Pop Goes The Movies: THE POWER OF LOVE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Pop Goes The Movies: THE POWER OF LOVE

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One of the finest pop songs recorded specifically for a blockbuster film, The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis and the News was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and for Favorite Single and Favorite Video Single at the 1986 American Music Awards, winning in both categories. But the origins of the record do not begin with 1985's Back To The Future, rather a film that was released over 12 months previous to that. A film that is as equally iconic and well-remembered as Back To The Future - Ghostbusters.

Looking for a hit song to accompany the film, Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis reached out to Lindsey Buckingham to pen and perform a title track for Ghostbusters. Ramis had previously directed National Lampoon's Vacation which the Fleetwood Mac guitarist had supplied the track Holiday Road for. Buckingham eventually passed on the project, not wanting to be known as a soundtrack guy.

Reitman then approached Huey Lewis and the News, who had just enjoyed back to back top 10 hits on the U.S. Billboard chart with Heart And Soul and I Want A New Drug, both taken from their critically acclaimed third album, Sports. Lewis and the band declined the filmmakers' offer because their upcoming concert tour to promote the album left no time to write a main theme for a movie. Despite this the filmmakers incorporated Lewis' I Want A New Drug into the film as 'placeholder music'.

With Ghostbusters deep into post-production, Raydio's Ray Parker Jr. was then approached by the film's producers to create a theme song for the film, with the caveat that he only had a few days to do so. Parker Jr. was given film footage – with the Huey Lewis song still in the background as a placeholder – to aid him in writing the theme song.

Parker Jr. has stated that he initially felt the film's title seemed impossible to include in any lyrics. However, when watching television late at night, he saw a cheap commercial for a local service that reminded him that the film had a similar commercial featured for the fictional business. This inspired him to write the song as a pseudo-advertising jingle that the business could have commissioned as a promotion.

Reaching number 1 in August of 1984, Ghostbusters was a huge pop hit, and certainly helped promote the film, especially thanks to its star studded video. All seemed good, on the surface at least, but as Parker Jr.'s song dominated the airways comparisons with Lewis' I Want A New Drug were starting to be made. They are very similar indeed, as this neat mash-up will attest...

It's really hard not to hear the similarities between the two, and Huey Lewis clearly agreed when he sued Columbia Pictures and Ray Parker Jr. for copyright infringement to the tune of $5 million.

One can't help but speculate that perhaps having that placeholder music in the footage that Parker Jr. received was not the best of ideas, and perhaps, even if there was no intention of plagiarism, the refrain just seeped in subconsciously. Whatever the reason, the three parties settled out of court, with details of the settlement (specifically, that Columbia paid Lewis a settlement) to remain confidential.

Until 2001, when Lewis commented on the payment in an episode of VH1's Behind the Music.
"The offensive part was not so much that Ray Parker Jr. had ripped this song off, it was kind of symbolic of an industry that wants something — they wanted our wave, and they wanted to buy it. ... it's not for sale. ...
In the end, I suppose they were right. I suppose it was for sale, because, basically, they bought it."
Parker subsequently sued Lewis for breaching confidentiality. Lewis went on to say that it was the negative experience with Ghostbusters that led to him accepting the offer to write the theme song for Back To The Future, with the insistence on being much more hands on with it than most artists are when it comes to this type of Hollywood/music world collaboration.

The offer came directly from producer Steven Spielberg, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale. They explained that their protagonist was to be a huge Huey Lewis and the News fan, his love of their music would ground him in 1985 even though he'd find himself out of his own time.

The track Huey and the band submitted to Universal was named after the early working title of the production, would go on to feature late in the film and again over the closing credits, and contained lyrics that referred to the story and the characters. It's a great song, however Universal rejected Back In Time as the main theme...

Perhaps the reasons behind Universal's rejection of the song is because, if it had been used throughout, it could've come across as being overly meta and just too self-referential. Probably even quite jarring in places, given the lyrics, which may be hard to edit in without giving away later plot points. It works, though, when placed later in the film and used in a retrospective sense.

By this time the film had already settled on the title of Back To The Future. Not wanting to pen a song with that title in the lyrics, Lewis was reassured by the trio of Spielberg, Zemeckis & Gale that all they were looking for was one of his songs, it didn't have to necessarily be connected to the plot of the film. With The Power Of Love, Lewis, along with band members Chris Hayes and Johnny Colla, came up with something that ticked all boxes, as it works as both a Huey Lewis and the News single as well as perfectly sound-tracking Back To The Future and the scenes it is used in.

Lewis explained how he came up with the lyrics,
"I strapped on a Sony Walkman and went for a little jog, and I wrote the song on that jog.

I’m in the control room and we’re listening to the vocal and Sean [Hopper], our keyboard player, at the end of the thing he looks at me and says, ‘You know what? Best thing we’ve ever done.”
The filmmakers agreed and loved the final song, but Universal were disappointed it did not feature the film's title, so upon release they sent memos to radio stations to always mention its association with Back to the Future. An association that was quickly in-ground in pop culture history...

The Power Of Love appears early in Back to the Future as Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) skateboards to school, and then again later in the film when McFly and his band The Pinheads play a hard rock version of the song for a Battle of the Bands audition - at which a character played by Huey Lewis himself is judging and tells Marty's group that they are "just too darn loud"...

The Power Of Love can be heard once more when Marty returns to his neighborhood, and the refrain from it is used at times in Alan Silvestri's score for the film.

You'll also hear The Power Of Love in the sequel, Back to the Future Part II, when the 2015 version of Marty attempts to play the song on his guitar just after being fired but ends up playing it very poorly due to his damaged hand from his 1985 accident with a Rolls-Royce. Then, in Back To The Future Part III, it can be briefly heard playing in the car where Needles and his buddies are driving when Needles challenges Marty to the fate-determining car race.

Not only did The Power Of Love give the band their first U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number 1 single, it broke them into territories around the world. It's become as much of a classic song as Back To The Future has a film, and the two will forever be intrinsically linked.

Lewis believes the song's enduring legacy is all within the title, as he explained to Rolling Stone,
“‘The Power of Love’ is very powerful, more powerful than we realized. And as we get older, it’s really the most important emotion we have. Love really does make the world go around. You look at this crazy world with all these people, and you think, ‘How does this work?’

Love, it has to be love.”

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