Pop Goes The Movies: Ghostbusters - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: Ghostbusters

Who you gonna call? Lindsay Buckingham? Hughes/Thrall?? Huey Lewis??? Ray Parker Jr.!

Two of the most fondly remembered films from the mid-1980s are Ghostbusters and Back To The Future. Arriving 12 months apart from each other in 1984 and 1985, the pair are connected in a way you may not be aware of. Not so much cinematically, rather musically.

Looking for a hit song to accompany their new movie, Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis reached out to Lindsey Buckingham to pen and perform a title track for Ghostbusters. Ramis had previously directed National Lampoon's Vacation which the Fleetwood Mac guitarist had supplied the track Holiday Road for. After consideration Buckingham eventually passed on the project, not wanting to be known as a soundtrack guy.

Several other artists were then approached to record a theme for the film. There's an unknown song featured in the original teaser trailer for Ghostbusters, which is below. Not only is the artist unknown but it's not clear if this was ever intended to be the actual theme tune or just an included piece of soundtrack music. Regardless, you can partially hear this 'Ghostbusters' song from just before the 1 minute mark of the trailer. The lyrics that can be made out go "who's that creeping down the hall", "Whoa ooh ooh ooh Ghostbusters..."

This tune was dropped quite quickly and replaced by a new potential theme song by Glenn Hughes and Pat Thrall. This one was absolutely commissioned with the intention of it being the theme tune to Ghostbusters, and was included in the promotional trade film, below, featuring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd attempting to convince theatre owners to show the film...

Although never commercially released, you can hear the full length version of the Hughes/Thrall Ghostbusters theme here. The track was rejected, in the hope of finding something "more commercial", but I'd argue that it's actually a pretty good commercial sounding song. Very apt for the era and may have given the final theme tune a run for its money if it had been included somewhere on the soundtrack album.
Front line, anytime
Take it right to the Ghostbusters
Cool heads under fire
Never mess with the Ghostbusters
Perhaps, and with the greatest respect to Hughes/Thrall, as noted in the promotional video above Columbia had invested a lot of money into Ghostbusters, more than originally intended, so maybe it wasn't the commercial aspect of the tune as such, more than performers? Perhaps the studio just wanted a bigger name to record the theme tune? A near-guaranteed hit single would certainly be a boost for the film's promotion, so if one of the biggest musical acts of the day came on board then that might just possibly help recoup some of the investment.

With this in mind, Ivan Reitman approached Huey Lewis and the News, who had just enjoyed back to back top 10 hits on the U.S. Billboard chart with Heart And Soul and I Want A New Drug, both taken from their critically acclaimed third album, Sports. However, with a tight deadline, Lewis and the band declined the filmmakers' offer because their upcoming concert tour to promote the album left no time to write a main theme for a movie.

With Ghostbusters now deep into post-production, filmmakers incorporated Huey Lewis' I Want A New Drug into the rough-cut of the film as 'placeholder music' before approaching their next candidate, Raydio's Ray Parker Jr. He was asked to create a theme song with the caveat that he only had a few days to do so, and was given that rough-cut to aid him in writing the theme song. I wonder, if Ray Parker Jr. passed or been unable to hit the deadline, would perhaps the completed Hughes/Thrall theme have been resurrected? How different Ghostbusters could've been.

As we are all aware, Parker Jr. didn't fail to come up with a theme tune. Although he has stated what a hard task it was, especially as he initially felt the film's title seemed impossible to include in any lyrics. However, when watching television late at night, he saw a cheap commercial for a local service that reminded him that the film had a similar commercial for the fictional Ghostbusters business. This inspired him to write the song as a pseudo-advertising jingle that the Ghostbusters could have commissioned as a promotion.

Reaching number 1 in August of 1984, Ghostbusters was a huge pop hit, and certainly helped promote the film, especially thanks to its star studded video which was also directed by Ivan Reitman. With footage from the film and cameos from many celebrities of the day, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr, the video concludes with Parker and the stars of the film, in full Ghostbuster costume, dancing down the streets of New York City.

All seemed good, on the surface at least, but as Parker Jr.'s song dominated the airways comparisons with Lewis' I Want A New Drug were starting to be made. They are very similar indeed, as this neat mash-up will attest...

It's really hard not to hear the similarities between the two, and Huey Lewis clearly agreed when he sued Columbia Pictures and Ray Parker Jr. for copyright infringement to the tune of $5 million.

One can't help but speculate that perhaps having that placeholder music in the footage that Parker Jr. received was not the best of ideas, and perhaps, even if there was no intention of plagiarism, the refrain just seeped in subconsciously. Whatever the reason, the three parties settled out of court, with details of the settlement (specifically, that Columbia paid Lewis a settlement) to remain confidential.

Until, that is, in 2001 when Lewis commented on the payment in an episode of VH1's Behind the Music.
"The offensive part was not so much that Ray Parker Jr. had ripped this song off, it was kind of symbolic of an industry that wants something — they wanted our wave, and they wanted to buy it. ... it's not for sale. ...
In the end, I suppose they were right. I suppose it was for sale, because, basically, they bought it."
Parker subsequently sued Lewis for breaching confidentiality.

Lewis went on to say that it was the negative experience with Ghostbusters that led to him accepting the offer to write the theme song for Back To The Future, with the insistence on being much more hands on with it than most artists are when it comes to this type of Hollywood/music world collaboration.

So, if it hadn't have been for Ghostbusters the world may well not have The Power Of Love, which, IMHO, is one of the finest pop songs recorded specifically for a blockbuster film.

Both Ghostbusters and The Power Of Love gave their respective artists their first U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number 1 single and broke them into new territories around the world. Unlike Huey Lewis and the News, Ray Parker Jr. was never able to capitalise on the success of his hit single and his moment in the pop limelight quickly faded.

But if you are only ever really remembered for one song, then a track like Ghostbusters is a great one to be associated with. Isn't it?

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