time while Sting screams “yay” over and over again, and everyone building towards the climax, when they finally hit that final “yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” and Copeland switches back to a straightforward hi-hat lead rock beat, it’s totally and utterly transcendent; comparable to the climax of The Who’s “Sparks” or some shit.

After that, Andy Summers starts tossing some leads as they all rock out until the fade.

As much as I love Stewart Copeland’s playing, Sting is really the secret ingredient for this song: his vocalizations provide a melody to hang on to, as well as link the song back to its roots. “Reggatta de Blanc” began life as a jam they used to lengthen “Can’t Stand Losing You” because touring Outlandos D’Amour they had more time to fill than they had songs to play. And at some point, they realized that it worked as a song, so they recorded it and made it the title track for their second album.

The Grammy-winning title track, I should say. In 1981, “Reggatta de Blanc” won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, a category that was introduced in 1980 — just as rock instrumentals were on their way out — and was quietly retired in 2011, because Jeff Beck didn’t need any more Grammys. And if you look at the other winners, “Reggatta de Blanc” wasn’t just by far the best song that won the category, it was the best song ever nominated.

“Reggatta de Blanc”

“Reggatta de Blanc” live in 1979

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