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‘Reggatta De Blanc’: How The Police Hit Pay Dirt With Their Second Album

‘Reggatta De Blanc’ marked the moment where The Police synthesised their influences into something unique, becoming one of the biggest bands on the planet.

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Their landmark debut album, Outlandos D’Amour, ensured The Police made a decisive commercial breakthrough and avoided the fallout from punk. However, it was their transcendent second album, Reggatta De Blanc, that turned them into one of the post-punk era’s defining bands.

Originally released on 2 October 1979, Reggatta De Blanc again sported a mysterious, pseudo-French title, which loosely translated as “white reggae”: a label journalists attempted to pin on The Police after their initial hits ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ skilfully melded the stridency of punk and the joyful bounce of reggae.

Listen to Reggatta De Blanc on Apple Music and Spotify.

However, while Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland successfully nurtured their singular sound on Outlandos D’Amour, with Reggatta De Blanc they served up something truly spectacular from their spicy melting pot of rock, pop and reggae.

“That was where it all clicked,” Sting told Musician magazine in 1983. “We had reggae influences in our vocabulary and they became synthesised into our infrastructure. As a musician, you learn your craft and emulate and copy people, and suddenly there’s a moment in your development where you grow up and finally become yourself. I think Reggatta De Blanc was that moment for us.”

Following the success of Outlandos D’Amour, A&M wanted to partner The Police with a bigger studio and a name producer, but the band resisted. Instead, they returned to the small Surrey Sound complex where they’d recorded their debut with producer/engineer Nigel Gray. Sting had been on a prolific songwriting spree prior to the Outlandos D’Amour sessions, but for Reggatta De Blanc, The Police entered the studio with only a few complete songs. Creatively, however, they were on a roll and all three band members came up with music, lyrics and song suggestions.

Stewart Copeland weighed in with the piano-based ‘Does Everyone Stare’ and the irony-soaked ‘On Any Other Day’ – in effect a litany of domestic disasters (“My wife has burned the scrambled eggs/The dog just bit my leg”) – while the whole band showed off their virtuosity on the manic rocker ‘Deathwish’ and the nimble titular track: an atmospheric, shape-shifting ensemble workout which yielded a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1980.

Most pertinently, though, Reggatta De Blanc underlined Sting’s rapidly-evolving prowess as a songwriter of significance. The singer-bassist demonstrated that he could blend infectious pop and militant reggae to near-perfection on live favourites ‘Bring On The Night’ and ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’, but it was on the album’s twin peaks, ‘Message In A Bottle’ and ‘Walking On The Moon’, that he really hit pay dirt.

Widely recognised as a high-water mark in their career, ‘Message In A Bottle’ rewarded The Police with their first UK No.1 and remains a personal favourite of the band’s, with Andy Summers later remarking, “It’s still the best song Sting ever came up with and the best Police track.” The three musicians all put their stamp on the song, with Sting’s Robinson Crusoe-esque tale of loneliness and isolation aided and abetted by one of Summers’ most distinctive, cyclical riffs and some of Copeland’s most dynamic drumming.

Released after Reggatta De Blanc had already topped the UK Charts, ‘Walking On The Moon’ made it three in a row for The Police when it rose to No.1 in November 1979. Though initially envisaged as a rocker, the song was later given a radically sparse, reggae-pop makeover starring Sting’s prominent bassline and Copeland’s dextrous drumming, ensuring the sonics (fittingly promoted by a video filmed at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center) captured the track’s gravity-defying subject matter to a T.

With Regatta De Blanc eclipsing heavyweights such as The Clash’s London Calling and The Jam’s Setting Sons in the UK charts, The Police entered 1980 as one of rock’s fastest-rising groups. Their superstars-in-waiting status was confirmed when they embarked on their first world tour and performed to capacity crowds in far-flung territories such as Mexico, India, Egypt and Taiwan. By the time they released their multi-platinum third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, in October 1980, they’d become one of the biggest bands on the planet.

The 6CD box set Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings is out on 8 November. Pre-order it here.

Format: UK English
9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Andy Oakes

    November 24, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I’ve seen this advertised on various platforms and ask the same question, why are Secret Journey & Darkness not listed on Ghost In The Machine, no one has managed to explain as yet, maybe you can ?

  2. GILLIES Neil

    November 27, 2019 at 4:49 am

    They were the last 2 tracks written on the back cover. (‘Secret Journey’ was also released as a single (instead of ‘Invisible Sun’) in America ; with ‘Darkness’ on the B side). I’m sure I had it on a 2nd-hand cassette ; but all the tracks were listed. I do remember buying ‘Ghost In The Machine’ on vinyl in 1985 ; and though the first side played Side 1, the second was fellow A & M singer Joe Jackson singing on his album !). I changed it for ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. (I have ‘Kill Uncle’ by Morrissey with the songtitles written in the middle of the LP THE SAME for both sides ; though both sides play their own songs). Aren’t these songs listed on the vinyl ? You get mistakes. I remember ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ and the B side being the only of 12 or so singles of theirs I owned credited to ‘Police’ instead of ‘The Police’. ‘Shambelle’ is written ‘Shamelle’ on my copy. Their ‘Greatest Hits’ in 1992 includes ‘Tea In The Sahara’, which was never released as a single. Besides the collection ‘Message In A Box’ missing ACTUAL songs like ‘Truth Hits Everybody (re-mix)’, a live version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ and an extended version of ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86’, the book included has many mistakes : including crediting ‘Dead End Job’ to the three of them (when it’s Sting / S. Copeland) ; ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’ to Copeland (instead of Sting) ; and naming ‘Only You’ (not in the package and a solo Sting song) etc. – ; and there’re also songtitle mistakes on the disc labels or on the backcover : ‘Fallout'(‘Fall Out’);’Be My Girl(-) Sally’;’Reg(g)atta De Blanc’;'(The) Bed’s Too Big Without You’; ‘De Do Do Do(,)De Da Da Da’;'(A) Kind Of Loving’. On ‘The 50 Greatest Songs’ there’s ‘Truth Hurts (Hits) Everybody’ and ‘When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What Is (‘s) Still Around’. It and the ‘Synchronicity’ CD also wrongly credit Andy Summers with the words and music to ‘Murder By Numbers’ ; when Sting wrote the lyrics. Songtimes’ll be wrong sometimes. Finally the ‘Flexible Strategies’ CD doesn’t have their very first B side ‘Nothing Achieving’. Mind you, I’m sure I’ve missed something myself ; and The Police’s music was (usually) pretty perfect !

  3. GILLIES Neil

    November 27, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    …on the ‘Every Breath You Take – The Singles’ LP, ‘Fall Out’,’So Lonely’, ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’, ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ and ‘Synchronicity II’ are all missing. (Though ‘So Lonely’ is on the cassette and CD). In ‘The Police Live !’ liner notes it states the album was released in 1985, when it was in 1995

  4. GILLIES Neil

    November 27, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    …on the back of the French single ‘Walking On The Moon’, the LP ‘Reggatta De Blanc’ is advertised ; but ‘Contact’ is missing from the tracklisting. (‘Reggatta De Blanc’ is sometimes spelt ‘Regatta…’ because that is the ACTUAL CORRECT SPELLING of the English word). The 7″ single ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ doesn’t have the comma either on the (capital letter) front and back design, nor when listed on the back (though the disc’s label and wherever the song’s on ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ has it). This missing comma repeats itself on ‘Message In A Box”s second CD’s disclabel. On the ‘Synchronicity’ LP’s lyrics : in ‘Walking In Your Footsteps’ it types “Hey might (mighty) brontosaurus ;(but it is correct on the CD’s lyrics) ; ‘O My God'(CD) : “…now U(I) pray” ; and on ‘Synchronicity II’ (both LP and CD) “…the din of our rice crispies (Rice Krispies)”. On the ‘Greatest Hits’ CD lyrics (‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’) : “Nabakov (Nabokov)”…

  5. GILLIES Neil

    November 29, 2019 at 2:35 am

    On ‘Every Breath You Take : The Classics'(2 CDs/1 DVD)’s booklet (Page 2), track 5. on the ‘Live In Atlanta’ CD is written ‘My God’ (instead of ‘O My God’) ; and track 14. ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ includes a melody of ‘Reggatta De Blanc’. Therefore in the credits on this page, all songs are NOT written by Sting ; ‘Reggatta De Blanc’ credits the three of them. In the DVD of the ‘Synchronicity Concert’, the back cover songtitles has ‘Cant (Can’t) Stand Losing You’ ; while in a handwritten, inner sleeve photo a songlist has ‘Oh My God’, instead of ‘O My God’

    • GILLIES Neil

      December 1, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      The Police ‘Live !’ CD types the final track on the 1st disc as ‘Be My Girl/Sally’, when it is ‘Be My Girl – Sally’. This songtitle also does not include its end-of-song medley, ‘Next To You’ (the song the concert also starts with). And in both versions of ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ (track 12. in the Boston concert ; track 14. in the Atlanta concert) a ‘Reggatta De Blanc’ medley is played ; but unwritten. Therefore the booklet twice misses crediting this song to the three members

  6. GILLIES Neil

    December 2, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Further to the 3 songs above released and mentioned missing from ‘Message In A Box’ : ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ – Spanish, Japanese and 1986 versions ; ‘Can’t Stand Losing You'(5:30, live Paris Theatre, London 1979), ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger'(5:22, live in Atlanta 1983) ; ‘Roxanne’ (backing track), ‘Every Breath You Take’ (backing track) ; ‘Message In A Bottle’ (new classic rock mix) (2004), ‘Message In A Bottle’ (instrumental from the recent doublesingle). (Also missing are edited versions of :’So Lonely’ (3:10 (7″) ; 4:50 on ‘Message In A Box’) ; ‘Peanuts'(2:52 (B Side) ; 4:02) ; ‘Message In A Bottle’ (3:50 (7″) ; 4:50) ; ‘Walking On The Moon’ (4:08 (7″) ; 5:00). The exception being 1981’s ‘Shambelle'(5:42 (B side) ; 5:00 on ‘Message In A Box’))… My copy of ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ (red cover) has no songtimes for either A or B side. My other 11 The Police singles do ; EXCEPT for the ‘Every Breath You Take’ B side ‘Murder By Numbers’. (The aforementioned picture disc also misses times). On the ‘Greatest Hits’ CD, the comma is again missing from the ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ songtitle, above its lyrics…

  7. GILLIES Neil

    December 2, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    On the ‘Every Breath You Take – The Singles’ formats the singles aren’t in release order. ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86’ is track 5 on the LP (6 on the CD/cassette including ‘So Lonely’) ; when it should be the last track, 12 (13 CD/cassette). ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ is put BEFORE ‘Invisible Sun’ ; when the latter was released first as a UK single (‘Ghost In The Machine’ order ; with the ‘Invisible Sun’ unreleased in the US). As is ‘King Of Pain’ put BEFORE ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ (‘Synchronicity’ order and also for US single release…except for the missing ‘Synchronicity II’). ‘Greatest Hits’ includes ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’…but it ISN’T the mono version single release in ‘Six Pack’ ; the ‘Reggatta De Blanc’ album track. This album ALSO has ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ BEFORE ‘Invisible Sun’. (An inversion repeated in ‘Every Breath You Take – The Classics’ CD AND DVD videos). Neither’re the ‘Greatest Hits”s last 5 songs (4 singles + 1 track) from ‘Synchronicity II’ on, in release order : in ‘Synchronicity’ order (including the non-single ‘Tea In The Sahara’). (‘Every Breath You Take – The Classics’ CD also puts ‘King Of Pain’ BEFORE ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ (‘Synchronicity’ and US single release order). On ‘Message In A Box’, ‘I Burn For You’ (1982) is placed AFTER the ‘Synchronicity’ (1983) songs on CD 4 ; when it should be track 18. on CD 3 after the ‘Ghost In The Machine’ songs and BETWEEN fellow ‘Brimstone & Treacle’ tracks 17. ‘How Stupid Mr. Bates’ and 18. ‘A Kind Of Loving’. (The DVD ‘Every Breath You Take – The Classics’ video has ‘So Lonely’ seemingly incorrectly as song 5 (and not song 3) and the first 1980 single because it was re-issued that year). On ‘The Police’ double CD the 6 ‘Outlandos d’Amour’ songs are neither in order of single nor album release. The 5 ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ songs’re ALMOST in album order ; though ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ comes before ‘Voices Inside My Head’ here. The ‘Ghost In The Machine’ UK singles are in order of release ; as’re the two tracks including the UK bonus track ‘Rehumanize Yourself’. The 8 ‘Synchronicity’ songs’ve the 4 singles in UK release order AMONGST the 4 tracks ALMOST in CD/cassette order : ‘Murder By Numbers’ put before ‘Tea In The Sahara’ on the compilation

  8. GILLIES Neil

    December 11, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    The Police’s 2nd album continues in the same great form as and even surpasses ‘Outlandos D’Amour’. Of course it’s a No. 1 ; as are two of its singles ‘Message In A Bottle’ and ‘Walking On The Moon’. But even those 2 strong songs pale slightly behind the incredible title track, which – even with Sting hardly singing, but giving ‘eeohs !!’ – is (after ‘Every Breath You Take’) the trio’s finest moment. The other surprise is Copeland’s two masterpieces ‘Does Everyone Stare’ and ‘Contact’ : his greatest The Police songs (but not even on B sides). ‘Deathwish’ and ‘No Time This Time’ are notable tracks ; but – despite the overall album high-quality – the four remaining tracks struggle to gain attention…especially the reggae ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You’ ; whose mono version and single release reaches the better tracks’ level. 8.05/10

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