Picture This was the record that thrust Huey Lewis and the News into the limelight. The album’s second single, “Do You Believe in Love”, was the band’s first Top Ten hit, peaking at #7 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Now, the band had to prove they weren’t just one-hit wonders. The follow-up to Picture This – 1983’s Sports – was that proof. Four of the album’s five singles reached the Top Ten, and Huey Lewis and the News were clearly also on top. “…everybody used to ask why we called the album Sports, and it was kind of funny and paradoxical. But now I realize we called the album Sports because shouldn’t an album called Sports have a lot of hits?” Lewis joked in 2013, the 30th anniversary of the album’s release.
During the early Eighties, there were extensive shake-ups and reorganizations in the band’s record label, Chrysalis Records. This was one of the reasons Lewis and The News – Sean Hopper on keyboards, Mario Cipollina – bass, Johnny Colla – guitar, saxophone, backing vocals, Bill Gibson on drums, and Chris Hayes – lead guitar – took it upon themselves to self-produce Sports. Released in September of 1983, the album was aimed directly at radio play; later – thanks to the immense popularity of MTV (“Music Television”) – the videos of the singles were quite successful. As Popdose (a website dedicated to pop culture) said: “[Huey Lewis and The News] were the right band at the right time…”
Seemingly so. The first track on Sports – and the album’s third single – can be said to be the group’s signature tune. “[‘The Heart of Rock and Roll.’] was written after a gig in Cleveland early on in 1981 or something like that,’’ Lewis told Chuck Yarborough, writer for the Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer. “We played there, I think it was at the Agora, and we had this unbelievable gig, On the bus ride out, I’m looking at the landscape and I said, ‘Boys, the heart of rock ‘n’ roll really IS in Cleveland.’’’ “They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating / And from what I’ve seen I believe ’em / Now the old boy may be barely breathing / But the heart of rock and roll, heart of rock and roll is still beating.”
The second song happened to be the first single. It was also not an original Huey Lewis and the News tune, but a cover of a 1981 song by the band Exile. Exile’s version of “Heart and Soul” came and went quietly; it was Lewis and the band that made it famous. The tune is guitar-driven and very catchy: “You see, she gets what she wants / ‘Cause she’s heart and soul / She’s hot and cold / She’s got it all, hot loving every night.” Former guitarist Chris Hayes remarks about the song, “I don’t know why ‘Heart and Soul’ sounds so good. Usually we have to re-do all the guitar parts – this time it worked out the first time.”
The third song, originally written by Huey Lewis for Dave Edmunds, appeared on Edmunds’ 1979 album Repeat When Necessary. “Bad is Bad” was then rewritten by Lewis and others and recorded for Sports. Next up, “I Want a New Drug” was the album’s second single and received heavy radio airplay. Lewis says he wrote the lyrics in as little as five minutes. But finding the right music took a little longer. “When we tried to write music to it, we kept missing it,” Lewis told Rolling Stone in 2013. “One day [guitarist] Chris [Hayes] called me and said, ‘I got it!’ He came to my house and played the lick, and I sang my little lyric and we put it on tape.” The song became even more famous later that year when Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for plagiarism, claiming that Parker had stolen the melody of “Ghostbusters” from “I Want a New Drug”
“Walking On A Thin Line” has been labeled one of the band’s more serious songs. It deals with the anger, fear and frustration that soldiers – specifically Vietnam soldiers – feel, during and after combat. “Walking on a thin line / Straight off the front line / Labeled as freaks / Loose on the streets of the city.” Following are four more songs, including the very recognizable hit “If This is It” and the Hank Williams cover, “Honky Tonk Blues.”
When it was released, Sports hit the US Billboard Top 200 Albums charts at #6; nine months later, it settled into the #1 spot. It went to #23 in the United Kingdom, and #3 in Canada. The album has been certified 7× Platinum by the RIAA, meaning it has sold over seven million copies in the US alone. In 2013, Huey Lewis and the News toured in support of the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, and continue to tour to this day.