The Police – Ghost in the Machine: Music We Love
Remember when The Police were the biggest rock band in the world? I’m talking way before Sting started developing jazz scores around his blue turtle dreams.
In the late-70’s and early-80’s, the British trio – Sting (lead vocals, bass guitar), Andy Summers (guitar, vocals) and Stewart Copeland (drums, vocals, percussion) – topped the charts with a unique brand of rock combining punk, jazz, and reggae influences.
I, like just about everyone else, was hooked. In particular, I was hooked on the group’s 1981 release, Ghost in the Machine. A big part of the attraction foo me: the distinctly Caribbean vibes running throughout the album.
Reggae guitar licks on Spirits in the Material World. Ska-like horns in Demolition Man. Hints of calypso in Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.
The varied Caribbean musical influences on Ghost In The Machine likely came as a surprise to many in the rock world. They shouldn’t have. Just consider the somewhat unusual, at least by today’s standards, location where much of the album was recorded…
When Montserrat Was The Mecca of Rock
Remember when Montserrat island was one of the jewels of Caribbean tourism? I’m talking way before the island’s Soufrière Hills Volcano started acting up in 1995. Before the forced evacuation of most of the island. Before the destruction of the capital city, Plymouth.
In the 1970’s, Montserrat ranked among the most desired Caribbean playgrounds for UK vacationers. Among them: Sir George Martin.
Who’s he? Oh, just the guy who signed The Beatles to a record deal with EMI in 1962. He’s also the guy who produced all of their albums until they disbanded in 1970. Yeah, he deserves a royal title or two.
In 1969, before The Beatles called it quits, Sir George founded AIR Studios in Central London. Then, in 1977, he vacationed in Montserrat and fell in love with the place. By 1979, the rock legend had opened a second AIR Studios in MNI.
AIR II offered all of the same world-class facilities as AIR’s Central London location. That, plus the added cachet of an absolutely idyllic tropical location, quickly made AIR Studios Montserrat very popular with the top musical acts of the period.
Paul McCartney, Elton John, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton. They all laid down tracks in Montserrat.
So too, of course, did The Police.
Ghost in the Machine Montserrat Sessions
Nearly all of the songs on Ghost in the Machine were recorded in Montserrat between January and September 1981. The lone and ironic exception: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. It’s not just ironic because of the Caribbean influences in the song, though. The music video (click here to see it) features footage shot at AIR Studios Montserrat, as well as some great candid moments of the band jamming, dancing, laughing, and singing with a crowd of local Montserratians out in the streets. It’s the kind of uncommon travel experience we aspire to, and a nice reminder of the days when MTV actually played music videos.
The band’s experience in Montserrat must’ve been great because they returned a few years later to record their biggest hit record, Synchronicity.
The good times at AIR Studios Monteserrat were short-lived, though. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo destroyed the facility, closing a uniquely Caribbean chapter in rock and roll history.
The recording industry hasn’t returned to Montserrat, but the island’s vacation industry is on the rebound. Montserrat’s tourism website makes this clear as does this video. The still-active volcano, in particular, is a big draw for adventure travelers.
If you’re like me, though, then walking in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest bands may warrant a visit as well. Until we get the chance, at least we can listen to this classic rock album with roots in the Caribbean…