Sports (2013 Remaster)

Sports (2013 Remaster)

“When I listen to the Sports record now, I realize it’s a record of its time,” Huey Lewis told Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on an episode of Apple Music’s Time Crisis. “It’s a collection of singles—that’s what was going on. That’s the only way you could exist.” It is tempting to say that if you looked up 1983 in the dictionary, you would find the cover of Huey Lewis & The News’ third album Sports, but that doesn’t exactly track. (Why would a year be listed in the dictionary?) Yet the absolutely hit-laden album is such a precise time capsule of the moment when the ’80s became “the ’80s” that later generations may know it best as a ubiquitous American Psycho reference. Lewis’ proudly un-hip taste (“I come from R&B, my favorite singer’s Johnny Taylor,” he says) proved to be wise counter-programming coming out of the ’70s as a new form of radio-friendly rock was taking shape. For all the album’s beer-commercial trappings, right down to the sports-bar cover art, its architect was the thirtysomething son of first-wave Marin County hippies whose idea of counterculture rebellion was to start a band with a lead saxophonist. Lewis had been playing harmonica in the Bay Area band Clover for much of the ’70s—even on Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous—and by the time he formed his own band, he knew how to play the game: “We’re recording in ’81, ’82—there’s only one avenue to success and that’s radio,” he says. “That’s where you had to be to exist. There was no other way of making a living in the music business. We aimed every song at radio and [made] each one different—one kind of R&B-ish, one kind of a rock tune, one kind of a ballad—because we didn’t know which one was going to hit or what.” With two-thirds of its tracklist essentially comprising a greatest-hits collection, Sports went on to sell some 10 million copies. Among those six hits were the shout-your-city’s-name-here opener “The Heart of Rock and Roll” and the winking “I Want a New Drug,” reveling in its retro regular-guy style at a moment when MTV-driven avant-garde electro-pop was in vogue. “We knew we needed a hit,” Lewis says. “We didn’t think we were going to have six of them.”

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