It’s near the end of 1983, and a new song has just hit the airwaves. Starting off with synths, drum machine fills and an electronic bass line, for a second you might think this was the new Men Without Hats single...
Until you hear Ray start to sing. With that smooth, distinctive voice, you could always tell when Ray Parker, Jr. was singing on a record. Whether he was begging for a spanking (“Bad Boy”) or grabbin’ his guitar and playing with it all night long (“The Other Woman”), it was hard not to smile when you heard ol’ Ray on the radio.
What was Ray singing about this time?
1984’s Chartbusters LP featured “I Still Can't Get Over Loving You” and a couple of other tracks from Woman Out Of Control, along with an extended version of “Ghostbusters.”
“I’m all confused, and I don’t know what to do/
I still can’t get over loving you.”
It’s a song about of lost love, with the singer still left with strong feelings. Perhaps he’d been listening to The Police over the summer.
“Baby, I don’t know what I’m gonna do/
’cause every girl I date resembles you.”
Ah, who among us hasn’t been through that? The synths and drums continue, and a catchy little guitar flourish joins in. Ray continues to tell his tale of failed romance, and now his smooth, smooth voice has some backing vocalists joining him on the chorus with a perfectly tuned four-part harmony. This is a catchy, catchy song. And you can’t help but feel for Ray as he pours out his pained, broken heart to us.
“Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you, girl/
’cause I still can’t get over loving you.”
Yep, he’s been listening to The Police, all right. Still, the urge to stalk one’s lost love is pretty universal, isn’t it? It’s hard not to sing along.
“There’s no way that this thing is through/
not yet, I ain’t through lovin’ you.
I’m getting mad, girl.”
Whoa, Ray! The song has suddenly taken a particularly dark turn, hasn’t it? I’m still singing along, but now I’m feeling a little unnerved and conflicted as I sing.
“Don’t you ever try to leave/
it’ll be the last thing you ever do.”
...and that’s it. Those are the last words Ray sings on the record. The background singers sing the chorus a few more times, while Ray presumably leaves the studio with his hunting rifle and heads out to track down his ex-girlfriend (or maybe Sting’s?)
But it must have all worked out OK, because six months later, Ray’s back on the airwaves with “Ghostbusters,” the biggest hit of his career. Of course, it’s possible that his lost love had indeed tried to leave and is now one of the ghosts he’s trying to bust.
Ray was clearly onto something when he arranged this song; the perfect mix of laid-back guitar, electronic instruments and vocal harmonies can be heard again and again on later ’80s hits. (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” in particular, owes more than a passing nod to this tune.)
Twenty years later, though, it’s hard to hear “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” and not think of a white Ford Bronco.
But, man, is it catchy.