Olivia Newton-John Gets Physical

Her 1982 smash in this week's road to the 53rd GRAMMY Awards edition of Forgotten Videos
  • Olivia Newton-John in "Physical"
December 16, 2010 -- 9:24 am PST

Welcome to Forgotten Videos, the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards edition, showcasing past GRAMMY winners. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week until the GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 13, 2011, we'll feature a video from a GRAMMY-winning artist that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or, just for old times' sake. We just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.


Olivia Newton-John

What made Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" such a monster hit in 1982? Well, let's just say when Olivia invites you to "get physical," the answer is seldom "no."

By the time this record sat at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks in 1982, Olivia had become as big a music superstar as there was at the time, but "Physical" won her a whole new fan base. The audience that thought of her as a pretty and polite country/pop singer had loved her through the '70s, but now she was embraced by an audience that thought the black leather-clad "Sandy" at the end of Grease trumped the innocent school girl at the beginning of the movie.

With "Physical," the Olivia evolution was complete. She had started as the cute Aussie country singer who established herself with music such as a cover of Bob Dylan's "If Not For You," the mellow pop of "Have You Never Been Mellow," and the straight balladry of the Record Of The Year GRAMMY-winning "I Honestly Love You."

But then came her first real movie role, 1978's Grease. That same year, she released Totally Hot, her first pinup album with a cover picture in (coincidentally?) black leather. The Physical album would follow in 1981, which also included songs such as the Top 5 hit "Make A Move On Me" and "Stranger's Touch."

As for the video, it's safe to say "Physical" was made in the Mesozoic period of music video; by the standards of video's heyday, the clip is boxed-wine cheap. It's hard to think of these special effects being state-of-the-art in D. W. Griffith's time. That's less a criticism of the video as it is a recollection that MTV was barely a year old and "video budget" was a yet-to-be-coined term. It did, after all, win the Video Of The Year GRAMMY in 1982. The song also earned Olivia a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, the previous year.

Perhaps one criticism though: The clip was released at the height of the gym-as-singles-bar craze, but judging from the Three Stooges-inspired slapstick of the video, you'd never know the song was meant to convey under-the-covers lust.

Where is Olivia now? After a few more sexy albums, by 1989 she had released a lullabies disc called Warm And Tender, and later, albums like 1994's Gaia, her plea for compassionate care for the planet. Still, even at more than 60 years old, we think she's just a Total Gym workout away from another saucy comeback.

Last week's Forgotten Video

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