The songs of 84; Ghostbusters / Ray Parker Jnr

To accompany our weekly articles on the songs of 74, which are turning 50 this year, Radioinfo reader and podcaster David Kowalski felt that a celebration of songs also turning 40 this year might be in order too.

Ghostbusters / Ray Parker Jnr – No 2, 1984 (Kent Music Charts)

40 years ago, one of the biggest blockbuster movies at the cinema was a film about three oddball scientists fixated on the supernatural, chasing CGI ghosts, demon possessed humans and a 50ft tall marshmallow man around the streets and through the buildings of New York City, much to the chagrin of local residents and authorities.

The theme music was a slinky, funky jam that shared the film’s title, ‘Ghostbusters‘, and it was a massive hit, saturated with radio play upon its release in June 1984, and onwards into 1985. It was iconic and memorable in as much as upon hearing it now, I get flashbacks of three guys in grey suits with nuclear powered backpacks and laser guns walking around looking like cowboys from another planet.

The song was also subject to a lawsuit soon after its release, and then the lawsuits kept coming. Did the filmmakers unwittingly set Parker Jr a litigation trap for him to fall into?

They say that “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ”, and this song is no exception. Ray Parker Jr wasn’t even the first person offered the job of creating the theme music for the film. It was first offered to Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, who turned it down. Glenn Hughes, late of Deep Purple, offered a piece that was rejected by the creative department. Huey Lewis was considered for the job but was unavailable due to commitments with composing songs for Back To The Future. Ray Parker Jr was asked at the last minute, only having a few days to throw something together. Despite the tight deadline, he came up with a megahit.

Shortly after, Huey Lewis sued Parker Jr for plagiarism, as the song sounded too much like his own 1983 hit “I Want A New Drug (Called Love)”. The two parties settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, however both parties also signed a non-disclosure agreement, ensuring neither party spoke about the case in public ever again.

In 2001, Lewis seemed to forget he signed an NDA at all and spoke about it in an interview for American cable channel VH1’s “Behind The Music”. Parker Jr successfully sued Lewis soon after.

Now, to add fuel to the fire here, in a 2014 interview with Esquire magazine, director Ivan Reitman admitted to giving Parker Jr a rough cut of the film with a temporary placeholder soundtrack in place for him to watch, in order to give him some inspiration to write the theme music.

And what was the song that was temporarily used in the film?

“I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News….

It is quite common for musicians to pick up on some existing piece to inspire them to create new music. Everything in music is pretty much derived from, or at least inspired by, something else. Of course it can’t be too similar or exactly the same, even if it is done accidentally (George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” anyone?). Is it any surprise that the Ghostbusters Theme sounds like a Huey Lewis hit?

Besides, it could be argued that Huey Lewis ripped off the chords and the groove from ‘Pop Muzik’ by M in the first instance.

What goes around, comes around, I guess…

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