I'm afraid you're just too darn loud.
May 26, 2015 6:17 AM   Subscribe

“Jesus Christ, it jumps out of the speakers,” he said. "Only in hindsight did 1985’s Back To The Future seem destined to be a hit. At the time, it wasn’t entirely obvious the movie would be any different than the rest of the sci-fi tilting teen comedies of the era, even if it was directed by Robert Zemeckis (who was fresh off Romancing The Stone), starred Michael J. Fox (Alex P. Keaton of TV’s Family Ties) and was produced by Steven Spielberg. However, Back To The Future had a trick up its sleeve that eventually gave it bulletproof leverage: Huey Lewis And The News’ “The Power Of Love.” "
posted by Servo5678 (63 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
And yes, American Psycho quotes hahaha. Please, it's been done.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:18 AM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The song is both a calm, steadying presence...

Uh-huh, yep, kind of like a cup of tea.

...and something that feels slightly renegade and rebellious.

Okay, you've lost me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:47 AM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


When Back to the Future came out, it took me three weeks of trying to actually see it as it was consistently sold out, and at the end the audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause. That didn't happen for many movies. It wasn't the song.
posted by Grangousier at 6:53 AM on May 26, 2015 [35 favorites]


Huey on Grantland

My wife's favorite band, to the point where she has all his albums (yes, more than just Sports.) She used to have one of his less popular CDs in her CD/clock radio, so our daughters grew up hearing songs no one else every heard, and sang along at concerts, causing confusion and consternation among fellow concert-goers.

The man casually strolls onto stage, casually performs all his hits and a few unknowns, and casually strolls off stage to collect his pay. He golfs, he hangs out. He's had a good life.
posted by blob at 6:54 AM on May 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


In the 80s I worked for a local newspaper and was sent to cover Huey Lewis And The News playing at a very small venue (The concert Barn in Antioch, CA for those who care)

I was backstage and overheard Lewis and the promoter talking. Lewis had the flu and looked awful. The promoter didn't have the promised payment. Lewis took less, and then went out on stage and worked his butt off. I was so very impressed and remember thing "Now that's a professional."

Plus, the Huey Lewis And The News National Anthem renditions at the Bay Area sporting events are wonderful
posted by cccorlew at 7:06 AM on May 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


I love Huey Lewis and the News. Unironically. Always have. And I also love Back to the Future. Always have. And "The Power of Love" helped make movie soundtracks A Thing. Can't be argued.

But it didn't make the movie. Not at all. Any other power-pop song in its place, and that movie still makes $381M worldwide and spawns two sequels.
posted by Etrigan at 7:16 AM on May 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


In tangentially related news, contrary to what you've heard, hoverboards do work on water.
posted by The Bellman at 7:17 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only time I saw Lewis was when he sat in with the Grateful Dead for Smokestack Lightning > Goodmorning Little Schoolgirl in Eugene, OR in 1993. No introduction. No fanfare. I found out after the show that it was he on the harmonica and all I could think was how I wish he'd sit in more often so the band could do those old Pigpen numbers more often.
posted by terrapin at 7:18 AM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it was obvious to 17-year-olds like me, who bunked off school to go and see it, that Back to the Future was the business. The movie made the song, not the other way round.
posted by rory at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am on record here as being extremely impressed with Mr. Lewis and the News' output, and I stand by that. And Power of Love is a friggin' MONSTER. I just watched the film the other day for the first time in several years, with my son who had never seen it (and early on I got sad and uncomfortable waiting for the sexual violence in an otherwise fairly tame film - oh, the 80's) and although the song doesn't MAKE the movie it is no doubt one of the things that makes the movie. Get a different actor playing Biff and it is still probably a good movie but the excellence of Biff is one of the things that makes the whole greater than the sum of its constituent parts, and I think Power of Love is like that. Another song and you still have a good/very good movie, but it really helps push it towards greatness.

This article answers the question I have asked myself in the past - did they call up Huey and say, "hey, we're looking for a gargantuan power pop juggernaut. Got one laying around?" and Huey says, "well, there's THIS one," or did they ask him to write a top ten pop/rock masterpiece of all time and he DID?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:25 AM on May 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Plus: "Stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream." COME ON.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:26 AM on May 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


In support of the thesis, "The Power of Love's" lyrics can be understood as referring to the unusual properties of the song itself:
"The Power of Love" is a curious thing
Make-a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white dove
More than a feeling, that's [the power of] "The Power of Love"
posted by Iridic at 7:28 AM on May 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


Never a fan of the song (even though it was in my brain because it was everywhere. HL was like Phil Collins in the 80s, utterly inescapable. In my memories, this song and Sussudio were all that was playing on the radio for like, two years. I'm still not over it.) But the move will always be the only movie me and my parents could watch together and love. And Mr Lewis seems a nice sort, so I don't hate him.
posted by emjaybee at 7:30 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bobcat Goldthwait's line about Huey Lewis summed up my sense of bemusement exactly. Paraphrasing, it was roughly:

"You look at Huey Lewis, you don't think, 'That's one of the biggest rock stars in the world!' You think, 'Hey...is that one of my dad's friends?'".

The songs were ok. But only ok.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was a strong high-concept movie and a strong song. There is no doubt they both kept the exposure going, but they would have done well separately.

Love Huey Lewis and the News. The man can sing!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:42 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prince showed them how to do it the year before by using his hit song "Purple Rain" as the leverage behind a movie AND a global tour.
posted by three blind mice at 7:43 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a rock band roadie in the '60s and '70s, worked for a while as the sound man in a drug-infested dive of a night club in Marin County called The Lion's Share.

The house band was Clover, and if it was late and the place was nearly empty, they would let Huey sit in, with sax or harmonica. A couple of the Clover guys are now in The News, although guitarist John McFee was snagged by The Doobie Brothers.

When the band I worked for, the Sons of Champlin, broke up in 1977 my former partner became the original roadie for Huey and The News. They offered me a job too, but at the time they were the house band in a place called Uncle Charlie's. I didn't feel like going from a touring rock band to working for a bar band was very attractive, turned it down. It was not a missed opportunity, because I went and got famous for my role in developing the sport of mountain biking.

Fast forward to 1985, and now Huey is a huge hit. Bill Graham hired my old mates, the Sons of Champlin to play his 20th Anniversary of The Fillmore. They called me to work the show. It was the ungettable ticket, all of SF rock royalty was there and no room for an lowly fans. I saw Huey for the first time since he had gone viral, and I'm wondering whether it has changed him. He spots me on the stage, comes over like we last saw each other yesterday. Tells me he played golf that day with Dwight Clark and Joe Montana, confides, "Those guys think I'm cool!"

Later that evening Huey sat in with The Sons of Champlin, while the Grateful Dead milled around and begged for the stage. (They didn't get it.)

I rent a rehearsal studio about 50 feet from where Huey and the boys practiced for 30 years. They moved out recently, but I run into horn player Johnny Colla all the time in the market.
posted by Repack Rider at 7:43 AM on May 26, 2015 [52 favorites]


Huey and the News have their moments. I always liked "Workin' for a Livin'." Among others. They're just a bar band made good, which is a good thing.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always thought the line "it might just save your life" was a tip-off that it was written for the film. But that's the only one!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:51 AM on May 26, 2015


Huey Lewis and the News would have been a monster hit with or without Back to the Future, and vice versa, but I will say that the two complemented one another in a way that rarely happens, and that's a good thing.
posted by xingcat at 7:54 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will never forgive Huey Lewis for ruining a perfectly good Squeeze concert in San Francisco in the early 90's.
NEVER.
Worst guest star encore EVER. EVER!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:55 AM on May 26, 2015


We ended our wedding with this song (played by my brothers)! No regrets.
posted by chaiminda at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2015


Way back when onions were worn on the belt, I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan open for Huey Lewis and the News. I came for the SRV but stayed for the Huey. Partly because my ride didn't want to leave before the headliner, but mostly because Huey Lewis and the News were really, really good live.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:13 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a teenage metal head, but also a Huey Lewis fan. He was one of only a few non-metal artists that a metal head in 1985 could have blaring on the stereo, and not get razzed when his friends dropped in.
posted by COD at 8:32 AM on May 26, 2015


He has one of the odder film careers for a rock star. He's great in Back to the Future, his debut, but we see his penis (actually a fake one) in Short Cuts, he's a helicopter pilot in Sphere, he's an FBI agent in the Roger Daltrey direct-to-video thriller .com to Murder, and he played the Guy Who Looks Like Huey Lewis in The Cleveland Show.

I have a feeling that his film career has consisted of people calling him and saying "Do you want to be in my movie" and him saying "okay!"
posted by maxsparber at 8:34 AM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been a musician my whole life, but usually playing in heavy wall of guitar bands where any given member who forgets their part can just watch what another member is playing to catch up... so this genre of rock is pretty mysterious to me. 5 or 9 or 12 people all just playing completely separate things and sometimes just dropping out entirely to do a dance or something... the singer sometimes plays a piano or guitar if they feel like it... and every song is sonically it's own little world where you sometimes can't tell where the keyboards end and the guitars begin... I'm sure it's no big deal to people who listen to this kind of rock, but I don't even understand how you begin to write this kind of music so it impresses me whether it should or not.
posted by SharkParty at 8:36 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can't believe they didn't mention the moment in the film where the chorus kicks in for a line after Jennifer writes down the number she's going to be at (there's an old concept) for Marty and gives him a kiss before scurrying into her dad's car. Yeah, it's a cheesy, but that moment totally nails teenage love.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:45 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


He has one of the odder film careers for a rock star.

Was it ever confirmed or denied that he was in Die Hard?
posted by eclectist at 8:49 AM on May 26, 2015


Prince showed them how to do it the year before

This sentence can be placed before a long list of musical innovations since around 1980 and still be true.
posted by chavenet at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


He has one of the odder film careers for a rock star.

Was it ever confirmed or denied that he was in Die Hard?


It wasn't him.
posted by Etrigan at 8:55 AM on May 26, 2015


dude has cred.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:56 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


maxsparber: "but we see his penis (actually a fake one) in Short Cuts"

Bringing to mind the joke about Huey Lewis peeing off of the Golden Gate Bridge.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:06 AM on May 26, 2015


Oddly I was thinking just the other day that while I hear all sorts of forgettable 80's dreck on the oldies radio stations in the Bay Area I actually never hear Huey Lewis. Like, never ever. What do Cyndi Lauper and Spandau Ballet have that he doesn't? I don't get it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:36 AM on May 26, 2015


Huey Lewis is pretty much the whitest of whitebread music ever.

HL was like Phil Collins in the 80s, utterly inescapable.

And Dire Straits. The fucking "money ain't for nothing" song was everywhere, all the time. I can still hear it.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:47 AM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, sorry.

(Turns off Stratocaster.)
posted by maxsparber at 9:50 AM on May 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Look, I was almost 10 years old in the summer of 1985, and to me the film and the song are inseparable. "Power of Love" was among the first songs of the summer I was aware of - and I remember feeling weird and sad one day in September that year, when for the first time in ages I somehow failed to hear the song on the radio.

It didn't hurt that I had a crush on a girl named Jennifer, at the time.

Anyway, I'm surprised there's no love for Huey Lewis' other contribution to the BTTF soundtrack - Back in Time. Though this explicitly references several plot points and movie characters, I don't think the song got radio play (though I wore my cassette down playing both Huey Lewis songs). When Michael J Fox hosted SNL in 1990, this is the song the cast annoyed him with in the elevator sketch.
posted by borborygmi at 9:55 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wish I could sing like Lewis. (Well, OK, wish I could sing.)

I saw them in concert in 1986 in Seattle, the Outfield opened. Good gig, though as usual the opening act was not as good as they should have been. Lewis seems like a man utterly without pretense.

I haven't actually listened to Huey Lewis and the News in 25 years, so went and listened to this song on youtube. I would say they had the chops. Not challenging and not ground-breaking, but enjoyable and catchy.

HL&TN, The Cars, and The Fixx instantly transport me back to 1984. Wish my knees would go along.
posted by maxwelton at 9:56 AM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


"You look at Huey Lewis, you don't think, 'That's one of the biggest rock stars in the world!' You think, 'Hey...is that one of my dad's friends?'".

The songs were ok. But only ok.


I would say the much like the movie, they were supremely okay. Back to the Future and Huey Lewis' output occupy similar ecological niches: well-crafted without being dazzling, inoffensive without being anodyne, enjoyable without being polarizing. I bought a ticket to the first movie when it came out, and at some point in the ensuing decades I have seen both sequels (I am thinking as rentals) without being able to recall exactly when. I have also seen the first one at least a couple times more. I enjoyed all of the hours I have spent watching BTTF movies, but they never made any impression beyond "decently enjoyable." Likewise, I have never seen Huey Lewis live or bought an album of his, but I know at least eight or ten of his songs and am always happy to hear one on the radio or over some instore sound system. I have never to my knowledge encountered anyone who either really loved the movies or his music, nor anyone who really hated either. To my mind, that would be like having really strong feelings about grilled cheese sandwiches. What's not to like?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:01 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huey Lewis' speaking voice is eerily similar to the president's!
posted by TheCoug at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2015


Lest we forget, Lewis' catalog also includes "Walking on a Thin Line," which details the roiling inner-thoughts of a soldier in Vietnam, "Trouble in Paradise," which details the decline of a cocaine addict, and "Jacob's Ladder," in which the singer rejects Evangelical ideas of redemption in favor of trying to make each day a little better than the previous.

There are some tougher songs mixed in with the sort of music he's associated with, and he does them justice.
posted by maxsparber at 10:23 AM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


“sold a pitiful 30,000 copies”

That would probably get you to number one now.
posted by colie at 10:44 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'd forgotten how insanely catchy these songs are. I've had Huey Lewis songs running through my head ever since I checked out MeFi this am. Finally had to put some James Brown on to clear my head.
posted by mogget at 11:00 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The Power of Love" is a rare example of elements that all come together just about perfectly. It's a well-written structurally sound piece, with a likable and singable lyric, with a great vocal and strong musicianship and a strong and punchy mix. It's not THAT often that all those things coalesce, especially these days. And those punctuating horn lines -- whatever happened to that kind of thing? Oh alas, Huey, Tower of Power, Chicago, BS&T, your killer brass and strong influence was not that long- lived as it could have been. If you hear that kind of sound at all now, it's usually synthesized and thin sounding, and not rhythmically interesting. Then again, house music and hip-hop does nothing for me, so I may have missed something along the way, I don't know. That is all.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:04 AM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a well-written structurally sound piece

(Don't have the sheet music and not expert but) it sounds like a wholly blues-based verse that bursts into a wholly major-key chorus, which is a conceptually simple but executionally difficult thing to pull off. The refrain also sounds like it mixes the two modes/scales in the song's title.

See also: Can't Buy Me Love and I Feel Fine and She's a Woman and You Can't Do That and many other Beatles songs for this 'blues verse/major chorus' trick.
posted by colie at 11:20 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The Power of Love's" lyrics can be understood as referring to the unusual properties of the song itself

There's got to be a song whose lyrics are true for both the song itself and for the thing to which the song is referring, right? Plenty of self-referential songs out there but I've never heard this trick exactly being pulled off, though I wonder if it's been done inadvertently. (I don't think "Power of Love" entirely passes the test)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:49 AM on May 26, 2015


I just realized, my 9 year old has never seen any Back to the Future movies. Better add that to the list.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's got to be a song whose lyrics are true for both the song itself and for the thing to which the song is referring, right?
Hook?
posted by NMcCoy at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


This song is a fine, if middlebrow song; it is a very good pairing for the movie itself, much like a larger portion of Diet Coke is so successfully mixed with a smaller portion of Jack Daniels.

I should be so lucky to be as happy-seeming as Huey Lewis. Please leave Huey alone.

(By the way, has anyone seen Mike Rowe and Huey Lewis in the same place at the same time?)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:03 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


In TFA, they show the Hold Steady covering the song. I like those guys, they're from the Twin Cities, so I played the video. They say some nice things about the song and Huey, but after seven or eight words I had to bail. Yikes.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:23 PM on May 26, 2015


What do Cyndi Lauper and Spandau Ballet have that he doesn't?

Actual talent?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:36 PM on May 26, 2015


First time you feel it it might make you sad
Next time you feel it it might make you mad


All the best tracks get banged out in a hurry.
posted by colie at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2015


Huey Lewis is pretty much the whitest of whitebread music ever.
Two words: Rick. Astley.
There's a reason nobody uses disguised links to "Huey Hoax" people...

And few people have ever shared a video with Weird Al and been funnier than him. (No, NOT Donny Osmond.) And nobody could've done it better than the guy who got the "I Want a New Duck" treatment , not Greg Kihn ("I Lost on Jeopardy"), Coolio ("Amish Paradise"), Robin Thicke ("Word Crimes") or even Madonna ("Like a Surgeon")... well maybe Billy Joel.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:09 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: "Actual talent?"

It's totally cool to not like something but then also not come into a thread to crap on it.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:10 PM on May 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


"Back there, that makes you a rat. And we don't like rats. So beat it, before the News and I kick your ass!"
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:31 PM on May 26, 2015


Still not as good as the remix: "No Credit Card"
posted by koeselitz at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2015


(The song is actually significantly improved when you remove most of the words.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:36 PM on May 26, 2015


"Actual talent?"

I've never been more than lukewarm about him and his music, but everything I've ever heard is that he's a talented musician who is well-regarded by his peers.

That doesn't mean that he has that genius je ne sais quoi that Lauper and others have -- my experience as a musician and generally creative person is that skill, talent, genius, and mystery ingredient X are all somewhat distinct and surprisingly independent.

The two most talented and accomplished musicians I've known well have always been good examples to me about this. One of them just has a strong natural technical talent, but he's never been that creative. He's been at his best when he was working with much more creative, interesting musicians, but he's never really understood what he lacked and therefore didn't cultivate those relationships (or maybe he was threatened by them) and so he never quite made it. But, man, he could confidently just play and, later in life when I saw him play at a gig, he just did his job perfectly and quietly in a way that seriously impressed me with his professionalism.

The other has both that strong natural talent, but also a powerful creative urge and vision. His technical chops were first-rate, but where he really shined was how he pushed the envelope and reinterpreted things that other people just took for granted. But this also caused him problems -- he got into a big argument that was the culmination of a long-simmering creative dispute and left the band he was in a week before they (minus him) appeared on The Tonight Show. He returned to the band later, and did many other projects, but he's mostly just bounced around.

So, anyway, talent is not an apt word to use, really. In the arts, there are different kinds of talent, the most obvious are those that divide between the technical and the creative/inspired. Hell, this is true in the sciences, too, in my experience. It's a big mistake to undervalue technical talent and skill. On the one hand, it's more common than creative genius, but on the other hand it's much more reliable than creative genius, which can often produce 90% visionary crap. But, also, I've come to believe that there's very much a sort of thing as technical genius, a sort of genius of competency. All high levels of technical skill require many thousands of hours of work, but there's a class of technical skill beyond this that's just the product of crazy talent. You can see this a bit more easily, perhaps, in athletics. There are people who are just really good because they have some talent and have worked very, very hard. Then there are people who are creative geniuses, they understand something about what they're doing that just comes from directions that most other people never even thought of. And then there are the people who are incredibly good not because they're inspired aliens, but because they're superhuman, they're just better. They're hypercompetent in a way that practice will never be sufficient for others.

Huey Lewis is, in my opinion and from what I've heard from others, at the very least in the category of highly skilled, someone who is extraordinarily competent from an amazing amount of hard work. But, also, I think he's also got some of that genius of competence in him, too. And his hit songs are examples of this.

A lot of pop and studio musicians have this sort of hypercompetence and it certainly is talent. It can be pretty boring, and I think that one thing that happens in the arts, and notably pop music, is that there's a waxing and waning of an emphasis on this kind of talent. It's one of the things that I've never liked about the most popular music, its emphasis on this kind of hypercompetence at the expense of vision and risk-taking. But you can see excess in the other direction, too. It's a mistake to not recognize and respect its value, though it may not be your cup of tea (it's usually not mine).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:11 PM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


My comment was not meant to be that Artist X is better than Huey, amirite, but an empirical observation that for whatever reason Huey Lewis & The News doesn't get much play on stations the regularly play 80's tunes.

Quite seriously, have you heard a Huey Lewis and the News song on the radio lately? I've probably heard "In The Air Tonight" in the last year, but no "Power of Love", which seem equally likely to get oldies airplay.
posted by GuyZero at 3:52 PM on May 26, 2015


I saw it in the theater and the song was probably the thing I liked least about the movie. It was intrusive.
posted by anonymisc at 5:37 PM on May 26, 2015


I would say the much like the movie, they were supremely okay.

This. It's the burger, fries and a icy-thick-creamy vanilla shake of music. No "But wait, is this art? What's this foam? What are those little spheres? What does sous vide mean, anyway?" Just "Are you having a good time? I'm having a good time. This is good."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Plus, the Huey Lewis and The News National Anthem renditions at the Bay Area sporting events are wonderful

That is correct!
posted by kirkaracha at 10:48 PM on May 26, 2015


Huey Lewis and The Foos @ 1:35
posted by kirkaracha at 10:53 PM on May 26, 2015


Quite seriously, have you heard a Huey Lewis and the News song on the radio lately?

This is a fascinating question to me. The local "we play everything" station where I live archives their playlists online but, alas, not in any sort of format that can be dealt with as data. I wish I could fill out a Freedom of Information Act request for the last year's playlist downloadable as a CSV. Oh well.

I chugged along manually for a while but it is maddening. They played Do You Believe in Love this morning at 7:24 but maybe that's just a lucky break.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:06 PM on May 28, 2015


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