Huey Lewis & The News – I Want A New Drug
…but only in the title! Because it is true that the title explicitly mentions drugs, but the author of the song, the great Huey Lewis, is very clear in pointing out that this is a love song, and the drug we are talking about is only love.
We are in the early days of 1984, when I Want a New Drug is released, one of the most famous and loved songs of a very original American group, Huey Lewis and the News. Although they weren’t yet known all over the world, they had accumulated a lot of experience: their story begins back in 1972, when Huey Lewis, born Hugh Anthony Cregg III, together with keyboardist Sean Hopper joined Clover, a band from San Francisco who performed covers and from time to time was called to support concerts of the most famous singers and groups. But San Francisco is big, and there are many other bands competing for the scene with Clover, and in particular there is a group considered rivals of Clover, a band called Soundhole.
In the late 70s, however, with a new record deal in hand, Huey effectively reunited Clover and Soundhole, and created a new group called Huey Lewis and the American Express, and he made some singles that were not very successful. The record company took advantage of this moment of confusion to force Huey to change the name of the group, because it seems that American Express (the credit card company) was starting to complain about Huey’s name choice. Huey wanted to change something too, and so, towards the end of 1980, Huey Lewis and the News were officially born.
And this name also became the title of their first album, which however did not have great visibility. It went a little better in 1982 with the second album Picture This. At this point the record company decided to push full force on the third album, Sports, but… things took a long time, especially with the promotion of the album, and so the good Huey and his companions started, in the summer of 1983, touring the United States with their minibus to play in clubs and get some visibility on their own. Fortunately, the album was released in September, and the first single Heart and Soul reached eighth place in the charts.
The second single was precisely I Want a New Drug, which, as Huey has always said, is a love song. A beautiful song, very rock. The video is very nice: Huey wakes up late, but it’s a special day because in the evening he will have to perform in a concert. He leaves the house in a hurry, just in time to see a beautiful blonde girl passing by on a bicycle. He takes his yellow convertible car, manages to literally jump on the ferry that crosses the San Francisco Bay, where people look strangely at him because he shaves there on the ferry, and when he looks outside, guess who is there? Again the beautiful blonde girl, this time sunbathing on a small yacht.
In short, Huey manages to reach the helicopter that will take him to the concert venue (a hard trip, isn’t it? He ran for a while, he drove some time in his yellow convertible, then took a ferry, then even a helicopter … perhaps there was a simpler route), and of course he reaches the venue at the last moment while the other members are starting to play, with the producer who welcomes him annoyed. And guess who is sitting in the first row? But of course the blonde girl, who went to his concert. I have to say, it took her very little time to get there: she sunbathing when he was on the ferry, and yet she arrived at the concert much earlier than him!
The blonde girl was actually an old acquaintance: she was the actress Signy (or Signey) Coleman, who would later appear in series such as Guiding Light, The X-Files, and many others. Best of all, Signy’s mom was a great friend of Huey’s mom, so they’ve known each other for a long time (and in fact, she also featured in another Huey’s video). Actually Huey is ten years older than Signy (ten years less one day!) and they were not close friends due to the age difference, but they knew each other.
So finally: I Want a New Drug reached number six on the charts and definitively launched the career of Huey Lewis and the News. From here many things started to happen: Huey Lewis was offered the Ghostbusters soundtrack, but he refused and it was therefore entrusted to Ray Parker, Jr.; Huey was then also asked to participate in the recording of We Are the World by USA for Africa, as we know: in short, he was by now part of the star-system!
Soon after, Huey became convinced that the Ghostbusters song was too similar to I Want a New Drug and sued Ray Parker, Jr. There was never a judge’s decision, because the record companies closed the case with an agreement that was to remain confidential. After 17 years, however, in 2001, Huey told the terms of the agreement in a TV show, which however had to remain confidential, so this time it was Ray Parker, Jr. who sued him, and he won.
In any case, Huey is convinced that his refusal to participate in the Ghostbusters soundtrack may have favored him with the soundtrack of Back to the Future, The Power of Love… but that’s another story, and a another song!
Huey Lewis and the News on Wikipedia