When Ghostbusters debuted in 1984, no one was expecting it to be such a crossover hit with kids, so there wasn’t a lot of Ghostbusters merchandise produced. Aside from the breakfast cereal that came out a year later, the soundtrack that everyone owned, and a few t-shirts with that infamous logo, most of the Ghostbusters merchandise we all know and love was based on the 1986 cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters. However, there were a couple of read-along audio books for kids that were tied to the original film.
Ghostbusters Meet the Ghost Riders, was a cassette tape and book released in 1986 by Peter Pan Records, and tells the story of phantom cowboys who visit the small town of Minersville, Colorado every night at midnight, driving their ghostly herd of cows through town. The Ghostbusters are called in by concerned citizen Sandy Dunes to investigate the phenomenon. Ultimately, the cowboys are tricked by the townspeople and zapped out of existence by the Ghostbusters and their – not proton packs – but their laser beams. Apparently proton packs – or any of the other Ghostbusters’ gadgets – were not part of the licensing agreement to make these records.
The tape and book were produced by the duo Joey Porrello and Roger Hatfield. While not always working together, between the two of them, they’ve produced a wide range of projects, like a 1989 album from Morton Downey Jr filled with songs based on his trashy TV talkshow, a cassette starring those spikey-haired Trolls in 1993, and a bunch of home workout albums, like Dancercise in 1980, Tune Up with the Hits in 1982, Kickin with Country Workout in 1993, and no 1980s mom’s record cabinet would be complete without The Jazzercise Workout from 1986. They also produced a Grammy-winning 2005 CD called Songs from the Neighborhood where artists like Donna Summer, CeCe Winans, Amy Grant, Crystal Gayle, Ricky Skaggs, and Roberta Flack sang songs by Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Aside from these Ghostbusters read-alongs, they also created a few more records for Peter Pan, including a Pound Puppies Christmas album, as well as Snap! Crackle! and Pop! in the Midnight Mystery, starring the Rice Krispie elves and their cereal mascot friends (This is a must-have for my collection!).
The artwork for Ghostbusters Meet the Ghost Riders is a bit unusual for a read-along book – it was intentionally left as simple black and white illustrations for kids to color. The artwork was created by Tony Tallarico, an American comic book artist best known for drawing Lobo, a comic book starring an African-American gunslinger that ran for only two issues in 1965 and 1966. Lobo was the first black hero with his own comic until Marvel’s Luke Cage was introduced in 1972.
Unfortunately, this read-along book is so rare, the only scans of the interior artwork that I can find are from an Australian eBay auction.
The other read-along book is the one I have in my collection, Ghostbusters Meet the Laser Ghost, released on both record and cassette in 1985.
In this story, the Ghostbusters are called by two kids who discover that the old, abandoned house in their neighborhood isn’t quite so abandoned anymore when they see mysterious, green entities in the windows.
Unlike the Ghost Riders book, this read-along book features full-color illustrations credited to Al Gordon. There is a well-known inker named Al Gordon who has worked for Marvel, DC, and Image Comics since the 1970s, but I can’t confirm he’s the artist behind this Ghostbusters book. I reached out to him on Facebook, but didn’t get a reply.
Either way, the artist clearly had some photos of the cast to use as a reference, because their portraits in the book are usually pretty good. The rest of the artwork is a mixed bag, but it works fine for the story.
One fun, and yet somewhat infuriating note about the books, both feature the famous Ghostbusters logo on the front, and both somehow managed to print the logo backwards with the ghost facing the wrong way.
As with the Ghost Riders book, terms like proton packs were not available as part of the licensing agreement, and it seems the famous Ghostbusters theme song wasn’t part of the deal either. So Peter Pan Records came up with their own original theme song, Ghostbustin’ Machine, with music by Roger Hatfield and lyrics by one J. Fischer. I couldn’t find any info on who J Fischer is, but all things considered, the two of them came up with a pretty catchy tune.
If you’d like to hear and read-along with Ghostbusters Meet The Laser Ghost, I’ve added this record to my podcast, When You Hear This Sound, available wherever you get your podcasts. Or you can go here to listen and download a PDF of the read-along book!
To read about other Ghostbusters records in my collection, go here!