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Aug 08

JOHN TRAVOLTA AND OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN – “Summer Nights”

FT + Popular41 comments • 3,707 views

#427, 30th September 1978

“Summer Nights” brings into focus the differences between pop on stage and pop on single: its structure, building and building and getting more cacophonous and then peaking into a languid fade, is a really unusual one for a pop single, but immediately recognisable as a musical ensemble number. That’s what it was bought as, anyhow – another massive Grease hit, from the other end of the story, and this one a survivor of the original stage version. As such it’s trying to channel the 50s more directly than “You’re The One That I Want”, nodding especially to the call-and-response minidramas of classic Shangri-La’s.

The comparison doesn’t really help “Summer Nights” – the gender comedy here (guys be exaggeratin’!) is pretty crude compared to the wit and spark of, say, “Give Him A Great Big Kiss”: there’s a whole world of heat implicit in that song’s “close…very, very close”  which Danny and Sandy’s knockabout contrasts can’t get near. But it’s not like 90% of the songs we’ll meet are in that league, and if “Summer Nights” doesn’t really get beyond sexual panto, it delivers that with real aplomb. It’s not just the constant build-up that’s odd for a pop single: the structure is cleverer than most, two separate conflicting narrators making for a curious duet-that-isn’t. (This structure was borrowed last year for Teenagers’ “Homecoming”, which manages to make “Summer Nights” seem as delicate and finely observed as Jane Austen.)

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Comments

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  1. 31
    wichita lineman on 14 Aug 2008 #

    I agree Pete, Hairspray works better because it really is a loving tribute, which shows that camp isn’t destructive of the past by definition. It also features some cracking songs, contemporary ones, which I’d never heard before (I Wish I Were A Princess, Nothing Takes The Place Of You).

  2. 32
    Malice Cooper on 15 Aug 2008 #

    I hated this at the time and still do. They were in the enviable position of having a guaranteed number one even if they farted for 3 minutes. They may have saved the world from the Smurfs but even Father Abraphart would have been preferable to this. Yuk !

  3. 33
    Caledonianne on 15 Aug 2008 #

    I may be unique for someone of my age and gender in that I have never seen Grease.

    Can I just say, therefore, how much I enjoyed the dialogue between Dan and Pete above. Lots to think about there.

    (I’m an old fashioned goil. I loved “Hello Dolly!”.

    I enjoy this record more now than I did at the time (because of the under the dock/10 o’clock and arcade/lemonade alt testimonies), and like others, I’m surprised by how late in the summer/early autumn this hit the top. I had a long vacation job as a filing clerk in the solicitors’ office where I subsequently qualified, and I have a sort of false memory syndrome that myself and the typists were listening to this at teabreak time all summer. Weird.

  4. 34
    The Lurker on 18 Aug 2008 #

    The headline on today’s Daily Mirror match report of Arsenal’s win over WBA, in which debutant Samir Nasri scored the winner, is ‘Samir Loving…Happened So Fast’.

    Not bad, I thought.

  5. 35
    thefatgit on 1 Jun 2011 #

    Here seems appropriate to say farewell to Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), who died last Friday (27th). Even Scientology couldn’t save him.

  6. 36
    richard thompson on 13 Aug 2011 #

    Hasn’t really stood the test of time, not into scientology either, this song reminds me of Solihull Tech where I was a student back then

  7. 37
    Eli on 19 Aug 2011 #

    Cynics corner here it seems: there’s a reason why so many people voted it #1 in that Channel 4 poll. Because it captures the spirit of youth and colour we all wish we’d had when we were that age.

    @#19 – yes, snooty and meal-mouthed, which sums up most of the comments I’m afraid.

    Grease was back in cinemas again last year to packed audiences, so it must have done something right.

  8. 38
    Erithian on 19 Aug 2011 #

    #34 – and now it looks like Nasri is about to sign for Manchester City. “Samir dreams, ripped at the seams…”

  9. 39
    thefatgit on 19 Aug 2011 #

    ABBA “Samir Night City” surely.

  10. 40
    Brendan on 24 Sep 2012 #

    I don’t like stage musicals so this, for me, is definitely below ‘You’re the One That I Want’. So 5 it is.

  11. 41
    Erithian on 13 Feb 2014 #

    So farewell then, Sid Caesar aka Coach Calhoun. Although as Danny Baker tweeted, headlining an obit for Sid Caesar with Grease is a bit like headlining Ringo Starr’s eventual obituary with “Voice of Thomas the Tank Engine dies”. Which no doubt somebody will.

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