The story behind Huey Lewis & the News’ The Power Of Love and how it made its way into Back To The Future’s audition scene is the stuff of music and movie legend. But as Lewis has revealed in a recent interview, not everything was as it seems – at least not on the screen.
The track we’re hearing on the film was not the track that scored the band their biggest hit. At least, it wasn’t the final version; it was only the demo of The Power Of Love that we are hearing when Michael J Fox as Marty McFly shredded all over with an Ibanez Roadster II s-style electric guitar.
Speaking to YouTube channel Top 2000 a gogo, Lewis tells us how it all went down, and he claims that the success of the song, which was released ahead of the movie, convinced the studio to push its release forward.
“The film Back To The Future set a record for the shortest time ever between principal shooting and when the movie came out,” says Lewis. “Nine weeks. And the reason that is, is because The Power Of Love was released one week, and every week it was soaring up the charts, and then they put the pressure on Zemeckis. He still tells the story, ‘They’re coming to me, going, We’ve got to get the movie out – the song is killing it!’”
Other reports say the pressure came from the test screenings, which were overwhelmingly positive. This was high-concept sci-fi in an easily digestible blockbuster – a cinematic work of alchemy and they wanted it out. Either way, The Power Of Love was in, and if they were in such a hurry, perhaps there was no time to use the final version in the scene.
“They took that demo and [hums shred solo] all over it in the scene where Marty is playing guitar,” says Lewis. “That’s our demo!”
The band’s involvement began as these things tend to do in Hollywood, with the big power meet. The sit-down was called by a production team lead by Steven Spielberg and director Bob Zemeckis. They wanted to sound Lewis out.
“They took this meeting, and they said, ‘We have just written this film, and our lead character Marty McFly’s favourite band would be Huey Lewis and the News, how about writing a song for the film?’” says Lewis. “I said, ‘Well, flattered, don’t know how to write for film necessarily, and don’t really fancy writing a song called Back To The Future.’ And they said, ‘Oh no, whatever song you want.’”
That was the first hurdle cleared. How it was going to sound was another matter. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2019, Lewis said he put the track on his Walkman and went for a jog, came back and finished it. Looking back on it in 2022, Lewis recalls just a little back and forth before they got what they wanted.
“I sent the demo down to them and it started with the verse [hums riff] in a minor key,” he says. “Bob Zemeckis got it and he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s not up enough. We need something to be up,’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ So I went to the boys and said what he thought and Johnny [Colla, rhythm guitars/keys] came up with [hums riff], those three chords, and it ended up being the intro, real positive. And Zemeckis said, ‘Great!’”
The video interview was shot at Lewis’ ranch in Montana, which he describes as the ranch The Power Of Love paid for. There he has been busy rewilding the pasture.
What’s the appeal of Montana? “More cheese, less rats, less people, more nature!” he explains. Check out the full interview above, in which Lewis discusses hearing loss and how it has affected his lifestyle.
Lewis famously has a cameo in Back To The Future as the non-plussed fuddy-duddy teacher with a bullhorn who didn't think much of McFly and the Pinheads' performance.
Lewis' teacher was styled after a label executive. Huey Lewis & the News would write and record a second track for the movie, Back In Time, which played as the credits rolled.