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The Police – Regatta de Blanc (1979)

June 20, 2015

Poker, Parabolas, and The Police


[Album 400/1001]

Police-album-reggattadeblancPoker

What’s the best hand in poker?

It’s a good thing I don’t play too much hold ’em as I somehow thought it was Four-of-a-Kind.

Turns out, the elusive Royal Flush is the top hand, Four-of-a-Kind is actually ranked third.

In between, you have the straight flush (five consecutive cards in a single suit).

.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a straight flush of Police records.  And from the sticker prices that remain on the covers, I’m pretty pleased with my return on investment!

My Police Poker hand:

P1100584

.

Parabolas

Though unlike a poker straight flush (where the cards are organized in ascending order), the quality of Police records over their career makes more of a smile pattern.

They started strong (Outlandos D’Amour), dipped a bit in the middle (Zenyatta Mondatta) before closing in fine form (Synchronicity).

In Grade 10 Mathematics, students learn about the vertex form of a quadratic relation.  To answer the question “when are we ever going to use this in life,” I propose the following equation for determining the quality of a Police record, given its chronological placement in their catalogue:

Let x represent the studio album number.
Let y represent the general awesomeness of the album.

y = 2.5(x-3)² + 80

police

(yes that is a pool noodle re-purposed as a parabola)

Note that the vertex is (3,80), meaning album #3 receives a score of 80.  A score of 80 would be a career peak for many bands but represents the relative low point in the Police discography.

On either side of the axis of symmetry (x=3), the pattern is a mirror image (so it’s not just a clever name), with quality increasing both before and after Zenyatta Mondatta.

In fact, if they’d gone on to release studio album #6 (or somehow released an album #0), following the step pattern above, the awesomeness would be off the charts at 102.5!  But alas, it wasn’t in the cards.

.

The Police

As a poker hand, the Police would likely also be a straight flush: not the absolute best in the business, but certainly in that very respectable second tier.

Much like the shape of a pool noodle parabola above, listening to Regatta de Blanc always makes me smile.

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From → 1970s

48 Comments
  1. Holy Moses! This was awesome! I could have used a guy like u in Grade 10 Math! Hahaha! But seriously it still boggles my mind that the Police shut down at the height of there popularity in what 1985? I think at the time I recall them being the only band ever to do that!

    • Thanks Deke!
      It’s the old Neil Young line, ‘better to burn out than fade away’ – there’s something to be said for a group quitting on top like the police did. Then again, what a shame, as that 2nd side of synchronicity was something else, who knows what they might have done next!

      • My guess? Whatever ended up on Blue Turtles (I like that record) but with more of a reggae feel.

      • Just checked the turtles tracklist (there’s a 10-year gap between synchronicity & ten summoner’s tales in my collection), can’t say I recognize much there.
        I’m intrigued though with that prediction, I’ll have to explore (through an added reggae lens) to see what might have been!

      • Yeah for sure. I was about 17 or 18 when they packed it in and it just boggled my mind and it wasn’t from mind altering chemicals either! Ha! I was just going wow I can’t believe Roth left Halen and than the Police shut down and I’m like “well that’s a whole,other level!” Ha!

      • That’s 2 big ones back to back, fortunately both reunited eventually, just had to wait a decade or two!

      • Actually, don’t do that. Turtles is a good enough album on its own, let it play as it stands. 🙂 But I also was just guessing. It depends on how much of the writing was being done by Sting when they ended. If the other guys had more say, that stuff my never have happened. WHO KNOWS!

  2. I wish I could like this 1000 times.

    Brilliance!

    • My thanks Aaron – I appreciate these albums where my loves of math & music can collide!

      • Oh man, I have to confess though, math was never my strongest suit. Says the guy who ended up working in a bank (my high school math teacher would have a coronary). I’m the guy who got called to the board to answer a problem and the teacher suggested I erase what I’d written before anybody else saw it. Yeah. So I bow to the ability to do that stuff and have it make sense.

  3. Whoa! This is way too mathematical for my beer and music soaked brain to fathom on a Friday. I may have to read it again on Saturday in the doldrums of my hangover. It sounds awesome, if even I can’t understand. The Police were boss though…

  4. Great post! Anything with algebra in does it for me + The Police were one of my first musical loves.

    • I remember seeing Billy Joel being interviewed about the first time he heard Roxanne and having a reaction, what is this???
      I can’t remember my gateway Police tune but whatever it was, I’ve been a big fan since, thanks for your comments musicwaffle!

  5. If I ever form a progressive Metal band I’m going to call it Pool Noodle Parabola.

  6. This is awesome. As you know, I only have one Police album, but I’m growing more intrigued by their other stuff – especially if there’s loads of awesomeness to consume. Really awesome usue of visual aids for learning there, too – that’s how all maths stuff should be taught. I could have been a maths whizz if my teachers used this kinda stuff …

    • Thanks J – I’d say with the Police, going through in chronological order’s as good a way as any. The first one’s nice & raw, the last is more polished but equally effective.
      Regatta de Blanc opens with Message in a Bottle, as strong an opener as there is!

  7. This is a great way to use math for good instead of evil! Cheers for that – but to go with the poker theme, you would have to throw out a card if you had 6 to play with – we will never know—–

    • I’m torn as to whether I like the group quitting while they’re ahead.
      For me, everything is compared to the smiths, 5 perfect years and out, impeccable legacy.
      But on that final posthumous album, it felt like they were starting into some new sounds, could have been even greater!

      • If you take “Dream of the Blue Turtles” as a taste of where the group was heading – it is clear they had to break up. At the time I thought “hey, not a bad record”. Now I think that it is better than any Police record as an entire work.

        I don’t think the same about “Viva Hate” although “Every day is like Sunday” is my favorite “miserable bastard” song in all of rock music.

        Like the “Talking Heads” or Barry Sanders – better to quit while you are still hot.

        Except of course for my blog – I will keep going ’till the WP police drag me away. 🙂

      • And one of my favourite sad bastard tracks too! That and Suedehead might be his two best solo singles.
        I’ll be with you Wayne, getting dragged away far past my prime!

  8. Funny but you are totally right, their best was their first and last. Straight flush I’m not sure about but I’d say a couple of Aces for sure 😉

    • If I’m using poker slang correctly, a couple ‘bullets’ would still be a decent hand!
      Thanks for reading & commenting, hope the record store’s treating you well!

      • A Pair of Bullets in nothing to sneeze at. The record store is going very well, nothing beats hanging out and listening to records all day 🙂

  9. Hackskeptic permalink

    I liken Police albums to being dealt AK unsuited in poker. AK unsuited is often termed Anna Kournikova (looks nice but never wins). Whilst I agree their first and last albums were their best, I still consider them a great singles band and a mediocre albums band.

    • I won’t dispute the strength of the singles (except perhaps doo doo da da), nor the apt poker/early 2000s tennis comparison!

  10. Really enjoyed this. This might be your best mix of music analysis + graphics yet. Well done sir!

    It’s interesting, the Police are a band I really want to dive into past the greatest hits I have. I was thinking about getting that Message in a Box, instead of the albums.

    • I’m thrilled you mentioned message in a box, my first box set, purchased back in high school. I still remember the sale price sticker, regularly $70, on sale for $28/29!
      Admittedly. discs 2 & 3 didn’t get that much time in the rotation but discs 1 & 4 were never far from the discman!

      • So Geoff, how would you feel about that box vs. picking and choosing from albums?

      • hmmm – my instinct would be to get cheap copies of outlandos d’amour and synchronicity and a well chosen singles collection could probably fill in the gaps for the middle.
        Though warning in advance, synchronicity features a song named ‘mother’ that is virtually unlistenable!

      • Oh that calls for a listen right now. Unlistenable? I’ll get back to you.

      • OK, so I wouldn’t call it unlistenable…I’ve heard worse…but man that did not sound like the Police.

      • Amazing how the same album can have a song as good as King of Pain and a song as painful as Mother!

      • Mother sounded to me like B-side material. I get that they are three talented guys who need to stretch out, but sometimes that is best accomplished on a B-side.

      • So Geoff,
        Yesterday I did one of my “epic reviews” that will be posted soon. You inspired me to use a graph of my own!

      • Nice – I look forward to the epic/graphical review!

      • It’s a Helix review — when you see it go up, that’s the one! Took me over 2 hours to write it.

  11. Okay, I believe you. Whatever you say. All that x and y is over my head and too much for me to handle. I also don’t do well with cards. I do, however, I do get and love me some Police! Always have!!

  12. Brilliant! I often find myself pondering the vertex form of quadratic relations.

  13. PS – still strictly a singles band for me. (assumes crash position)

    • Not to worry 1537, some of those singles are exceptional, though some of the singles (de doo doo da da) do less for me than other album tracks.
      You may rise from your crash position!

  14. ianbalentine permalink

    Funny this whole “subjective” thing. I’d rank the albums in a textbook bell curve, peaking with ZENYATTA. I mean, Mother and Mrs Grendenko kind of take Synchronicity down a peg or two in my opinion, but each album has at least a couple of duffers. It’s that the highs are so high they outshine the bad ones, I think, which is why their legacy remains somewhat more intact than they probably deserve overall. Great post!

    • That’s a good point about the highs being particularly high, in my case I’ll definitely acknowledge the strength of synchronicity’s side B makes up for the misses on side A.
      Bell curves – I think it would be an interesting experiment to see how other artists discographies look graphically, thanks for the idea Ian!

      • ianbalentine permalink

        I think that would make an excellent series, and should prompt some heated discussions amongst your readership. Looking forward to that!

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