Huey Lewis Talks 'Sports' at 30: 'We Just Knew We Needed a Frickin' Hit'
"Every tune we aimed for radio 'cause we didn't know which one was going to be a hit... And fortunately we got 'em," says Lewis of the News' 1983 album
Revisiting 1983's "Sports" album for its 30th anniversary this year has put Huey Lewis & the News into a mindset of yesteryear.
"It's funny," Lewis tells Billboard. "When we wrote those songs, there was no Internet, no cell phone, on personal computers and the music business was completely different. It's obviously the same lifetime, but it feels like another era, entirely. It's kind of fun to get back into it."
Lewis and company are doing just that this year. On May 14 the group will release a "Sports (30th Anniversary Edition)," featuring the remastered original album as well as a second disc featuring live versions of "Sports' " nine songs, curated by guitarist-saxophonist Johnny Colla and dating from the mid-80s to renditions of "You Crack Me Up" and Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues" that were performed just this year. The group then kicks off a Sports 30th Anniversary Tour on May 10 in New Brunswick, N.J., that will roll through the summer.
"We're going to do ('Sports') from front to back, which is the first time we've done something like that," Lewis notes. "We're figuring out what else to do now. ('Sports') from beginning to end is 42 minutes, so we've got another hour or so to do earlier stuff, later stuff, the hits...We've got plenty of other material to put in the show, obviously. Because ('Sports') has so many hits we might do some of the less well-known stuff in our catalog."
Lewis adds that, befitting the occasion, the door is also open for former News members Mario Cipollina and Chris Hayes, who were both in the band during "Sports," to make guest appearances during the tour.
"They're certainly invited," Lewis says. "They've both sat in with us over the years, a bunch of times in the Bay Area. Chris and I are writing together, so it wouldn't be a stretch for them to come up with us if they wanted."
Lewis says he's also "hoping to play a couple of new songs on the 'Sports' tour" which he's written for the News' next album, though no firm plans are in place for that yet. For now he's happy to spend the year immersed in "Sports," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was the No. 2 seller of 1984, behind only Michael Jackson's "Thriller." The set spawned four Top 10 hits on the Hot 100 ("Heart and Soul," "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "If This Is It") and won a Grammy Award for Best Long-Form Music Video.
"Back in the day you wanted your albums to have a theme, and 'Sports'' theme was really a collection of singles," Lewis recalls. "It was really a record for its time. In the 80s, the way radio was programmed, if you didn't have a hit record you weren't going to be able to make any more records. That was it, period. So our priority was to come up with hit singles. Every tune we aimed for radio 'cause we didn't know which one was going to be a hit. We just knew we needed a frickin' hit, period. And fortunately we got 'em."
Prior to the tour, Lewis & the News will perform on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" on April 2, and on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on May 15, with more TV appearances to be announced soon.