For 32 years, almost everyone has learned the answer to the age-old question: “Who you gonna call?” The iconic theme song for the 1984 film Ghostbusters was written and performed by Detroit artist Ray Parker Jr., and has undoubtedly become his biggest hit. The menacing, upbeat number took on a life of its own after the release of the movie, and lines from the track, including “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” have found a permanent place in pop culture history — including references in American Dad and Anchorman 2.
A new Ghostbusters film, starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, will hit theatres tomorrow and while that film boasts its own new version of the theme song, we wanted to take a look back at the original. Here are 15 facts about Ray Parker Jr.’s original Ghostbusters theme.
1. The song was a number 1 hit
Two months after the release of the film, “Ghostbusters” reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Aug. 11, 1984. It stayed at the top of the chart for three weeks.
2. Lindsey Buckingham almost wrote the theme
Rumour has it that the Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist was approached to write the theme, but he passed on it. Buckingham didn’t want to be pegged as a soundtrack artist as he had already written a song for National Lampoon’s Vacation the year before.
3. Parker Jr. was ‘sort of retired’ when he was approached to write this song
Before Ghostbusters, Parker Jr. made a name for himself with a number of hits including “The Other Woman” and “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” but he had, according to his interview with HLN (below), “sort of retired because my parents had gotten sick.” But, he later went to Los Angeles to work with New Edition on the band's song “Mr. Telephone Man” and it was there that Parker Jr. was approached by a friend at Columbia Pictures to write for the Ghostbusters soundtrack.
4. Clive Davis didn’t want Parker Jr. to write the theme song
Davis, the founder of Arista Records, was not crazy about the idea of having his artist write the theme song for a film about ghosts. In an interview with Screen Crush, Parker Jr. revealed: “All of my songs are romance songs, so in Clive’s defense, we had built an entire career …of me singing to girls. So, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Clive gets a phone call and I’m singing about a ghost. So, he just thought that was a little strange.”
5. There were a lot of theme songs submitted
Before Parker Jr. signed on to write the theme song, Columbia Pictures went through roughly 60 songs that were submitted, and they didn’t like any of them.
6. It was supposed to be a short clip, not a full song
When Parker Jr. originally signed on to write music for the film, he was told the theme would only be “20 to 25 seconds long,” to soundtrack a scene in the library. When he was told to turn the snippet into a full song, he used a tape machine to splice together a four-minute track.
7. Parker Jr. had a very short deadline
He only had approximately two-and-a-half days to write this song but luckily for him, “Everything just went perfectly.”
8. A TV commercial inspired Parker Jr. to write the theme
According to reports, Parker Jr. had trouble writing the Ghostbusters theme until he saw a commercial on TV that inspired him to write an advertisement jingle, which explains the slogan-like refrain, “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”
9. The music video included 12 famous cameos
In addition to the Ghostbusters stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis, the music video for “Ghostbusters” featured cameos of actors shouting “Ghostbusters!” inside a neon frame. These guests were Carly Simon, John Candy, George Wendt, Jeffrey Tambor, Melissa Gilbert, Al Franken, Peter Falk, Teri Garr, Danny DeVito, Chevy Chase, Irene Cara and Ollie E. Brown. None of the actors were paid to appear in the video, instead they were all favours asked by director Ivan Reitman. In fact, the crew made an impromptu visit to the set of John Candy’s film Brewster’s Millions to get his shot.
10. Parker Jr. almost became an Oscar winner
“Ghostbusters” was nominated for best original song at the 1985 Academy Awards, but lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” a song from the 1984 romantic comedy The Woman in Red.
11. Huey Lewis sued Parker Jr. over this song
Lewis was another artist who turned down the opportunity to work on the Ghostbusters theme, but when Parker Jr.’s song came out, Lewis sued for the track’s similarities to his song “I Want a New Drug,” which was released earlier that same year. The lawsuit was settled out of court but in 2001, Lewis revealed in an interview with VH1’s Behind the Music that Columbia Pictures paid Lewis a settlement. Parker Jr. quickly sued Lewis for breaking his confidentiality agreement from that case.
12. It’s been covered by a number of artists
13. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have also put their own spin on the theme
As a joke, McCarthy and Wiig, two stars of the new Ghostbusters, came up with a folk version of the theme song as a way to enrage sexist online trolls who criticized the film’s casting of female leads. McCarthy and Wiig were called on by director Paul Feig to perform it on The Graham Norton Show.
14. No, Parker Jr. is not sick of this song
When asked if he was tired of getting approached by people shouting, “Who you gonna call?” Parker Jr. responded, “It’s like, am I tired of holding the best lotto ticket of the best thing to ever happen? No.” He added, in an interview with HLN, “In my kids’ schools, it makes me famous to the young kids.”
15. Parker Jr. thinks the new Ghostbusters theme is ‘interesting’
In an interview with Inside Edition (below), Parker Jr. finally revealed his thoughts on the new Ghostbusters theme song performed by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott: “Interesting. I’m not going to say it’s good or bad,” he said, diplomatically. “I’m just going to say well maybe I’m an old guy now and I like it the old way.” He added that the film didn’t call him to work on the soundtrack, but that he wished he had been contacted to work with the newer artists.