One of the most successful (and one of my all time favorite) bands from the 1980 and 1990s was Huey Lewis and The News. This act had 18 U.S. Top 40 hits, 12 Top 10 hits, and 3 Number Ones. They also had two #1 albums. The band fused Pop Rock, Blues, Soul, and R&B into their music and are still putting out some great music and touring every year. I have seen them twice live and they were awesome. Their albums “Fore” and “Sports” were a major part of my childhood; in fact, we wore out several copies of “Sports” on cassette one summer alone during high school band camp and other events. Even though most people know the major hits like “The Power Of Love,” “If This Is It,” and “Stuck With You,” there are so many other songs by the band that many people forget or have yet to dive into. Here are some of my favorite Huey Lewis and The News songs (in no particular order).
“Is It Me” (1982). This ballad is one of my favorite songs off of the “Picture This” album. I have mentioned in past blogs how “Picture This” is one album that people need to know because there is not a bad song on the whole album. When people mention this album, they think of the songs “Workin’ For A Livin’,” “Do You Believe In Love,” or “I Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” but “Is It Me” is just as good as any of the ballads the band has made period. The song is similar in lyrics to “If This Is It” where the singer is telling the other person if he is the problem, let him know and he’ll leave. This song may have been on the AC or Pop Charts if it was released later when the band was on a streak, and was overlooked in my opinion on the album.
“He Don’t Know” (1991). Another album that is overlooked in the band’s work is “Hard At Play” (which I mentioned in the Underrated Albums blog). I listened to this album almost every day for a whole summer when it came out. I remember videotaping the band’s performance on “The Tonight Show” promoting the song as well and watching it over and over. The album produced two Top 40 singles, but this song did not chart when it was released. I like the Bluesy guitar work throughout the song, along with the opening where Huey is just talking before he starts singing. I also really love the ending guitar work, which shows the musicianship of Chris Hayes. One of the songwriters on the song, Jon Tiven, has had songs recorded by Rick Derringer, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy among others.
“Walking On A Thin Line” (1983). This song was off of the #1 album “Sports” and hit the charts in the U.S. at #18. It was the final single released off of the album, but yet for some reason is not remembered by many critics or causal fans, despite the chart position. The song discusses Vietnam Veterans, but some may not know that just by listening to the song. I like how the song has an edge to it, as opposed to the previous released Pop songs by the band. I remember the song was the start of Side Two on the album, and I used to love the opening even when it was played at band parties during my junior high years. This is one song that needs another listening to if you have forgotten about this song.
“When I Write The Book” (2001). This song was a Nick Lowe cover for the band’s “Plan B” Album. Not that Lowe’s version is bad, I just love the take Huey and The News take on the song made it more soulful with the organ and horns being more in front of the song. The song shows how Huey could have been a great singer in the 1960s right beside acts like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. “Plan B” has a few great spots on the album, and to me, some songs I have to skip over. However, this cover is one of the best parts on the album.
“Til The Day After” (1996). There are very few Greatest Hits and Live albums I will actually purchase. I am not sure why I ended up getting Huey’s “Time Flies..The Best Of” album at first, but I love this song off of the compilation. The Greatest Hits CD has four new tracks, and they are good, but this song should have been given a second chance (one song “So Little Kindness” was added to the “Plan B” album because Lewis wanted it to have a second chance). The acappella intro shows the vocal skills of the band, much like “Bad is Bad” from “Sports” but kicks into a mid tempo song with horns blaring. I always could picture this song being an opener (or encore) at their concerts, where the band starts off in the dark and then the house lights turn on when the music kicks in. The chorus of “I‘m gonna stay to the day after/After the sun turns off its light/The stars don’t shine at night/When God comes for my soul/I’ll politely say no/I’m gonna stay til the day after the world stops turning around” is just pure poetry. This song could be played at weddings it’s so great.
“Old Antone’s” (1988). The “Small World” album was a mix of good songs and some odd choices in my opinion. I loved the singles “Perfect World” and owned the 45 of “Give Me The Keys (And I’ll Drive You Crazy).” I was not a fan of the title song from the album, and it is the least listened to album I have of the band. The album did reach the Top 20 Albums Chart, but was not a major seller compared to the band’s other albums previously released. I do love “Old Antones,” which was written by Lewis and member Johnny Colla. The song has a Cajun/Zydeco feel to the song, and the lyrics are so well written that the listener can actually picture themselves sitting in the club watching the characters in the song. This is a great up tempo dance-able song, and shows the band’s growth from just their basic Pop Songs. The band experimented with the sound during this song, and I think it is one of the few bright spots of the album.
“I Know What I Like” (1987). When the “Fore” album came out, I listened to it so much that I got tired of it that I put it away for several years. A few years ago I took it back out and the CD never left my car player for a few months. I was amazed at how great the album held up years later. One of my favorites on this album was “I Know What I Like,” written by Lewis and Hayes. The backing vocals, along with a few others on the album, were done by members of the San Francisco 49ers football team. The song was a Top 10 hit for the band, but is overlooked by the hits “Stuck With You” and “Hip To Be Square” from the album. The song described me when I was younger (and parts are still true), like “I like staying up all night/watching old movies ‘til the morning light.” This song was almost like the band wrote this about me (I know they didn’t though!!) This song was missed by some when the “Fore” Album is looked at.
Huey Lewis and The News were such a major influence on my life, from my drum playing, to just admiring their different blends of music as a fan. There are many other great songs by the band, including their covers album of early Rock N Roll “Four Chords and Several Years Ago” from 1994, where I wore out the VHS copies I had (both bought from the store and taped from the PBS Special). When I started playing drums for local bands in Ohio, I always said that even though my favorite bands were The Beach Boys and Kiss, if I could ever model my dream band to play in, I’d model it like Huey Lewis and The News, where I could play Pop, Blues, Soul, and R&B. It surprises me that the band gets some bad press among the so-called critics, because they are without a doubt one of the greatest American Rock Bands of all time (Is anyone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reading this????)
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