Diary Friday: “I mean – Huey is so so so wonderful.”

My first concert was at the Providence Civic Center to go see Huey Lewis and the News with my friends Meredith and Jayne. I thought Dolores was there too but I don’t seem to mention her in the entry below, so I guess that’s one of those tricks memory plays on you? We were all obsessed with Huey, and although our seats were so far back that Huey appeared as a pinprick in the far distance, we had a great time. I was 16 years old.

About 10 years later, I was living in Chicago, and one day my friend Ann Marie called me out of the blue, saying, excitedly, “I am coming to pick you up right now. We’re going to be in a Huey Lewis video.” Excuse me? Apparently, she had heard on her car radio that Huey Lewis was filming a bunch of videos in town for his Four Chords and Several Years Ago album, and they were looking for extras. Apparently, the video was going to be an American Bandstand-inspired environment, with people dancing on the floor, and scaffolding all around the band. Filmed in black and white, we were told to show up in 60s garb (or a close approximation of it). We arrived at the studio to pandemonium, lines stretching out the door, people in bouffants and little 60s-era dresses. We ended up knowing someone who was working the door, a PA or something, who saw us in line, and shuffled us past the waiting throngs. Ann Marie and I were part of the group chosen to have our hair done professionally, so we sat in makeshift hairdressing chairs as stylists teased our hair and pouffed it out. It was a long day. Huey Lewis performed the songs live (in my recollection, he did almost a full concert for us – including some of his earliest hits), and we all had to dance and gyrate for the entire day. Ann and I were placed on a scaffold above the band over to Huey’s left-hand side. Recently, I found one of the videos from that day (I had never seen it before), and although I have squinted at the scaffolding right above Huey to his left for telltale signs of my striped shirt or Ann’s white shirt, I can’t see us.

Here’s the video.

Ann’s mother took a picture of the two of us, after our day in the studio dancing on the scaffolding.

It was a really fun day, and I will always feel an affinity for Huey Lewis because he was my first concert. I still love him.

So that’s the diary excerpt for today: going to my first concert to see HUEY!!!

August 23 Huey Lewis Day

I honestly am not psyched for Huey yet. It hasn’t sunk in.

I bought Cliff’s Notes for Moby Dick. Hee hee. Actually, I have started to read it and horror of horrors – it’s not that bad.

After midnight –
Oh Diary.

I’m so in love with Huey it aches! My first concert!! It was so exciting. SO exciting. I mean, breathtakingly exciting. [We got it, Sheila. We got it.] I feel physically wasted. In a way I am. My hands are totally raw – they kill, and my throat and my eyes. [Your eyes … what? Hurt? I get that your throat hurts from screaming, and your hands hurt from clapping … but what’s wrong with your eyes?] I can’t believe I actually saw Huey. I saw him and the News!

Oh I can’t stand how hyper I got. I take it back – I am not a calm person. I am a crazy maniac. I was screaming so loud.

The opening act was this guitarist comedian Dr. Gonzo who was all right. Not great – but all right.

August 24

Let me continue with Huey. [By all means.] Well – Mrs. W drove us up – there was this huge sign over the Civic Center blinking ‘HUEY LEIWS … SOLD OUT.’

I kept thinking ‘Huey Lewis is in that building RIGHT NOW, in Rhode IslandProvidence – HUEY LEWIS!!” That was what my mind was doing. That’s when I started getting vaguely excited. [“Vaguely”? Your excitement sounds full-on, Sheila, not vague at all.] I mean – Huey is so so so wonderful. [First name basis.] And the News too. I mean it – they are really classy. [Was someone saying they were not classy? I’m confused.] And the News does all the backup harmony – it sounds so wild – a lot of ‘doo wops’ – and HUEY – I was going to my first concert to see HUEY! I mean – he is a huge star! He’s in videos! Wow. And he was here in Rhode Island! I have this thing about living in the smallest state. I don’t know what it is. Just like – Oh my God. He is IN this tiny state. Huey!!! [Stop shouting ‘HUEY’, Sheila.]

Okay. Throngs of people were outside screaming and yelling. Jayne and Mere and I strolled in [where was Dolores?] trying to look like we knew where we were going. Two guys came up to us asking, “Tickets? Extra tickets?” We just brushed by. I clutched the little envelope. We looked at our tickets in the lobby, saw that we were in section 207 and went over to stand in line. We didn’t know what we were doing !!! There were so many people. It was so crazy. We finally got into the arena and managed to find our seats. Usually the arena is a basketball court so there are 2 balconies all the way around and the main floor where the court would be was covered in chairs. I could never before fathom that many people. Sold out.

The other side of the arena was so far away the people were miniscule. We were in the 2nd balcony in the back. But it’s not as bad as it sounds because the arena really isn’t enormous. [Wait. It’s not? But you just said ….] It’s big but we could see the stage fine and the people on it. I couldn’t see the faces of any of the techies running around on it but I could see them fine. The SPEAKERS. God – they were huge. Just being there and knowing that HUEY LEWIS (the name must be capitalized) was somewhere in the back with his wonderful band – it was unreal – unbelievable.

I still wasn’t excited. [Huh? You weren’t? What is WRONG with you?] It was still just an unreal fog to be there. You know? [Actually I have no idea what you are talking about.] It was so unreal that I wasn’t psyched. I mean – you have to realize – to me – seeing Huey Lewis was like – Oh my God – a devout Michael Jackson fan seeing Michael. I mean for a LONG time I’ve followed Huey Lewis and the News – I love his songs. I have one of his albums. This was not a ho hum concert for me! Or for Jayne and Mere! I LOVE HIM! He’s a star – I adore him – and I saw him! WOW!

Jayne and I were talking – Right now, Michael Jackson is so much bigger than life I feel sorry for him. His image is not a human one. He is on a pillar, a pedestal – He is a celebrity. But Huey Lewis isn’t bigger than life. He is life. He’s funny, genial, just a nice guy, and his band seems so too. They all come from the same small town, they all have senses of humor which is important – but – he’s human. He’s touchable. That’s important too.

[Then in miniscule print] I love him so much.

I shouldn’t go to rock concerts if they make me feel like this. [I know. Being happy and excited is something to be avoided at all costs.]

Finally, they turned off al the lights. That was really exciting. The whole place started lighting up their lighters (the hip thing to do) so the place looked like a Christmas tree. And everyone yelling. I wasn’t yet. I mean, I knew that Dr. Gonzo was coming on, not Huey so – still it just wasn’t registering I guess.

So Dr. Gonzo came on. He was just one guy with a guitar who told jokes. I mean – he was sort of funny but not as funny as the 3 drunk guys behind us thought he was. Oh God, they were such obnoxious bastards. Probably late 20s too. They were like babies with a need for attention. It was sad. They were roaring so loudly and it wasn’t that funny. He did imitations of singers which were pretty funny.

I mean, he was supposed to rev up the crowd. He didn’t rev me up. [A devastating critique.]

I was still me. The transformation had not yet occurred. [Ha! So dramatic!]

Well, he was on for about 45 minutes. I almost forgot that soon HUEY would be on. I’m still revved from that concert. So finally Dr. Gonzo announced, “Huey Lewis and the News!”

And right then – I remember – it clicked for me. [I’m slow on the uptake.] Huey Lewis and the News were actually COMING ON STAGE IN RHODE ISLAND FOR ME! ME! I couldn’t believe it. I could feel the excitement. Wowwowwow. The entire arena was screeching, “HUEY! HUEY!” Not me though. I was just clapping politely still. {I don’t understand why you are holding back.]

They had this immense light fixture above the stage in addition to the far back spotlights so that the whole stage could be flooded above from light. The whole place went black. Mere, Jayne, and I sat there – I could feel their excitement too. [But I thought you weren’t excited, Sheila.] Jayne, who had also been mellow, turned to stare at me with huge eyes. Suddenly I wanted to scream with how excited I felt. [Finally!] Oh HUEY HUEY HUEY!

Can you believe this !!

Anyways, mass pandemonium in the dark. Then suddenly, from the light thing over the stage, this red light kept throbbing, just on the stage, this beating red light. Immediately everyone knew what song was coming up – ‘Heart of Rock and Roll’ – which is MY FAVORITE – I love it so much. Good music does something to me. It lifts me up until – I swear to God – I am the music and the music is me. It’s in me. I feel it sometimes when I’m dancing, totally abandoned, to my favorite song. Music is it for me. All kinds, too.

So anyways, all we could see was this throbbing red light. Jayne, Mere and I groped for each other OhmyGod

That was all I said too – “Oh – my – God -” The entire place was berserk. Screeching. I felt crazy – pentup – Inwardly, I mean it – all I was doing was screaming HUEY!

Oh Wait
How could I forget?? Disregard that whole thing for now.

Huey Lewis and the News sang the Star Spangled Banner at Candlestick Park – a capella – ‘a combination and doo wop’ (Huey’s own words) – They were WONDERFUL! They – are wonderful.

So Dr. Gonzo left – The place went dark. Then this bright white spotlight shone on this huge American flag hanging over the stage. And – I guess from backstage – then came their voices – doing the anthem – Oh God it was beautiful –

Diary – everyone STOOD UP – and was singing and screaming along. They sounded just like on my tape. I love the arrangement and I love love love them. At the end I was yelling “YAY!” but that was a mere whimper compared to later. [I love how I am tracking my own expression of excitement. I was quite a self-conscious person.]

Anyways – there was this throbbing light and I knew that the song coming up was that one – Music is special to me – It’s emotional for me – Great songs make me so happy and uplifted! Especially Huey’s. So I just said – ‘Oh my God’. That’s when I realized what was actually happening.


Then slowly – the News came on – with their instruments – (they’re all so cute and so individual – they all really seem like just good friends).
Chris Hayes – lead guitar
Mario Cipollina – bass (He’s funny)
Bill Gibson – drums
Sean Hopper – keyboards
Johnny Colla – SAXOPHONE – !!!! He’s my favorite of the News.
I love them all.
Then Bill started the throbbing drum beat, along with the red light. Oh my God, the tension was growing. For so long, the News just stood there, under the flashing light with the drum beat – No Huey yet – Everyone was screaming so loud.

Was I? I can’t remember. I felt like screaming with my anxiety knowing that ANY second HUEY would appear.

Oh my God.

Yes he did appear and I ceased to be a rational human being.

But I don’t blame me! It was so tremendously exciting seeing him.

Oh Diary – indescribable excitement – It made me choked up and shivery

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28 Responses to Diary Friday: “I mean – Huey is so so so wonderful.”

  1. Kent says:

    Groovy stuff, Sheila! Huey ROCKS! Peace, babee.

  2. Therese says:

    But did the drummer wear a sailor middy… like the guy in FREEDOM JAM??

  3. Paul H. says:

    Poor Dr Gonzo. After your dismissal his career never recovered.

    There’s nothing like seeing your first ‘big name’ live, the excitement of being in the same room. I remember the feeling from my first ‘rock concert’ at the age of 14 when I saw Meat Loaf (sorry I mean MEAT! LOAF!) at Wembley. It seemed surreal to see in the flesh someone who I knew so well from TV and photos. If I’m honest, it still happens today when I see someone well known.

  4. Kate D. says:

    oh my god, you are so cute. and, the freedom jam reference… wow, that’s a past blast.

  5. nightfly says:

    :::four pages of suspensful buildup and excitement:::

    Oh Wait
    How could I forget?? Disregard that whole thing for now.

    I love these diaries so much.

  6. Jake Cole says:

    When even the title makes me laugh, I know I’m in for an awesome Diary Friday.

    “I saw him and the News!”

    I keep imagining you writing “and the News” after a beat, like you couldn’t believe your luck to get the whole set of them. And I always love your Tourette’s-like capitalization, like you’re saying, “I hope you’re sitting down, diary, because you are not even about to BELIEVE this shit.”

    For some reason, the listing of the band members made me laugh really hard.

  7. sheila says:

    Therese – I am dying laughing that you remember the sailor’s middy – although, honestly, who could forget a detail like that??

  8. sheila says:

    Paul H – I know, I still get that thrill too. But there’s nothing like the first time.

    Meat Loaf?? Awesome!!!

  9. sheila says:

    Kate D – I know, right? It’s a mixed blessing having kept these journals – nostalgia is not always a good thing – but I do love to look back sometimes. Freedom Jam!!

  10. sheila says:

    Jake – hahaha I know, and my breathless tone is always so urgent. So. Important.

    Diary, you better sit down. I am about to describe how hard I screamed at my first rock concert. It’s gonna blow your mind.

  11. sheila says:

    Nightfly – That “Oh Wait” thing was crazy, wasn’t it? Like: you’re gonna halt the action now??? But I’m on the edge of my seat!!

  12. PaulH says:

    Ha! My man-crush is for eva!!!!!!!

  13. Jaquandor says:

    I still think that the video for “Hip to Be Square” was really cool, and I will forever love “Stuck On You”. It’s even on the “workout” mix on both of my MP3 players!

  14. sheila says:

    Jaquandor – I love “Do You Believe in Love” the most, I think – but I also love “Buzz Buzz Buzz” and “Naturally”. I also still love their version of the Star Spangled Banner – I think I’ve posted it here once. And that “Four Chords” album is so good – too bad it’s so hard to find.

  15. Chris S says:

    this is so neat. I felt like i was there at concert in 1983 – fantastic – Huey Lewis and the News were such a breath of fresh air in the 80s. Lovely pop songs, good sound. I love the song “Stuck with you” – Does anybody remember the duet Huey and Gweneth Paltrow had on that old Smokey Robinson song? Power of Love reminds me so much. This reminded me of my first concert in 1985 – Prince at the Hartford Civic Center – fun times –

  16. sheila says:

    Chris – I’ve never seen Prince – I’m so envious!

  17. Chris S says:

    Prince puts on a great show. I’d put Prince and Paul McCartney on the bucket list for must sees I am an absolute Beatles freak so when i saw Paul McCartney i felt somewhat vindicated. Not beatles but close. But, man, when i heard Sgt. Pepper Live after listening to it as a kid on 8 track – Goosepimple moment.

    When i saw Paul at the garden back in the late 80s, I actually saw Sylvester Stallone and his brother. Man, was i excited!! Two of my big heros!! I was hoping Sly was in character and he was sitting with Mr. Gatzo from orignal Rocky- I was searching for Adrian and her glasses and hat. Or even a drunk and furious Paulie. Man, it didn’t get any better than being sort of next to two of my heros that night. I wish i could have been backstage for that conversation. “Yo, Paul, good show”.
    But Stallone would have probably said ” hen youse played…Ebony and Ivory..i think its is a little mentally irregular, you know”?

  18. Jake Cole says:

    I envy anyone who got to see Prince back in the day, especially if that was your first concert (Jesus, how could any other act ever measure up?). I horde Springsteen and Prince bootlegs like I’m saving them for the apocalypse. I’ve gone days listening to nothing else; well, except maybe Tom Waits boots.

    • Chris S says:

      yes – i was lucky. It was March 1985 when we saw Prince. He put on a cool show.

      I agree with you. Springsteen and Prince top performers of all time live. Not much better than that.
      I really think Prince is a jack of all trades: dancer, singer, guitarist, vocalist, band-leader. His work ethic is incredible.

      Although – as a director – Under the Cherry Moon was…..disappointing. Althought – he did cast Kirstin Scott-Thomas – wasn’t she in English Patient? Lol –

  19. Robert says:

    Huey Lewis was my first concert, too. Shreveport Civic Center, might’ve been the same year as you. Was my freshman year of high school. I was overwhelmed, but not in the same way you were. I learned from that concert that concerts were not for me. I loved the fact that I was there, and I liked the fact that a fave band was live and in front of me. But crowds, if anything, drive me further into myself, as it turns out. I gave it another shot a year or two later. Tina Turner. No change. She was great. I was wanting to go home. Give me good music and good headphones and a clean window. Is that sad?

  20. sheila says:

    Robert – surely it’s not sad if it doesn’t bother you.

    I saw Tina Turner too – Wang Chung opened for her. It was a crazy fun concert.

  21. Robert says:

    I think we were seeing the same tours at different dots on the sched!

  22. sheila says:

    Have you seen Elvis Costello multiple times?


  23. Rachel says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how happy this makes me. While reading it I was thinking could I possibly generate this much excitement for a concert again and then I remember I wrote about 5 pages this summer after seeing Paul McCartney. The teenage girl doesn’t die as easily as we’d think.

  24. sheila says:

    Rachel – Your comment has made me laugh. Ha!!! 5 pages! Yes!

    So true. I mean, look at my site. It’s an Elvis Fan Club page right now, basically. It hasn’t always been this way, but I just had to let my Freak Elvis Flag Fly while the iron was hot.

  25. Rachel says:

    Let it fly! Run around the block waving it! That’s why I love this entry so much. Oh how jaded and cynical we can get. How intellectual and cool. But don’t you just love THIS girl? Don’t you want to buy her a milkshake and tell her how adorable she is?

  26. sheila says:

    Rachel – hahahaha totally. I am sad for those who feel they have to let such enthusiasm go when they ‘grow up’. They resist such engagement. I feel that pull myself sometimes – but my site and my other writing gives me an outlet. I’m actually paid to write about the stuff I obsess over.

    Hopefully my writing is a little bit better now than this “HUEY” diary entry, though! Ahem.

  27. Jeff says:

    I was at that show, and it was my first concert, as well. Strangely, I have no memory of the show. But, I do still have the t-shirt. Thanks for the recollection.

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