Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Huey Lewis and the News followed the “ka-” of 1982’s Picture This with the “BOOM” of 1983’s Sports. Patrick Bateman was right; it was the album where they really come into their own, commercially and artistically. If any of the album’s nine songs (five of them Top Twenty) were to be its signature song, it would have to be “I Want a New Drug.” Subtitled “(Called Love)” – this was the Just Say No era, after all – this crazy little thing was the band’s best-selling single, inspiring Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” (according to a settled lawsuit) and Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Want a New Duck” (“Not a swan or a goose / Just a drake I can dress real cute / Think I’m gonna name him Bruce”).
These days, “I Want a New Drug” fits snugly into the Guilty Pleasures file, but if there’s anything dedicated musicians have taught us, it’s that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Here are five covers that revel in the opportunity to rip out the song’s dated roots and make the words of Huey Lewis speak for themselves.
MP3: Glen Phillips – I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis & the News cover)
Glen Phillips, the man who recognized that Monty Python’s joke about a band named Toad the Wet Sprocket was a joke worth adopting as an identity, recorded “I Want a New Drug” for his 2006 solo album Mr. Lemons. Less a cover than a reinvention, Phillips’ version of “Drug” is also a reflection of the alterations an ’80s bar band would need to fit into a mid-aughts bar.
MP3: Asleep at the Wheel – I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis & the News cover)
Of course there’s a version of “I Want a New Drug” that deals with both kinds of music – country AND western. Asleep at the Wheel refuse to give any ironic winks in their take, released on the 1987 10 album; you can almost hear the ringing of spurs on the boots of the cowboy who goes into the shadowy back room of Malibu Saloon and makes this demand.
MP3: Apostle of Hustle – I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis & the News cover)
Apostle of Hustle’s reworking of “I Want a New Drug” will leave you startled – this is a song from the eighties?? The off-kilter yet relentless rhythm keeps the song going in an jittery, determined way; it’s doubtful the “(Called Love)” subtitle would apply here.
MP3: Mellani Day – I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis & the News cover)
It’s not just the change of gender that makes Mellani Day’s “I Want a New Drug” a whole new ballgame. By turning the song into a jazzy lament, she taps into the love and longing of the song in such a way that you realize you didn’t realize it was always there, waiting to be brought into the smoky light. Thanks to Ms. Day for doing so.
MP3: Bing Ji Ling – I Want a New Drug (Huey Lewis & the News cover)
The last time we featured Bing Ji Ling, he was changing “You Shook Me All Night Long” into some classic funky-white-boy music. Well, here’s the chance to hear him doing it again; his “I Want a New Drug” could have happened ten years before Huey’s or twenty-five years after, and its audience would have known that this was something special.