The band evolved out of Clover, a Bay Area country rock band that moved to London during the pub rock years. Clover minus Lewis backed Elvis Costello on most of My Aim Is True. Lewis and most of Clover's then-current lineup formed The News soon after returning to San Francisco in 1978.
The group's heyday was the The '80s, where their brand of feel-good rock n roll and memorably cheesy music videos made them a staple of the older MTV crowd. Some of their most famous songs include "Hip to Be Square" (famously used in the scene in American Psycho when Patrick Bateman frantically analyzes the song before chopping up his colleague with an ax), "I Want A New Drug," "Do You Believe In Love" and "Stuck With You." They also contributed two songs to Back to the Future, "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time" (Lewis himself makes a cameo in the film).
Their popularity wained considerably in The '90s and their recordings have since become far more sporadic, releasing only four albums between 1991 and 2010, two of which were covers albums. They remained a hugely popular touring act until 2018, when Lewis was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease, an auditory disorder which can cause significant hearing loss, forcing the band to cancel any and all future tours indefinitely. A new album, Weather, recorded before Lewis's condition worsened, was released in 2020. Lewis later said that the band will continue if he can stabilize his hearing.
I used to be renegade, I used to trope around:
- Affectionate Parody: Of Frankenstein, in their video for "Doing It All for My Baby".
- Badass Baritone: Huey, but he can hit high notes, too.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Their name follows that pattern.
- City Shout Outs: "The Heart of Rock and Roll" gets this in live performances. There's also a regional version that mentions Syracuse and Albany, NY.
- Cool Shades: Huey, especially in his 1980s videos.
- Cover Version:
- "It's Alright" by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.
- "But It's Alright" by J.J. Jackson.
- "Do You Believe in Love" by Supercharge.
- Down in the Dumps: Part of their "Perfect World" video takes place in a junkyard, probably to underscore what the lyrics are saying "there's no living in a perfect world; there ain't no perfect world anyway."
- The '80s: They were very part of that zeitgeist.
- Former Teen Rebel: The subject of "Hip to be Square."
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: One opens and closes "The Heart of Rock & Roll".
- Heavy Meta: "The Heart of Rock & Roll"
- Long Runner Lineup: Type 1 and Type 2. Their first line-up of Lewis, Chris Hayes (lead guitar), Johnny Colla (rhythm guitar/sax), Sean Hopper (keys), Mario Cipollina (bass) and Bill Gibson (drums) lasted from the group's founding in 1979 through to 1995 when Cipollina was replaced by John Pierce. After Stef Burns replaced Hayes in 2001, the band's line-up remained unchanged until 2016.
- Love Is a Drug: "I Want a New Drug" implies that no drug compares to the feeling of being 'alone with you'.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Hip To Be Square" is an upbeat song about giving up the rebellious attitude of youth, becoming a boring middle-aged man and liking it.
- Morton's Fork: In "Workin' for a Livin'":Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
- New Sound Album: Small World saw the band experimenting more with smooth jazz, polyrhythms and white reggae. It was also an experiment they wouldn't attempt again, going back to their more familiar R&B/rock sound for their next album Hard At Play.
- The Power of Friendship: "I Never Walk Alone" concerns the benefits of having someone else to help you in the difficult points of life.
- The Power of Love: Possibly the trope-namer, as the title of one of their most famous songs. Probably the trope-codifier.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Granted they didn't perform the song themselves, but "Hip To Be Square" was parodied as "It's Hip To Be A Square" on Sesame Street.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Walking on a Thin Line"
- True Love Is Boring: "Stuck With You"