Huey Lewis & the News‘ breakthrough album, Sports, was released 40 years ago Friday: September 15, 1983. The album sold 7 million copies and spun off five hit singles. Huey Lewis tells ABC Audio that Sports was specifically designed to produce hits, and that’s how he continues to think about it.

“I still see it as a collection of singles. … In 1981, ’82, ’83, radio was king. There was no internet,” he notes. “If you wanted to exist and play your own music, you had to have a hit. So that was the object of Sports.”

The band’s desire to get on the radio explains why the sound of Sports is sort of all over the place.

“I think our subsequent albums hold together more as albums, but you know, we needed to have a hit single,” Huey says.

“There’s only nine songs on it … and they’re all so different,” Huey notes. “One’s kind of a country song, ‘Bad Is Bad‘ is kind of a bluesy, a cappella-ish thing. Then there’s ‘[Walking on a] Thin Line,’ which is kind of a hard rocker, and then there’s ‘If This Is It,’ which is a nice ballad.”

“We were just aiming all of those at radio, hoping one of them would stay,” he says.

Of the five songs that did “stay,” Huey says he was most surprised at the success of “I Want a New Drug.”

“I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, if this song is a hit, we got another three of them comin’,"” he says. (AUDIO IS ABC 1-ON-1)

Sports’ 40th anniversary is being celebrated with a special vinyl release, available in classic black or olive green.

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