“Spirits in the Material World” by The Police

The Police’s “Spirits in the Material World” seems to suggest that although humans are physical and react only to the tangible, the intangible things in life may be the key to solving our constant struggles.

The song is introduced with the narrator implying that politics alone cannot solve the problems that come with the development of humanity. He also suggests that putting one’s trust in the constitution is deadly. And why? Because it usually changes with time and disfavors a majority of the people it is supposed to protect.

While the writer makes mention of physical attempts by leaders to resolve problems such as conflicts, economic failure and destruction in our world, he strongly believes that humans should rather depend on the ‘spiritual’ to find solutions. By this, he means finding other ways by thinking deeply, mastering one’s emotions, being visionary and seeing the bigger picture of everything that goes on.

Sting talks about “Spirits in the Material World”

In a 1981 interview with NME, Sting explained that the song suggests that people must look beyond their condition because no political strategy can solve the problems happening around us.

“Spirits in the Material World” Facts

Writing: Exclusively done by Sting
Production: Sting and his The Police bandmates alongside Hugh Padgham
Album: The Police’s critically acclaimed 4th album “Ghost in the Machine”
Year of Release: 1981

A&M Records was released as one of Ghost in the Machine’s four singles. Both song and album were both critically and commercially successful. For example, the album (which reached No. 1 in UK) is considered one of the greatest albums ever made.

The song itself was a top-10 hit for The Police in the following countries:

  • Netherlands
  • Ireland
  • France

In UK and US, it peaked at positions 12 and 11 respectively.


Over the years, a plethora of artists have covered “Spirits in the Material World”. English reggae singer Pato Banton’s 1995 cover is one of the most notable of these many covers. Banton’s version appeared in the 1995 comedy film “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”. In his version, Banton modified the original lyrics by adding some of his own to them. His version gave him a top-40 hit in Britain.

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