It was 40 years ago Saturday (October 2nd, 1981) that the Police released their fourth album, Ghost In The Machine. The album, which was recorded in Montserrat’s AIR Studios — owned by George Martin — and Quebec’s Le Studio, saw Hugh Padgham replacing the band’s original producer Nigel Gray, who was behind the boards for the band’s first three sets. Padgham was hot off his recent work with Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and Genesis.
Ghost In The Machine was the band’s biggest hit to date, hitting Number Two on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and scoring the band a Top tThree hit with “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” along with the album’s lead track, “Spirits In The Material World” hitting Number 12. Both tracks, along with video for “Invisible Sun” and “Demolition Man,” secured the band near-constant MTV airplay.
Ghost In The Machine spent a whopping 23 weeks in the Top 10 — with five of them stalled at Number Two. To date, the album has sold over three million copies in North America alone.
Around the time of the album’s release, Sting was asked about his knack for coming up with complex, but instantly commercial songs: “It’s beyond logic. I don’t know why it happens. I’m glad it happens. I don’t think people write songs. I don’t write songs. The songs — I trasmit the songs. They seem to be there, they seem to be already written, in a sense.”
Guitarist Andy Summers felt that the band’s musicality, coupled with a sixth sense when creating new sounds, was the secret weapon of the Police: “Being in that setting, y’know, I come from a lot of different places harmonically — as had Sting. We were, y’know, we were a bit more than, like, three-chord folk musicians. Y’know, we we’re pretty sophisticated with what we knew. But, again, we were in a rock context and so, y’know, whatever we were doing, we were going to make it rock.”
Drummer Stewart Copeland, who formed the Police with Sting in 1977, told us he’s still at a loss to explain why the music has endured over the decades: “Y’know, you can look back and say, ‘Well, it must have been the fact that we introduced reggae. That was kind of a new ingredient,’ or something. OK, well, that’s one reason, (but) there’s other bands that do that. ‘Well, it must’ve been the fact that we all had blonde hair.’ Well, that’s possible. Y’know, you look for reasons why, but really, there’s no way of figuring it out. We are just very blessed.”