Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Power Of "Love" And/Or Blockbuster Movie Marketing AKA Zemeckis Accidentally Goes "Back In Time," Almost Erases Own Theme Song

If anyone had started to worry by 1985 that, after the whole "I Want A New Drug"/"Ghostbusters" fracas, Huey Lewis might have missed out on his chance to do a movie theme song, well they needn't have worried for long. As he tells a restless barroom audience at the beginning of the theme's full clip, "Now I know it's been a few years, but Hollywood finally called! That's it, your favorite group is in the movie business. And I know it's a good song, and, I mean, it's gotta be a good movie, they've even got jackets." Black leather jackets.

Sometimes a great movie can have a shitty theme song, and sometimes a shitty movie can have a great theme song. But sometimes a great movie can have a great theme song. Back To The Future is one such movie, and "The Power of Love" is one such theme song.

From the very opening two-chord synth blast, the tune jumps out of the speakers stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream (and that's pretty damn strong). The verse melody has sort of a smoky, low-key vibe, with a touch of bluesy weariness (I wonder if that's Chuck Berry's cousin Marvin playing the snaky guitar solo?), which is what makes that switch into the major key of the chorus so inspiring; the verse suggests that the song is going to be a downer, but then the chorus hits you with the force of 10,000 gigawatts. Personally, I'm more familiar with the power of love to make a man weep rather than sing, but when Huey belts out, "Don't need money/Don't take fame/Don't need no credit card to ride this train," I feel like I could punch a thousand Biff Tannens in the face a thousand times.

Well, it may take neither money nor fame to ride that proverbial train, but "The Power Of Love" certainly earned Huey Lewis and the News plenty of both; the song became their first US #1 hit, and their biggest UK hit at #9. The single was so killer that it probably would have become one of their biggest hits regardless, but I'm sure the extra Hollywood promotion didn't exactly hurt. So the perfect pairing of song and film was always going to be Huey Lewis' and Robert Zemeckis' density, right? That's what they've told you at any rate. The truth is more shocking. Incredibly, "The Power of Love" almost didn't get made. The Universal Studios PR department did its best to suppress the behind-the scenes drama, but in a rare interview for a Lithuanian radio program a couple of years ago, Zemeckis finally shared a surprising story:
Well, we were on the set one day, and I was fooling around with the DeLorean between takes, and suddenly the door slammed shut on me, all the lights and the electrodes started flickering, and ... it just took off. There was a blinding flash, and I finally got the car under control. When I stepped on the breaks and opened the door, you know, I couldn't believe it, but it was 1945! I tried to find Christopher Lloyd to maybe figure out how to get back to the set and finish the movie and everything, but everybody was looking at me funny and nobody took me seriously. I couldn't buy anything because they didn't think my '80s money was real. So I tried to rob a nice young lady, and it turns out that nice young lady was Huey Lewis' mom, and she was supposed to be robbed by Huey Lewis' dad just a couple of minutes later, because that's how they met. But it took me a little while to figure that out. I went back to the DeLorean to listen to "The Power of Love" on the cassette deck, but it started ... fading out, and sounding all distorted and drenched in static. The song was disappearing! I realized I had messed with the whole space-time continuum! So finally I had to hunt down Christopher Lloyd, who was only 7 years old, but I convinced him that I was really from the future, and we hatched a zany plan to get Huey Lewis' mom and dad back together, and then I played this really far-out version of "My Ding-A-Ling" at the school dance, and everything worked out OK. But yeah, we almost didn't get the song in the movie."
Great scott!


Herr Zrbo said...

I have to say that I've never seen that long introduction to the music video.

Little Earl said...

Never, ever? Didn't Michael Jackson have at least five videos like that?

And of course it's totally worth the wait because it all leads up to an incredible clip of ... Huey Lewis and the News performing in some bar.

Herr Zrbo said...

I meant I had never seen the long intro to this video, I think Michael takes the cake on long music video intros, though the full intro to Puff Daddy/Notorious BIGs 'Victory' is pretty good too - Danny Devito, Dennis Hopper! All of Puff's pals!

Little Earl said...

And Busta Rhymes! Needs more helicopters though. And more motorcycles. I'm guessing Biggie wasn't even alive by this point?

It says something about my high opinion of your grammar that I thought you were trying to write "I've never seen that long OF AN introduction to the music video" and you'd simply left out "of an." You're better than I thought!