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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Singer Huey Lewis Plays Not My Job
Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 10:29 am
In honor of their 30th anniversary, the 1980s band Huey Lewis and the News is re-releasing their iconic album, Sports.
We've invited Lewis to play a game called "You call yourself a newsman?" Three questions about interesting journalistic mistakes.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now, we reward people for a lifetime of accomplishment with a few minutes of awkwardness. Huey Lewis and the News was unique among the big time bands of the 1980s in that they did not suck.
SAGAL: The band is re-releasing their iconic album Sports, in honor of its 30th anniversary. We are delighted to have Huey Lewis join us now. Huey, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
HUEY LEWIS: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SAGAL: So Huey Lewis and the News, which was the band you had that went big in the 80s was not your first band, right, you were a working musician for a long time before you hit it big.
LEWIS: Right, yeah, I was in several bands before that. No, that was the first band that I made a paycheck from.
SAGAL: Really? So you had a band called - what was it called, Clover?
LEWIS: We had a band Clover and we made two records, lived in England and disbanded.
SAGAL: And where did the band name come from, Huey Lewis and the News?
LEWIS: Well, we were originally called Huey Lewis and the American Express. But on the eve of the release of our first record, our record label, Chrysalis Records was afraid that we'd be sued by American Express. So we had 24 hours to come up with a new name and...
SAGAL: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. So you had a band name, Huey Lewis and the American Express.
SAGAL: And nobody said to themselves all during that period, as you were recording the record and producing it and getting ready to put it out, nobody said "American Express, American Express, where have I heard that before?"
LEWIS: No, but nobody thought there'd be a problem. I mean...
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT: Why didn't you guys sue them?
SAGAL: Where did you come up with the News?
LEWIS: We literally had 24 hours and that's all we could come up with. The Rolling Stones were taken.
SAGAL: Yes, that's true.
LEWIS: You know, what were we going to do?
PAULA POUNDSTONE: Yeah, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, gone.
FAITH SALIE: Gay Men's Chorus.
LEWIS: Gay Men's Choir.
POUNDSTONE: I love the name Huey Lewis and the News. I like it much better than American Express actually.
POUNDSTONE: Maybe that's because when I hear American Express, I think uh-oh.
SAGAL: Your music was so much fun, and listening to it now, it doesn't sound dated to me. It still sounds like great, boppy, fun rock and roll, which I was bopping around to back then, and I started bopping again.
LEWIS: Well, you know, we were sort of anachronistic even then in that, you know, our songs do follow that tried and true American popular music formula, like four bars or eight bars, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus. And we were trying to write sort of stuff that would endure whether - you know, that was the object as it were.
POUNDSTONE: I certainly think you nailed it. I love Huey Lewis and the News. I was so excited to hear you were going to be here.
LEWIS: So sweet.
SAGAL: It is funny, with you on the show and with Paula and Bobcat, it's like the 80s all over again.
LEWIS: That's right, yeah.
GOLDTHWAIT: What was the rumor, maybe it was wrong, but the My Aim is True album...
GOLDTHWAIT: Were some of your musicians involved in that?
SAGAL: This is Elvis Costello's debut in like '78.
LEWIS: Bobcat knows his stuff.
SAGAL: He does.
POUNDSTONE: I guess.
SAGAL: So your band played on Elvis Costello's first record.
LEWIS: The rhythm section. Four of the six Clovers backed Elvis up on My Aim is True.
SAGAL: But you did not.
LEWIS: I did not. Elvis told me, he said, I got a couple of songs you can play on and we're going to be here for two weeks. So Alex, the lead singer and I, took two weeks off and went to Amsterdam.
LEWIS: And watched movies. And we watched movies in Amsterdam.
SAGAL: That's all you did. I grew up a big Elvis Costello fan, and I always love the trivia that, you know, Huey Lewis plays the harmonica on Elvis' debut record.
SAGAL: And it didn't occur to me until quite recently that there is no harmonica on Elvis Costello's record.
LEWIS: But the harmonica that is not on Elvis Costello's record is played by me.
SAGAL: That's exciting.
POUNDSTONE: That is so great.
SAGAL: We understand you're an enthusiastic fly fisherman.
LEWIS: I am.
SAGAL: Right and you have a place in Montana and you go fly fishing.
LEWIS: I do. It's where I'm talking to you now.
GOLDTHWAIT: Now, did that have anything to do with your role in "Shortcuts"?
LEWIS: Well, that's very interesting, because...
GOLDTHWAIT: I'm not just pretty, Huey.
SAGAL: So hold on, back up, "Shortcuts" is the Robert Altman movie.
LEWIS: No, because the interview or the - you know, I never read for the part or anything. He asked me, Bob Altman asked - he said, you live in Montana, right. I said yeah. He says, do you know how to fly fish?
LEWIS: I said sure, of course, I fly fish all the time.
LEWIS: He said OK, well let ask you a question. He says you go up into a lake and you plan this fly fishing trip forever, and you get up there and it takes you all day to get up there and you get up there just at dark and the fish are biting like crazy.
And you go to take a leak over here and there is a dead body. What are you going to do? I said what do you mean. And the fish are rising are like crazy. I said, well I suppose you're going to fish. He said you got the job.
SALIE: I have to ask you about something that I loved when I was a teenager, "We are the World."
SALIE: Can you talk about that day? I mean were you really like - were you guys standing at craft services with, you know, like Bruce Springsteen is on your right and Diana Ross is on your left.
SALIE: What was it like?
LEWIS: It was amazing. It was amazing. I mean, I'm talking to Willie Nelson about golf and Bob Dylan over here says are you guys talking about golf?
He said yeah. And Willie said, yeah, we put the clubs on the bus. And Bob says, man, that's outrageous. He says that's outrageous. I said no, Bob, "Nashville Skyline" was outrageous. This is just golf.
SALIE: In that room, were there like cool kids and not cool kids?
LEWIS: No, but Paul Simon said - it's probably not nice to say. I don't know. Paul Simon said if a bomb drops on this place, John Denver is back on top.
SAGAL: Oh. Bridge over troubled water indeed, Mr. Simon.
SAGAL: I can't believe that you're there talking to Willie Nelson and you talked about golf.
LEWIS: Ray Charles is playing the piano and I'm listening to him play piano and it's fantastic. And he goes remember this one, Q, he says to Quincy. And Quincy looks at me and says - he says, yeah, Ray, Lyle wasn't even born when we recorded that song.
POUNDSTONE: Honestly, I thought you were going to say Ray Charles looked at me and said, you play golf, and then...
POUNDSTONE: I thought, geez, that man was amazing.
GOLDTHWAIT: Ray could do it all.
LEWIS: Ray Charles looked at me and said I'm a four.
SAGAL: Well, Huey Lewis, we are delighted to talk to you. We've asked you here to play a game that this time we're calling?
CARL KASELL: You call yourself a newsman.
SAGAL: Your band, Huey Lewis and the News.
SAGAL: Oh, so right, but what about when the news is wrong? We're going to ask you three questions about interesting journalistic mistakes. Answer two right and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is Huey Lewis playing for?
KASELL: Huey is playing for Renee Fullerton of Cranston, Rhode Island.
SAGAL: Ready to play? Here is...
LEWIS: I'm ready.
SAGAL: You're ready. Here's your first question. The Valley News in New Hampshire published an apology from the editor after a misspelling on the front page. Was it A: a banner headline in November promised "Hard-Hitting Erection Coverage?"
SAGAL: B: they misspelled the name of their newspaper? Or C: they mislabeled page one as Page H?
LEWIS: I'm going to hope it's the erection. I'm going to hope it's number one.
SAGAL: So many men of our generation do, Huey.
SAGAL: No, it was the name of the newspaper. It turns out there's only one S in Valley News.
SAGAL: They said they felt silly. You have two more chances here. NBC 10 in Rhode Island let's parents send in their kids' birthdays and then shows the names on TV. Which of these names went up last year? A: a 1-year-old named NBCNEWS10 Sucks?
SAGAL: B: a 1-year-old named I-Jahz Fahted?
SAGAL: Or C: a 1-year-old named "Insert Baby Name Here?"
LEWIS: Well, boy that's tough. Logic doesn't work there does it?
SAGAL: No, not much.
LEWIS: Let's see. How about two?
SAGAL: How about two? I-Jahz Fahted? Is that the one you're picking?
LEWIS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: Yeah, that's the one.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
POUNDSTONE: All right.
SAGAL: I-Jahz Fahted.
SAGAL: And, you know, the TV station felt bad. Imagine how the kid felt, going through life with that name.
SAGAL: Last question: one day earlier this year, a headline in Harrisburg, Pa's Patriot News read? A: Headline will go here blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?
SAGAL: B: don't bother reading this column. Seriously. I did. I regret it.
SAGAL: Or C: typesetters are way underpaid?
LEWIS: I'm going to say two.
SAGAL: You're going to go with don't bother reading this...
LEWIS: Don't bother me - yeah, don't bother, yep.
SAGAL: So somebody sort of put in the headline above a column, don't bother, it's awful. Just don't read it.
SAGAL: That's your choice?
LEWIS: No, no, that's not my choice.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, that'd be a terrible choice.
LEWIS: I think three is my choice.
SAGAL: Typesetters are way underpaid.
SAGAL: You know, when I was a kid...
SAGAL: And watching MTV, I was so happy when one of your videos came on and not, say, Vanilla Ice.
GOLDTHWAIT: Now, a lot of your videos were number...
GOLDTHWAIT: One. One would be a good choice.
LEWIS: Of course they were.
GOLDTHWAIT: Yeah, one would be a good choice.
SAGAL: Is that your choice?
LEWIS: Yeah, no, I really wanted to pick one all along.
SAGAL: I understand that.
SAGAL: Well, you'd be right. The headline said Headline will go here, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Carl, how did Huey Lewis do on our quiz?
KASELL: Huey had two correct answers, Peter.
KASELL: So he wins for Renee Fullerton. Congratulations.
SAGAL: Well done.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, boy.
SAGAL: Thank you so much.
SAGAL: I got to ask you one last thing before we let you go. In the movie "American Psycho."
SAGAL: With Christian Bale, there is a scene in which Christian Bale's character...
SAGAL: ...gives a remarkably detailed and enthusiastic description of how wonderful your music is.
LEWIS: I know.
SAGAL: Right before he kills somebody with an ax.
LEWIS: Well, just because he has excellent musical taste...
LEWIS: ...doesn't mean he's well adjusted, OK.
SAGAL: That's true.
SAGAL: Well first of all, did they call you up and they say, OK, we want to use one of your songs and this is what we're going to use it for?
SAGAL: And you said?
LEWIS: I said sure.
SAGAL: Because you didn't mind the fact that this psychopathic murderer was going to be depicted as being...
LEWIS: No, I dug it. I still dig the film. I think it's a good film.
SAGAL: It's a great film. But...
LEWIS: Yeah. Who cares if they're psycho murderers?
LEWIS: They still buy records.
SAGAL: Huey Lewis and the News' album Sports is being re-released for its 30th anniversary. Huey Lewis, thank you so much for all the music.
POUNDSTONE: Thanks, Huey.
SALIE: Bye, Huey.
SAGAL: And thanks for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.