June 1984: Huey Lewis and The News Hit No. 1 with 'Sports'

Huey Lewis & The News
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Album artwork

Huey Lewis and The News' eponymous debut album had put the rock band's name the map. With 1982's Picture This, they scored their first hit single "Do You Believe in Love." Their third album Sports launched the band through the stratosphere and by the summer of 1984, Huey Lewis & The News were inescapable on the album charts, the airwaves and MTV.  

Released on Sept. 15, 1983, the band's third LP was one of 1984's hottest records. Racking up to seven million in sales, Sports was the No. 2 seller of the year, just behind a little record by the name of Thriller

Lewis was so famous by the mid-80s that when Pepsi reached out to Michael Jackson to strike a deal, Coke, in turn, reached out to Lewis with millions of dollars.

“They had to play catch-up,” recalled Lewis to Rolling Stone headquarters. “They told me I had the largest Q score of anybody in America. I didn’t know what that meant, but they told me it was based on likability, recognizability, credibility and all that crap. They actually said to me, ‘We think you have what we call ‘Cokeness.'”

The San Francisco sealed their superstar status as the album hit No.1 on the Billboard's Album chart for a one-week reign in June 1984, spinning four Top 10 hit singles that ranged from warm new-wave to soft folk rock with "Heart and Soul," "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock & Roll," and "If This Is It."

"In the '80s, the way radio was programmed, if you didn't have a hit record, you weren't going to be able to make any more records. That was it, period," Lewis reminisced to Billboard.  So our priority was to come up with hit singles. Every tune we aimed for radio, 'cause we didn't know which one was going to be a hit. We just knew we needed a frickin' hit, period. And fortunately we got 'em."

In an era when "radio-friendly" was the dominating buzzword of the Top 40-dominated music world, Sports was the pop-rockers' breakthrough release that ensured the boys could continue to jam freely with some old-school sax and radio rock.

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