On first glance, Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters doesn’t feel like a break-up song at all. Instead it conjures up the youthful folly of Halloween: dancing to The Monster Mash, Thriller and The Time Warp while surrounded by people dressed as less than intimidating approximations of Freddie Krueger or Amanda Knox.
The end of the night is the moment in which the wisdom of attending such an event seems ill-advised – navigating home after a night on the sauce via two night buses full of hoodlums, misfits and ne’er-do-wells is far more scary than any tales of vampires or ghosts. But the real horror is a twist that’s only revealed in the morning, with the realisation that getting smashed on a Tuesday night simply because the date is October 31st will haunt you for the remainder of the working day.
Ghostbusters is a break-up song written in such a metaphorical style that no-one has yet noticed its true meaning. Simply, it’s a song that elegantly summarises the growing paranoia or sinking sense of awareness that your other half is having a bit on the side, playing away from home or hiking the Appalachian trail. It’s a break-up song because if your suspicions are baseless there’s a good chance that you’re going to split, and if they’re not, the result is inevitably very similar.
“If you’re seeing things running through your head,” croons Ray Parker Jr., clearly referring to the confusion that such suspicion provokes. He repeatedly alludes to similar thought patterns throughout the song: “An invisible man sleeping in your bed”; “If something’s weird and it don’t sound good”; “When he comes through your door, unless you just want some more”; and “I hear it likes the girls.” The threat of venereal disease is also present: “If you’ve had a dose from a freaky ghost.”
In such a situation, just who are you going to call? The police aren’t going to care. There isn’t a fire. Spiderman isn’t real. You’re going to have to call Joey Greco and his team at Cheaters, or your nation’s nearest equivalent, for an epic hair-pullin’ / homo-erotic wresting session during a confrontation with your love rival in your town’s cheapest fried chicken shop.
Examine the list of the celebrities who pop-up throughout the more-Eighties-than-leg-warmers music video: Chevy Chase (twice divorced), Irene Cara (divorced), Melissa Gilbert (twice divorced), Jeffery Tambor (divorced), Carly Simon (twice divorced), Columbo (divorced), Teri Garr (divorced) and Bill Murray (twice divorced). Either their motivation for appearing in the clip was born from personal experience or the song cast a terrible curse over the majority of the participants
Is there an alternative to Greco? There’s always an alternative. Such as doing the detective work yourself. Possibly this is what Parker Jr. intended all along. A deeper, more sinister theory lurks yet another obtuse layer beneath the surface. Perhaps Parker Jr. wrote the song about his own experiences of investigating the world of the paramour poltergeist. He ain’t afraid of no ghost because of a voyeuristic desire to capture a haunting (read: illicit liason) up-close and personal. It’s again alluded to in the video. Why else would he be hiding underneath that unsuspecting woman’s bed? Why does he warn “don’t get caught alone?” Because voyeurism is a crime in a significant minority of American states.
The most damning piece of evidence is almost obscured by its position towards the end of the song. Whereas Bryan Adams had the sense to hide the holler “ME AND MY BABY IN A SIXTY-NINE” as Summer of ‘69 faded out, Parker Jr. gives the game away with the lascivious glee of “Busting makes me feel good!” I bet it does, Ray, but keep it to youself.
Break-up tip: Be sure of your accusations before they’re made: otherwise a trial by reality TV awaits.