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Seven cover versions of ‘Ghostbusters’ from the Dream Syndicate’s 1984 tour
06:57 am


Dream Syndicate

The cover of the 1985 Ghost Busters bootleg, recorded in Frankfurt
In the storm of publicity attending the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, a much more important occasion has been overlooked: the 30th anniversary of the Dream Syndicate covering the movie’s theme song. In the summer and fall of 1984, as Ray Parker, Jr.‘s damnably infectious hit saturated the airwaves of the US and UK, the Dream Syndicate worked out a simplified arrangement of the song based on the “Gloria” chords. If you listen to all seven extant versions, “Ghostbusters” might start to sound completely different; it might even start to sound like something off Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes.

On tour behind their second album Medicine Show in the US and Europe, the Dream Syndicate sometimes played “Ghostbusters” toward the end of the set. The earliest version—at Jimmy’s in New Orleans, with Tommy Zvoncheck of BÖC on keys—is fairly straightforward, aside from the homage to “Werewolves of London.” By the time they reach D.C., though, having ditched (or been ditched by) the keyboard player, and having reduced “Ghostbusters” to its simplest components, they can do anything with it.

At the 9:30 Club, guitarists Wynn and Precoda quote “Rock And Roll Part 2” before shredding in the style of Television—it’s a shame the tape runs out. In Stockholm, Wynn sees an opportunity to stir up the audience, and works himself into a lather setting up “Ghostbusters”:

Okay, listen, we’re doing a song that’s a big hit in the USA, but I don’t know about here. So the question is, uh, how many of you know a song called ‘Ghostbusters’? Gimme some lights. You know it? You know ‘Ghostbusters’? Get up here and sing it with us. You gotta sing it. C’mere, c’mere! Get up! Whoever can say the word ‘Ghostbusters,’ come on up. Is it a hit here? You’re shy. Alright, who can say ‘Ghostbusters’?

And in Bochum, Germany, “Ghostbusters” becomes the basis for a long jam that turns into “Suzie Q.,” “Sister Ray,” and “L.A. Woman.” Frankfurt gets a slow take on the song that is actually kind of spooky.

One of my favorite things about these performances is that, during the call-and-response section of the song, one band member—bassist Mark Walton?—screams “Ghostbusters” with a little too much spirit and freedom, as if he is belting out the chorus of Discharge’s “Why” rather than lending his assent to the innocuous refrain of a dance song for children’s parties. His commitment to the song is deserving of praise. Bustin’ made him feel bad!

The “Ghostbusters” covers commence after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Days of wine and roses: The Dream Syndicate live at Tower Records, 1982
11:34 am


Dream Syndicate

The Dream Syndicate’s first EP

In July 1982, when the Dream Syndicate gave this instore performance at a Tower Records in Orange County, they hadn’t even recorded The Days of Wine and Roses yet; the record Steve Wynn (vocals, guitar) plugs at the beginning is their self-released EP. The camera picks up about five people who are actually watching the band, and a lot more shoppers hurrying across the store to escape the deafening racket. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of original bassist Kendra Smith, whose presence (along with that of original lead guitarist Karl Precoda) is one of the selling points of this footage, but that’s the only bad thing I have to say about it.

It’s not clear why Karl Precoda runs offstage in the middle of their first number, “Until Lately,” and grabs another guitar—did he break a string? Was he already bored? Not every guitarist would run an errand during the first number of the set, and fewer yet would leave their guitars plugged in and their amps turned on so as to blanket the song with feedback. No, sir—that’s pretty much a Karl Precoda move. One of the pleasures of this video is getting to see what a wild man Precoda was onstage. It’s a shame he doesn’t play anymore.

Early in “Sure Thing,” a young man blithely steps in front of the camera, temporarily blocking our view of Steve Wynn. His bandana, equal parts casual headgear and martial arts accessory, is very much of the time and place. I’d love to know what record he catches with his head at the 45-second mark.

The Dream Syndicate reunited a few years ago, and the L.A. show I caught last year was outstanding.

The Dream Syndicate “Until Lately”
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment