Throughout the '80s, San Francisco's Huey Lewis & the News didn't have much trouble piling up the hits, but critical respect and staying power have proved substantially more difficult to secure. Nonetheless, the heartland rock bar band's best songs reflect many great elements of quality pop/rock, including memorable melodies, skilled instrumentalists and an active sense of fun. As such, let's take a tour of this iconic '80s band's best work to confirm that the success achieved by Lewis & Co. was no mere accident.
Possibly the best thing Lewis and the boys ever recorded, this hook-filled pop nugget possesses a transcendent quality that keeps it from showing its age. Written by uber-producer Mutt Lange, the song displays several layers of distinctive pop songcraft, but it reaches new heights altogether as the result of this band's multi-instrumental prowess, forceful harmonies and a deft application of various elements of rock and roll heritage. It all stacks up to an undeniably pleasurable listening experience, and the band's typical blind eye to trends helps fuel the song's tremendous staying power.
The band convincingly takes on an almost hard rock sound for this driving tune, employing power chords more heavily and skillfully than many far louder, aggressive bands of the time. But as before, there's much more going on here than just one strand of musical style, as the textured verse and bridge offer a gentle, subtle vibe that serves as the perfect foil to the rising power of the chorus. Lewis may be a more confident, commanding singer during this early period than any time when stardom was more established for the band, and once again this tune makes an airtight case for the quality of his backing band.
This theme song from the emblematic '80s film Back to the Future actually stands as one of the strongest soundtrack tunes of the decade. That's not to say it doesn't sound extremely dated today, but I guess the choice of instrumentation is largely at fault there. Anyway, it's a spirited anthem that spotlights Lewis's vocal strengths, and once again the individual players frequently shine, especially guitarist Chris Hayes. But I'll save the best for last here, as the song transcends itself during its sparkling if all too brief bridge, a sublime break that proves the band's uncanny grasp of melody.
The band gets itself into a bit of a conceptual lyrical jam on this tune, expressing a sense of domestic tranquility on the one hand but also painting a portrait of lovers who sound a little like they've given up. Of course, this may be the point, and I give the band an "A" for effort, but ultimately the concept proves a bit too difficult to pull off. Nonetheless, the song definitely stands as a quintessential Huey Lewis & the News tune, sporting a broad appeal for adult contemporary and pop audiences alike.