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Music / Ghost in the Machine

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The time that's best is when surroundings fade away
The presence of another world comes close to me
I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day
And ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way
But my silent fears have gripped me
Long before I reach the phone
Long before my tongue has tripped me
Must I always be alone?
— "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic"

Ghost in the Machine is the fourth studio album recorded by English-American Post-Punk/New Wave Music group The Police. It was released through A&M Records on 2 October 1981.

Following the rushed production of and Creator Backlash towards Zenyattà Mondatta, the band decided to approach their next record much more loosely, recording at AIR Studios in Montserrat and Le Studio (later renamed Studio Morin Heights) in Quebec specifically because of their distance from A&M Records' headquarters in California (thus locking executives out of the sessions in a pre-internet age) and expanding recording sessions to six weeks. Additionally, the band ended their working relationship with longtime producer Nigel Gray in favor of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins collaborator Hugh Padgham, who had the band record their parts in separate rooms of the studio to reduce infighting among the members; Padgham would later repeat this technique for the band's next (and final) album.

Sound-wise, the album continues its predecessor's shift away from the band's signature reggae fusion in favor of taking influence from the rising Synth-Pop movement: synthesizers become an even more dominant element of the band's sound here than on Zenyattà Mondatta, with a combination of both keyboard and guitar synths being used on a considerable number of tracks. Additionally, Sting would incorporate horn parts onto the album, hinting at the jazz fusion direction of both Synchronicity and his own solo material. Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland weren't as enthusiastic about the change in sound as Sting was though, with Summers stating in an interview that "the fantastic raw-trio feel— all the really creative and dynamic stuff— was being lost. We were ending up backing a singer doing his pop songs." Indeed, this perception of Sting as being in full I Am the Band mode would inform the more turbulent production of Synchronicity, the band's hiatus after that album, and their eventual breakup in 1986 following further Creative Differences over the re-recording of "Don't Stand So Close to Me" for Every Breath You Take: The Singles.

Though the stylistic shift was a mixed blessing at best for the band, the resulting album was another commercial success for the band, topping the charts in the UK, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album would go on to be the fifth-best-selling of the year in both the UK and the Netherlands, as well as the tenth-best-selling of 1982 in the US, where it would be certified triple-platinum. It would also go platinum in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as gold in France and Germany.

Ghost in the Machine was supported by four singles: "Invisible Sun", "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Spirits in the Material World", and "Secret Journey".


Side One
  1. "Spirits in the Material World" (2:59)
  2. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (4:22)
  3. "Invisible Sun" (3:44)
  4. "Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi)" (2:52)
  5. "Demolition Man"note  (5:57)

Side Two

  1. "Too Much Information" (3:43)
  2. "Rehumanize Yourself" (3:10)
  3. "One World (Not Three)" (4:47)
  4. "Ωmegaman" (2:48)
  5. "Secret Journey" (3:34)
  6. "Darkness" (3:14)

With tropes, they try to jail ya:

  • Alternate Album Cover: The digital release of the 2022 Alternate Sequence Edition, which is based on an early production master with three extra tracks, features a modified version of the album cover where the digital display band portraits sport a green PCB texture instead of a solid red color.
  • Blind Seer: The narrator of "Secret Journey" meets one in the first verse, receiving guidance about his quest for holiness from him; the second verse is devoted to the narrator ruminating on the seer's prophecy.
  • Bravado Song: The band's rendition of Grace Jones' "Demolition Man" refits the song to depict the titular Demolition Man bragging about the various life-threatening situations he puts himself in.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is about a guy who can't muster up the courage to tell his crush that he loves her, constantly embarrassing himself in the process.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: While the original Grace Jones rendition of "Demolition Man" is cold and robotic, the Police's version on this album is, as Andy Summers put it, "more ballsy" and boisterous, with a loud, Hard Rock-influenced sound in direct contrast to Jones' version. As a result, the narrator comes off as someone who constantly brags about being manly instead of someone for whom danger is so everyday that it's become mundane.
  • Cover Version: For a given definition of "cover" (considering that Sting wrote it), "Demolition Man" was originally given to and performed by Grace Jones.
  • Downer Ending: The album closes with the bleak, brooding "Darkness".
  • Driven to Suicide: The narrator of "Ωmegaman" notes at the end of the first verse that he repeatedly contemplates killing himself as a result of the stress of possibly being the last man alive in a post-apocalyptic Earth.
  • Drone of Dread: "Invisible Sun" is backed with a pulsating synth drone, highlighting the unnerving tone of the lyrics and the minor-key melody.
  • Dying Alone: Being the Last of His Kind, the narrator of "Ωmegaman" is fully aware that this will be his ultimate fate.
  • Gratuitous French: Barring an English-language bridge and outro, "Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi)" is sung entirely in (broken) French.
  • I Am the Band: This marked the point where Sting really started taking control of the band, with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers both openly stating that they felt more like session musicians than real members (despite Copeland being the one who founded the band).
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art:
    • "Invisible Sun" repeats the style and layout of the main album cover, but with a yellow sun in the digital display instead of the red band members.
    • "Secret Journey" features the digital display of the band members inside a more elaborate mechanical design, with faux underlighting added to the band logotype.
  • Last of His Kind: True to the book and film it's based on, "Ωmegaman" is narrated by the last human survivor of an unspecified apocalypse.
  • Lucky Charms Title: "Ωmegaman", which replaces the uppercase O with an uppercase omega (Ω); since both letters make the same sound in this context, it avoids being a case of The Backwards Я.
  • Market-Based Title: "Rehumanize Yourself" was originally called "Re-Humanise Yourself" in the UK release, following the conventions of Commonwealth spelling, but shifted to an Americanized spelling for the North American release. The American spelling would become standard across most reissues. The digital release would eventually revert to the Commonwealth spelling.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Simply the band name and album title in plain text, plus a flat-color rendering of the band members as a fake digital display, overlaid atop a solid black background. "Invisible Sun" likewise features a variant of the cover with the digital display forming a sun shape.
  • New Sound Album: The band add in even more synthesizers than before and incorporate horn parts, moving further away from their early reggae fusion style and closer to their later jazz fusion direction. Sting claimed that this was born out of a band-wide desire to move as far away from their initial sound as they reasonably could and "go off the beaten path."
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: "Ωmegaman" is much more punk-oriented than the rest of the band's material on their studio albums.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The album artist took the title fairly literally: the front and back cover and LP labels are designed to look like digital displays (with a cursor being used to distinguish "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" as both the sole Le Studio recording and the track with a guest keyboardist), while the liner notes consist of PCB photos with the band members' faces overlaid atop.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Rehumanize Yourself" refers to the National Front (a British neo-Nazi group) as "cunts," marking one of the very few instances of heavy profanity on a Police song and highlighting the angry tone of the lyrics.
  • Protest Song: "Rehumanize Yourself" is an open jab at the dysfunction and malaise plaguing modern western society, particularly criticizing Police Brutality, the capitalist caste system, and the rise of neo-Nazism in the UK.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The album title is a reference to Arthur Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine, which also inspired some of the lyrics.
    • "Ωmegaman" is titled after and based on The Ωmega Man, the 1971 adaptation of I Am Legend. The song title is even written in the same Lucky Charms Title style as that of the film.
  • Special Guest: Composer and prolific session player Jean Alain Roussel provides keyboard parts and arrangements for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", a position given in exchange for allowing the Police to record the song at Le Studio.
  • Title-Only Chorus: Both "Spirits in the Material World" and "Rehumanize Yourself".
  • The Troubles: "Invisible Sun" references the use of Armalite rifles by the IRA.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Parodied in "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", where the narrator's attempts at doing this with his crush always end up backfiring.
  • Visual Pun: The album art revolves around the idea of the Police being trapped inside a computer, essentially being literal ghosts in the machine.
  • War Is Hell: The general sentiment of "Invisible Sun", which was written off the heels of the 1981 Belfast hunger strike and expresses a hope that The Troubles will eventually end in peace. Stewart Copeland found further resonance with the Lebanese Civil War, having grown up in Beirut; Copeland was deeply offended by the media's portrayal of the city as a haven for terrorists in the midst of the conflict and especially a bombing that had recently taken place at the time.