“The Power of Love” came out in 1985, appearing in the culture-kicking time travel epic Back to the Future, and extending Huey Lewis’ multi-platinum run for a good long time. Huey’s third album, Sports, had scorched the airwaves and resurrected the career of a band that had started strong but stalled with their previous album, Picture This. Their apostrophilic hit “Workin’ for a Livin’” was the flimsy branch they clutched to avoid falling off of the cliff and onto the remorseless rocks of Never-Made-Its. They recovered like a phoenix on HGH, ultimately going platinum twelve times over.
Picture This, incidentally, was produced by Mutt Lange. So if you’ve ever wondered how a goofy-looking harmonica player like Huey Lewis (ne Hugh Anthony Cregg, III) made it big, there you have it.
Why am I talking about Huey Lewis? Is this one of those cutesie hipster retro columns where some bored writer lazily imputes grand significance to a passing cultural fad?
No. No, this isn’t even a post about Huey Lewis.
This is a post about hubris and humility.
As my girlfriend and I enjoyed a cozy Labor Day breakfast at The Naked Cafe, watching a briskly-moving storm pass over the Pacific, “The Power of Love” wafted in through the speakers above my head. I immediately forgot the plate of spicy, habanero-fortified eggs, crispy potatoes and black beans and conjured an image of Huey Lewis running onto the stage of the Worcester Centrum sometime in 1986, twirling around and snapping his fingers in time with that song, his band looking every bit the cast of oddballs and cool cats that they played in their videos.
No way was I going to miss that show. I still have the ticket stub somewhere. It was awesome.
Returning to our meal, I recounted my enjoyment of that concert to my girlfriend (without a trace of embarrassment), finding that I recalled more Huey Lewis songs than I might have originally estimated. She mentioned seeing him in a movie once, but was unable to recall the title. Triumphantly, I whipped out the ol’ iPhone and did an IMDB search. I was just as curious to see what he looked like these days as I was to gather his acting credentials.
I discovered two things:
- Though considerably older than he was in his commercial prime, he looks generally the same- almost like Tom Hanks’ older brother; and
- He played the harp (harmonica) for Thin Lizzy.
Are you fucking kidding me, I thought as I read that. I love Thin Lizzy and was entirely unaware of that rather significant fact.
I told my girlfriend immediately.
“Is that the band that you just saw?” she asked politely.
“Oh. They sound the same.”
“What? No they don’t. One’s glam metal and one’s…”
“No, the names. Thin Lizzy, Lizzy Borden…”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
I was thoroughly unsettled.
Turns out that Huey contributed harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous” album, which made my brain hurt for a good half hour. It wasn’t a rock snobbery thing- I wasn’t offended that an 80s pop star guested on one of my favorite live rock albums. My brain tweaked from the realization that I had listened to this album so many times and missed this rather significant and well-known detail. On that album, when Phil calls out, “and on harmonica, Huey Lewis!” it never occurred to me that he was actually saying “Huey Lewis.” I always thought it was something that sounded like those words (“Shooey Mewes?” “Chuy U.S.?”), never allowing that the new-drug-craving golfer Huey Lewis was the very harp-man in question.
The one thing that a music geek hates more than anything in the world is to admit that they do not know all there is to know about all aspects of music history. Even if confronted with an obscure detail that they have no business knowing, they will protest and demure and attempt a gamut of ploys to obscure their ignorance.
It plays out sort of like this:
“Hey [MUSIC GEEK], did you know that Lars Gunderschnakz, the third bass player in the Cajun black metal band Heretical Swamp Massacre was once a roadie in Blue Cheer?”
“What? Who? Say that name again.”
“Lars Gunderschnakz. You know who I’m talking about, right?”
“Yeah, of course. Duh. No, I was just wondering which one you meant.”
“There’s only one.”
“You don’t know that. There’s another one whose name sounds like that in…”
“Hey- it’s OK if you don’t know the dude. It’s pretty obscure stuff.”
“No, no- I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m just running through all the members of Heretical Swamp Massacre because there have been so many.”
“Dude. There are two guys in Heretical Swamp Massacre and one is a girl.”
“Well yeah, I mean, yeah, I know that but I’m just… Um… hold on, I know this one…”
And so it goes.
I don’t consider myself a music geek and I don’t pretend to know all the major happenings and pairings of rock history. But still, I feel like I should have known that one.
So in the spirit of forging a new tradition of transparency and accountability in music journalism, I hereby admit, with great embarrassment and regret, that until today, September 5, 2011, I was unaware that Huey Lewis played harmonica with Thin Lizzy.
I still don’t feel better about it.
Check out the video below to see a low-quality, highly-entertaining video of Huey with Ireland’s greatest rock and roll band: