Many years ago, FM radio waves across this great nation were overtaken by a desperate cry for help, masquerading as a “pop hit” of the day. I was young then, far too young to understand that this catchy pop gem was not simply a clever love song, like so much of the radio fodder of the day. No, this was a clear and potent plea by a man who had seen too much, felt too much, and needed to be rescued. As the years went by, I almost forgot the words of that song. But then, as an array of drug experiences piled up in my own personal history, nagging questions began to plague me. What could have happened to that singer to cause such an outpouring? Where had his path taken him, and where was he begging to be taken next? Recently I undertook a studied analysis of the song, the results of which are presented here for the first time anywhere. I only hope there is still time to reach that wretched man.
It’s clear from the very first lyric that the singer is desperate for some kind of novel intoxication; the old methods no longer suit him. Almost immediately, he seeks to clarify his intentions—to truly be a novel intoxicant, it must not share many of the unfortunate side effects he has already experienced, perhaps too many times to count. For instance, he is seeking an experience that “won’t make me sick”; nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common to a great array of drug experiences, but perhaps he is seeking this novel intoxication as a replacement for the heroin sickness from which he so recently escaped. Perhaps he knew even then what many of us know now, that regular AMT abuse is a surefire way to assault the digestive tract, no matter how shiny things might get afterwards.
As his story progresses, however, the picture becomes more desperate. He is adamant that whatever he takes must not “make me crash my car”, indicating a possible pattern of alcohol abuse in his history, perhaps with tragic consequences. But when he states that it must not “make me feel three feet thick”, the situation becomes murkier. Did he abuse DXM, to the point where he was physically impaired, perhaps permanently? Is he referring to some form of harrowing ketamine hallucination that twisted his interaction with three-dimensional space, compressing his form into a horrible distortion of matter and energy?
The emerging picture, indeed, is one of a rash over-consumer, a man who has taken his poor body to its limits. He insists that the drug must not “make my head hurt”, perhaps unaware that his poly-drug abuse has led to severe dehydration. He protests that it cannot “make my mouth too dry, or make my eyes too red”, indicating quite clearly that he knows the burden of a daily breakfast of cannabis. He cannot bear a substance that “makes me nervous, wonderin’ what to do”—who does not know the terror of being on a subway platform, suddenly realizing that the acid is kicking in, and not knowing who among the teeming throngs are harmless innocents and who have been sent to apprehend us? Can we not empathize with this man’s plight?
And then, in a moment of heartfelt clarity, he begins to describe what he wants more directly, no longer simply listing what it cannot be. He is looking for something “that makes me feel like I feel when I’m with you”. Perhaps he simply needs a good tab of Ecstasy. Ah, but wait! A further clarification: “when I’m alone with you”. Perhaps what he really needs is GHB.
But as his narrative gains momentum, we learn that his requirements are more complex. It must not come in liquid form (“one that won’t spill”) and it must not “come in a pill”, suggesting that, unless he prefers the taste of bitter powder in his mouth, inhalation, insufflation, or injection are possible methods of administration. He has clearly experienced the dangerous and degrading cycle of stimulant abuse followed by downers to smooth his jagged psyche into sleep (“one that won’t keep me up all night, one that won’t make me sleep all day”). And his perhaps naïve insistence that it must not “cost too much” indicates that, depending on his insurance, he hopes to purchase this new substance from Canada.
The experience he seeks must not deceive him with promises of pleasure left unfulfilled (“one that does what it should”). It must not “make me feel too bad”, but more importantly, it must not “make me feel too good”, indicating that Ecstasy should probably be taken off the list. But what, what is the actual essential quality of the substance that he seeks, its shining core? He leaves us only a cryptic clue: “One with no doubt”. Perhaps what he seeks is the mysterium tremendum inherent in a powerful dose of ayahuasca, administered in a sacred setting, a dose that will shatter the hold his previous addictions maintain on him, and prime his psyche and soul for a new life.
And then, once more, the refrain: “One that makes me feel like I feel when I’m with you, when I’m alone with you.”
Perhaps ayahuasca is overkill. GHB might very well suffice.
But there is a hidden edge remaining to the singer’s tale. The song’s message is disguised as a love song, suggesting that the man wants a substance that makes him feel like he’s alone with the object of his affections, presumably because being alone with that person is pleasurable in some fashion. But what, I wonder with ominous apprehension, if the singer detested that person’s presence? What if he is seeking a substance that will make him feel a murderous rage, like PCP? What if he is seeking a substance that will make him feel nothing at all, like certain antidepressants? What if being alone with that wretched soul is akin to being suffocated, in which case carbon monoxide is his only recourse?
I can only hope and pray the members of The News got to poor Huey Lewis before he did something drastic.
Huey Lewis & The News scored a #6 hit on the Billboard charts in 1984 with their clever long song, “I Want A New Drug”, from their #1 album Sports, which sold over 7,000,000 copies and was nominated for a Grammy. Recent investigation reveals that the heart of rock and roll is indeed still beating, despite decades of drug abuse.