Monday, July 20, 2015

Huey Lewis And The News - Sports (1983)

I know, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record.  No pun intended.  Whatever though, if it wasn't for Michael Jacksons Thriller in 1982, and with the amount of awesome music around from '82-'85ish, music today would be radically different*.  Depending on how you look at it, and by some measures there were actually some releases that were a lot more popular than Thriller, at the time.  Let's take the combined strength of the 2 biggest Huey Lewis & The News releases, Sports and Fore!.  Both were released 3 years apart, and between the 2 of them featured 11 songs in the Billboard top 10 singles lists across 4 years.  That's a lot more impressive than it sounds.  There are some popular artists out now with unlimited resources that can't get more than 4 singles in their lifetime to crack the top 20.  

Released September 18th 1983, roughly when I started kindergarten, this album served as a late summer classic for a lot of folks.  In a year that saw Donna Summer work hard for the money, U2 went to war, The Police had Synchronicity, over the summer Black Sabbath was Born Again, and Billy Joel was an Innocent Man, September marked the official transition of 70's era rock and disco and entered into the metal and pop.   Huey Lewis & The News Sports, in my opinion anyway, was the game changer for which a lot of pop music through the rest of the decade is based.  (Unless you're Ray Parker Jr. in which case, you're on your own and I'm staying out of that.) 

Sports is the 3rd album released by the group, but the first one to garner a measurable amount of acclaim and popularity.  Sure there was Picture This in 1982 that wasn't bad by any means, I mean it had Workin' For a Livin' cor christ sake.  There was also the groups' self titled album in 1980, Huey Lewis And The News featuring the way ahead of it's time, Trouble in Paradise.  Sports however lead with Heart and Soul release about month before the album dropped and never looked back.  In kicking off a trend of the best music from the 80's which is now considered cheesy, you have a quick song with a great hook and a story.  

Heart and Soul

MTV was about 2 years old at this point so almost any video was watched like it was going out of style.  Heart and Soul carried this album into January of '84 when I Want a New Drug was released.  This in a round about way reignited the popularity of Sports and made it legitimate.  Three more singles would follow,  Heart Of Rock And Roll in April, If This Is It in July and Walking On a Thin Line that October.  See that right there?  October.  This album was dropping singles over a year after it's release.  Who does that!? 

Heart of Rock and Roll

Unfortunately, at the time, critics did not like this album, and wisely so.  You see, as I said earlier, pop wasn't really pop yet.  Rockers were still making the transition out of what is now known as the classic rock era and disco was just about gone.  Proof?  Robert Plant released The Principle of Moments and Rick James released Cold Blooded this year as well.  {Yawn}  The pop album as we came to know it in the 1980's was was seen as a cross between the blue collar rock and anti-prog.  Before Sports, there was catchy music, but none of it had a lot of soul.  All of it was borderline soft rock and synth tracks.  Rolling Stone hated this album mainly because they didn't know what to do with it.  Music buyers loved this album because it spoke to them.  Let me preface the following Rolling Stone review with something, isn't this the whole point behind pop music?  To make it as mainstream as possible, hopefully without becoming annoying, washed out, repetitive, senseless and, and recycled? /mini rant

"Sports was the band's biggest hit, with radio-friendly tunes such as "I Want a New Drug" and "The Heart of Rock & Roll." Yet the entire record could have passed for the soundtrack to a TV commercial." -Rolling Stone

Crazy how that quote was taken from a publication RS put out in 2004 where they gave the album 3/5 stars, though on Sports release, they only gave it 2.  Look, the album was great, for the group.  The public loved the blue-eyed soul quality of it, as well as the whole rockers keeping it rock with enough approachability to be blasted in many a parking lot diner on a Saturday night.  With Sports, Huey Lewis and The News found their identity and became iconic for this era of music going on to basically becoming the soundtrack for one of the biggest movies of that time.  Matter of fact, Sports was such an impact it shot into popular culture decades later.  Think I'm kidding?  How about we just go out with Huey's take on his album himself:

Ahhh, the 80's truly a metaphor for excess.  Good lord I have an unhealthy amount of 80's vinyl.  Speaking of which, I procured this album from the supremely awesome Telegraph Records in New London CT.  Again, highly recommended, and one of the best places in CT to buy new and used vinyl. Every $10 you spend there you get an entry into a raffle for some epic vinyl each month.  If you can spot this album anywhere it's so worth a buy at any price.  Check the condition and get to crate digging.  

We're teetering dangerously close to the 50th post which will be extra special, so I cannot say what next week's vinyl might be.  It could be the one, or it might be something else depending on what gets posted this week.  Any suggestions? 

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