A look at the soundtrack to a film that not only stands up as one of the best comedy flicks of the 80’s (and of any decade, for that matter) but also has one of the best soundtracks of that decade too.
“Listen….. can you smell something?”
For this post I’ve decided to take a look at the soundtrack to a film that not only stands up as one of the best comedy flicks of the 80’s (and of any decade, for that matter) but also has one of the best soundtracks of that decade too. At this point a special mention should go to the fantastic original score composed by Elmer Bernstein, who also composed for classics such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and To Kill A Mockingbird. However, what I want to concentrate on is the Soundtrack album, and look at three songs in particular that appear at prominent moments in the film, and also talk about the absolute fucking legend that is Bill Murray.
“I think we’d better split up”
“Yeah, good idea. We can do more damage that way”
Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters:
It’s hard to think of too many films with a signature song as famous and as instantly recognisable as this. A worldwide top-ten hit that reached number 1 in 5 different countries, Parker’s hastily-written (in two days apparently) theme-tune is nothing less than a genuine masterpiece of super catchy, funky pop music. As someone who did most of his growing up in the 80’s this is something that will always be indelibly associated with this period of my life. If you ask someone of my generation “Who you gonna call?” the answer will instantly and resoundingly be “Ghostbusters!”. Indeed, such is the song’s stature in modern popular culture that you would probably get exactly the same response from people born well after the film’s 1984 release
“That’s the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there”
“What a crime…”
The central performance in the film, the one that makes this a great comedy, is that of the man himself, one of my favourite actors, Mr Bill Murray. He’s one of those rare kinds of performer who can shine even when surrounded by a great ensemble cast, as he is in this film. Indeed, Dan Aykroyd would be the stand out performer in almost any film he appears in, but here he has to take a back seat to probably one of the great comedy actors of all-time. Murray is in top form throughout, his performance punctuated by a series of fantastic quips many of which were apparently improvised on the spot. Maybe the most obvious improvisation is during the prison-cell scene where the look of genuine surprise etched on the extras faces as he bursts in to “Guess who’s coming?” from ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’ is clear. Improvised or not, almost all the best lines in the film belong to Murray – from “He’s a sailor. He’s in New York. We get this guy laid we won’t have any trouble” to “It’s true, this man has no dick” – and his dry, deadpan delivery of these and so many other gems makes this his film more than anyone else’s. Bill Murray, you are a comedy KING and we at MVD salute you!
“Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back”
The Bus Boys – Cleaning Up The Town:
Soundtracking the scene where our heroes excitedly make their way to their first job, this is a rollicking slice of R&B infused rock ‘n’ roll performed by a group who just two years earlier had also appeared in the Eddie Murphy cop-comedy 48 Hours. Released as a single in the wake of the film’s success the video features the band creeping round an old house and encountering ghosts spliced in (not particularly seamlessly) from the original film. I think this song in many ways perfectly captures the irreverent spirit of the film itself, and the Bus Boys themselves look super cool in their very 80’s threads (do I spy chinos? I think I do).
“She’s not my girlfriend. I find her interesting because she’s a client and because she sleeps above her covers… *four feet* above her covers…”
The Alessi Brothers – Savin’ The Day:
Identical twins Bill and Bobby Alessi hail from New York and first tasted chart success some years previous to this with the song ‘Oh Lori’ which was a top-ten hit in some 18 countries in 1977. This track is so 1980’s! The kind of synth-driven, funk influenced pop song that appeared on many a soundtrack in this decade. Appearing in the film after the mayor has asked them for help, the song’s infectious energy and ‘heroic’ lyrics are perfect for this moment, and also for the Ghostbusters cartoon series which followed in 1986 in which it was regularly used (remember the cartoon??). As for the Alessi Brothers themselves, this was the last thing approaching a hit record that they had, although they continue to record and release music to the present day.
“You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance, before she became a dog…”
The rest of the soundtrack is also well worth a mention, and features songs that were hardly used in the film, if at all such as the wonderful ‘In The Name Of Love’ by Thompson Twins (another band we at MVD have a special affection for) and ‘Hot Night’ by Laura Brannigan, who seemed to pop up on quite a few soundtracks in the mid-80’s. Overall, the soundtrack is nearly as much fun as the film itself. The reason it works as a whole album is that it manages to capture much of the spirit (no pun intended) and energy of the film so well. Watching again I was struck by just how important the music is at key moments. You don’t need me to tell you how good Ghostbusters is, I’m sure, (and if you’re reading this and thinking “I haven’t seen this film in years/at all” then you should slap yourself and invest in a DVD copy a.s.a.p) but the soundtrack has been maybe a little unfairly overlooked and comes highly recommended. And let’s face it, no matter how many times you’ve heard it when Ray Parker Jr. asks who you gonna call, you can’t help but tell him…