When you’re in the mood, you’re in the mood now. And if you’re like me, the mood often strikes when you’re in the farthest possible position to do anything about it. The temptation to draw and/or noodle with Photoshop, my mediums of choice, all-too-frustratingly-often find their way to the doorstep of my imagination smack in the middle of the day when I am stuck at my desk, at work, without the necessary setup to properly tickle said temptation.
That is why I enjoy days like today where the powers that be are inspiring me to write. ‘Tis a much more manageable mountain to master when one sits in front of a computer all day, ’tis.
As I reflect upon my ten years-and-counting in the entertainment industry, I am:
A) Thankful that I have sustained in such a competitive and sometimes ruthless industry where you are only as good as your reputation.
B) Humbled that, with advances in new media and accessibility to talent and material across all platforms, I am part of a transformation in the entertainment industry that is equally as wonderful as it is frightening, and equally trailblazing as it is potentially destructive.
Good or bad – - or rather, good and bad – - these past ten years will be bracketed, asterisked, and dog-eared in the pages of history as an era that changed the face of the entire entertainment machine.
But beyond the monumental impact the YouTubes, Facebooks, and all their predecessors and copycats have had on the showbiz community, one important lesson I have scavenged and stored safely in my cheeks for the winter is this:
In a young man’s game, I am not the young man anymore.
Now before you go breaking out your invisible violins and banjos – - wait, what’s that you say? You don’t strum an invisible banjo? Fine. Your loss. – - before you go breaking out your invisible violins, I just want to be clear that this isn’t about any sort of mid-life crisis or tale of woe from the land of me.
In fact, rather than telling you what this is about, I should just refer you to this article on Grantland.com.
Writer, Steven Hyden (or as I call him, Steve The-Single-Person-I-Am-By-Far-The-Most-Jealous-Of Hyden) had a once in a lifetime opportunity to “hang,” as it were, with the man himself – - Huey Lewis.
The story is an insightful read about a band who took the world by storm in the early 80′s, struggled to keep up as the music world quickly changed around them, but have always stayed true to what it is that started them on their nearly 35 year journey – - their love for making music.
As the self-proclaimed, Biggest Huey Lewis and the News Fan in the World Who Will Never Actually Proclaim Such a Title Because He Doesn’t Believe in Proclaiming Oneself as the Biggest or Best Anything, and as someone who is on the cusp of completing his own 35 year journey, I take a little bit of – - what’s the word? Comfort? Pride? Giddy Boo-Yas? – - in knowing that I can retroactively model my life by the motto “what would Huey do?”
In an era where iconic professional athletes are being exposed as dope-using douchebags, where our favorite movie heroes are being unmasked as drunks, racists, spouse-abusers, or any combination of jerktastic traits, and where Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber just – - are – - it is this writer’s opinion that the world needs more Huey. And the News.
I left the nest on a wing, a prayer, and a mojo for storytelling. I am blessed to have parents who have always encouraged and supported that dream. I am thankful to have surrounded myself with chums and cohorts who share a similar dream. And I marvel at my wife’s patience as I stress my way through it at times. Now, ten years into that dream with the entire scope of an industry changing around me, I find myself at a crossroads.
Try and keep up by bending and breaking to the whim of Hollywood and its ever-changing trends? Or stay true to who I am and what it is that inspired me to get hip to this square in the first place?
I ask you: What would Huey do?
I recently abandoned the cozy confines and financial security of editorial work for uncertain, yet certainly greener pastures. Something I learned in my time as a professional editor is that – - no one ever plans to become an editor. That isn’t intended to undermine or undervalue the importance of a good editor. I am lucky to have worked alongside directors and producers who valued my role as a creative one rather than that of a glorified button pusher. But being an editor isn’t the sexy choice. And in my experience, most of my fellow editors just happened to be in the right place at the right time and decided to give it a whirl. But great editing makes a difference. And to be a great editor, you have to be a creative person. And the single greatest creative nugget I can take away from my experiences is seeing the storytelling process with a different pair of goggles.
As an editor, you get to learn how to tell a story out of order. You get to start from the end and work backwards and figure out what makes the engine purr like a kitten and what makes it sputter. And that is invaluable knowledge that’ll get crammed in the ol’ fanny pack along with my juice box and graham crackers as I set out on a new trek into the mountainous-y, wilderness-y animation unknown.
I have traded in my editing horse and saddle for a Cintiq drawing monitor and a handful of magic beans. But since I don’t eat beans, I guess I need to make my own magic.
Why? Because I’ve got pictures to draw and stories to tell.
All change comes with a side order of “holy shi*t!” But that’s what makes life fun. And saying “that’s what makes life fun” is only a half truth because of course there’s a part of me that wants to shout “holy sh*t! I’ve made a terrible mistake” from the tallest building in all the land.
But here’s what I’ve learned in the last ten years. And here’s what Huey reinforced. When you’re doing something you love – - even if the world around you is changing – - even if the world around you is crumbling to itty bitty pieces – - just keep doing it. If you’re planting a tree and discover the world is going to end tomorrow – - don’t let that stop you. Keep planting the tree.
Don’t fight the things you love and don’t make excuses as to why you’re not ready for those things. The universe is going to do what it wants. Stay true to yourself and you’ll find your place in it. It may not be where you expected or how you expected to get there, but when you’re there – - you’ll know.
You’ve gotta say it’s all right. Have a good time. ‘Cuz it’s all right.
And as a tribute to Huey and a thank you for reading, I now present to you, my five favorite Huey Lewis and the News Albums.
I was 16 and working in a department store electronics department. On my dinner break, I moseyed on over to Sam Goody (remember those?), breezed from A through G and stopped dead in my tracks at the bottom of section H. Huey Lewis and the News had a new album?! Why was I not aware? Is it possible the teenagers really are wrapped up in their own Dawson’s Creeky drama (jeez, remember that?) that they miss out on the special things in life?
With a belly full of Arby’s, my break-time running low, and birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I slapped down my 16 bucks (because nothing ever cost 12 at Sam Goody) and went back to work with a new lease on life.
I made a B-line for the Bose surround sound set-up, popped in my new Huey, and cranked it up so loud that the opening saxophone riff on “Shake, Rattle & Roll” shattered glasses in the housewares department next door.
Huey Friggin Lewis and the Friggin News were back, with a new sound, covering old favorites, and I was a changed man. Seriously, I discovered a chest hair or two that day. Coincidence?!?!
After expanding The News and re-inventing themselves with a big band element to compliment their always present rhythm and blues sound, 2001′s Plan B is a vibrant feel-good album that sounds and feels like it was made by a bunch of musicians just having a good time.
Though the two singles to crack the adult contemporary charts were the slower, easy going “Let Her Go and Start Over” and “I’m Not in Love Yet,” it is actually the album’s first track “We’re Not Here For a Long Time (We’re Here For a Good Time)” that sets the tone for this pleasureful musical experience. Easily in my list of top ten songs by the band.
Yes, it was their most successful album. Yes, it is the album that put the band on the map. Yes, nearly every song on the album was a radio hit. Yes, the album itself was #1 on the Billboard Charts in 1984!
By the way, I’m not arguing, I’m just stating facts.
Sports was the very first cassette tape I bought with my own money. I was nigh the age of 6-ish, saw that the cover of the cassette had the word “Sports” on it, and for some reason liked that the guy’s name was “Huey.”
And just like that, this guy’s (pointing to myself in case you can’t see me) magical mystery tour began. “The Heart of Rock and Roll” kicked my six year old ass. “Bad is Bad” had a cool doo-woppy thing going on. “I Want a New Drug” had a bitchin’ opening riff. “If This Is It” was pure magic. And “Honky Tonk Blues” had the words “honky” and “tonk” in it.
What cool things has your six year old discovered lately?
By the narrowest of margins. One that is only wafer thin. I give a slight, slimmy, slim-slam edge to the overlooked and vastly under appreciated Hard at Play over the worldwide phenomenon, Sports.
Why, you ask? Perhaps it is because Hard at Play is home to my #2 favorite HLN track of all time, “Couple Days Off.” Maybe it could be the opening harmonica riff on the album’s first track, “Build Me Up” that locks you in, shuts you up, and demands that you keep listening.
But I think what I appreciate the most about the album is its perfect balance between old Huey and new Huey. In a time where music as a collective was suddenly unsure about what it was supposed to sound like – - Garth Brooks was a crossover sensation; C&C Music Factory was makin’ us sweat; Metallica was scaring us to sleep; and oh yeah, that whole Nirvana thing – - Hard at Play, the most formless of all the band’s albums, is two parts rock and roll, two parts 80′s synth, a sprinkle of rockabilly, and a dash of saxophone solos.
Unintentionally, it was the perfect transition between the safety of 80′s music and the uncertainty of the 90′s.
Oh, and if anyone needs any last minute gift ideas – - a copy of Hard at Play on vinyl would be a most welcomed addition the growing collection hanging on my office wall.
41 minutes and 40 seconds of ear-pleasuring magic, 1986′s Fore! (don’t forget the exclamation point), the multi-platinum follow-up to the multi-platinum Sports, is unquestionably the band’s best album.
Critical acclaim and album sales aside, the album as a whole is simply a perfectly paced journey of ten killer tracks from the best band to ever pick up a guitar, a harmonica, a keyboard, a saxophone, and drumsticks.
See how I avoided that “better than the Beatles” argument? The Beatles never used a harmonica. And if they did, we’ll pretend they didn’t.
Let’s go track by track and let you truly feel the experience.
1) Jacob’s Ladder – “Whoa, what’s this? It’s kind of intense, yet kind of caring, let’s see what this album is about, yes?”
2) Stuck With You – “Aww. I love you too, man. No, thank you. I will stick around for the rest of the album.”
3) Whole Lotta Lovin – “If I don’t get up and dance right now, then there’s something wrong with me.”
4) Doing it All For My Baby – “Phew! After all that dancing, I need to cool off, relax, and think about the woman I love.”
5) Hip to Be Square – “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”
6) I Know What I Like – “I’ll like what I wanna’ like! You can’t tell me what to do!”
7) I Never Walk Alone – “Having friends is awesome!”
8) Forest For The Trees – “Ah yes, every great act needs a “message” song. Proper.”
9) Naturally – “No instruments?!?! You sneaky beavers! I’m gonna’ sit down and enjoy this. I’m also gonna’ learn how to snap my fingers.”
10) Simple as That – “Well, that was an amazing show, time to say my goodbyes and work up the nerve to kiss that girl in the parking lot.”
And speaking of Hip to Be Square – - unquestionably their best bit o’ musical mastery and one of the best songs ever – - let it be known kiddies. Way before all you Glee and Big Bang Theory posers thought you were breaking new ground proclaiming “square” was the new “boss,” Huey Lewis and the News were preaching that message with a barrage of e-mazing e-lectric guitars, killer keyboards, and a sexy saxophone solo (hi Dan!) you’d step over your own mother just to get an ear-full of.
You know what? Just stop what you’re doing and check this out!
And thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE: I listened to Fore! today during my morning commute. I’m not wrong. It totally rules.