Ghost in the Machine is the fourth studio album by English rock band The Police. The album was originally released on 2 October 1981 by A&M. The songs were recorded between January and September 1981 during sessions that took place at AIR Studios in Montserrat and Le Studio in Quebec, assisted by record producer Hugh Padgham.
The album was the first Police record to feature heavy use of keyboards and horns. "Spirits in the Material World" has a rhythmic string synthesizer part, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" uses piano arpeggios and "Invisible Sun" has a background of synthesizer chords. The following twenty minutes of the record—"Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)" through "One World (Not Three)"—include many saxophone harmonies, while the opening to "Secret Journey" showcases the Roland Guitar Synthesizer.
Sting included all the synthesizer parts in his demos for the songs, and brought in Jean Roussel for the piano parts on "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic". The demo for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" was such a high-budget recording that the group could not better it with the equipment available at AIR Studios; they ended up using it as the backing track for the official recording, with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers dubbing their parts on. Sting also played all the saxophone parts on the album. Summers recollected:
I have to say I was getting disappointed with the musical direction around the time of Ghost in the Machine. With the horns and synth coming in, 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.
The LP opens with "Spirits in the Material World", featuring keyboards dubbed over Summers' reggae-inspired guitar licks. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" features piano, a strong Caribbean vibe, and an extended non-verbal vocal solo at the end. "Invisible Sun" is a mixture of slow, steady verses, a bombastic chorus, and several guitar solos. "Hungry For You (J'Aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)" is sung mostly in French, with the bass and horns both repeating a single 8-note melody for the length of the song, while the guitar maintains a steady beat. "Demolition Man", the band's longest song—almost six minutes in length—features a strong bass line and saxophone, and was written by Sting while staying at Peter O'Toole's Irish mansion. It became a belated hit in 1993 as the theme song for the action movie of the same name, starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Grace Jones and Sting have both recorded solo versions of the song. Manfred Mann's Earth Band also recorded a version—rearranged and with extensive use of synthesizers—in 1982 for their Somewhere in Afrika album.
"Too Much Information", "Rehumanize Yourself" and "One World (Not Three)" feature heavy use of horns. As with "Landlord" and "Dead End Job", Copeland had written both music and lyrics for "Rehumanize Yourself" but Sting rejected the lyrics and replaced them with ones he wrote himself. The final three songs, "Omegaman", "Secret Journey" and "Darkness", return to the darker sound which opens the album. "Omegaman" was chosen by A&M to be the first single from the album, but Sting—who had only played on the song grudgingly—refused to allow its release in single form.
The cover art for Ghost in the Machine features a seven-segment display-inspired graphic that depicts the heads of the three band members, each with a distinctive hair style (from left to right, Andy Summers, Sting with spiky hair, and Stewart Copeland with a fringe); the band was unable to decide on a photograph to use for the cover. Wire bonds can be seen on the original issue vinyl album cover, suggesting perhaps that the display is custom rather than merely seven-segment, or perhaps that it is a photographic collage. The album's cover is ranked at No. 45 in VH1's 50 Greatest Album Covers. The graphic was designed by Mick Haggerty.
"Invisible Sun", released as the first single (in the UK only) was a great success, making it to No. 2 even though the video was banned by the BBC for including footage of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Later "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" reached No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Britain, and "Spirits in the Material World" made it to No. 11 in the U.S. and No. 12 in the UK.
The reception for Ghost in the Machine was mostly positive. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that "it's pointless to deny that they make the chops work for the common good—both their trickiness and their simplicity provide consistent pleasure here." Debra Rae Cohen of Rolling Stone noted that the band had showed "more commitment, more real anger, on Ghost in the Machine than ever before. Greg Prato of AllMusic, in a retrospective review of the album, wrote that the Police "had streamlined their sound to focus more on their pop side and less on their trademark reggae-rock." Prato went on to say that while it "was not a pop masterpiece, Ghost in the Machine did serve as an important stepping stone between their more direct early work and their more ambitious latter direction".
In 2000 Q magazine placed Ghost in the Machine at number 76 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2012 the album was ranked number 323 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the band's highest-ranking work on the list. Pitchfork Media ranked it at number 86 in their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s.
^Sam Adams (24 December 2012). The Police's Andy Summers on his songs, Sting, and being ripped off by Puff Daddy. (Interview). A.V. Club. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 'Omegaman' was a really strong piece. A&M wanted to put it out as the first single. But Sting, who was feeling his power at the time, was freaked out. He didn't want it out. He refused. He got very upset, but A&M didn't want to upset him for all the typical reasons, so it didn't get put out.