Ask '80s pop-rock superstar Huey Lewis how he wound up recording the title song for the highly anticipated stoner action-comedy "Pineapple Express," due in theaters Wednesday, and he'll basically shrug.
"They e-mailed, 'Would I write a song for a Seth Rogen movie?' I said, 'Why not?' " Lewis, 58, recalled in a telephone interview from his Montana vacation home. "I don't consider career moves. I just answer the phone. I'm flattered at my ripe old age to even be considered. It was all about fun."
Ask "Pineapple Express" director David Gordon Green how the Grammy-winning Lewis and the News wound up on the soundtrack, however, and you'll elicit a breathless narrative that takes into account Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" theme, plenty of what the director terms "organic thinking" and a healthy admiration for Lewis' physique, shown in its full-frontal glory in a certain Robert Altman drama.
Putting together the soundtrack, Green and music supervisor Jonathan Karp selected songs they deemed right for the film's plot, which sees Rogen's stoner and his pot dealer (James Franco) running from mobsters. The score is packed with '80s-skewing favorites from the likes of Robert Palmer ("Woke Up Laughing") and Peter Tosh ("Wanted Dread and Alive") and rap and R&B; chestnuts from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Public Enemy and Bell Biv DeVoe.
"I wanted things to be timeless but with a nudge to the '80s," the director said.
David Gordon GreenThe idea to reach out to Lewis was sparked one day when Rogen showed up on the Sony lot where Green was editing "Pineapple Express" and noticed the emergency vehicle from the 1984 comedy "Ghostbusters." Suddenly a lightbulb went on in his head.
"He said, 'Wouldn't it be cool to have a theme like 'Ghostbusters'? Then Seth had the idea to see if Huey would do it. We loved seeing his [genitals] in Robert Altman's 'Short Cuts.' [Lewis] is actually a great actor."
As it turns out, Green wanted to cast Lewis as the mob boss character in "Pineapple Express" but gave the part to Gary Cole after discovering Lewis would be on Broadway with a production of the musical "Chicago" when filming commenced. "I never talked to David Gordon Green!" Lewis said, exasperated to learn of the director's intention from a reporter.
Still, it seemed only fitting to hire the musical force responsible for the Oscar-nominated, No. 1 smash hit "The Power of Love" (the theme song to 1985's "Back to the Future") to create a theme for "Pineapple Express." More specifically, the group was enlisted to follow in the template set by Oingo Boingo's "Weird Science," David Bowie's "Cat People" and Phil Collins' "Against All Odds," among other themes: a song that overtly references the movie's title in its lyrics whether it makes any literal sense.
Lewis remembered his marching orders: "They said, 'We want a track called 'Pineapple Express.' I said, 'Ooh. That's going to be tough.' They said, 'It's a kind of marijuana.' I said, 'Like Panama Red? No problem.' "
With his band the News, Lewis wrote and performed two different versions of "Pineapple Express," and the filmmakers selected one reminiscent of the group's "The Heart of Rock and Roll." It features percolating keyboard rips, a sax solo and the sampled sound of Rogen toking hard on a movie joint.
"I got you and you got me / We're as high as we can be," Lewis sings. "How did we get into this mess? Pineapple Express!"
"Huey Lewis and the News made music for my movie," Green said. "It's such a benchmark, I don't know where to go professionally from here. I can't think of anything cooler."