Tag Archives: Huey Lewis And The News

Rocks In The Attic #664: Various Artists – ‘White Nights (O.S.T.)’ (1985)

RITA#664In the Spring of 1986, my grandmother took me on holiday. I was seven years old. The trip to North Wales was cemented in my memory by two events – the first was a visit to an arcade, where I played Spy Hunter endlessly; the second was a trip to the cinema.

The last time I had holidayed with my grandmother was in 1983 in Torquay – the jewel of the English Riviera! On that trip, we had seen Octopussy at the cinema – my first experience watching James Bond on the big screen.

Three years later, I remember standing in front of the cinema, begging my grandmother to let me watch a film I vaguely recognised by the poster outside in the lobby. “Are you sure?” I remember her asking. She wanted to take me into a children’s film instead, as the one I was pointing at looking at little too mature for my age, even though it was only a PG certificate. But I held firm. “No, I want to see that one.” The man at the box office smiled at my grandmother. She paid, and we were in the darkness of the cinema.

The film was a little too mature for me after all. My grandmother had been right. Still I enjoyed it, even though a lot of it went over my head. I raved about some of the sequences when we left the cinema, and she seemed relieved that I wasn’t mentally scarred by any of it.

And herein lies one of the most frustrating little mysteries of my life. For many years afterwards, I didn’t know what the film was that we had seen on that trip. I remembered a couple of key moments, and the tone of the film, but I didn’t know what it was called, or who any of the actors and actresses were.

Life before the internet was hard. You couldn’t just look shit up all the time. So every now and again, when I thought about the film, I would ask friends if they remembered a film about a male Russian ballet dancer, who escapes from somewhere with a black fella. That’s all I could remember. As you can imagine, this didn’t ring any bells with anybody.

If pushed, I could probably describe the film’s first eventful moment. The Russian ballet dancer was on a plane, which was crashing, and in a moment of panic, he fell backwards against the front of the cabin and the drinks trolley rolled into him at force, smashing into his face.

For year and years, I drew blanks whenever I described it to people, but it was always so clear in my mind. Of course, as soon as the internet made such things possible, I looked it up. The whole process took about three minutes. What a time to be alive!

The film, as you have probably guessed it by now, was Taylor Hackford’s White Nights, originally released in 1985 in the USA, but which didn’t see cinemas in the UK until the following March.

I’ve just watched it for the second time, some thirty-two years later. Due to a technical issue, I had to watch the film without any of the Russian dialogue being subtitled. This probably gave me the same level of understanding as I had when I was seven years old.

RITA#664aThe film opens with a world-famous ballet-dancer, Nikolai Rodchenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov), who has defected from the USSR, flying to Japan in a commercial jet. The jet runs into problems over Siberia and is forced to perform an emergency landing. Rodchenko suffers injuries during the crash – which I had remembered surprisingly well – and is picked up by the KGB who brand him a traitor. Unable to escape, he is installed in a Leningrad apartment with a black American tap-dancer, Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines) and his wife, Darya (a young Isabella Rossellini in her first credited screen role). Anxious to present the return of their famous son to the rest of the word, the authorities arrange for him to return to the stage with his former dancing partner (Helen Mirren). Rodchenko escapes to the American Embassy, with Darya – in a very tense sequence – while Raymond stays behind to delay the authorities. The film’s finale finds Raymond about to be executed by firing squad, an event which is then revealed to be a prisoner exchange between East and West. He is traded for a political prisoner and walks over the border, to freedom and into the arms of his wife.

The film’s key selling point is the culture clash between East and West, between black and white, and between ballet and tap, as Baryshnikov and Hines’ characters bond over dancing to American pop music. The soundtrack is a typical slice of ‘80s pop and rock, with Phil Collins taking prime position with Separate Lives, a duet with Marilyn Martin (and written by Stephen Bishop of Tootsie fame).

Sadly absent from the soundtrack album is the film’s biggest song – Lionel Richie’s Say You, Say Me. This won the Oscar for Best Song at the 1986 Academy Awards, beating Separate Lives from the same film, as well as competition from Huey Lewis & The News’ The Power Of Love.

Hit: Separate Lives (Love Theme From White Nights)­ – Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin

Hidden Gem: My Love Is Chemical – Lou Reed

Rocks In The Attic #628: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Huey Lewis & The News’ (1980)

RITA#628Before Huey Lewis and his band struck the big time with the Sports and Fore! albums, they were just another band struggling to get noticed. Neither this debut album or its two singles – Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later) and Now Here’s You – charted, and with a result like that it’s a blessing that they got a second chance.

Many other bands – thousands in fact – would have fallen by the wayside, its players moving on to more promising ventures. Not only did Chrysalis Record give Huey Lewis & The News another shot, the band also managed to (alongside Bob Brown) self-produce their second album, Picture This, a decision that surely couldn’t have been taken lightly at Chrysalis. The risk paid off, and the band was allowed to mature into the ‘80s chart-toppers they are now remembered as.

It wasn’t an easy road though. Lewis and keyboard player Sean Hopper first joined Clover, the band that, without Lewis, went on to become Elvis Costello’s backing band on his 1977 debut, My Aim Is True. In the resulting fallout, Lewis and Hopper created a new band, enlisting players from Clover’s rival San Fransisco band, Soundhole. With guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson on board, the band – initially named Huey Lewis & The American Express – signed with Phonogram in 1978 on a singles-only contract.

A year later, they brought another guitarist – Chris Hayes – into the fold and signed with Chrysalis Records. Not surprisingly, Chrysalis didn’t care for the name of the band, fearing litigation from the credit card provider, and so the name was changed to Huey Lewis & The News. Ironically, American Express credit cards would probably have loved the free publicity a few years later when Fore! struck gold.

The debut record is full of energy, and has a New Wave tinge that is missing on their later albums. The soulful backing vocals are there though, and if anything the record suffers from a lack of strong material and a rock-by-numbers production.

Hit: Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later)

Hidden Gem: Don’t Make Me Do It

Rocks In The Attic #329: Huey Lewis & The News – ‘Fore!’ (1986)

RITA#329A definite guilty pleasure, this is the first album I ever remember owning. I doubt we actually owned a copy though, we probably borrowed the LP from the library and taped it. Thank you Oldham libraries. Still, it’s the first record I remember playing over and over. Passion for the album undoubtedly came from the inclusion of The Power Of Love from the soundtrack to the first Back To The Future film. Strangely, the track was only added to the European and Japanese releases of the album, which means that in their native country the album had to stand up on its own merits.

I remember getting a lot of stick for liking Huey Lewis & The News at the time. They weren’t cool, and that doesn’t seem to have changed over time. There’s a great reference to the band in an episode of the overlooked sitcom Up All Night (with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) where they try and impress a recently moved-in neighbour couple. When Will Arnett’s character attends their house-warming party dressed in a Huey Lewis t-shirt, he crumbles under questioning from his wife as to whether he’s wearing the t-shirt to be ironic or not. Man, I would love a Huey Lewis t-shirt – and not to wear ironically.

Obviously the other film to feature a song from this album is American Psycho, with Hip To Be Square used to soundtrack one of Patrick Bateman’s murders. In the excellent novel by Bret Easton Ellis, a whole chapter is devoted to the merits of Huey Lewis & The News (similar chapters are devoted to Whitney Houston and Phil Collins). The disappointing film adaptation does little to capture the wit of the novel, and Bateman’s short monologue about Huey Lewis is the only concession to these bizarre chapters amongst Bateman’s obsession with ‘80s fashion and the aesthetics of business cards.

The Power Of Love is one of those movie soundtracks songs from the ‘80s that I don’t think I will ever get bored of (it doesn’t hurt that Back To The Future is such a strong film). I guess when you think about it, it’s strange that the song chosen to musically represent the film’s protagonist espouses the virtues of love, while the film ends on such a materialistic note (which would have been far worse if Crispin Glover’s claims are anything to go by). Marty’s return to Jennifer, and subsequent kiss, almost seem to take second-billing to the revelation that Marty’s father is now a successful author and can afford to buy Marty a brand-new pickup truck. The sequel’s convoluted storyline takes this a cynical step forward with Marty attempting to use time-travel to win sports bets for monetary gain.

Or maybe you shouldn’t think too hard about ‘80s films…

Hit: The Power Of Love

Hidden Gem: Naturally

Rocks In The Attic #263: Thin Lizzy – ‘Live And Dangerous’ (1978)

RITA#263One of my favourite live albums, and a great opportunity to write about the time I saw Thin Lizzy play live.

When I first found rock music and the guitar in my early teens, I very quickly found Thin Lizzy – a perfect and oft overlooked meld of the two. I can remember hearing the riff from Jailbreak for the first time, and it blew my mind. It sounded so wrong and yet so right. They seemed to come along at just the right time for me that I was confident enough on the guitar to pick things up by ear, so by listening to their records, and with a little help from my guitar teacher Dave Taylor – who was a huge Lizzy fan – I found I could play most of their stuff pretty easily.

I first met Dave when he used to come into our sixth form college and give group guitar lessons. It was always amusing to see what level of hangover he would have when he walked in every Wednesday morning. I have a permanent vision of him walking in, wearing sunglasses and looking very unkempt in a green and yellow polo shirt. I then had private lessons for a couple of years, but when I went to University, the distance between us meant that I stopped having lessons and drifted out of touch. Over those three years, he went from giving guitar lessons in a room in his house to buying a section of a mill in Oldham and installing rehearsal rooms and a recording studio.

I would eventually use these rehearsal rooms with my first regular gigging band, Delta 7, but another band would use them in the interim. Thin fucking Lizzy!

I don’t know how Dave made the connections with the band but in 1996, various former members of Thin Lizzy decided to get back together and start touring again. Guitarist John Sykes took vocal duties, with guitarist Scott Gorham, drummer Brian Downey and keyboard player Darren Wharton joining the reunion. The only non-member of the band was Marco Mendoza, who played bass.

Not only did they use Dave’s studio, but they chose the most inauspicious venues in the whole world – Oldham’s Queen Elizabeth Hall – as the location for the first show. Seeing Thin Lizzy play without Phil Lynott may sound like sacrilege, but they were awesome and after the opening bombast of Jailbreak, Sykes took the opportunity to dedicate the whole show to Lynnott. Critics can say what they want, but it was Lizzy up there, and I love the band so much I’d be the first person to admit it if they didn’t deserve the use of the name.

This was probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen – one of my favourite bands, reforming for the first time since their leader’s untimely death, rehearsing in my guitar teacher’s rehearsal rooms and playing for the first time in a local venue more famous for wedding receptions and tea-dances. I even bought a t-shirt from the merch stall which was manned by Dave’s wife and daughter (not the same person by the way – as far as I know, Oldham doesn’t suffer from inbreeding, just a bad gene pool).

I like to think that if I hadn’t gone to University when I did, and continued to see Dave for guitar lessons, I might have had some involvement in the show – I’d have happily been a roadie if it meant the honour of carrying Scott Gorham’s guitar amp.

Live And Dangerous is a great live album, capturing Lizzy on the road at their peak (and featuring an appearance by a pre-‘& The News’ Huey Lewis on harmonica on one track). The album does sound slightly over-polished though, and band members over the years have admitted to recording overdubs on some of the songs. While producer Tony Visconti claims that the album is only ‘75% recorded in the studio’, band members have claimed that it is ‘75% live’. It’s disappointing either way, and makes me suspicious of all other albums that claim to be recorded live.

Hit: The Boys Are Back In Town

Hidden Gem: Massacre

Rocks In The Attic #160: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Best Of The Doobies’ (1976)

In 1988, when I was 10, my parents and I went to the U.S. and Canada. We spent a week in Toronto, and then went on a road trip over the next fortnight. We drove down to Washington D.C., and then up to New York City, Plymouth, Boston, over the border into Montreal, and then back to Toronto.

During those two long, hot, stuffy weeks in a rental car, I was given a crash-course into good music. Not long after we set off, my Dad bought a double cassette of The Best Of The Doobies / The Best Of The Doobies Vol. 2 to play in the car, and this became the soundtrack for the holiday.

Up to that point, music hadn’t really found me. Michael Jackson had released Bad a year earlier in 1987, and although I liked that record – and all the hype surrounding it – I still felt like an outsider to music in general. The Doobie Brothers, strangely enough (for a 10-year old boy in 1988), were my way in.

I couldn’t really think of a better band to soundtrack an American road trip. Every night we stayed in a different motel, and I’d go and find the Pepsi machine and ice bin. Every meal was at a roadside diner, and we even ate at the sort of places that had tabletop jukebox machines, just like on the cover of this album.

I don’t know why, but although I continued to listen to The Doobs when I got home, I didn’t really bother looking for anything else to listen to. I think listening to this album rekindled my interest in Huey Lewis & The News, much to the amusement of Shaunee Lever, but essentially I was still too young to get into music big-time. That would happen a few years down the road.

To this day, I still haven’t been back to the USA, but you can bet that when I do I’ll be playing this album in our rental car.

Hit: Long Train Runnin’

Hidden Gem: Black Water