Getting in Focus: Picture This by Huey Lewis and the News Turns 40

In early ’82, the beloved San Francisco band got their first taste of serious chart success

Back cover of Picture This (Image: Discogs)

Throughout the ‘80s, Huey Lewis and the News established themselves as one of the decade’s most consistent hitmakers.

Its members were originally part of a band called Clover, a country rock outfit that was recruited by Nick Lowe as his backing band early on his solo career. Later, after returning to their native San Francisco following their stint in the U.K., the group — consisting of Lewis on vocals, guitarist Chris Hayes, guitarist and saxophone player Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina, drummer Bill Gibson, and keyboardist Sean Hopper –- regrouped under the banner of Huey Lewis and the News and set about recording a series of albums that would eventually bring them superstardom. 

Notably, their first choice of a name was “Huey Lewis and the American Express,” a handle quickly dismissed by their record label out fear of a cease and desist order from the credit card company of the same name. 

Nevertheless, the name change was quickly settled and the band descended on the Automatt in San Francisco where they were assigned to engineer Jim Gaines. 

“There were three projects I was assigned, almost back to back,” Gaines recalls. “The last of them was Huey Lewis and the News. As we were finishing Huey’s demos, the record company A&R guy, who was sitting right beside me in the control room, said to me, ‘I want to sign this band, so we’ll do the record right here with Gaines.’ But a month or two later they were in LA, recording with someone else. That particular record came out and did nothing, because they had changed the band’s sound, made it way too slick.” 

Huey Lewis and The News Picture This, Chrysalis 1982

Gaines remembers how Lewis and company were more of a fun, raw, live-sounding act, which was reflected in the demos he produced at the Automatt.

Fortunately, Gaines got another chance to work with the band when it came time to record their sophomore set, appropriately dubbed Picture This. Produced by the band itself and their manager Bob Brown, it foretold the success that would follow. Several of its songs would become indelibly ingrained in the band’s catalog, including the punchy top ten single “Do You Believe In Love,” the equally catchy “Workin’ For a Livin’,which skirted the top 40, and “Hope You Like Me the Way You Say You Do” which landed inside the top 40 and marked the beginning of an ongoing association with Tower of Power. 

 

VIDEO: Huey Lewis and the News “Workin’ for a Livin'”

Ironically, several of the more significantsongs on the album came from outside sources, with “Workin’ For a Livin’,” written by Lewis and Hayes, being the sole original to make any sort of emphatic impression. “Do You Believe In Love” came courtesy of producer/songwriter Robert John “Mutt” Lange, while “Hope You Like Me the Way You Say You Do,” was penned by Mike Duke, a songwriter who would go on to contribute other tunes to the band’s repertoire. “Tattoo (Giving It All Up for Love)” was a Phil Lynott song, no surprise considering the fact that Lewis played harp on his initial solo albums after Lynott left his band Thin Lizzy.

Lewis and company would see far greater success with their next effort, Sports and several singles from that album that powered their way up the pop charts, including “I Want a New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock & Roll” and “If This Is It.” Meanwhile, Back To The Future was just around the corner.

Nevertheless, Picture This proved to be the good News the band needed.

 

VIDEO: Huey Lewis and the News “Do You Believe In Love?”

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

One thought on “Getting in Focus: Picture This by Huey Lewis and the News Turns 40

  • February 8, 2022 at 4:51 am
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    Nice write-up. But why does nobody ever mention the exceptional ‘The Only One’? Slightly darker in tone but reflective and brilliant storytelling backed by what would become a regular template for The News. Such was the case with the likes of Finally Found A Home and I Know What I Like, Walking On A Thin Line, The Only One was in this fan’s opinion the hint that Huey And His News weren’t just a pop band but could hold their own alongside any the hard rockers of their heyday. Dig into it 😉

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