To mark the highly anticipated release of the Back To The Future The Musical Original Cast Recording, exactly two years to the day since the world premiere performance, we sat down with Huey Lewis from Huey Lewis and The News and he told us the tale of how he ended up writing not one but two theme songs for Back To The Future film back in 1985, and what he thinks of the musical version of the cult classic blockbuster hit.
Huey: Steven Spielberg, Bob Zemeckis, Neil Canton and Bob Gale asked to take a meeting with us at the brand new Emblem Entertainment and we took a meeting and they said we’ve just written this film and the lead character is a guy called Marty McFly and Marty McFly’s favourite band would be Huey Lewis and the News so we thought how would you like to write a song for the film?
I told them I was flattered but I didn’t know how to write for film necessarily and frankly didn’t quite fancy writing a song called Back To The Future and they said well that’s okay we just want one of your songs! I said, well great I’ll just send you the next thing we’re working on – actually we’re working on a song right now that I think is pretty good! and that was [The Power Of Love].
Here’s a theory of mine: American popular music is like a haiku – it occurs it mostly in 4/4 or 3/4 signatures and it’s in fours and eights and sixteens so typically you get an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus out and that’s been the formula since time began for American popular music.
But with technology that’s become abandoned a little bit. In the 90s we lost bridges and then in the [noughties] we kind of lost harmony a little bit, mainly because the beat is so good because you have drum machines and synthesized sounds.
The American popular song form has pretty much been abandoned and I think people long for that old song form a little bit. I think the 80s – and I’m generalizing like crazy here – but the 80s was the last decade when we were writing songs in that traditional popular music form!
Watch the full video below!
Previously, we also caught up with Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, who wrote the music and lyrics for the Olivier Award-nominated new musical. Read some highlights from their interview below:
Glen: What we discovered is that this incredible story – Back To The Future – works brilliantly on stage because we get to journey to the 80s, into the 50s and they’re distinctive decades musically culturally; in every way they’re separate.
Once we discovered that this great story could actually work that way, plus Alans incredible score it felt like, oh gosh there was a musical hiding in this movie this whole time! Because the movie is so perfectly paced and plotted it’s fully realized, so we just had to take that incredible design and use it as a musical.
Alan: I think through Glen’s experience he’s become a song historian, if you will. I remember when we launched off on this, him shaking me like Doc and going “Do you know what this means? We’re going to get to go to the 80s and we’re going to get to go to the 50s!”
There are moments where you’re not in the 80s or the 50s and that’s been a really fun musical aspect to play with. The writing is so tight and wonderful that I always felt you could do Back To The Future with five or six actors on stools with microphones and little spotlights and a narrator and you’d get the sense of this movie in a big way like a radio show.
Glen: Ultimately Alan’s score from the original movie is actually the grandest biggest thing in the whole movie and it kind of elevates a smaller piece into grandeur. The music has always been at the front and centre for the way we wanted to approach this musical – I know for me as a songwriter, Alan’s score has informed every song that we’ve written. We’re always referencing that because it’s kind of like the deep vein for this whole thing and it’s sort of the heartbeat of the whole show.
Alan: We knew we had the score, we knew we had these great songs that were already in the show – Johnny Be Good, Earth Angel, Huey’s fantastic hit records Power Of Love and Back In Time. We knew those are on the table, the score is there but then there was a lot to do and I can’t imagine anyone greater to go through all that than Mr Ballard here!