In the past month, something has happened. Something that I never saw coming. Huey Lewis is in the news again.
It’s all in an effort to promote the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Huey Lewis & The News’ seminal record, the multi-platinum Sports.
In 1983, I was two, yet I can recall memories of Sports as early as three or four. I was around that age when my Uncle Matt handed me a tape of Sports that was in his truck, and I never gave it back. That tape lived in my dad’s convertible until he sold it, and then, it lived in my mom’s convertible, because hers was the only car with a tape deck. It got a lot of play in those days, but I think it fell on hard times as CDs and then Mp3s changed what we listened to.
A few years ago, I borrowed my mom’s car for a road trip from my hometown of Saint Louis to Chicago. The purpose of the trip was two-fold: an unanticipated funeral for a friend’s sibling and tuxedo shopping with another who was set to get married that August.
We were all in my mom’s tiny car. I was driving the groom-to-be and the bereaved back to the ‘burbs. The top was down. The sun was shining. And Lake Shore Drive was miraculously empty on this beautiful summer day. It had to happen this way. It had to be the case that at that exact moment, the scenario called out for a new drug. There we were, three grown men in a melancholic state, all sitting in a girly convertible with the top down. My grieving friend, with his head hanging low saw this tape, Huey Lewis & The News’ Sports, the same one my uncle gave me almost thirty years earlier, lodged between the passenger seat and the door.
“What’s this?… Oh, put this on.”
Within a few heartbeats of rock ‘n rollin’, our frowns transformed to grins and there we were, bopping down one of America’s great parkways, screaming lyrics which we could not remember to a song we’d forgotten we loved. By the time Side A had reached the end, we were Googling how much it would cost to hire Huey Lewis to perform at the wedding of my friend in the passenger seat. It turns out, it’s as expensive to book Coldplay for a private event as it would’ve been to schedule HL&TN for the same thing. It remains a pipe dream that this stellar bar band performs at someone’s wedding, someday.
Since that fateful day on Lakeshore Drive, the sweet sounds of Sports have been responsible for plenty of good times with a vast array of friends and family. The song “Heart and Soul” alone is responsible for one prolonged, indelible crush on a cornfed curio from my homestate. And, I’ve developed a particular appreciation for record production in the 1980s, having become a full-fledged fan of that crystal-clear, blue-eyed soul popularized by the likes of Huey Lewis. I’m ready and willing to spout off facts about the recording of Sports to anyone who’ll listen, about the meteoric rise of its frontman, and about the importance the album had on America’s culture. This is a longwinded way of saying, you can imagine my thrill when I learned Mr. Lewis and his News, one of the finest bar bands in the world, are putting a full court press on the American public, whether or not it was expected.
Thus far, there was this shot-for-shot reenactment of a scene from the cult classic 2000 film, American Psycho, on Funny or Die complete with a Weird Al cameo. Then he visited the garage home studio of comedian, podcaster, and television star, and current “It Guy” Marc Maron. And lastly, he spent a good amount of time talking with our generation’s Dick Cavett, Bullseye’s Jesse Thorn. The podcasts are definitely worth your time, if learning more about the how and why of Huey Lewis are of interest.
Some things I’ve learned in my years as a fan that I haven’t heard mentioned elsewhere:
Accompanied by Paul Schaffer & The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Huey Lewis and News saxophonist Johnny Colla performed “The Heart of Rock & Roll” on Late Night with David Letterman the week after their album Sports climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. For reasons I’ve since forgotten only one member of The News was able to accompany Huey on this performance, and because of his vitality to the song: he co-wrote the song, he has a killer solo, and — I mean — the guy’s name-checked at minute 2:07 for cryin’ out loud. I say that quite literally. Also worth noting, in this clip, The Blues Brothers’ Matt “Guitar” Murphy does a fine job on lead guitar.
Though they weren’t able to perform at Live Aid, Huey Lewis and the entire News band performed on “We Are the World.”
The car horn on “Heart of Rock ‘n Roll” was the sound guy’s station wagon.
In the liner notes to the original vinyl pressing, the band provided the phone number for The 2A.M. Club, the bar featured on the cover, “in case you want a T-shirt.” If anyone’s wondering, yes. I do.
Those of you lucky enough to have been born in 1983 can sign up for free tickets to Huey Lewis & The News’ shows all summer long.
I hope, like I did, you can rediscover this man and his bar band. Appreciate them for the hardscrabble DIY efforts they took to create a hit-riddled record, packed with enough Devil-May-Care Attitude for ten great records. Add it to your summer music rotation, put that top down, and cruise.
Huey Lewis & The News perform live Wednesday on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Thanks to my Uncle Matt for giving me the cassette tape that changed my life. Thirty years later.