Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr.

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1948
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  68
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Parker's solo star was on the rise thanks to a couple of hits that included 1982's "The Other Woman" (#4 Pop/#2 R&B). Having written these hits along with ones from his Raydio days, he was also becoming a sought after songwriter. With the producers of an upcoming film titled Ghostbusters looking for a theme song, they approached Parker for the job. He accepted the task and a few days later came up with this title-track tune. The Ghostbusters team loved it and got it into the film and the accompanying soundtrack. The theme song single was released right as the film was coming out and both became enormously successful. It would be Parker's first and only #1 at both Pop and R&B. It was also a worldwide smash reaching #1 in several countries. The song was a major success and an integral part of the film. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and got two Grammy nods winning one for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (the b-side of the single). Despite an ugly controversy (see below), the song had remained an 80s classic and an annual Halloween fave.

ReduxReview:  First off, I do have to say that I hate this song. I did then, and I'm still not a fan of it. However, it was absolutely perfect for the film. Completely spot on. And I'd go so far as saying the hit even helped the film at the box office. Parker's approach was brilliant and it worked great. But that doesn't mean I have to like it! And I have to hear this dang thing once a year like a horrible Halloween carol. Ugh! It's also one of those movies that I liked, but I'm not so ga-ga over it like some folks. I also don't like the song because I do think it was a rip on Lewis' song (see below). However, I don't fully blame Parker for it. My opinion is that Parker was told to write a song similar to Lewis' hit and to fulfill his obligation, he did. And perhaps he though that replicating that rhythm wasn't stealing from the song. After all, there are lots of songs that use the same beat or rhythm as others and there are no issues. However, it is pretty exact. And since that rhythm also has a bass line melody, that is more like copying than just using a "feel." I think the Parker camp finally figured that out and settled. Otherwise, they would have gone to court (or at least I would think Parker would have in order to keep his songwriting cred in good stead). Regardless, it seemed to work out for everyone. Except for me. The song is like nails on a chalkboard! I'd like to rate it a zero, but I can't. As I said previously, it was perfect for the film and worked tremendously as an advert (plus tons of people loved it), so I have to give the song its due. Or at least partially...  Who you gonna call?  "My lawyers!"

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After "Ghostbusters" was released, Huey Lewis immediately noticed distinct similarities between that song and his own recent hit "I Want a New Drug" (#6 Pop). Lewis sued Parker for plagiarism. After the lawyers were done battling it out, a settlement was reached. While details were not to be disclosed, it was assumed that it came out in Lewis' favor. However, all writing credits remained with Parker. So, how did this happen? Folks involved in the debacle have varying stories, but it seems the most common scenario goes something like this. Apparently, Lewis was approached to do the theme song, but he declined because he was working on music for Back to the Future. While director Ivan Reitman was filming Ghostbusters, he used Lewis' "I Want a New Drug" as temporary music behind a scene as the tempo and feel of the track worked well. Meanwhile, Lindsey Buckingham was asked to do the song, but he also declined. Then Parker's name came up and they called him in. They gave him a list of specific things they were looking for in the song and that it should have the same tempo and feel of the Lewis tune. Plus, he had to use the title of the film in the song. Parker took their notes and began work. He struggled at first due to having to include "Ghostbusters" in it, but then he said a late night TV ad combined with a scene from the movie made him realize it should play like a commercial jingle. After that, the "who you gonna call?" and the "Ghostbusters!" came quickly and a song was born. But the sticky point ended up being the driving beat and the bass line of the tune, which seemed to resemble the Lewis hit. Since the lawsuit was settled, it seemed that the Parker camp recognized there was an issue and didn't want a full court case. Part of the settlement was that neither party could talk about any of it. Unfortunately, in a VH1 interview in 2001, Lewis alluded to the fact that he got paid for the song. With that disclosure, Parker sued Lewis for breach of contract. Once again, a settlement was reached and the parties have not mentioned anything since. The whole thing was not good for either artist and there are folks who still take sides in the controversy.


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