Everyone knows the song Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr. It’s so predominant in pop culture that if someone asks you “Who you gonna call?” you’re going to automatically want to spurt out “Ghostbusters.” Some of us may recall Air Supply existed but can you remember their songs in the film or what the last thing they did was? How many of us remember The Bus Boys? Let’s take a look at the music of Ghostbusters and see where the artists are now.
The official Ghostbusters soundtrack had 10 tracks plus two bonus hidden tracks. However, 2 of the tracks were part of the score by Elmer Bernstein and another two were remixes of the Ghostbusters song by Ray Parker, Jr. Another is Disco Inferno by The Trammps, a 1976 disco hit. Finally, In the Name of Love by The Thompson Twins came out in 1982, two years before Ghostbusters. We’ll ignore those and take a look at the original songs that were created for the movie:
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.
Cleanin’ Up the Town by The Bus Boys
Savin’ the Day by The Alessi Brothers
I Can Wait Forever by Air Supply
Hot Night by Laura Branigan
Magic by Mick Smiley
So we have six original songs by six different artists. Everyone remembers Ghostbusters but what ever happened to Ray Parker, Jr. after that huge hit? Throughout the 70s, Parker was a session musician who played for the biggest acts of the time: Stevie Wonder, Barry White, The Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and about a dozen more. He then started his own R&B band Raydio, who had decent success from 1978 to 1981 when the disbanded. Going solo, Parker had a hit single called The Other Woman in 1982 which led to him being offered Ghostbusters.
Director Ivan Reitman had cut the film together and tested it and was sure he had a hit on his hands. Reitman decided he wanted a hit song at the front of the movie. It would need to say “Ghostbusters” and would only be in the movie for about 20 seconds. Lindsey Buckingham has said in interviews that he was offered the song after doing Holiday Road for Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacation but he turned it down because he didn’t want to be known as a soundtrack artist. The film didn’t have a music supervisor so the head of Columbia Pictures’ music department introduced Reitman to Parker. Parker’s producer, Clive Davis, didn’t really want him to do it. At that point, Parker had only sung R&B songs about girls and now he’d be singing about ghosts. It was a tough sell, but it went down and was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard charts for 3 weeks. Parker just did the 20 seconds required for the movie but Reitman loved it and pushed him to make a full song and agreed to direct a music video for it.
So what happened after that? Parker got sued by Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News. Lewis alleged that the song plagiarized the melody of his song from the previous year, I Want a New Drug. The case was settled out of court with both sides signing a non-disclosure agreement. Parker had two more hit singles, I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You (#14) and Jamie (#12). After that, he moved into more writing and producing. His most notable success was Mr. Telephone Man for New Edition and the rap Ghostbusters for Run DMC in Ghostbusters II (1989). He had one final studio released album in 1991 but it didn’t generate much attention. After that, he’s been pretty quiet. He self-released one album in 2006. He still tours but his days of working on studio albums with big names seems to be over.
Cleanin’ Up the Town by The Bus Boys was a minor hit for the band, reaching #68 on the charts. They were a rock band with an infusion of funk, soul and R&B. Aside from the hispanic drummer, Steve Felix, the rest of the band is black. They had two 1982 hits from the movie 48 Hours–New Shoes and The Boys Are Back In Town. That led to Eddie Murphy hiring them to open for him on his standup tour, Delirious, the following year. The Bus Boys appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and Murphy helped sing backup.
Their song for Ghostbusters is used when the Ghostbusters get their first real call and show up at the hotel. Reitman decided that Bernstein’s score worked best as a traditional symphonic sound and replaced his big, triumphant, bass-filled hero piece (which you can hear on the score soundtrack) with Cleanin’ Up the Town.
The band’s pal Eddie Murphy appeared in a music video for the band in 1988. That was the year they released their third album which had more of a synth feel. The band changed some positions but continued to tour throughout the 80s with bands like ZZ Top, Linda Ronstadt, and Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats. After some quiet years, they released an album in 2000 featuring remade versions of their two hits from 48 Hours. The band continues to enjoy success with licensed use of their song The Boys Are Back in Town, which the NBA used as its theme and Fox Sports used for MLB games. They again were quiet for a few years but then appeared as the musical guest for a college bowl game aired on ABC on New Years Day 2005. The last news about the band came in 2007 when the band announced on their website that they were making a documentary about themselves.
Billy and Bobby Alessi are an American pop duo comprised of identical twins. They had a hit song, Oh Lori, in the UK in 1977 and another worldwide hit, Put Away Your Love, in 1982. Their song for Ghostbusters first is heard when the Ghostbusters head to City Hall towards the end of the film, as an instrumental piece. You may think it’s part of the score, but it’s not. It then shows up a second time when the Ghostbusters emerge from the earthquake, complete with cheesy 80s lyrics. After Savin’ the Day for Ghostbusters, the brothers moved into writing jingles for commercial products (Coke, Twix, KFC, Ford, and other big names). They got back in the studio in 2003 and have released four albums and gone on tour with their new music since then.
Air Supply is a soft rock duo from Australia with a number of hits and albums to their names from 1975 forward. Their song, I Can Wait Forever, was featured in the background of a scene. The use of the song is very brief. Right after Venkman, Stanz and Spengler run from the library ghost, you can hear a snippet on a workman’s headset when the trio return to the college campus and see they’ve been kicked out. Despite Air Supply’s overall output slowing down in the 90s and 00s, they’ve really never stopped and continue to create new albums and tour to sold out shows worldwide.
Laura Branigan was always a singer. In high school, she was in a band called Meadow that released one album in 1973. After school, she was a backup singer for Leonard Cohen and was signed to Atlantic Records in 1979. They had trouble categorizing her because of her alto 4-octave voice. She was eventually classified as a pop star and her debut album in 1982 featured the huge hit Gloria. That song was later featured in the 1983 film Flashdance and probably helped lead the studio to using her on the Ghostbusters soundtrack. She contributed the song Hot Night, written by Diane Warren who would go on to earn six Oscar nominations for her songs. The song is used when things become ominous for Dana Barrett in her apartment. It’s possibly used as a counterpoint to the cold, dead party her neighbor Louis Tully is hosting (they are both captured and possessed by terror dogs that night).
Branigan’s biggest hit song, Self Control, came later that year and she continued to churn out popular dance hits through her seventh and final album in 1993. She also did some acting in the 80s, appearing in tv shows CHiPs, Automan and Knight Rider. While her chart success cooled, she was still in-demand as a performer throughout the 90s, worldwide. In 2002, she joined the off-Broadway musical “Love, Janis” as the singing Janis Joplin but she left after two performances, claiming the production hadn’t filed properly with the union. She said she was glad anyway, because the musical featured 19 Janis Joplin songs and she felt her singing style didn’t fit. Branigan passed away suddenly in 2004 from what was declared an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.
Not much is known about Mick Smiley. He was the bass player in The Mick Smiley Band playing in LA clubs in the early 80s. He did not write Magic for Ghostbusters – that was Keith Forsey, who produced it trying to get his friend signed to a label. Another acquaintance submitted the song to Ivan Reitman who liked it and lobbied to use it in the movie. It appears when the ghosts break out of the containment unit and New York is deluged with spirits, shortly after Zuul/Dana and Vinz Klortho/Louis unite. The song is frequently called out as a strong point on the soundtrack. According to an interview Mick did with website Noblemania in late 2011, it didn’t lead to much success and he continued to play clubs in LA. He did have more success writing Kiss Me Deadly for Lita Ford in 1988.