(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.