'Ghostbusters' At 30: A Soundtrack Appreciation
It's spooky and it's kooky...and, no, we're not talking about the Addams Family. Thirty years ago this weekend on June 8, 1984, the world got its first taste of "Ghostbusters" -- the Ivan Reitman film starring Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who co-wrote the script) as well as Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Ernie Hudson. It came not only with an eyeful of special effects (green slime!) but also an earful of 80's pop -- with a capital P -- mixing together catchy tracks with hot acts, a couple of no-names and some score elements for a prototypical MTV-era soundtrack that made its way to No. 6 on the Billboard 200.
The calling card of Columbia Pictures' blockbuster (which raked in $291 million worldwide at the box office), of course, was Ray Parker Jr.'s title track, who's spooky synthesizer intro build into a, well, kooky dance-pop track that was bouncy, catchy, instantly infectious and, er, a little familiar. That's because we HAD heard something like it before, kind of; Huey Lewis sued Parker and others, alleging that he'd taken key elements of "Ghostbusters" from Lewis & the News' hit "I Want a New Drug," which was released in 1983. The matter never reached litigation, however, the parties settled out of court with Lewis.
That took a little shine off the song, of course, but it didn't take away the fact that "Ghostbusters" hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart as well as earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (losing to Parker's Motown labelmate Stevie Wonder for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from "The Woman in Red"). It remains Parker's biggest hit and is a recurring favorite around Halloween, and you only need to be in a sports arena to know that its staccato groove still dependably pulls people of all ages out of their seats to dance alarmingly like Zuul and Gozer.
The rest of the "Ghostbusters" soundtrack? Well, it wasn't exactly a multi-hit monster like "Saturday Night Fever" or "Flashdance," but was rather more akin to something like "The Breakfast Club," with a key track and plenty of agreeable filler that fit the needs of the film studio more than the record company. That said, "Ghostbusters" made good use of the Thompson Twins' already proven "In the Name of Love," and any project that gave the Bus Boys a seat at the table ("Cleanin' Up the Town") deserved some props.
Air Supply ("I Can't Wait Forever") and Laura Branigan ("Hot Night") contributed useful plot-movers, while the Alessi Brothers ("Savin' the Day") and Mick Smiley ("Magic") are compelling "Where are they now?" subjects, although Smiley's "Magic" was the most prominent piece in the film next to "Ghostbusters" itself. On the score front, meanwhile, Elmer Bernstein is as good as they come, even if we're not exactly talking "Gone With the Wind."
So for nostalgia's sake, slap it on today and enjoy a paranormal blast from the past. The Keymaster will approve.