Words by Erin Hansen- McKnight
In what could only be the strangest introduction to reggae, I first realized what a reggae beat sounded like while thumbing through my parents record collection at twelve and coming upon a band known as “The Police.” You’re probably thinking, The Police, nay Sting of all people, are not a reggae band. And they aren’t. But what the band did do by the time I reached them in the early nineties, was teach me a reggae tempo that I wasn’t getting from a household where smooth jazz was thriving and old records were kept in closets.
At fifteen, after having already listened to The Police’s 1979 “Reggatta de Blanc” on repeat for three years, I purchased my first bass guitar and took my favorite track, “The Bed’s Too Big,” to my music teacher so I could “learn” (read: mimic) the sound. I came home with the fingering in place and practiced in my room for hours with a metronome, so much so that my fingers began to blister. The bass line was hard for me to grasp because it played outside of the lines of the other more straightforward bass lines I was learning from bands like Weezer and Nirvana. It was also heavy and featured at the front of the sound, instead of lingering in the back ground like bass lines tend to do.
As I got older, I out grew The Police, but not this song. I still really love it. Despite how much I think of Sting as somewhat of a doofus. I did move on to Bob Marley– which everyone in high school had heard of and listened to– and reggae sounds that were more sophisticated like Gregory Isaacs and Jimmy Cliff. That’s likely because of the massive influence The Police had on suburban households, like my own, in the eighties. And for that, I’m forever grateful, Sting.