Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013
In defense of Huey.
Earlier this year, I was listening to the NPR show Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me while I washed the dishes, and Huey Lewis turned up for their regular "Not My Job" segment. And I thought, Huey Lewis, really? That's cool, but why? For the answer, which stopped me in my tracks, let's go to the transcript:
And now, we reward people for a lifetime of accomplishment with a few minutes of awkwardness. Huey Lewis and the News was unique among the big time bands of the 1980s in that they did not suck.
SAGAL: The band is re-releasing their iconic album Sports, in honor of its 30th anniversary. We are delighted to have Huey Lewis join us now. Huey, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
The 30th anniversary of Sports? That's not possible!

Oh, but it is.

I thought of writing something then, but never got around to it.

Last month, the band came to suburban Detroit, as part of their tour where they're playing the entire album. I discovered this when I ran across -- well, who knows if it was an actual article or blog post or whatever at the Detroit News website. I can't find it now, but the author referred to their music as "cheese."

I was ticked. It was pop, sure, but pop doesn't necessarily mean bad. "Let's see how people describe whatever you listen to in 30 years, kid," I thought. Didn't write about it then, either.

Then yesterday I ran across "Huey Lewis's Old, Weird America" at Grantland, which turned out to be a really interesting read, and I decided, okay, I really should do this. So here we are.

Do you remember how big Sports was? And what 1983 was like musically?
While Sports isn't usually mentioned among the most popular musical blockbusters of the '80s, it belongs in that company. Of the album's nine tracks, five charted in the Top 20: "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "Heart and Soul," "If This Is It," and "Walking on a Thin Line." (One of those songs might be playing on the "cool FM" oldies radio station in your town at this very second.) Sports was one of only five no. 1 albums during all of 1984, the fewest number in history. The others were Michael Jackson's Thriller, the Footloose soundtrack, Prince's Purple Rain, and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. Huey Lewis held the summit for only one week, but Sports sold 6 million records in '84 alone (on the way to topping 10 million), good for second on the year-end sales list behind Thriller.
My personal testimony: Sports was one of the two first compact discs I ever purchased. (The other was a recording of Vivaldi's L'Estro Armonico by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, if you're curious.) This was at the Harvard Co-Op when a group of us were visiting friends in Boston in 1985. I didn't even own a CD player yet; that purchase would come a few months later, but my friends had them, and I'd record a cassette of the CD so that I could actually listen to it.

While I don't attend a lot of concerts, the band is also one of only three musical acts that I've seen more than once. (The others are Randy Newman, who I would happily see again, and the Moody Blues -- when was the last time you thought about them?) What can I say, I found them really entertaining.

So now it's 2013, I'm staring a big birthday in the face, and we're years into the next audio format, MP3. And I still listen to Huey Lewis and the News in the car.