Tres Songs – Back to the Future

Wherein I randomly play three songs I enjoyed recently from my iPod or some other random place. This time, a couple from the ’80’s, one from the ’70’s. And I’ve yet to feature any of these bands so, long overdue.

Huey Lewis and the News had a string of hits in the ’70’s and ’80’s and of course, famously did a couple of tunes for Back to the Future. (Huey had a cameo in the flick.) I mentioned in my Elvis Costello series how the band Clover backed EC on his first album then morphed into the News.

The band is, I think, as much a pop as a rock unit, sometimes hittin’ the note, sometimes missing it.

But I always loved this tune “Workin’ For a Livin'” from their second album released in 1982, Picture This. The whole song cooks and Huey blows some hot harp. No deep thought here, just a great bar band song:

Workin’ for a livin’
(Workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’
(Workin’)
Workin’ for a livin’, livin’ and workin’
I’m taking what they’re giving ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin’

Spotify link

Who doesn’t love Queen? How many anthemic songs can one band have? They will definitely get the Music Enthusiast treatment on these pages one fine day.

Freddie Mercury was a great admirer of Aretha Franklin and wanted to do something with a gospel feel. Lacking a 100-piece choir, three of the guys multitracked their voices on “Somebody To Love” to get that big, fat sound. (John Deacon admits to not being much of a singer.) And then, of course, there’s the typical impeccable Brian May guitar solo.

I thought it was just a yearning-for-love song but Wikipedia says this: “The lyrics, especially combined with the gospel influence, create a song about faith, desperation, and soul-searching; the singer questions both the lack of love experienced in his life and the role and existence of God.” That is some heavy shit for a pop song.

He works hard!

Spotify link

Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” is, I think, one of the most kick-ass rock ‘n roll songs I have ever heard. It jacks in with a smokin’ hot drum solo by Alex Van Halen who is joined 20 or so seconds in by brother Eddie. David Lee Roth joins in with his patented rap and the whole song just takes off. Great solo, great drumming, great lyrics, every schoolkids’ beautiful dark twisted fantasy.

On guitar, I can cop blues licks from guys like Clapton. I can’t even understand what Eddie plays much less steal his licks. Sometimes it’s a squall – here it’s just damn right. And that moment during the solo (3:20) where Eddie and Alex hit it together. Damn! This shit will scorch the paint right off your Chevy:

I think of all the education that I missed
But then my homework was never quite like this
Got it bad
Got it bad
I’m hot for teacher

Spotify link

Class dismissed!

31 thoughts on “Tres Songs – Back to the Future

        1. They got fairly good recognition here in the States in that underground/FM style of their era. Certainly not like what it became. Like the best bands, that grew over time and I think they became mega with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

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        2. Oh, for sure, especially the punk crowd. If you could play an instrument and sounded – as Queen sometimes did- bloated, you were screwed in that era. Their quality, I think, outlasted the bullshit.

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        3. One other thought – punk, while popular here, was never quite as rabidly popular as UK and, I guess, Australia. So consequently, a lot of us here still appreciated the musicianship of the fusion and prog-rock guys. We weren’t ready to throw all that out the window. All that said, it was somewhat generational. The younger set coming up behind us – those that were into rock, not disco – went for punk bigtime and never really cared about “our” bands anyway.

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  1. They most certainly did carry it off live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8L3TCXsyX4
    Queen was my life growing up, and I was blessed to see them in Freddie’s lifetime, on their last U.S. tour ever. Thrill of a lifetime.

    All great choices here as usual.

    I saw Huey and the News on the “Sports” tour; I bet a lot of people don’t know how much harder-edged and bluesy they were live. Stevie Ray Vaughn opened – hell of a night.

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    1. Wow, that sounds great. Doesn’t have that “big-choir” sound but doesn’t necessarily suffer for it. What a voice he had. Damn! Never saw them. Guess I still could with the new guy but, well, I don’t know. As to Huey Lewis, I didn’t know they were that hard-edged in concert but I’m not entirely surprised. Now, with SRV, that kicks the show to a whole new level. How long before he would be headlining? I saw him a few times myself but I’ll save that for next years’s Stevie Ray series.

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      1. I saw this show in ’84; not sure when he started headlining. I saw him again with Jeff Beck but honestly can’t remember a thing, which upsets me. There were some guys bothering me throughout the show – I must’ve gone on my own–and that’s all I recall now.

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        1. I saw that Beck/SRV show too (1989?) and plan on writing about it in my SRV series next year. I recall it being not only loud but yeah, 99% guys. Sorry to hear you had that bad experience.

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      1. I completely forgot to tell you I had a moment with SRV at that show. I was down front right up against the stage, and as soon as he came out, he immediately began pouring sweat, and he was as they say, green around the gills. Clearly not well. At one point our eyes met, and I gave him a little anxious smile to say “Hey man I see you’re struggling hang in there” and he gave me a tiny one back that said, “UghafnoafnIfeellikeshit.” The review in the paper the next day said he had the flu. But he played the hell out of the place.

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        1. A connection with the artist, however fleeting, has its rewards. I once saw jazz guitarist Pat Metheny in a small Cambridge club. He was sitting on the floor behind us (!), warming up, playing scales. He grinned. A totally non-star, unaffected guy.

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  2. Some great songs here, Jim. I don’t know enough Huey Lewis & The News and I’m gonna rectify that soon. The Queen track is one of their very best… it’s certainly one of my favourites, though I’m not really what you’d consider a fan of the band (a passing interest and like a couple of albums and a whole bunch of songs)… Van Halen, though… “Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” is, I think, one of the most kick-ass rock ‘n roll songs I have ever heard”. I completely agree – and I only heard that song a couple of years ago. .

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    1. Huey’s got some ballsy stuff and some pop stuff. Some of it’s candy but some real fine. As to Queen, I’m perhaps more of a fan than you but not by any means a raver. But they were, and are, a pretty awesome collection of dudes and quite unique. Same for VH. Love, love. love some of their stuff, other stuff, not so much. I’m a song guy, you know. If the song’s good, I’m there. If a band has a bunch of good songs and especially if they can pull ’em off live, well, I’m a fan.

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      1. Sometimes I’m quite partial to some candy. But yeah, everything I’ve read and heard of Huey suggests that I would dig.

        You also sum up my thoughts on Queen there… and about songs. I think VH works so well for me due to their unique blend of showmanship and good tunes (both originals and the covers they picked).

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  3. A great selection again this time. I got introduced to Huey via a friend of mine who has seen him live at least 4-5 times. My favorite song remains “Doing it all for my baby”.

    And Queen is always worth going back to.

    I must admit not having such a great connection to Van Halen (in spite of having practiced the synthesizer solo from Jump many times in my early years), but will check them out again to broaden my taste.

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    1. I don’t think I knew that Huey song. Or didn’t remember it. Just listened to it. Nice soulful horn-driven tune. As to Van Halen, I think I might have mentioned in another comment they are a great band who sometimes have terrific material, sometimes not. Eddie is a groundbreaking player with a million imitators. And when he’s on, he’s on.

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      1. For me, Huey is basically Fore, with a little topping of Sports.

        For Van Halen, I’ll definetly spend some more time with them. In Europe, most people (including me) mainly know Jump, period.

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        1. Jump” Seriously? Wow. I didn’t know that. That song isn’t even really representative of their sound. They must have a greatest hits on YouTube or someplace. Even if they’re not to your taste you’ll get a better idea of what they really sound like. In fact, they’re much more Hot for Teacher than Jump.

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        2. The Wikipedia article on Jump has a nice summary of the chart position in pretty much ever major EU market. I guess the Oberheim just made it more approachable.

          How are your explorations of the classical world going?

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        3. I’ve fallen off on the classical thing lately. Not, however, due to lack of enjoyment or interest. Quite the opposite. I’ve found that the more I get into the blogosphere, the more recommendations I get. And so I have this backlog of stuff to get to. Good news is I have some catch-up time around the holidays, much of which will be spent enjoying a variety of stuff including more of your top 25.

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