I remember long ago somebody asking me how, in the name of god, Mark David Chapman could shoot John Lennon when Huey Lewis was still out there making records. Verily, one of the meanest things anybody ever said about a rock star, but for some reason Huey seems to bring out the mean in otherwise perfectly enlightened people.
How does he stack up against the other acts in our lead-off group? Let’s meet our contestants:
- #9 Seed: Huey Lewis & the News
- Duran Duran
- Night Ranger
…a bar band that made good…At its core, the group was a working band, and the bandmembers knew how to target their audience, writing odes to nine-to-five jobs and sports. As the decade progressed, Huey Lewis & the News smoothed out their sound to appeal to the aging baby boomers who adopted them…
Commenter fiksun says: “Huey Lewis has to win this bracket. I quote Bobcat Goldthwaite, who once said ‘If you saw Huey Lewis walking down the street, would you say hey! Is that America’s leading rock star? … No, you’d say, wait … is that a friend of my dad’s?’”
Jim Booth piles on: “Huey Lewis was around the scene and belongs to that ‘everybody gets a contract’ phase at the end of the 70′s when guys like Andrew Gold and Walter Egan got solo deals – no one expected him to be as successful as he became.”
Me: In their defense, they wrote their own songs (I think), played their own instruments and they could harmonize really well. Which I guess makes them 66% better than Backstreet Boys. Or something.
Lex: Huey was perfect for an ’80s movie about returning to the ’50s.
Duran Duran personified new wave for much of the mainstream audience. And for good reason, too. Duran Duran’s reputation was built through music videos, which accentuated their fashion-model looks and glamorous sense of style. Without music videos, it’s likely that their pop-funk — described by the group as the Sex Pistols meets Chic — would never have made them international pop stars.
fikshun says: “I can’t think of an example of a Duran Duran song that’s been used in a commercial. I can’t think of a situation where I’ve seen a member of Duran Duran hawk commercial products. I think the most openly commercial thing I’ve seen Nick Rhodes do is not hide the fact that he uses Roland keyboards on stage.”
Frank’s friend Gina, an obvious disciple, says: “ They were the first band to be banned by MTV, and probably the first band to be banned twice. The first time was sort of intentional. They shot two versions of their “Girls on Film” video, and released the risqué version.”
And Dr. Jim again: “When I taught briefly in a high school in Winston-Salem (NC) in the fall of 1982, I remember walking down a hall during a class change. The hall, full of 15 year old girls. With their locker doors open, it looked like a Duran Duran photo spread from OK Go!”
…Night Ranger was one of the most popular mainstream hard rock bands of the mid-’80s…Night Ranger’s first album, Dawn Patrol (1982), reached number 38 on the U.S. charts, yet it was 1983′s Midnight Madness that established the band as a commercial force. Featuring the AOR hit “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and the number five single “Sister Christian,” the record peaked at number 15 and sold over a million copies.
Dr. Sid Bonesparkle: It’s hard to imagine a more perfect corporate soft rock song than “Sister Christian.” But…you know, if I was in a big rock band, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have to crank out simpering dreck like that to get Catholic schoolgirls out of their panties. Just saying.
Lex: I wish I didn’t know the words to any Night Ranger songs, but I do.
Supertramp followed an unusual path to commercial success in the 1970s, fusing the stylistic ambition and instrumental dexterity of progressive rock with the wit and tuneful melodies of British pop, and the results made them one of the most popular British acts of the ’70s and ‘80s, topping the charts and filling arenas around the world at a time when their style of music was supposed to have fallen out of fashion.
Jim says: “The first Supertramp album is considered near perfection sonically. No one knows why. And they never repeated the feat.”
A light folk-rock act of the early ’70s, America had several Top Ten hits, including the number ones “A Horse with No Name” and “Sister Golden Hair.” Vocalists/guitarists Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley met while they were still in high school in the late ’60s; all three were sons of U.S. Air Force officers who were stationed in the U.K.
Jim: “Driving down the road with a friend and we heard ‘Horse With No Name’ for the first time. His comment? ‘Don Kirshner’s version of CSN.’”
Lex: You named your band America? Nearly impossible to out-corporate that.
Me: Didn’t Frank Zappa say something about guys with acoustic guitars, faded jeans and great deal of personal hurt?
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