Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spreadin' the News to the Blue-Collar Types

In the early 1980s, Huey Lewis and the News released a couple of nondescript albums that, by and large, slipped under most people's radars.

I suppose they would have gone totally unnoticed if not for the modest success of a couple of songs on the second album.

Anyway, by this time in 1983, The News was pretty much back where it started. The group was touring the small–club circuit, mostly to promote the second album, when it released its third album, "Sports," on this date in 1983.

It was The News' breakthrough album. Three songs from the album were Top 10 hits. "Heart and Soul" reached #1 on the charts before the end of 1983; "I Want a New Drug" and "The Heart of Rock & Roll" followed it into the Top 10 in 1984.

Two other songs — "If This Is It" and "Walking on a Thin Line" — were in Billboard's Top 20.

I never really understood why "Sports" was a huge success and the earlier albums weren't. But Stephen Thomas Erlewine of wrote that the album "holds together better than its predecessors because it has a clear, professional production." Erlewine also asserted that "the real key is the songs."

"Where their previous albums were cluttered with generic filler," Erlewine went on, "nearly every song on Sports has a huge hook."

Erlewine also observed that the group broke no new ground, but "there's no denying that the craftmanship (sic) on Sports is pretty infectious."

That's true. He's right, I can't deny it. It's clear even on the tracks that weren't hits.

Like "You Crack Me Up." (I can't rule out the appeal of the animation, though.)

Anyway, as I say, "Sports" was their breakthrough.

Even the songs that weren't hits had that infectious quality to them — and formed the foundation for the group's later hits.

But I think Erlewine was on to something when he observed that the News "was a working band, and the bandmembers knew how to target their audience, writing odes to nine–to–five jobs and sports."

(To be honest, I never figured out the connection between the album and sports — unless the album's title was intended to lure those blue collar 9–to–5ers into the record stores.

(Admittedly, I never owned the album, but I heard every song on it — and if there is an obvious connection, it flew right over my head.)

Personally, whenever I think of Huey Lewis, I always think of his cameo appearance as the megaphone–wielding teacher in "Back to the Future" who dismissed Marty McFly's band — the Pinheads — just seconds into their audition for a "Battle of the Bands" because they were "too darn loud."