35 Years Ago: Huey Lewis and the News Get Their First Hits With ‘Picture This’
Huey Lewis and the News became superstars upon the release of 1983's Sports. With the early 1982 release of Picture This, however, the Bay Area sextet took the first tentative steps toward grabbing the commercial brass ring. Self-produced by the band, Picture This is a meticulous distillation of modern new wave and rock sounds and vintage soul/R&B flourishes.
"Change of Heart" and "Workin' for a Livin'" are grade-A AOR tunes; "Tell Me a Little Lie" favors a languid, reggae-pop vibe; and the horns-and organ-burnished "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do," written by Mike Duke, is ace blue-eyed soul. Covers were a common occurrence on Picture This: Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott wrote the harmonica-and-synth-driven "Giving It All Up for Love," while the kitschy final song, "Buzz Buzz Buzz," was originally a '50s rock hit by the Hollywood Flames. No matter what the style (or songwriter), however, each song is polished, self-assured and calibrated to be heard by a large audience.
This sheen was no accident: Picture This was a radio-friendly reaction to the band's 1980 self-titled album, which received a frosty commercial reception. A 1982 People profile characterized the LP as selling a "pitiful 30,000 copies." In that same article, Lewis didn't hide his dismay over that fact: “It’s a shame that the only things that sell are things that stations will play."
Watch the Video for "Workin' for a Livin'"
Thanks to the polish, they experienced chart success with "Do You Believe in Love," a song written by Mutt Lange, who was riding a hot streak thanks to his work with AC/DC, Foreigner and Def Leppard. The tune peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two other songs also made a chart impact: "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do" landed at No. 36 on the Hot 100, and "Workin' for a Livin'" was a Top 20 hit on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “We aren’t making bad music,” Lewis told People. “We’re making good music that is commercial. One does compromise oneself slightly, but it beats digging ditches.”
And Picture This isn't some lightweight record about heartbreak and chasing romance. The peppy "Workin' for a Livin'" is an anthem for people that are toiling hard for a buck. "Change of Heart," meanwhile, is a song featuring a bitter protagonist who's acting passive-aggressive about an impending breakup. "You say you, had a change of heart / You better think it over, baby," the narrator warns throughout the song, while at one point he even asks (ostensibly rhetorically) "Do you think that I’ll shoot myself / When you tell me that it’s over?"
Watch Huey Lewis and the News Perform "The Only One"
And, near the end of Picture This, there's an introspective, AOR-leaning song called "The Only One" that's a "true story" about someone he knew growing up. "He was the coolest guy in our junior high school," Lewis revealed to Creem in 1982. "And then I went away to school and four years later he was a wino. And a few years later, I read he was an alcoholic and he wandered out onto the freeway and got hit by a car and died. It was a sad thing. I think he came from a broken home and he had to grow up real fast. And he peaked too soon. I don't know. The song essentially asks that question."
Picture This ended up peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, which put Huey Lewis and the News in a good position for future arena stardom. Over the decades, the band has maintained its popularity and cool factor with musicians across all genres. In 2015, Killers' vocalist Brandon Flowers even joined the band for a laid-back take on "Do You Believe in Love."
Watch Brandon Flowers Sing "Do You Believe in Love" With Huey Lewis
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