Sunday, November 3, 2013

Huey Gave Her His Heart, But She Wanted His Soul

I was once having a conversation about '80s music with my (former?) co-blogger Yoggoth a few years ago, long before I started writing about it with renewed attention. "I had an interesting realization," he told me. "I kind of realized that a lot of '80s music is sort of weird and dark. Like, even the mainstream, Top 40 music. Compare that with the '60s or the '70s, where the pop fluff was blatantly bright and feel-good or what have you. Even the extremely commercial '80s music is kind of disturbing."

Prime example: "Heart and Soul." The lead single from Sports, "Heart and Soul" was written by bubblegum glam veterans Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn ("Ballroom Blitz," "Mickey") and peaked at #8 in the fall of 1983.  Most Huey Lewis & The News hits are fairly cheerful and wholesome, but "Heart and Soul" is a little bit ... creepy. On my '80s Tape, it was sandwiched right between Kool & The Gang's "Tonight" and the Alan Parsons Project's "Prime Time," two other songs with a vibe that one might also describe as creepy. As a kid, I always thought of that section of the tape as the "Zombie" section. Perhaps I'd just watched a zombie cartoon right before an impressionable listen, perhaps not. Either way, the song used to disturb me just a little. Based on the lyrics, an elliptical depiction of a one-night stand, one gets the sense that this femme fatale may have captured more of Huey's "soul" than his "heart":
Two o'clock this morning
If she should come a calling
I couldn't dream of turning her away
And if it got hot and hectic
I know she'd be electric
I'd let her take her chances with me
You see, she gets what she wants

'Cause she's heart and soul
She's hot and cold
She's got it all
Hot loving every night

Can't you see her standing there
See how she looks, see how she cares
I let her steal the night away from me
Nine o'clock this morning
She left without a warning
I let her take advantage of me
You see, she got what she wanted
For a Huey Lewis & The News song, this is one twisted psychodrama. Basically Huey got used ... but he liked it. There's not even a hint of regret or remorse. It is almost, to use Patrick Bateman's term, "nihilistic."

When I rediscovered my '80s tape in the mid-90s, "Heart and Soul" was not one of my favorite songs on it, even though I really liked Huey Lewis & The News (even in the mid-'90s). However, these days it pretty much rocks my socks. It has this menacing, sinister quality that sets it apart from the band's other material. I like the odd percussion touches, such as the cowbells and the little drumstick rattles. The verses are sort of languid, but the chorus has this really nasty hard rock crunch - probably the nastiest and hardest hard rock crunch Huey Lewis ever had. Which, granted, isn't very hard and nasty, but, you know.

The threatening vibe extends into the video, which perfectly matches the imagery I already associated with the song as a child: a wild, mysterious, hedonistic night in the heart of San Francisco. Based on the last shot, it looks like the band might have filmed it around Potrero Hill, the Western Addition, or possibly North Beach? Throw in some vampires, cowboys, bearded railroad barons in top hat and monocle, and Cyndi Lauper's long-lost sister, and you've got yourself a prime 1983 music video, my friends. Just watch out for what's behind that door.

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