Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TMFW 59 - Huey Lewis, Soundtrack Giant

This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing Huey Lewis & The News, who I assume took a break from selling out arenas to come to the performing arts center at a small college near me.  (It was a middle-aged concert, to be sure: if you look at that link, the show was scheduled from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. on a Sunday night.  Our skeptical babysitter assumed that it must have been a misprint, but by 7:55 the last encore was complete, the house lights were on, and hybrids and Subarus alike were carefully merging into the well-behaved traffic around the theater.)

Before getting into this week's TMFW, please allow a short appreciation of Mr. Lewis and The News. I have been a fan since Sports came out in 1983, and after 30 years they are still bringing it.  It was a terrific show.  If you haven't thought about the band for a while, dust off some of their stuff and give it a listen.  Here's a few to get you started: "The Heart of Rock and Roll," "If This Is It," "I Want a New Drug," "Stuck With You," "Perfect World," "Jacob's Ladder," and "Couple Days Off." 

Today's TMFW is a combination of a few shorter stories about the band's involvement in movie soundtracks.  Most people know well that the band had its biggest hit (and their first number 1) with "The Power of Love," a song on the Back to the Future soundtrack. That soundtrack also included "Back in Time," which featured direct references to the movie's plot.  But the music of Huey Lewis & The News also contributes memorably to three other famous movies.

First, the band is (maybe) featured (indirectly) in Ghostbusters.  When Ray Parker, Jr.'s song "Ghostbusters" came out in 1984, many people noticed a distinct similarity to the riff from "I Want a New Drug," which had come out earlier that year. (Here's a good mashup showing just how close the two songs are).  The band noticed, too, and sued for copyright infringement.  The case settled out of court in 1985. 

In 2004, an oral history of Ghostbusters in Premiere magazine included the revelation that the famous montage in the movie (starting around 1:00 in that clip) was originally set by director Ivan Reitman to "I Want a New Drug."  Reitman said "[w]e kept looking for a song for the montage in the middle of the movie. I was a big Huey Lewis fan, and I put in 'I Want a New Drug' as a temp score for screenings.  And it seemed to be a perfect tempo, and we cut the montage to that tempo."  One sentence later, Reitman strains credulity and says that Ray Parker Jr.'s track "was a totally original song, original lyrics, original everything."  Not so much.

Second, the supremely creepy Christian-Bale-as-serial-killer film American Psycho memorably features "Hip to Be Square" in one of the murder scenes.  The question "Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?" (that link probably NSFW) has sounded sinister ever since.

Finally, the 2008 film Pineapple Express was a loving tribute to 1980s action movies and "buddy films." Seth Rogen, who produced the movie with Judd Apatow, had the idea to commission an '80s-style "theme song" for the movie.  Because he was inspired particularly by "Back in Time," Rogen asked Huey Lewis to write it. According to the director of the film, they told Lewis that they "wanted a theme song that told the plot of the movie and said the title a lot."  Lewis agreed to do the song, which leads off the film's soundtrack and is aptly named "Pineapple Express."   Here is the band doing the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live; it's a good gag and a pretty good song.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.

BONUS FACT 1:  My buddy Jinx recently visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, which completed his list of visits to cities namechecked in "Heart of Rock and Roll" - D.C., San Antonio, the Liberty Town (Philly), Boston, Baton Rouge, Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City, Seattle, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Detroit.  For that feat, he has both my congratulations and respect.

BONUS FACT 2:  Everybody knows this one, but a Huey Lewis trivia entry would be incomplete without reference to his "too darn loud" cameo in Back to the Future.

BONUS FACT 3:  Last year, Huey Lewis paid tribute to the American Psycho scene by reenacting it with "Weird" Al Yankovic.

BONUS FACT 4:  The movie American Psycho was based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis, who you will recall from TMFW 53 named his first novel after an Elvis Costello record.
BONUS FACT 5:  For those with a prurient interest in rock and roll bands and their, um, "members": Huey Lewis is commonly regarded as a particularly "gifted" singer.

1 comment:

  1. Hey TMFW, it's Jinx here. Not to toot my own horn, but don't forget about New York NW, and LA (Hollywood and the Sunset Strip).