Friday Night Music Byte
Huey Lewis and the News are an American rock band based in San Francisco, California. They had a run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s, eventually scoring a total of 19 top-ten singles across the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts. Their greatest success was in the 1980s with the number-one album, Sports, coupled with a series of highly successful MTV videos. Their worldwide fame expanded when the song “The Power of Love” was featured as a key track in the film Back to the Future, became a number-one hit, and nominated for an Academy Award. The News combined a rock (and sometimes, a “blues rock”) backing with soul and doo-wop-influenced harmony vocals and Lewis’s voice.
In 1972, singer–blues harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover. Clover would record several albums in the 1970s, and in the middle of the decade transplanted themselves to England to become part of the UK pub rock scene for a time. Without Lewis (but with Hopper), they eventually became the original backing band for Elvis Costello’s first album My Aim Is True. The band returned to the Bay Area by the end of the 1970s.
Clover’s main competition in the Bay Area jazz-funk scene was a band called Soundhole, whose members included drummer Bill Gibson, saxophonist–guitarist Johnny Colla, and bassist Mario Cipollina (younger brother of John Cipollina). Like Clover, Soundhole had spent time backing a famous singer, Van Morrison. After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1978, Huey Lewis united his former bandmate and three of his former rivals to form a new group, Huey Lewis & The American Express. In 1979 they recorded and released a single, “Exo-Disco” (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus), that was largely ignored. The B-side of this record, “Kick Back”, was a song that had previously been performed live by Lewis and his former band, Clover. In 1979, the band wooed guitarist Chris Hayes and moved to Chrysalis Records. After the credit card organization American Express complained, in January 1980 they changed their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
Later in 1980, the band issued their first album, a self-titled LP, Huey Lewis and the News. It went largely unnoticed. In 1982, the band released their second album, the self-produced Picture This. The album turned gold, fueled by the breakout success of the hit single “Do You Believe in Love”, written by former Clover producer Mutt Lange. Largely because of the single, the album remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 35 weeks and peaked at No. 13. The follow-up singles from Picture This, “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” and “Workin’ for a Livin'”, followed with limited success, though the video for “Workin’ for a Livin'” received considerable airplay on MTV and HBO’s Video Jukebox.
Due to record label delays on the release of their third album, Sports, Huey Lewis and the News was back to square one in late 1983, touring small clubs in a bus to promote the record (eventually known as the “Workin’ for a Livin'” tour). The new album initially hit No. 6 in the U.S. when first released. However, Sports slowly became a number-one hit in 1984 and multi-platinum success in 1985, thanks to the band’s frequent touring and a series of clever, funny videos that received heavy MTV airplay. Four singles from the album reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100: “Heart and Soul” (No. 8), “I Want a New Drug” (No. 6), “The Heart of Rock & Roll” (No. 6), and “If This Is It” (No. 6). The album has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Their song “The Power of Love” was a number-one U.S. hit and featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future, for which they also recorded the theme song, “Back in Time”. Lewis has a cameo appearance in the film as a faculty member who rejects Marty McFly’s band’s audition for the school’s “Battle of the Bands” contest. As an inside joke, the piece the band plays is an instrumental heavy metal version of “The Power of Love” (Lewis’s response: “Sorry, fellas … I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud”). “The Power of Love” was nominated for an Academy Award.