For reasons that can’t necessarily be quantified, Huey Lewis gets a bad rap. While some people consider them the nadir of white bread ’80s rock, Huey Lewis and the News actually crafted a tremendous stew of old school rock and roll, R&B, soul and jazz influences, all buoyed by Lewis’ voice. If they had never sold an album, Huey Lewis and the News probably would be lauded as a great unloved ’80s indie band. But they actually sold millions and millions of albums, and on this day in 1984, the band’s biggest album Sports hit the top of the Billboard album chart.
When the band first released Sports in the fall of 1983, they were less than a year removed from the success of their previous album Picture This (which had spawned the hits “Do You Believe in Love” and “Workin’ for a Livin’”), but as Patrick Bateman insists in “American Psycho,” Sports really does represent the band coming into their own. Entirely self-produced, Sports takes their formula and blows the doors off the sound, creating a widescreen version of their good-time bar rock. They still hang on to some of their juke joint influences (hence the cover of Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues” that closes out the album), but the band dives deep into the New Wave sounds that were freshly infecting the radio. “I Want a New Drug” rides a hot, funky keyboard line, while “Walking on a Thin Line” adds a similar brand of electronic swagger. There’s also a bit of doo-wop (“If This Is It”) and a good old-fashioned Springsteen rocker (“Heart and Soul”).
Though it was once voted one of the “50 Worst Songs Ever” by Blender magazine, “The Heart of Rock & Roll” actually rules. There’s no jauntier way to start your Wednesday than with this.