Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The movie Ghostbusters has never been without controversy. Dan Aykroyd’s original premise, featuring himself and John Belushi, was seen as financially prohibitive, and was sent back for a re-write. Casting issue abounded. The studio doubted it would make its money back. (Spoiler alert: it did.) The very idea of the 2016 reboot was met with derision, and the reboot itself fell far short of its financial goals. On a somewhat higher profile, the band that director Ivan Reitman wanted to provide songs for key segments, Huey Lewis and the News, turned the job down. Reitman finally tapped Detroit guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., a former session musician who had found commercial success with his band Raydio, to come up with a theme song. That theme, while a massive hit (three weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100), provided further controversy, as Huey Lewis later sued Parker, claiming the Ghostbusters theme was plagiarized from his song “I want a New Drug.”
The case was settled out of court, but the controversy didn’t end there. Several years later, Ray Parker Jr. sued Huey Lewis for violating the original settlement’s non-disclosure agreement by discussing it on VH1’s show Behind the Music.
None of this drama should, nor does, detract from the song itself. The Ghostbusters theme is easily one of the most popular, hook-filled, memorable movie themes of all time, and it’s a Halloween staple at parties and on the radio. Popularity, of course, invites imitation; secondhandsongs.com identifies about 40 cover versions, from artists as disparate as David Essex and Andrew Gold to the Leningrad Cowboys. There are lots of note-for-note recreations, and many that reflect the style of the performer. Here are five of them, in no particular order, each bringing something a little bit different to the party.
McFly – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
British rockers McFly have been MIA for a while. They went on hiatus after touring in 2016, save for a one-off concert two years later. The good news for fans is that a UK tour is booked for early 2020. Their version of “Ghostbusters” is straight-ahead rock, with guitar leads replacing keyboards and horns. Another difference is the tempo — McFly’s version is noticeably faster than the original. This infuses the song with a new level of energy and makes it even more fun.(Ironic note: McFly took their name from Marty McFly in Back to the Future, a franchise in which Huey Lewis’ music DID appear.)
Leo Moracchioli – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
Leo Moracchioli is a super-talented musician from Norway. He arranges and performs metal versions of all types of songs, from Adele to REM, playing bass, guitar, drums, and other miscellaneous instruments on nearly every track, His videos are entertaining, often featuring Leo (and sometimes his family) in costume. He gives the Ghostbusters theme the full-on metal treatment, complete with typical heavy-metal vocals, but sweetens the overall mix with a trumpet, and occasional glimpses of his daughter dressed as a ghost. This is the version you want for your Halloween party.
Party Like It’s… – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
Party Like It’s… is a Washington, DC-based party band that plays ska-flavored rock and pop songs. The video for their cover of “Ghostbusters,” ostensibly set in the New York Public Library, pays homage to Two-Tone Records, the premiere label of the ska revival, with lots of black and white checkerboard patterns. This version is notable for its prominent, three-part horn section that drive the melody, simple but steady drums, and female lead singer Cathy DiToro. Cathy does a good job handling the vocals, and lends a strong presence to the video, which mixes staged performance clips cut with ghost-related vignettes. If you’re a fan of ska and reggae, this version is the one for you.
No Small Children – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
You might think that if someone has a serious, full-time day job, music could only be a hobby. L.A. rockers No Small Children would beg to differ — this trio of elementary school teachers can hang with the best of them. Two of their original songs have made it onto the soundtrack of Netflix’s horror/comedy shoe The Santa Clarita Diet, and their version of the Ghostbusters theme was strong enough to be included as the final credits track for Ghostbusters 2016. They play well, sing strongly, and obviously enjoy what they do.
Bailey Pelkman – Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
Bailey Pelkman is a Canadian singer and YouTube personality who has the cover that’s the furthest from the original, in terms of style and feel. Bailey has a ton of covers on her YouTube channel, featuring her interpretations of songs by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Queen. This particular solo acoustic performance, gently supported with some rhythm instruments and a xylophone gives the song a whole new feel, almost like a ballad. To keep it light, the video incorporates some ghostly hijinks and quick cuts of Bailey in zombie-like makeup. While it’s not a version to dance to, it’s musically strong and definitely worth a listen.