The Power of Pop

Huey Lewis and the News
Huey Lewis and the News

I was pulling the Sam Spade act (à la The Maltese Falcon) last week, hovering over a slider and fries at the bowling alley up Hwy. 99 and watching some good-looking kids roll the rock. The place was damn near empty; just me, the kids and the gal at the counter spraying high-grade disinfectant into the guts of the smooth communal shoes.

Over the sparse sound of balls thundering down hardwood, the radio played crystalline pop songs, one after the other. I was marking the physics of flying pins, mapping their patterned scatter, when a familiar tune came on the radio: a fuzzy little snare flush followed by the cheery guitar line that leads into “If This Is It,” that maddeningly catchy ballad off Sports, the breakthrough platinum 1983 album from Huey Lewis and the News.

It sounded good, in a cozy, familiar, guilty sort of way — the sort of way we seem to appreciate the smell of our own farts. For men and women of a certain age, the music of Huey Lewis is engrained in the DNA, like a vestigial bit of genetic information that proves cultural inheritance is subject to Lamarckian gradualism. Pop music is an insidious parasite, seeking equilibrium with its host regardless of moral or aesthetic values. Like Billy Joel and John Denver, Huey Lewis excels at packaging a three-minute slice of the zeitgeist with such perfect rhythm, cadence and musical incantation that it becomes undeniable.

They haven’t stopped: Since Sports, the band has released six studio albums, over two dozen singles and the title track for Seth Rogan-James Franco stoner flick Pineapple Express. To say that you love or hate Huey Lewis is as ridiculous as it is irrelevant.

The song came to an end. I took another bite of my burger as the thump-thump of “My Sharona” filled the bowling alley.

Soul-pop act LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends joins Huey Lewis and the News 7:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 16, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $37.50 general, $60 reserved seating.

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