[Ghost in the Month] -- I'm kicking off October 2021 with an album that was released 40 years ago on Saturday. I'm talking about Ghost in the Machine, the fourth studio album by The Police, which was released on October 2, 1981. After their first three records, The Police were legit stars. And while they had already been rather clever in their lyrics as well as their hooks, Ghost in the Machine found the trio going to another level as both visionary and, if truth be told, pretentious songsmiths. For starters, the album title was based on Arthur Koestler's 1967 philosophical book, The Ghost in the Machine, about the mind-body relationship. Second, bassist/vocalist -- and primary songwriter -- Sting worked many of the book's theories (such as the notion that humans should not be too machine-like) into his latest songs. "Spirits in the Material World," the album opener, is pretty much a three-minute musical summation of Koestler's work (according to Ultimate Classic Rock). Musically, this album found the band making heavy use of keyboards and horns for the first time. Andy Summers (guitarist) is on record as not being a fan of this change in the band's musical direction:
"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. But there were still great moments when Sting was able to loosen up enough, where we could really go for it in concert." ~Andy Summers: Guitar Player, 1/94
Still, accusations of pretension and Summers' complaints aside, the shift was successful. Ghost in the Machine peaked at #1 and #2 on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200 respectively. And all three US singles ("Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Spirits in the Material World," and "Secret Journey") charted on the US Billboard Hot 100. The first UK single, "Invisible Sun," peaked at #2 on that nation's chart.
Ghost in the Machine is a darker outing for The Police, both in terms of theme and band dynamics, but it's also a masterpiece. And it was possibly a bit ahead of its time.
Flashback: Ghost in the Machine (1981)
That's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.
I'll see you in seven!