Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock IV: The Huey Lewis Pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!How it works.

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
  • Supertramp
  • America

Huey Lewis & the News

…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 

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

…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

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.”

America

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?

Click to vote.

13 replies »

  1. This is a tough one! For my senior year (1984) time capsule we were supposed to put down our favorite album. I couldn’t decide if I should put down Sports or Midnight Madness! Seems odd to me now, it must have been they wanted contemporary albums because I was a huge Doors and Led Zeppelin fan.

    This grouping seems odd because you’ve got two ’70s bands, which, while on the radio, were for an older generation.

    Duran Duran is infectious and pretty much holds up as well today. Of course by that I mean, it’s pleasant to hear a song of theirs on the radio, but I wouldn’t want to OD on them. They’re the only ones I don’t own an album of.

    • I’ll add to Lex’s comment about Huey Lewis. Not only was he a perfect fit for an ’80s movie about going back to the ’50s, but he was perfect in that as a stodgy, PTA-esque, authority figure. This wasn’t twenty years after his fame. This was at the height of his celebrity. Further, their biggest hits were about how it was hip to be a nerd and that being with ‘you’ was better than the best drug you could possibly take. Talk about your demographically smart things to do in the ’80s. I’ll bet Nancy Reagan hummed their songs.

  2. Also, I’m fuzzy on the point of this tournament. Is the ultimate goal to ‘out’ the most corporate piece of trash out there? Or is the point to celebrate your favorite whore? Duran Duran is my favorite from this group, but they’re also the least corporate.

  3. I always hated A Horse with No Name. Some of the dumbest lyrics ever. I still cringe every time I hear it. So of course I’ll vote for America.

  4. Duran Duran? No freakin’ way. I just CAN’T vote for a band that makes guys think they can dance.

  5. Supertramp still holds up today. CRIME OF THE CENTURY – still one of the best recorded albums ever. (Was one time that the Grammys got it right.) Everything after Hodgson, however, was mediocre. Great band live and in studio.

  6. Supertramp, music sustains itself in Classic Rock format better than all the others; if I wanted a bar band, I’d hire Huey Lewis; if I wanted a headliner for an arena, Supertramp.

  7. I like the open format because it’s a free for all, but i’m still trying to decide how i should vote: do i just vote for who i like best, who’s most corporate, who’s least corporate? Is the winner the band with the lowest score?

    I know, i’m not getting any answers from Sam. I think this might actually be some devious social-psychology experiment he’s cooked up for us.

    And i’m still a little disappointed that Elvis isn’t on the list. That asshole defines corporate rock. Here Whitey, sing like a black guy and we’ll pad your guitar so no one can hear that you can’t play a lick. You’ll be a star!