Since Bret Easton Ellis made the protagonist of his 1991 novel American Psycho, Patrick Bateman, an investment banker serial killer with a fondness for Huey Lewis and the News, the association has taken on a life of its own. The 2000 film adaptation of the book, which was directed and co-written by Mary Harron and emphasized the black comic elements of the novel, immortalized the connection in an unhinged — and now classic — scene in which Bateman, played by Christian Bale, delivers a soliloquy on Lewis’ music (which appeared in a different part of Ellis’ book) shortly before dispatching a character played by Jared Leto with an ax while “Hip to Be Square” plays on the stereo. And last year, Lewis took things to a whole new level when he and Weird Al Yankovic shot a brilliant note-perfect parody of the scene for Funny or Die.
Thirty years after Lewis’ Sports hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (on the week of June 30, 1984), Billboard spoke with Ellis about Bateman’s Lewis love and the author admitted a tinge of regret that he linked Lewis to Bateman, who, after all symbolized, not the heart of rock’n’roll, but heartless capitalism.
Although Lewis is most closely associated with American Psycho, in the novel, Bateman is revealed to be a fan of Phil Collins-era Genesis and Whitney Houston as well. “I was staying true to the time, 1986 or 1987, and I thought that those three pop acts would be in Bateman’s headspace,” Ellis says. “So it was in my headspace but I was not necessarily a big Huey Lewis fan. And I really did have to inform myself. I remember that month of listening to the Huey Lewis records and making notes for this kind of pompous, pseudo-intellectual term paper review that Patrick Bateman had in his head.
“In a lot of ways, it wasn’t fun because I was getting to a point where being with Bateman wasn’t fun. And you know, I ended up feeling bad for Batemen’s loving attention toward the band, which, in itself is this kind of criticism of the culture. They weren’t a favorite band — I was much more a Bruce Springsteen person than a Huey Lewis person — but I didn’t think they deserved it. I liked them more than the implied criticism of them that’s in the text. But by then, you know, the [plot] was in motion, things were set and away we go.”
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.