Stuck With You

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(Pictured: Huey Lewis and the News show off an award in Britain, 1986.)

I cannot tell you the first time I heard “Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis and the News. I am not sure anybody could, actually, because it’s the kind of thing that you feel like you’ve heard before even when you’re hearing it for the first time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—instant familiarity combined with freshness is how many mega-gazillion-selling hits are made. “Stuck With You” was guaranteed to be a mega-gazillion-selling a hit for another reason: it had been three years since the release of the mega-gazillion-selling album Sports, and in that time, the band had released only “The Power of Love,” which became the band’s first #1 single in the summer of 1985. People were ready.

“Stuck With You” shows up on a couple of radio surveys from Canadian stations in mid-July 1986. A few days later, stations in Hartford, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Providence, and Los Angeles are on it. Indicative of just how hotly anticipated it was, it enters the Hot 100 way up at #42 on August 2, 1986. It cracks top tens across the country in mid-August, and makes #1 in Buffalo, Providence, Minneapolis, Louisville, and a few smaller cities in early-to-mid September. Despite its hot start, it takes a while before it gets to the top of the Hot 100, on September 20, 1986, where it stays for three weeks. After that, the record then slow-cooks its way out, not gone from the big chart until mid-December. At WPHD in Buffalo, it ranks #3 for the entire year; at WNTQ in Syracuse, it’s #4. On Billboard‘s Top 100 of 1986, it ranks #21, behind several records that never made #1 at all. (It was somehow four slots behind “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds.) “Stuck With You” was also all over MTV that summer and fall, and it couldn’t be more typical of the music video form at that moment in history, full of whimsical images and beautiful women.

The album Fore! followed the single, released on August 20. Like Sports, it also hit #1, but unlike Sports, it didn’t take nine months to get there. It spent the week of October 18, 1986, at #1, just as the second single “Hip to Be Square” started up the chart. The third single, “Jacob’s Ladder” would also make #1, and two succeeding singles would hit the Top 10 as well.

(When I was writing for Popdose, I proclaimed “Hip to Be Square” to be one of the world’s worst songs. “The protagonist of ‘Hip to Be Square’ is the same guy from ‘Stuck With You,’ although he’s no longer enjoying a self-deprecating laugh with his spouse over their life together,” I wrote. “Now, he wants everybody to know how he’s achieved that life: by cutting his hair, working out, eating better—giving up that old hippie bullshit, in other words—and thereby reaching a new level of cool through middle-class conformity. And although he never says it, he is clearly a guy who never voted Republican in his life until Ronald Reagan came along.”)

Fore! is not an album I listen to much. It sounds great, sure, even more commercial than Sports, which is really sayin’ something. But “Stuck With You” is head-and-shoulders the best song on it, which is not the case with Sports—I could be argued into naming any one of several songs as the best on that album. There’s a sameness to the tracks that Sports doesn’t have. I should listen to Fore! backwards sometime, because the album-ending tracks, “Forest for the Trees,” “Naturally,” and “Simple As That” might be better than they seem by the time I get to them. (The band’s next album, Small World, is much more likely to get into the player around here, as is Plan B, which nobody heard when it came out in 2001 despite the fact that it’s got some of the band’s best songs and Huey’s most likeable performances. Hear it all here.)

But “Stuck With You”—dang, that record is still such a pleasure after all this time. I remember hearing it over and over again on one particular weekend, about the time it went to #1, married three years with my life and career figured out (or so I thought), and thinking that if I ended up as happy as Huey sounded, everything in the world would be all right. Thirty-four years later, everything in the world is most certainly not all right, but “Stuck With You,” the most perfectly constructed four minutes in the Huey Lewis catalog, is still great.

6 thoughts on “Stuck With You

  1. David

    Where I grew up (Nashville), “Back in Time” all seemed to get a decent amount of airplay, especially for a non-single, and, of course, Huey also sang on “We Are the World” in the interim.

    Huey Lewis & The News really had quite a good run on the radio, starting with a couple songs off of Picture This, that just sort of stopped after the first single on Small World (“Perfect World”). I realize that album had a couple of minor hits, as did some follow-ups, but it’s interesting how what had been a juggernaut over the previous six or so years just sort of petered out with a relative whimper.

    My wife and I saw the band perform at an outdoor venue outside of Washington, D.C., around 2005, and they still put on an excellent, good-time, hit-filled show on a perfectly beautiful day. It’s a shame that it looks like Huey may never sing again. He’s always someone who seemed like he took his celebrity with good humor and remained a regular guy.

    Not bad for a guy who played harmonica with Thin Lizzy and a band that backed Elvis Costello on his first album.

    1. Wesley

      “Back in Time” got a good amount of airplay in my top 40 market at the time as well (Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem, North Carolina). I’d say it holds better than “Jacob’s Ladder,” which is one of those number ones from a group with several other hits that seem like they would’ve done better instead, like say “Heart and Soul.”

      I got to talk to Huey once and he was a great guy. Even did pretty well as an actor with some guest shots on the Hot in Cleveland sitcom a few years ago. I do hope he’s doing well.

      One final note: When “I Want a New Drug” came out, the “Just Say No” nanny station manager in Durham, North Carolina, had his deejays call the song “When I’m With You” for a while before relenting. You have your 80s nostalgia, I have mine.

  2. Alvaro Leos

    There’s an old interview of Huey Lewis right before “Fore” came out where he said “we used to try to capture a performance and now we create one…now you can have any sound in the world on your drums, you might as well check out a few of them.” That’s why “Sports” sounds much better than “Fore”, and mid-80s productions generally outdo late-80s productions. The first album sounds like the world’s greatest bar band on a perfect night; “Fore” never lets you forget it’s a couple of guys sticking stuff together in the studio.

    1. I said it once before and I’ll say it again. Huey Lewis & the News were the right band at the right time for the right audience. The 1980s couldn’t be the 80s without Huey.

  3. leo edelstein

    Only you can get me eating pancakes at 6:45am to Greatest Hits of Huey Lewis and the News. Pass the maple syrup, and thanks for writing THJKOC!

  4. I was very surprised to learn recently that “Fore!” was pretty much just as if more of a success at the time than “Sports”. Their episode of “Behind The Music” kind of implied it was the beginning of their drop in success IIRC.

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