STING AND SHAGGY
Oysters and Guinness in West London with the pair behind the bromance of 2018.
On a rainy Wednesday lunchtime at the end of March, Sting and Shaggy stroll to the back of The Cow, a gastropub in West London, and take a seat in the corner. Sting, tall and thin with a healthy, wealthy glow and the hushed tone of a wildlife documentary narrator, takes off his scarf and looks at the menu on the table in front of him. Shaggy, his new best mate, looks up towards the waitress coming over to take a drinks order. “Little bit of a wet day today, y’know, but you’re sunshine in the middle of the wetness,” he says in his soft Jamaican lilt. He lets out an infectious cackle and asks for a mint tea. Sting orders half a Guinness and a dozen oysters to share. “I’m too cold for a Guinness right now,” says Shaggy. He’ll warm up over the next hour. The pair’s unlikely union is one of the happier tales of 2018. There is something brilliantly odd about this coming together of the serious MOR superstar and reggae-pop’s Mr Lover Lover. Their collaborative album, 44/876, came out last month. “Because it’s so dark at the moment, people need a smile,” says Sting. “I think the unlikeliness of this combination intrigues people.” What was supposed to be one track turned into a full-blown record when the duo hit it off. “We’d known each other in the business but never really hung out hung out, y’know? And now we’re inseparable!” says Shaggy. He lets out another of his remarkable laughs, a long, panting giggle that is funnier than most people’s best jokes. Sting orders the fish stew, and another Guinness, so Shaggy goes for the fish stew and a Guinness too. I opt for the Irish stew, and the obligatory Guinness. Shaggy didn’t expect for them to have so much in common. Both their wives work in film and they’re both Libras, he says. “We both have ridiculous names, which is helpful,” says Sting. “The collective name for us now is ‘Shagging’. Which isn’t inappropriate.” More common ground can be found in the fact that before they became famous, both had careers in other industries. Recording the album in New York, they would walk from Sting’s house to the studio and talk about Shaggy’s experiences in the US Marines, Donald Trump and “all kinds of shit.” They say that even though 44/876 is a happy record, it deals with some serious subjects. “We feel we’re entertainers first and teachers second,” says Sting, who was an English teacher for three years before he was an entertainer. The oysters arrive. “This has my name on it,” says Sting, tucking in. “That’s a lot of goo to put in your mouth though,” says Shaggy. When Shaggy went to the former Police frontman’s place for a full English before recording one morning, he was astounded by how much brown sauce Sting put on his breakfast. “Don’t tell him that!” says Sting. “I’m supposed to be sophisticated!” “He had it on everything,” says Shaggy. A waiter brings over some complimentary snails, whelks and winkles. “This is the type of shit he brings me to,” says Shaggy, evaluating the tray in front of him. The other night Sting took him to a fancy brasserie in Paris. “We’re in this posh restaurant… and this is what we’re served,” he says, pulling up a shot on his iPhone of a tin of sardines on a plate. “Vintage sardines!” protests Sting. As Shaggy is talking about what he’s learned from Sting, a waitress puts his fish stew down in front of him. “I learned how to pay real attention to the instrum… what is this thing on top, Sting?” he says, looking warily into the bowl. Sting tells him it’s a piece of bread with sauce on it. “It’s spicy and it’s great,” says Sting. “Yeah?” says Shaggy. “Yeah,” says Sting. Shaggy eats the bread. He likes it. Lunch finished, they speak about the joint birthday party they’re planning in October. What will you get each other? “I don’t need anything,” says Sting, calmly, “and Shaggy doesn’t need much.” He looks confident in his answer, until Shaggy pipes up. “You know what I want,” says the Jamaican. “I want one of those hands-free toilets that you have in your house. It just opens up and washes your ass, and it has a warm seat. I think I’ll get one of those.” Sting exhales slowly. “OK... Happy birthday.” And then Shaggy lets out one of his gale force laughs again, a little bit of sunshine in the middle of the rain.
“The collective name for us is ‘Shagging’. Which isn’t inappropriate.” Sting
“That’s a lot of goo to put in your mouth…” Sting and Shaggy prepare to tuck in, The Cow, Notting Hill, London, April 2018.