October 21st, 2015, has been long awaited by Back to the Future fans: It’s the exact day Marty McFly and Doc Brown left the roads behind and zipped ahead to the second installment of the beloved time travel franchise.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the original Back to the Future, and to mark the occasion, the entire series is being reissued in a massive Blu-ray and DVD trilogy box set packed with bonus features and behind-the-scenes extras.
One such snippet, available to watch exclusively on Rolling Stone, offers a peek at the set the day Huey Lewis — who contributed two songs to the soundtrack — arrived to film his quick cameo. The rocker plays a nerdy teacher who auditions Michael J. Fox’s group the Pinheads for a Battle of the Bands. After the group picks out Lewis’ “Power of Love” during their failed audition, Lewis tells them, “Hold it fellas. I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud.” The scene was shot quickly and at night to accommodate shooting on Fox’s other project: the hit sitcom Family Ties.
The behind-the-scenes clip offers a look at Lewis’ interactions with director Robert Zemeckis as they work out the timing of the gag. Towards the end, Fox delivers a fantastic, but ultimately scratched, one-liner in response to the teacher’s lame rebuffing of the Pinheads: “What do you want — Huey Lewis?”
“Zemeckis thought it would be cool [to put me in the film] and said to me, ‘If we had any balls, we’d put you in this thing,'” Lewis tells Rolling Stone. “I resisted at first because the band had just hit, but eventually, I just said, ‘If you disguise me and make it an in-joke thing with an uncredited cameo, then okay.'”
Lewis says his inspiration for his uncool character was a record label employee he used to work with. “We had a record company guy who shall remain nameless who was a real square guy who used to dress like that and he had a funny way of speaking,” Lewis says. “I immediately adopted his persona. Six months later, I’m in New York at the record label and the guy comes up to me like, ‘Huey, I saw your performance and I wanted to compliment you on it. I think you should win an Oscar … Or maybe I should.'”
After a string of near-Number One singles from his massive 1983 album Sports, Huey Lewis and the News finally scored their first international hit with the unofficial Back to the Future theme, “Power of Love.” Lewis had sent Zemeckis a demo of “Power of Love” while the song was in its working stages, with the director later recording the “wild guitar part” over the top of it for the film.
Thirty years later, Lewis still uses the word “surreal” to describe the experience, noting how art imitated real life. “When they took a meeting with the studio, they said that they had written this film and Marty McFly was their lead character and his favorite band would be Huey Lewis and the News,” the singer recalls. “So [the producers] said, ‘How about they just write a song for the film?'”