After being accepted to attend Cornell University, Huey Lewis deferred for a year in order to travel to Europe, where he would play harmonica for money. He later dropped out of college and moved back to San Francisco, where he became the Clover harmonica player for an 8-year tenure. Clover eventually disbanded and, in 1979, Huey Lewis and the American Express (later the News) formed. Four years later, the group released their third album: Sports. By September of 1984, when this interview was recorded, the album had sold over 3,000,000 copies and had seen 4 singles break into the top ten.
This story of paying dues to receiving dues structures this interview. Lisa Robinson, for her part, can't seem to stop implying that the band sold out. Huey responds intelligently, citing the current state of the music industry, the shallowness of media, and the importance of a strong band. As a whole, Huey comes across as a man who knows what rock n' roll is all about and who is willing and able to use current trends to his advantage. The interview itself is an excellent commentary on how the business of music shapes the creation of music.
00:00 - The current state of rock n' roll: non-offensive, safer01:49 - Dying to sell out / making hits on their own terms02:31 - Hits building on previous hits03:11 - Live music vs. making a record 04:10 - Market's emphasis on execution (vs. conception) 04:50 - Double-crossing: hits giving you power, Hank Williams Jr. 06:32 - Taking commercial success with a grain of salt07:29 - Sports is better than Picture This, but not quantitatively07:46 - Being competitive, getting better at singing08:19 - Good singers, good voices08:40 - Playing a role in a band09:19 - Success causes creative challenges09:54 - Keys to success 11:04 - Compared to The Grateful Dead11:17 - The media is shallow12:27 - Writing songs with The News / no ego struggle13:29 - More of the credit, more of the blame 14:19 - A solid success / staying motivated 15:07 - Financial motivations for breaking through16:08 - "If This Is It" / how to write a hit16:38 - Making records vs. wailing live17:46 - Huey's parents / growing up in the San Francisco beatnik scene18:16 - Being too commercial for his mom18:35 - Coming close to getting a real job19:14 - Raison d'etre20:09 - Being original in a worn-out art form20:53 - Other challenges / getting movie scripts21:22 - When music hits a nerve21:58 - "I Want A New Drug" / San Francisco cosmic consciousness23:09 - First hearing "Do You Believe In Love" on the radio23:50 - Music making the world smaller24:14 - American rock n' roll, "speak before you think."
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