Huey Lewis Feels Like Home

When I was 8 years old, give or take a year, one of my favorite albums was Sports, by Huey Lewis and the News. It was something that my parents played on a Saturday afternoon on the boombox in the kitchen, and this album along with a few others by Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and James Taylor are what make up the bulk of my early musical memories. As I recall, my parents bought Sports because Huey had attended boarding school in New Jersey, near where we lived until I was almost 6 years old. Kind of random, right?

In any case, I loved the opening track, The Heart of Rock & Roll, and developed a lip synching routine to the song. The highlight of the routine was when Huey shouts “Johnny!” to announce the sax solo, and I would lay down on my back and kick my legs while playing an air saxophone. To the best of my knowledge, video footage of this routine does not exist.

Later in the 1980s my dad bought me a copy of the band’s next album, Fore!, but I can’t remember ever listening to it. I imagine that I would have been much happier with my own copy of Sports, instead of having to borrow the family cassette.

Fast forward a few years to high school and 9th grade gym class. We had to run a mile around the school track and the gym teacher told us that we could bring in a Walkman to listen to while we ran. I trained by running in the park near our house, and when the time came for the real run, I grabbed Sports to get me through it. Sabrina, a girl in my class who had more street smarts than I ever would, asked me what I was listening to; when I said Huey Lewis, she just stared as if she didn’t know what to say.

The rest of the 90s were a blur in terms of how quickly I discovered the larger history of rock and roll, from Bob Dylan and the Beatles to punk rock and the jam band scene. Sports remained an essential album, though, and I was at least vaguely aware of his other hits. A distinct memory has me on roller blades in the parking lot behind my grandparents’ house in Columbia, PA, reciting the chorus to “A Couple Days Off.”

My grandparents are connected to the next significant Huey Lewis event in my life, which was seeing him in concert. In 2001, Huey and the band played the annual Musikfest festival in Bethlehem, PA, which is where both my parents grew up. I have memories of going to the festival as a child, and my dad wore the event t-shirts for years after until my mom finally turned them into rags. My sister and I got general admission tickets to see the show, but unfortunately the only thing I remember is that we agreed that we should have bought better seats.

As my adult life took shape I slowly began rediscovering the music I’d loved as a child, beginning with Billy Joel thanks to the Broadway jukebox musical Movin’ Out. I would often reference Sports as one of the top four albums of my childhood, and it was always on those lists of albums I would share online in Facebook or Instagram posts. But I never bothered seeking out other Huey Lewis albums–no particular reason comes to mind, but as you’ll see, I needed something to spark my interest.

In the fall of 2020, during a more open period of the pandemic, I went on a few dates with a musician. After he passed my Dylan and Bryan Adams tests, I mentioned Huey Lewis and his response was, “The News were a really good band!” Pardon the pun, but this was news to me. I had never before considered the musicians behind Huey and treated them all as a whole instead of separating singer from band.

That line about the band stuck in the back of my head for the next few months and I started to pay attention to the music whenever I’d hear a Huey Lewis song on the radio. But the real spark that turned everything around was a writing prompt from the website Vocal.com. I started entering challenges on the site in March 2021 as a way to build my creative muscle, and in August they posted a new challenge called Homecoming, with the prompt to write a poem about what home means to you. I immediately thought of the song from Sports called “Finally Found a Home,” and over the course of a week I wrote what I thought was a great tribute to both Sports and my love of rock and roll.

As September turned to October Sports was a permanent fixture in my car’s CD player and I began to crave more. During this time, I also received and accepted a job offer from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and after over a year of uncertainty I was launching myself into a new place. Sports acted as a point of stability and somewhere along the way I realized, Huey Lewis feels like home.

Epilogue

I could have stopped here, but there’s more to the story. After the movers picked up my stuff, I had several weeks before my new apartment would be ready, and I went to stay with my parents for some of that time. From Lancaster, Princeton, New Jersey, isn’t too far to go for a day trip and I arranged to meet my sister one day before Thanksgiving. Why did I pick Princeton? Partly because of the Princeton Record Exchange, where I used to love browsing the used CDs for cheap music. I thought, surely a place like the PREX would have lots of used Huey Lewis albums that I could add to my collection. 

I thought wrong. While artists like Billy Joel and Bryan Adams had easily a dozen CDs each to choose from, there was only one Huey Lewis & the News album on the shelf. Luckily it was a Greatest Hits compilation, so I gladly bought it for the low price of $3.99 and have listened to it dozens of times since. It made me wonder though, why there weren’t more available. Had the recent Behind the Music sparked a similar interest from other people? Or was it just a matter of economics: maybe Huey’s CDs never sold as much as these other artists and thus not as many are available secondhand (or, perhaps everyone who bought them held on to them!). My sister then tracked down a copy of Picture This for my Christmas gift, and I now have more context for some of the songs from the Greatest Hits.

I’m now slowly unpacking all my boxes, and one day while working on this blog post I thought, I should find my old concert notebooks to see if I had any notes from the 2001 show. You can imagine my delight when I found these pages, with a nearly complete set list and other details about the show (and this was *before* I became an archivist). I’ve got a lot more to learn about Huey and the News’ catalog, but there’s little doubt in my mind that anything will top Sports.

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