Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Ghostbusters”—Mick Smiley, singer-songwriter of “Magic”

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

This is the 71st and last installment of this series, which began in July 2011.

This post is perhaps the most far removed from the others, and from my work in general, because it is about a musician. Yet this is a musician associated with a fantastic—and hilarious—ghost story, and I have dabbled in ghosts myself so perhaps you’ll be charitable about the reach.

But more to the point, the song still has a big following yet I have found nothing online about its background.

Mick Smiley was yet another in this series who was not easy to find. But he was well worth it. Many a summer day in 1984, I was eager to get home from camp to listen to the Ghostbusters soundtrack, but only two tracks mattered to me. One was the title track, but since that was on the radio constantly, it came down to “Magic.”

A friend of Mick’s told me “[Mick] was like the missing link between Alice Cooper and Green Day. What Billy Joe Armstrong does now, Mick was doing back in ‘79.”

At least as of 2010, there was a Myspace page dedicated to finding Mick. Here is what the owner of that page wrote about Mick (it is pasted directly—no editing):

“Currently, all that is known of Mick Smiley is that he is most well known for writing and performing the greatest song of the 1980’s, (Magic) which can be purchased on the newly remastered ‘Ghostbusters’ Soundtrack. Mick Smiley also performed as a musician (bass) with Billy Idol. He also penned Lita Ford’s hit, “Kiss me deadly.” His whereabouts are currently unknown. If you have any information about Mick Smiley please let us know so we can post it here. In addition, this page makes no representation or claim that we are ‘Mick Smiley.” This page aims to honor the man, the legend. If anyone has any additional media, please send it here for review, and if it passes certain standards it may get posted here! Help us locate and honor all that is Mick Smiley!”

Fascinatingly, the woman who was in the “Magic” video wrote in there to ask if Mick would post it. Here it is.

And here is the song as used in the movie: 

Almost as mysterious as ghosts themselves, Mick nonetheless allowed me to ask him some questions.

What was your background before contributing “Magic” to the
Ghostbusters soundtrack?

I was a musician (bass player) in the Mick Smiley Band playing all the LA clubs—Whiskey, Troubadour, Starwood, Madame Wongs, etc.

Did you write the song for the movie?

No, the track was produced by Keith Forsey in the hope of getting me a record deal. I knew Keith and had played bass on his production of Billy Idol’s first single “Mony Mony.”

How did the song end up on the soundtrack?

It was submitted by Mike Dixon to Ivan Reitman, who liked it and lobbied the producers to include it in the film. I was the only artist [with music in the film] not signed to Arista Records.

Did you tour in the wake of the movie?

No, but I continued to play in and around Los Angeles.

Was “Magic” released as a single?


What was your reaction to that?

I was shocked. A video had been shot (no Arista involvement) and had been submitted to MTV; [they] said they would play it as soon as it was officially released as a single by Arista. Arista declined to release it. I was told that since the album had gone platinum and I was not signed as an artist to Arista that it was not in their financial interest to release it as a single.

What was the video shoot like?

It was great. Shot in Santa Monica by my friend Dominic Sena, it was groundbreaking (glorious black and white) and featured a biracial love affair. Cutting edge at that time and his career took off after that.

Do the video ever air on MTV?

As far as I know, it was never played on MTV.

Did you perform “Magic” on any late-night talk shows?


What was your reaction to another song called “Magic” (by the Cars) becoming a smash hit the same year Ghostbusters came out?

No reaction.

What if anything did the song do for you professionally?

Not much. I did get a Grammy nomination (Album of the Year; Purple Rain won and deserved it, too) but I failed to get a recording contract.

What path did your career take after recording “Magic”?

Another song I wrote, “Kiss Me Deadly,” was recorded by Lita Ford and was a big hit (platinum).

What was your opinion of Ghostbusters

I liked it at the time. I haven’t seen it in many years. Does it hold up?

Did you attend the premiere?

No, however I did see a cast and crew prescreening on the lot.

Did you do any press for the movie?


Are you still writing/recording in any capacity?

I am. I will let you know if I am happy with the outcome.

What was your reaction when you heard why I was contacting you?

Not much really. You seem like a very passionate man so I decided to answer some of your questions.

Have you been interviewed about the song before?


How often do “Magic” fans locate you?

They don’t.

What is your opinion of the song today?

I like the second half of the song. First half is a bit sappy (although it was heartfelt when I wrote it).

Would you be open to “Magic” being used (officially) in a movie, TV show, and/or commercial today?


If you keep up with popular music, who are some contemporary artists you like?

The Killers, Muse, Duffy, Phoenix, White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga…

Anything else about the song you’d like to add?

It worked very well in the pivotal scene when the ghosts escape and invade NYC. You would think it was written for the movie.

Mick Smiley and me

Is Mick Smiley your real name?

[Mick Smiley is not] my given name. “Smiley” is my middle name (a family name) and Mick was my father’s name. I liked the sound of it. Very rock ‘n’ roll, n’est-ce pas?

And so concludes this interview…and this series.

Appropriately enough, it is a Saturday morning.

(July 30, to be precise. Yes, I had to get this in order that far in advance. Thanks for reading!)


Anonymous said...

"How often do “Magic” fans locate you?"

"They don’t."


pogue said...

I have been wondering about who Mick Smiley was and how come I had never heard of any of his other work other than on the Ghostbusters soundtrack, ever since I picked up a vinyl copy of the soundtrack when I was a kid and in love with the movie.

The song always struck me as being so unique and different from any others I've ever heard, so I would love to hear more of his work -- but I still have no idea where to find any of it.

I had never heard the original version of the song from the MTV video, but I included a link to a high quality MP3 VBR rip from the Ghostbusters OST which is quite different from all the versions I've heard on Youtube. This is copied from the soundtrack disc, and not taken out of the movie directly.

Peter Munch said...

I can't believe you found him :) Nicely done. "Magic" was my childhood dream-away track. The production and universe they created is amazing. I wish I could tell "Smiley" how much this song has impacted my life. What I do today (music production) is def. due to my fascination with this song.

Thank You for writing the article.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Peter. It was a thrill and an honor to find/meet Mick. I've forwarded your kind note to him.

Anonymous said...

Another one of life's little puzzles solved. I looked for Mick Smiley records for years after hearing his Ghostbusters contribution. It's still one of my favourite tracks, the haunting production on it just takes the whole thing up a level. Excellent work, Mick. And thanks Marc for posting the interview.


Anonymous said...

I am another of those souls who have been searching for Mick since the mid-80s, desparate to hear ANY sort of followup to the bass-rich second half of Magic.

It was Alan Rock (formerly of the Secret History of Rock series) who pointed me in the direction of this interview and I have thanked him profusely. He hinted that Mick might have some new music coming out soon -- something I truly hope is the case -- although that's not really the impression I got from the interview. In any case, if this message could somehow reach his eyes I would say "hurry up. I'll buy it. not download it, like 99% of what I listen to. I will buy it. even if it turns out not to be my thing I WILL buy it to support you, for the years of reflection and enjoyment you gave me via Magic."

We love you Mr. Smiley

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Anonymous of today - thanks so much. I loved what you wrote and forwarded it immediately to Mick.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Exactly the info I was looking for. (Why? I don't know, that scene & song have been burned into my brain for years.) I'd love to hear more music from Smiley.

The Wake said...

Ummm, thank you!! This song has remained as mysterious as it sounds for decades. It's really incredible that a movie and soundtrack so astronomically huge didn't garner Mick any love. Well, at least "main stream" love. The song is clearly in my top ten of all time. I came across this article trying to find guitar chords for it (I eventually figured them out D, E, intro to G, D, Em, C, G, Em, D).
I recently saw a remix of a J-Z song called Blue Magic "featuring" Mick Smiley. I hope Mick got more than a bottle of Courvoisie for that. Oh, and Kiss Me Deadly is one of two ONLY tracks I listen to from Lita Ford (Close My Eyes Forever, of course, being the other)
So what I'm trying to say is this guy is legit and he's probably got some tracks that would knock your Aunt Connie's socks off. I want to hear them.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Wake!

Forwarded your kind words to Mick.

Rich Cheney said...

Marc, this was a fantastic find for me. Since I was very young (in the 80's) I wondered who Mick was and since then continued to wonder what happened to him. This really humanized the man and at least let me know I wasn't crazy and he did exist. If you ever have info for his current music, let us know!!!
Thank you.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Rich! Thanks so much! I forwarded to Mick and have heard some of the music he's working on at the moment (as a producer, not singer). It's great. I'll post here when it's out.

Rich Cheney said...

Thank you Marc. I also know a lot of people personally who would leap at the opportunity to hear some if it.

Waiting with bated breath,

Chris Lauchlan said...

Thank you sooooo much for posting this.

I still have my cassette of the soundtrack, and song 1, side 2 - Magic - was always, ALWAYS my favourite.

At 36 years of age, this song has been part of my music DNA for almost 30 years.

Wonderful to find this interview (amazing that there is literally nothing online) about this artist. Sigh.

Cheers, Chris

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks for adding your kind words to the chorus, Chris. I've passed your sentiment to Mick.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone found Mick Smiley! I'd seen the Myspace page a couple of years ago and I guess it's testament to my enduring fascination with "Magic" that I looked again after a few more years. I've always had a love of electronic music since my childhood and "Magic", along with "Shout" by Tears for Fears really showed me what you could do with a synth and a good imagination - meaning create something truly unique that could press people's buttons. "Magic" - great song.
Matt in Outback Australia

Thomas said...

This is too amazing. This song blows me away, too. I had the Ghostbusters soundtrack. I kept all my tapes and one time I was in a wreck and had to use a rental car with only a tape deck. So I listened to Ghostbusters. At the time I was really getting into Talking Heads - the second half could be something similar to stuff they had done. I have made posts on IMDB - no idea if they have disappeared - inquiring about Mick Smiley.

Did he ever self release music around the time of Magic? Even just at his shows at the time? Could there be Mick Smiley vinyl floating around with similar songs somewhere?

Last time I looked on IMDB Mick Smiley had another song credit Only One from Hardbodies.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thomas, I've passed your comment to Mick and will report back if there are MS bootlegs to hunt down.

Mick wrote other songs besides the one you name, such as "Kiss Me Deadly" (recorded by Lita Ford).

Glad to hear from you! If you liked Mick, wait till you see the subject of my next series...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank the interviewer for this article, as it is one of the only sources of information regarding Mick Smiley.

I've found that it is exceedingly difficult to find anything regarding Mr. Smiley. I track down obscure music as a hobby, and I'll tell you I've never encountered such a lack of information. It seems almost deliberately elusive.

For a song as powerful and memorable as *Magic*, I'm not suprised by what I have found. Countless questions regarding the artist responsible, statements such as "I remember that song, I loved it!", "Where is he now?", "Does he have anything else out?", etc.

I can say he has at least four official song performance credits-

*Only One* from the 1984 movie Hardbodies
*Get Modern* and *Love and Emotion* from the 1991 movie To Cross the Rubicon.

I'd love to know more about him, as would many other people. Specifically, an official discography or list of releases or works.

Thank you for time and for the wonderful interview. If the chance arises, please let Mick know that there is a real interest in him and that *Magic* has impacted many people.

indiependants said...

Like most of the people who have left comments here, I was in love with "Magic" when Ghostbusters came out. I had no idea what the name of it was, who wrote it, nothing. All I knew was I loved it. It was so mysterious and dreamy. I am now 36 years old and to this day, it's one of my favorite long lost songs. I have the soundtrack JUST for this song. Mick, you should have received recognition way back when and with this article, you did! I also LOVE "Kiss Me Deadly". Turned out to be my teenage anthem :) Thanks Marc for having this interview!!

Anonymous said...

Where do I begin. I grew up in Chico California and Mick Smiley (not his real name) was a idol of mine since 1963 when I first saw his band "The Disciples" that band changed my life,I became a drummer and singer and still to this day I attribute my career to him and his band. Randy Reaves on bass, Rick Wagner on drums, Bob Brian on guitar and Jim Connely on guitar. Mick was the lead singer and they opened up this particular gig in bidwell park . They opened up with Mystic Eyes, Mr. Tambourine Man and other hits of the day. I had never seen a live band before. They went on the become " The boy blues, and then Colours I believe. It was 64 or 65. One of the bands I believe it was the boy blues put out a record called "Coming Down" it got he attention of Dick Clark and they were invited to play on one of his shows. Unfortunately there was a problem on the way down to film the show and they did not perform. Dick Clark debut "Muddy water" by the Standells and the rest is history. Thanks for bring back those memory's

Tiger said...

Wow, thanks for this great interview. Really nice archaeological work. Will you please write to Mick to ask him if there is a demo recorded for Kiss Me Deadly? I'm imagining something along the lines of Robert Hazard's original demo for Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. You'll love it, check it out. It would be amazing if Mick would post the Kiss Me Deadly demo to Youtube. It would be a service to humanity!

sprog said...

hold on, is it just me or is the version of the tune on the OST _completely_ different than the one in the film. Where do i get the version in the film? I love it and can't find it!

pebbles said...

Saw the movie today and the subtitles told me the song and artist, and I felt compelled to look it up. Great combination of slower, etherial music to counterpoint the crazy ghosts-on-the-loose scene, and yes, the movie and the song hold up well. Good song, good article.

Jean Raclès said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Raclès said...

I am a 34 years French fan of ghostbusters, and to me this marvelous song gave its climax to the movie. It is such a strange tune, it starts a bit like some Phil Collins at his best (in the air tonight) and then it builds up to something with such an esoteric feel, it becomes almost menacing. This duality makes it incredibly rich and deep and clearly allows it to stand alone aside of the movie. I am so sad to learn that Mick SMILEY didn't get the credit he deserved for this genius piece of music and that he did not put out more on this vein.
Anyway, thank you very much for the work accomplished and thank you a thousand times to Mick SMILEY, I hope he is well and that he gets kicks at knowing that some sort of a weird secret individual cult disseminated around the world worships his song since 1984 in the shadow of anonymity.


Unknown said...

Not my real name either. I knew Mick Smiley in Chico in 1964. I am not surprised he chose his father's name, a lovely man. During his stay in Chico, he also played with Bob Brian, John Healy and my Delbert Bump who became a composer/recording artist. Mick was married at the time to Jody and has a son Christian who became a drummer. Our families were privileged to enjoy such good music. Glad to find Mick did so well and wish him all the best.

Me encanta Tina Louise said...

"Magic" is the only song for which I know Mick Smiley. That scene where the freed ghosts escape across the city and proceed to terrorize the citizens is probably the most mystifying in the movie. And that song made it so.

Here's a surprise. The first time that I ever watched Ghostbusters, it scared the hell out of me. You see, when I was little I would sometimes spend the day at the house of a family friend. I did a number of things there, including watch TV. Among the shows that I watched was The Real Ghostbusters, which I assumed was simply called Ghostbusters. Therefore, I assumed that the only production with that title was the animated series.

A few years later I noticed that my parents had a videocassette labeled GHOSTBUSTERS. I assumed that it was the cartoon, and so I loaded it into the VCR. The first thing that confused me was that it was live action and that it was black-and-white (I'll explain that later). The next thing that threw me off was the shot of the lion statue outside the New York Public Library. Then, the scene where the evil spirit frightens the librarian made me think that it was a horror movie. The only other scenes that I registered were the monster in the refrigerator and the ghost in the hotel. I literally interpreted nothing funny about the movie. By the end, I thought to myself "I'm never watching that again."

When I was nine, my mom convinced me to watch Ghostbusters again. By this age I was able to understand the humor, and I thought that it was one of the funniest things that I'd ever watched. I felt especially silly for not having registered Rick Moranis's character.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know the name of the woman in the music video for Magic?

Unknown said...

Just casually watching a Ghostbusters repeat and finally got around to finding out what the tune was that I absolutely love. Ended up here and thought I would just say thank you for taking the time to blog this.

I agree that I prefer the second half of the track but what a great second half. Love that tune and perfect for that scene in the movie.

Thanks again :-)

No said...

I bought the Soundtrack this week JUST for this song and I am hooked on it. The first half was a surprise and i wasnt sure about it at first but after a few listens I got on board with it, volume & bass is the key with this track to let it soar, it's been played on repeat daily. I am a metal and Industrial music fan and the music as it appears in the film comes across as goth industrial that falls somewhere between Nine Inch Nails ( )in mellow mode and the song COLOURS by The Sisters Of Mercy ( ). I am a musician (Bass and Synths) and a would be writer and filmmaker but that scene has had a huge impact on me musically and filmically and I want Mick to know that and want to thank him for what he made. You have contributed something important and have not gone unnoticed. The mood and editing of that scene informs my ideas of tension and breathing room in heightened stakes scenes in a movie but without your moody music it would be only 30% of what it is on screen. Thank you & Thank you. R

Unknown said...

The South African rap group Die Antwoord briefly references Magic in their song "Ugly Boy" at around 2:12:

A. M. Esmonde said...

Thanks. Mystery solved, always wondered about it's background and how this song came about.

Unknown said...

As an unapologetic 80's teen I loved this song. I had a worn out cassette of the soundtrack. The first CD I ever owned was the Ghostbusters soundtrack. I watched the movie tonight for the first time in a decade and rediscovered 'Magic' all over again. A little research lead me to this post. Loved it. Sometimes the internet actually lives up to it's potential

thepuppyprincesss14 said...

I like the song WAY better as used in the movie.

Who's the e-drummer?? These are Simmons e-drums. They were the sh*t in the 80's. Now it's Roland.

Unknown said...

Wow! I'm absolutely blown away with the commitment of Marc Tyler Nobleman to find Mick Smiley. The interview I read over and over and saddens me to a point of a lump in my throat relating to the lack of recognition of Smileys work with "Magic".
I too grew up with Smiley's theme and had no luck at all trying to find his single until Today's technology with Shazam and google found success.
As a DJ myself I've always tried to mix Magic with Georgio Moroder and even Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygène".
I'd be over the moon if Smiley was involved in a Ghostbusters comeback or perhaps a prequel of Pulp Fiction teaming up Moroder. That would be a smash hit no doubt.
From the Great Land Down Under, please Smiley come out from the dark and ignite us again!

d s said...

This is the girl in the video 'Magic'

bobby said...

Any way to know the gears used to record this track? Which drum machine, synthesizer & effects? Thank you for this precious interview!

Unknown said...

I'd like to ask the remix pack

Day For Night RVA 1988 said...

his last name is cipolla, sorry if it has already been mentioned. i did not read any previous comments. this song is somewhat of an anomaly imo. nothing great about the musical composition. but that is what is fascinating about the universe and its ability to create icons out of something that seems average and uninteresting.

Kz said...

He has a podcast interview today

👻 MAX 👻 said...

Great song, really enjoyed finding this interview. Thank you. 👻