“Physical”: the biggest naughty hit of the ’80s


IIt was a famous score for gyms at the dawn of the ’80s. An ironic hymn to curving shadows, in which race and desire glisten. Pop candy is inseparable from its hilarious clip, as hot Olivia Newton-John in pink leggings, a white bodysuit and a blue shirt matching her eyes, sways between young boys in underwear and fat males, in a fitness club parody against a background of rock beats disco. Smeared with naughty allusion and, above all, a good second-rate dose, the songs’ lyrics and “physical” appearance have become so cult that, 40 years later, young pop singer Dua Lipa has paid homage to her in reinventing the moniker. A massive success with a turn and an unforgettable clip as well, although it’s more serious but skillfully plays the nostalgic tribute card.

And while social networks mourn the tragic disappearance of Olivia Newton-John, who was swept away by recurring breast cancer at the age of 73, the most symbolic hit of her career – after the song “You’re The Person I Want” from fat It haunts our eardrums more than ever. In 2019, in a new account of the 500 best pop songs of the 80s, Billboard Magazine He even confirmed it at the top of the pyramid, before Kim Karns’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” “Endless Love” by Diana Ross / Lionel Richie, and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

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“I’m so happy to see this song live,” Steve Kepner, a constant friend of the singer and co-author/musician of “Physicist” told us. “She captures her age so well, her success has made Olivia so happy, and she has allowed me to continue to live off my profession.e from the singer), “physical” symbolizes the stuttering nodes 80 to the medulla.

The Era of Moral and Economic Recovery is now America under the Reagan administration which intended to start again blindly on the right foot by celebrating the cult of performance at any cost. For Olivia Newton-John too, “Physicist” would be a strong comeback. Bombed the world star thanks fat And to his cheerful planetary tube with John Travolta, the former country muse has begun to lower the mic, due to the lack of a new triumph in cinema or in the charts since 1978.

So tired of all these silly songs about love, we wanted to write something about the physical act…how about sex!

And it was her childhood friend Steve Kepner, an American guitarist exiled in Australia before returning to California in 1974, who pulled her out of the rut. After achieving some success with the popular pop group Tin Tin, who accompanied the Bee Gees on tour and established themselves in 1971 with the song “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”, this former composer of several Italian and Spanish artists (including Miguel Bossi) begins From scratch back to America. His first solo album, tear down wallsin 1979, crashed hard and Kepner once again found himself frantically writing for others.

On Monday morning, Physicist will compose, at home a few hours later, with his partner Terry Chaddick: “We got tired of all these silly songs about love, we wanted to write something about physical action…sex what! In our minds it was a song that was supposed to A guy sings it and we imagine Rod Stewart would do the trick, though we never specifically wrote for him, contrary to what I’ve read on Wikipedia! Kipner mentions ‘We recorded ‘Physical’ on a small four-track tape recorder, with simple acoustic guitar, piano and percussion instrument I chose from During which the rhythm of” rock 1 “».

Panic then stunt ONJ

Steve Kepner brings the tape to his manager Roger Davis, who listens to the first draft in front of him. By a happy combination of circumstances, another director stopped that day at Davis’ headquarters: Lee Kramer, a friend of Olivia Newton-John, who is also a film producer, and by the way, the man who would orchestrate Tina’s comeback. Turner in the eighties. piece, which he heard through the wall of an adjacent office, Kramer insisted with Roger Davis that the “physical” be recorded by Olivia Newton-John. Among his clients, Lee Kramer also has a bodybuilder, ex-Mr. Universe, which he plans to: kill two birds with one stone by painting the cover of Olivia’s future album, which will be titled physical, with a picture of the singer and Mr. Musles. The idea would make pschitt, but Olivia Newton-John records the song, which will follow in stores through the album of the same name, October 13, 1981.

Read alsoFrom “Physical” to “Gym Tonic”: 40 years ago, the exercise craze

Produced and arranged by John Farrar, with electric guitar solo by Toto’s Steve Lucather, the track “Physical” marks a radical turning point for ex-Sandy. fat. Forgotten country music from its beginnings! But above all, Newton-John now supposes the sexualization of his image through Kepner’s sulphurous words. Well…not quite: “After recording ‘Physical’ in the studio, Olivia panicked. She thought she might have gone too far and begged Davis and Kramer not to push the title. She was afraid all the guys would take the lyrics seriously and try to sleep with her. ‘ Kepner recalls. Faced with the directors’ disapproval, ONJ changed his strategy and insisted that playing the “physical” syllable plays the card of humor and identification with physique: “At the time, in Los Angeles, exercise was ubiquitous, Olivia doing it better to distract from these swear words. I imagined this parody clip in the gym. A lot of people seriously thought the song stirred up this universe, especially since Olivia asked the record label to air the clip on MTV several weeks before the single was released,” Kepner continues.

The song launched like a rocket thanks to the differences!

Obviously the ruse won’t last and many ears will quickly understand the double meaning of pearls like “It’s hard to undo, if you know what I mean” or “We have nothing to say to each other, if not ‘horizontal’… without forgetting the mythical words of the laawat.” , based on animal and body language. Controversy soon erupts. ‘Physicalism’ makes people talk and/or fantasize, South Africa kicks out song and syllable, as does Utah in the United States.

Unbearable icing on the homophobic cake: One of the last stills of the clip shows the singer – this time in tennis clothes and looking for a racket partner (ahem, ahem…) – who is caught by two Apollons at the club, who turn their backs on him as they They walk hand in hand in the direction of the shower. The final seconds are very funny and undoubtedly strange, somewhat inflated at the time, on top of the time being censored by MTV. “These controversies were an incredible medium!” Steve Kepner recalls “The song took off like a rocket thanks to the controversies, while so far it has been in the top 30.

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From November 21, 1981, propelled by loud cries of wisdom and general public curiosity, “Physical” firmly held the number one spot in the best-selling singles in the United States. His reign would last ten weeks until the end of January 1982: a cultural phenomenon was born. It sold over two million copies in the country that year, and the song also hit #1 in Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and… in Belgium! Between the explosion of fitness rooms in the wake of Jane Fonda’s VHS, the MTV music boom and the pursuit of sexual liberation, “Physical” has a massive planetary alignment. Misunderstood or not, Olivia Newton-John’s words and fashion hit the house and reflect a strong thirst for hedonism, especially in an America that is barely out of crisis. His legacy will be carried on by the following generations: from Kylie Minogue in 2000 to Dua Lipa last year, passing through an unforgettable episode of the series. cheerful In 2010, popular culture will be much celebrated in popular culture.

His late singer, did not leave the hearts of the sentimental crowd. And she didn’t give up her fight: To mark the tube’s 40th anniversary, last November, Olivia Newton-John, in partnership with a fitness chain and sportswear brand, organized a charity event to raise money for her association to fight cancer. “Materialism” is ultimately not just a simple bob with comic features, a crucible of sulfur fantasies that have now evaporated. It is above all a hymn to the joy of the Gym Tonic years, a double-meaning title and always cute, an invitation to self-deprecation over some naughty verses… and the eternal song of the sparkling blonde mermaid with a stinging smile, which we really miss so badly.


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