Aug 08


FT + Popular143 comments • 6,732 views

#424, 17th June 1978

I have never seen Grease. My cultural ignorance is becoming a bit of a theme in these entries, but here at least I had a reason: I hated it. I can’t remember when I started hating Grease, or why exactly – incomprehension and resentment, I’d imagine; it was very much music for kids a few years older than me, and in 1978 it was everywhere. I’m sure some of the five and six year olds of today will have an inchoate loathing of High School Musical, its obvious modern comparison point.

So it’s literally only in the last week that I’ve learned that Grease the musical predates the film by six years – forever in pop terms, especially where revivals are concerned. That the musical might have had sharper edges than the film’s smash singles reveal. That “You’re The One That I Want” comes at the end of the story, even! (Though I could have figured out from the promo clips what the story was – good girls gotta act bad to get bad boys to turn good.)

None of which would have mattered to me: I hated Grease. Even at my most pop-lovin’ it was a marker buoy for me – I will go this far and no further. I once walked off a wedding dancefloor in a drunken rage when the (marvellously shonky) “Grease Megamix” was played. I refused to acknowledge the pleasure it brought people. I turned my back on its craft. I looked down the list of No.1s when I started Popular, saw this one, and relished the thought of really slaughtering it.

And now….? I can’t work out why on earth I didn’t like it. It has the slight misfortune to boss the charts in the middle of a remarkable era for pop, but I was completely unaware of that when my distaste for the song formed. “You’re The One” is superbly put-together bubblegum which makes the best use it can of its leads’ varied talents – Newton-John’s finger-wagging briskness and Travolta’s ridiculous cartoon yelp. Marshalled by a bassline of unquenchable jauntiness and enough backing vocals to keep anyone happy, this is very much a song to join in with (it’s not as if Travolta’s raising the bar that high!). I may never be able to fully come around on it – even irrational hate sinks its hooks deep – but I can enjoy it now and I’m all the better for it: this is populism at its well-turned best.



  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Hmm… That’s funny. I share Tom’s instinctive hatred, but the chronology of my dislike is a bit different. When I was 5 I found this music instinctively jolly and appealing, and the dance routines that you could see on ‘Screen Test’ and ‘Top Of The Pops’ super fun to watch, and I found that it was their appeal to the older children gave these songs a certain cultural cachet for me. My 16 year old sister would get furious when she heard this, though…

    Move forward to 1989, though, and a big Grease revival occurred, seemingly unbidden amongst the sixth formers of Crown Woods School. (Why was this? A TV screening? Parents?) God, the scorn that I felt when someone put a tape of this on in the smokers’ room – couldn’t they play something either good or contemporary? And there was something about us Londoners aping the model of the American high school that offended me, too.

    I know now that that serious 17 year old was wrong, and I theoretically understand that there are clever and appealing things going on in these songs, but I still can’t bring myself to investigate further. It would have to take loving somebody who loves Grease for me to lose all of this accumulated distaste.

  2. 2
    rosie on 4 Aug 2008 #

    And in this case I have seen Grease. I remember it well, it was at the ABC on the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway in beautiful down town Kingston upon Hull, and half my class (who were 14 in 1978) were also there. For days afterwards I was plagued with “what did you think of the film?” (nobody said “movie in those days)

    I suspect, knowing what I know now, that I would have enjoyed Saturday Night Fever rather more than I enjoyed Grease, but then I hadn’t been 14 for ten years by 1978.

    Yes, I did know that the musical predated the film, and in a way it shows; this music is very different to the SNF soundtrack, and somehow a lot more innocent that the other music in the 1978 charts. Comparing this to SNF is a bit like comparing Blackpool Prom to the Las Vegas Strip.

    So, good innocent fun, and a tune that wriggles in the head, but not a lot below the surface. But it’s also somehow timeless, an immortal story and one that finds a role even now.

  3. 3
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Much as I loved the movie, “You’re The One That I Want” has always left me cold. For starters, it sounds nothing like the 1950s – which bothered me greatly at the time, as I felt that history was being erased before my very eyes, and that this was further evidence of a dumbing down of culture. (I know, how rockist!) In this respect, the Grease soundtrack set the template for the similarly history-denying likes of Dirty Dancing, which could barely be bothered to function as a period piece.

    But above and beyond that, it’s such an undistinguished jumble of ideas, half-heartedly executed. Without the (admittedly great) accompanying film clip, it would be as nothing, and so its status as yet another of 1978’s Best Selling Singles Of All Time is as baffling to me as “Mull Of Kintyre”.

    But 1978 really was the year of the Mega Hit, wasn’t it? A peak year for the singles charts in terms of sales, which clearly has elevated certain singles above their natural station – but why this year? Why 1978?

  4. 4
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Note to Rosie (#2) “You’re The One That I Want” didn’t feature in the original stage musical; it was written specifically for the film.

  5. 5
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    And just to contradict my own comment: I’d forgotten that while “YTOTIW” topped the charts in June, Grease the movie didn’t open in the UK until September.

  6. 6
    Kat but logged out innit on 4 Aug 2008 #

    This is one of my less favourite songs from Grease (I am very fond of both stage musical and film thanks to the talents of Shane Ritchie and Sonia) but it’s still pretty good, if just for the fab set piece in the film where ON-J stubs out her fag and makes John chase her through the funfair. SO GOOD. And the verse has excellent swinging chord changes – representative of teenage hormones zapping all over the place? I’m not so hot on the ‘ooo-ooo-ooo’s though, that’s all a bit Lower School Disco and creeps me out.

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    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    So to the other ubiquitous album at the kids parties, and the film I got to see. And that little RSO bull again. I can’t claim Grease is the complete reason why I love movie musicals, but it must be at least 50% of the story.

    I remember going with my Mum, my elder sister and all of her mates (I often had to tag-along as a child) to Borehamwood’s Studio 77) and just enjoying the hell out of this gleeful singing and dancing thing. This is pre-video’s of course and this much music and dance just wasn’t available to me. My sister had the soundtrack and I think we may have gone back to see it a couple of weeks later. The cinemas were packed and it just felt like the coolest thing ever. And unlike Tom (who is slightly older than me), I did get it because my sisters gang included me.

    This is the last truly successful movie musical until the dark ages get ushered in (by another song we will see here soon) and so I think I have always keenly felt a loss through my teenage years of seeing this kind of joyful celebration of music. Grease however does carry the death of the musical rolled up in it, along with SNF. Because the only successful musicals in the latter half of the seventies were nostalgia musicals. So Grease hankers for a watered down fifties aesthetic which make Happy Days look edgy. Cabaret tip-toed around the 1930 Germany. And the question is posed, how do you write a contemporary musical without the music sounding dated?

    Saturday Night Fever is not a musical. Its a dancical*. Whilst the music is important, it is non-diagetic and crucially often added quite late in the process to be as up to date as possible. The forthcoming flops post Grease nailed the coffin for musicals until the relatively recent revivial – and when you look at those there is a large emphasis on nostalgia again (from Mamma Mia’s jukebox score, to Hairspray’s 60’s pastiche).

    And ironically, Grease is probably one of my least favorite musicals now. I think this, and a couple of the other tracks are pretty good – but I hate the production (recorded through gauze) and laterly hate how safe the whole affair is. But Newton John in those satin pants…

    *This is a proper established term in film criticism, honest.

  8. 8
    Alan on 4 Aug 2008 #

    “thanks to the talents of Shane Ritchie and Sonia” – glad it’s not just me that had to sit through that.

  9. 9
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    That’s right, it opened in September cos going to see it was a treat for starting school!

    Odd when you think about it that the track from the end of the film (with “video” just being taken from the film) being the one released pre-the film.

    The other obv SNF connection is the Gibbs writing the Grease theme song (also added from the stage version). Of course you couldn’t do a stage version without either now.

  10. 10
    Waldo on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Surely that should be “You’re the one WHO I want”…

    The preference for this and its successor hinge totally on whether or not one took to “Grease”, it seems to me. As with “Saturday Night Fever”, I didn’t see this movie then and I still haven’t seen it. It was just one of those monumental entertainment events which didn’t interest me in the slightest (like the misnomer which is today’s “Reality TV”, all of which I think is complete garbage). Correspondingly nor did the many songs which emanated from it with the exception of Frankie Valli’s title track, which I thought was first rate.

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    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    The mind boggles at Sonia’s satin pants.

    I saw it with Debbie Gibson and Craig McLachlan which I think is a slight step up from the Ritchie Sonia combo.

  12. 12
    David Belbin on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Not seen the film but was once dragged to a school production of the musical and disappointed to find that, as Mike points out, YTOTIW is not in it. I was looking forward to at least one catchy song (no title song either, of course).

  13. 13
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    (“You’re the one WHOM I want”, surely?)

    I’ve got this slightly flimsy, half-baked theory about how chart pop tends to drop down a generation towards the end of each decade, roughly at the point where the year ends in an 8 – at which point, the generation who had been following the charts in the expectation that the music would always mature and grow alongside them will suddenly go “Eurgh, what is this Kiddie Shit, the charts aren’t what they were….” and start to drift away.

    If that’s even partially the case, then maybe the success of Grease was my own first experience of having to drop a generation in order to get the point. Up until then, I’d been increasingly inkie-music-press mature, what with my Devo & Pere Ubu obsessions and all… but, aged 16, and with most of my younger sisters’ friends all going mad for Johnny T (and most of my classmates getting the hots for Livvy N-J), I made a conscious and mostly successful effort to engage with the phenomenon…

  14. 14
    Tom on 4 Aug 2008 #

    #7 – yes, if I had an older sibling I would have liked it more I think. But it just seemed like something I wasn’t “in on”.

    And if I’d been aware of its 9-week run at the time I’d have resented that too. But I couldn’t: it was just ‘there’.

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    Tom on 4 Aug 2008 #

    #12 – great theory, and it would apply to me and the “Hit Factory” for sure, but isn’t it just a case of being born in the first half of a decade? (or just “being 16”!) Presumably if you’re born in a year ending in -8 the effect isn’t quite so prominent..?

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    rosie on 4 Aug 2008 #

    This is another one whose reign at the top seemed to go on for ever and ever. As it happens, this was one of the most blissful summers I can ever remember; a big chunk of it being spend driving around Scotland, which I’d never visited before. The absolute highlight being an improbably romantic Sunday evening spent sitting and lying in the ruins of Strome Castle watching the sun set over Loch Carron (amongst other things)

    The lowlight was spending our second wedding anniversary in Kilmarnock. You don’t want to be in Kilmarnock on special occasions, really you don’t. We were supposed to have reached Dumfries but the weather (foul, wet, windy) precluded it.

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    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Looking at the numbers, it stayed number one pretty much until the film came out, at which point I am guessing the OST started to take some of the slack up. Clearly Travolta is the heart of this phenomenon – and whilst he is a pretty weak singer the combo of this and SNF Manero made him an irresistable megastar. For about a year.

    Livvie was 30 in 1978, a good six years older than Travolta. And this was not their only film together, Two Of A kind which effectively ended Travolta’s career for fifteen years was one of the strangest movies ever conceived. Gene Hackman’s God threatening to kill all of mankind with a flood unless Travolta and Newton-John unwitting both sacrifice something for each other. Oliver Reed makes a decent fist as the devil though.

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    SteveM on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Mike re “but why this year? Why 1978?”

    Don’t suppose it’s anything to do with singles packaging becoming more appealing (ie picture sleeves) in the UK? Seems a bit silly really but wouldn’t rule it out as a factor.

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    SteveM on 4 Aug 2008 #

    (that’s assuming they were increasingly common by then as has been suggested)

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    Waldo on 4 Aug 2008 #

    # 12 – Do you know, Mike, you’re right. “Whom” indeed.

    YTWTIW has a touch of Esther and Abi about it, a young couple pointlessly telling each other that they “love”/”want” each other and expecting everyone to share their joy. As has been mentioned, Travolta is particularly annoying with his inexplicable whipped doggie yelps and although Cambridge-born Aussie, Olivia, was reasonable quality eye candy, the complete package was frankly irritating and only succeeded in forcing me into reaching for the remote which I didn’t yet have.

  21. 21
    DJ Punctum on 4 Aug 2008 #

    The appearance of the song and routine at the end of Grease are as unsettling a jolt into the present as “Good Vibrations” or “A Day In The Life” appended to the end of their respective works of selective nostalgia. Suddenly we are thrust out of the camp fantasia of 1961, complete with the obligatory self-mocking Frankie Avalon, and into a scenario which doesn’t really belong anywhere, except perhaps in the more ornate dreams of Ed Wood. It’s as if Guy Peellaert had wandered onto the Happy Days lot with some stray black and scarlet paint.

    “You’re The One That I Want” is a sci-fi fantasy – emphasised by John and Olivia’s car leaving the company behind and taking off into the skies á la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the closing sequence – which sees Olivia Newton-John the way Travolta, and I expect the vast majority of her male following (though not necessarily me), desired to see her; grinning temptingly and conspiratorially, leather-clad, booted, literally dragging a boggle-eyed Travolta along in her wake. Like arcane ideations of the battery of whips and handcuffs in Anne Murray’s closet, Olivia had hitherto come across so clean and spotless that everyone wanted her to get a little dirty. Despite the near-unique situation of having two entirely parallel and separate careers in two different countries – in America she was the massively successful but still credible singer of superior AoR such as “Let Me Be There,” “Have You Ever Been Mellow?” and “I Honestly Love You,” while in Britain she was landlocked as Cliff Richard’s idea of a Virtuous Lady, doomed to Saturday evening TV specials flowing with MoR gingham and pigtails and made to sing bierkeller odes to the Salvation Army for Eurovision – she was clean and spotless, as indeed her character Sandy is throughout most of Grease (as epitomised on “Hopelessly Devoted To You”) until she is so irked by Travolta’s apparent coolness that she changes everything about herself to get him.

    Given her British reputation as Cliff’s Aunt Sally, it is doubly ironic that “You’re The One That I Want” does not appear in the original musical but was written specifically for the film by long-time Cliff and Shadows associate John Farrar. Yet as a pop single it works spectacularly well. Nothing about it is really ascribable to rock ‘n’ roll or pre-Beatles teenpop – its general gait is excitable bluegrass-pop, as per Jerry Reed’s “Guitar Man,” though that is disguised well in the rapid-fire progression of the song. If “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” represented courtly courtship of good humour – there is never any doubt that Elton and Kiki are adults – the epileptic, jittery drive of “You’re The One That I Want” (in many places the record sounds as though it’s being played at 78 rpm) symbolises the oozing urgency and dizzy ecstasy of being young (though neither Travolta nor Newton-John were exactly teenagers). Travolta’s vocal is more of a stunned yelp than anything else, scrabbling frantically while jumping yodel octaves – his shriek of “’Cos the power you’re supplying/It’s electrifying” recalls both Iggy on “TV Eye” and the Sweet’s Steve Priest on “Ballroom Blitz.” His singing is high-register and boyish, which is little wonder since for him it is evidently five o’clock on Christmas morning. When he prepares for the chorus by yelling “Nothing left! Nothing left for me to do!” it sounds more like “Double love!” or even “Devil love!”

    Meanwhile Olivia is cool, methodical and patient, stretching out her syllables: “If you’re fiiiiiiilled with affection/You’re too shyyyyyyyyyy to convey,” before she kindly crouches down to meet him, “Meditate in my direction”…followed by an unspeakably sexy whisper of “Feel your way” before abruptly pulling him up by the collar and advising “You’d better shape up!” She has indeed collared him and their voices combine in something approaching orgasm towards the fade (in the film, hips happily wound around each other’s waists, they are as good as already doing it). It opens up the stream of sex to which the entire film has been slowly building up through multiple red herrings of camp; enough record-buyers considered it a sufficiently liberating release that they gave the record yet another nine-week run at the top. Here Travolta manages to look infinitely freer than Tony Manero could ever have imagined – and we cheered him on accordingly.

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    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 4 Aug 2008 #

    “you’re who i want” vs “the one that got away”

    “that” refers to “the one”, which (though identified with a person) is not itself automatically a person: hence (i suspect) “that” and “whom” are both ok

    if you wanted to work the distinction: “that” carries the slight sense of “you’re the thing that i need”, for example — as if you’re a drug or an experience

    dodging the issue entirely, “you’re the one i want” is best used, except it wrecks the meter…

  23. 23
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 4 Aug 2008 #

    “best used” = “best usage” bah

    (sorry vinylscot)

  24. 24
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    DJP, I’ve got to hand it to you; your analysis of YTOTIW makes it sound seriously great! However, it also has to be remembered that the song spent 9 weeks at #1 before the film came out, i.e. while still out of context with its overall narrative/thematic thrust. Which, to my mind, makes its prolonged success all the more baffling…

  25. 25
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I always used to sing Devil Love.

    The difference between Travolta as Danny and Travolta as Tony Manero is the difference between a musical and the relative realism of SNF, one is soft soaped nostalgia, the other purports to tell it like it is (I don’t believe SNF does, but it has a dramatic arc that suggests happy endings aren’t easy to find). The latter is a lot easier to make, it lacks the leap of faith that a musical requires. Danny is clearly freer, because he is clearly fantasy (both Sandy’s fantasy and in the sense of this fantasy 1961). As a gang leader Danny is wet as a dishrag and surely only eight year olds would fall for it – except there was already a massive cinematic heritage of pathetic gang dudes. Danny actually looks hard next to the Fonz, and he would probably stand up well next to West Side Story’s Jets! Brando may give him a run for his money, but Hollywood has a vested interest in defanging youth culture.

    “I Want You” would probably be more direct.

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Number 2 Watch: 6 weeks of ‘The Smurf Song’ by Father Abraham & The Smurfs, followed by a rather more agreeable 2 weeks of ‘Substitue’ by Clout (both rigid and bouncing, a desperate plea to be loved at all costs)

    I have slightly more affection for the puppet show 1970s musical Smurfs than the Gabba 1990s ones, but fonder memories of the Smurf figures that my father used to buy me at the petrol station on the way back from church.

  27. 27
    SteveM on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Smurfs always best seen and not heard. Perhaps you can say the same about Travolta.

  28. 28
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I have a feeling little Tom would have preferred the Smurfs! And I vaguely remember a later very of YTOTIW starring Smurfette and probably Handy singing You’re The Smurf That I Want.

    If not, I can imagine it! Smurfette in leather.

  29. 29
    SteveM on 4 Aug 2008 #

    “Tell me about it, smurf…”

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    DJ Punctum on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Christ on a Sherman tank I hated the Smurfs. Not quite as much as I hated the morons who bought their records or voted them number one week after week on Bill Oddie’s sodding Saturday Banana, but I enjoyed the karma of the lovely lead-coated Smurf figures they sold at National petrol stations as related in Father Abraphart and the Smurps’ hit of Xmas ’78: “Lick A Smurp For Christmas (All Fall Down).”

  31. 31
    Pete Baran on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Ah, Jonathon King’s finest moment? (Bearing in mind many of his other moments weren’t fine and some were downright illegal. Like tipping They Might Be Giants to be a big thing).

  32. 32
    DJ Punctum on 4 Aug 2008 #


    “Lick A Smurp” IIRC retailed for a competitive price of 10p.

  33. 33
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Working back from seventies memories, I do remember the original Smurfs comic strips by Peyo being pretty good… Maybe they’ll eventually turn up in the FT guide to comics. I suspect not, though.

  34. 34
    Waldo on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I recall a fine old mix-up when a father of two young boys took his brood to see The Smurfs only to discover that he had arrived at a gig featuring The Smirks, who were not exactly the same as the little blue guys. Twas The Smirks ironically who orchestrated a thing called “Smirks against Travolta” campaign, which was in fact a rather tongue-in-cheek swipe at Disco per se and a rallying defence of live gigs rather than an exclusive and unneccesary dig at JT.

    I saw The Smirks, who were from Manchester, a couple of times myself (and no, I didn’t set out to see The Smurfs!) and thought they were going places. They did one track about a train, which was belting. Typically Peely lent a hand but they didn’t quite get there.

  35. 35
    Billy Smart on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I was given a flop Smurfs single, ‘Smurfing Beer’, for my sixth birthday;

    “Smurf, Smurf, Smurfing beer!
    You don’t get drunk, and it isn’t dear!”

    Also, Smurfing beer is made of honey and tea, the cheery blue fellows sang informatively. Sounds quite tasty, actually.

    The B-Side, ‘Smurfing Tango’ was less inspired.

  36. 36
    mike on 4 Aug 2008 #

    I was one of the “morons” who bought The Smurf Song! But “ironically”!

    That whole “smurfing out of key” episode bothered me, as the smurfing wasn’t out of key at all, merely an improvised harmony part. Why, it felt like Abraham’s FASCISTIC JACKBOOT OF OPPRESSION was intent on stamping out any notions of free-spirited individuality/creativity….

  37. 37
    Tom on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Yes I would have preferred the Smurfs! My Dad decided to help me learn French by buying loads of albums of Les Schtroumpfs in the original Francais when we went on camping holidays over there.

    Best Smurf story: “The Black Smurf” – it is terrifying!! A Smurf goes on holiday to Jamaica and gets his – *exit pursued by a bunny*

    OK no there is a terrible plague that turns Smurfs black and…erm…savage… there isn’t really a good way to spin this one actually.

  38. 38
    Alan on 4 Aug 2008 #

    some crazed loon has youtubed himself playing barron knights ‘A Taste of Aggro’ vinyl single


    Rivers of Babylon – Smurfs – Brian & Michael – smurfs reprise (reprieve!)

    awful. despite the comments. naturally i was a fan at the time.

  39. 39
    FiveLongDays on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Well, I know I’m a bit too young to have even been born when this came around, but I think this is a top tune. I can’t take it in context, but out of context, the only way I can see it, what’s not to like

    *resists temptation to link to Spoiler’s ‘Electrifying’*

  40. 40
    rosie on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Tom @37: Bring back Tintin au Congo I say!

  41. 41
    o sobek! on 4 Aug 2008 #

    djp otm re: ytotiw, esp in the film. on the soundtrack it’s nowhere near ‘hopeless devoted to you’ or even the title track but in the context of the film dear lord. i can remember seeing this at 5 (at most) at a drive-in and when olivia emerges w/ ‘what’s it gonna be STUD?’ even then i knew THIS IS WHAT I WANT. even at 5 the ending w/ car ascending into heaven and john and olivia waving back to us seemed incredibly wtf. 20 years later when the rerelease hit theaters most of the film really didn’t hold up, the shoddiness was more apparent, the acne scarred drag racer less scary (esp since i now knew those were acne scars instead of whatever wild animal attack my 5 yr old mind had conjured), the gulf between the good actors and charismatic stars (thinking here esp of stockard channing) and the rest (thinking here esp of the non-travolta t-birds) seemed wider. but that final scene in any and every way held up.

  42. 42
    wichita lineman on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Grease. God help me, this wrecked my summer holiday in ’78. I was 13 and reasonably well versed in 50s r’n’r pop culture. I knew this was definitely dumbed down, cod beyond Happy Days (which I liked) and, in a way that I couldn’t yet grasp, actively dangerous to pop music. Which means I didn’t rate it as innocent fun (sorry Rosie).

    I felt more articulate by the time people were insisting I’d find Austin Powers funny because I loved The Avengers (by articulate I mean turning puce while quietly roaring “you… don’t… under… STAND”).

    Cultural rape, I’d call it. Anticipating this thread I asked a very good friend this morning if she’d rather listen to the Grease soundtrack than Gene Vincent and she said “hell, yeah!”

    So the historical damage was indeed done. I don’t think most people who like Grease would get DJP’s beautifully observed time travel theory. It’s just Grease – y’know, the fifties, the way Abba and Mamma Mia! (please note the necessary exclamation mark) are now intertwined.

    This isn’t a bad song, and “feel your way” is a great pop moment; Frankie Valli’s theme at the top for nine weeks would have been truly sweet. So, in a way, we have to thank the film makers for giving us two pop classics. No matter. They couldn’t rewrite the existing score and so there was worse, much worse, to come.

    This is where I feel obliged to recall Bill Shankly’s quote about football not being a matter of life and death: “it’s more important than that.” Pop music moreso, at least for me.

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    SteveM on 4 Aug 2008 #

    wait did we really get this far down without mentioning Hylda Baker & Arthur Mullard? http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=x_MSi0MhM_c

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    wichita lineman on 4 Aug 2008 #

    We did! One of the minor Britcom hit 45s that works best in theory (see also Dick Emery’s You Are Awful, John Inman’s Are You Being Served). Not quite Stan Freberg, who, as far as I can tell, never parodied any of the Popular entries, inadvertently specialising in records that peaked between 2 and 4 on the UK chart.

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    pete on 4 Aug 2008 #

    Its probably another good measure of pop ubiquity of 1978 that Grease and Saturday Night Fever were so relentlessly parodied. And the relative ease of parody of both is due to them both being on the edge of ridiculous themselves – Grease certainly satirises itself at points (mainly with Channing’s occasional eye-rolls). This in turn makes it into terrifically useable pop culture – I remember playing Grease in the playground (specifically a track which shall not be mentioned yet), and not feeling self-consciously silly just as I might play at Batman with my parka hood up. The Grease role-plays (replete with singing and half remembered words) would normally devolve into Kiss Chase.

    One of the things which contributed at this period to the death of the musical was its general inability to be contemporary. Grease managed to dodge this bullet via the Gibb theme tune and this number, though only just. The standard rock-crit story of 78 is the development of punk. The charts seem to suggest much more of an experimental spirit just to distract themselves from that nasty noise!

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    LondonLee on 5 Aug 2008 #

    I must admit I prefer Hylda Baker’s vocal to Olivia Neutron Bomb. Good single though, but one that I’d also leave the wedding dancefloor if it came on.

    My abiding Grease memory is that Xmas working in the record dept. of WH Smith and we sold so many copies of the soundtrack to this day I can still remember how much it cost: £5.60p and you rang it up on button #8 for chart albums. When I mentioned to my boss the truckloads we were selling he said “this is nothing, you should have been here last Xmas when Saturday Night Fever was out”

  47. 47
    Snif on 5 Aug 2008 #

    This was a major major hit in Australia, not least because it was Our Livvie singing, but also because it was written by Aussie John Farrar (who had a solid background in the OzPop 60s). I do recall reading that at the Australian premiere, ONJ was seen to bury her head in her hands when “Hopelessly Devoted To You” came on…couldn’t blame her really.

    It was also about this time that I ventured to buy my first UK weekly music papers, just out of curiosity more than anything. It seemed that the entire UK was obsessed with a) Debbie harry and b) The Kids From Fame, and that some show called TISWAS was unmissable TV not least due to some saucy wench who co-hosted.

    (Now that I think of it, the “Letter From Britain” column in an issue of American “Creem” magazine from that time opined that 1978 would be remembered as the Year of Grease and Boney M – looks like Mr Frith or Ms Valentine wasn’t far wrong)

    As for “You’re The One…” Ii always thought the film clip let it down – we’re supposed to think ONJ is raunching it up, but does she walk? Does she run? No, She SKIPS hither and yon, which betrayed the whole look (unless it was supposed to). Never saw the whole film, and feel that at this stage there’s little point, as it’s just 30 years too late for me, and it would look like a bunch of twenty-somethings pretending to be teenagers.

  48. 48
    Pete on 5 Aug 2008 #

    The skipping is two fold. First its a musical – people skip in musicals. But it is probably more to do with Livvie being sewn into those trousers. They are so tight that too much movement at the top of the legs would bust ’em.

    Talking of the “video”, I was slightly obsessed with the funhouse sequence which I wished would turn up at a fair I could go to (instead of rides which I was too short to go on). It reminded me of a human screwball scramble.

    Twenty somethings? Stockard Channing was 34!

  49. 49
    DJ Punctum on 5 Aug 2008 #

    The Kids From Fame came a wee while later – yes, all right, bunny, get your paws off my collar – but fulfilled absolutely the same function (I’m not sure whether for the same kids though; Fame tended to be lapped up by those just too young to have gotten Grease).

    I have to say that although I understand exactly why boys my age would have reached for the Kleenex in an ONJ + leather keks situation she didn’t send my number 56 bus all the way to Shotts, if you get my meaning – whereas she was far more convincingly sexy in the “Physical” era; that video is so wonderfully daft it looks as if she’s actually having fun rather than being told to have fun.

  50. 50
    wichita lineman on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Livvie’s trousers were one thing, the dodgy perm quite another. Is it me, or didn’t she look a whole lot better in the rest of the film?

  51. 51
    pete on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Yes, the phrase that springs to mind is lamb dressed as mutton! But even the perms played into my five year old hands, because my Mum’s hair was an equally tortured permanent wave (and my Dad had leather jacket – it is all starting to make more sense).

  52. 52
    vinylscot on 5 Aug 2008 #

    In Kutner and Leigh’s book, they state that Allan Carr originally offered the role of Danny to Henry Winkler, who knocked it back for fear of being typecast (too late, Henry). He would have been 33, and not a particularly young-looking 33, so maybe we should have been thankful for a 24 year old JT.

    Despite ONJ’s alleged “charms” I and most of my friends at the time preferred Stockard Channing, despite her advanced years. She just seemd more fun to be around.

    This song seemed to me to be just fluff. The video/film excerpt seemed to back this up. It wasn’t upbeat enough to be joyous, or infectious enough to cross the line from naff into whatever is on the other side of that line.

    Obviously, 1.87 million people disagreed and kept the thing at the top right through the summer when I left school. I’m not just being grinch-like about this – I was quite amenable to the idea of the movie, and did see it almost as soon as it came out. It was a little disappointing, but Sha-Na-Na’s contribution and a couple of wry cameos from Sid Caesar and Frankie Avalon, plus of course Stockard Channing, pulled it up to acceptable. A 5 for the song and the movie, I would say.

    It was apparently originally planned that JT and ONJ would sing a version of “All Shook Up” as the movie’s finale. Again, let us be thankful for small mercies.

  53. 53
    rosie on 5 Aug 2008 #

    What’s all this about “advanced years”? At thirty ONJ was a wet-behind the ears stripling! Stockard Channing a mere novice! Takes a real woman, it does!

    Stockard Channing is pretty damned attractive right now, and she’s ten years older than me. (She’s aged rather better than ONJ actually. IMHO.)

  54. 54
    vinylscot on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Rosie, I completely agree with you; Stockard Channing has indeed aged very well and is still a damned attractive woman. My use of the phrase “advanced years”, was in relation both to the part she was playing, and to my own age at the time.

    Back then, I couldn’t possibly go near a 33 year old woman – I’d be terrified. Today, much the same…

  55. 55
    rosie on 5 Aug 2008 #

    vinylscot @ 54: Aren’t teenaged boys supposed to fantasise about being seduced by their female teachers?

  56. 56
    DJ Punctum on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Yes. Which is why VS clearly stated that he “couldn’t possibly go near a 33 year old woman” as opposed to “couldn’t possibly fantasise about a 33 year old woman.”

  57. 57
    vinylscot on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Marcello has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Fantasy and reality – two different things, and maybe it’s better that way, at least that’s what I tell myself!

  58. 58
    Alan on 5 Aug 2008 #

    @46: “Olivia Neutron Bomb” then you have to invoke John Revolter too. henry Winkler’s doing alright without the typecasting these days, although i did like it on Arrested Development when his lawyer character was fired and they replaced him with another lawyer played by Scott Baio

  59. 59
    DJ Punctum on 5 Aug 2008 #

    In my experience the real danger was with the younger teachers straight out of training college.

  60. 60
    jeff w on 5 Aug 2008 #

    @49-50 I’m with you guys. When I saw the film in the cinema in ’78 (aged 13) it was a crushing disappointment when Sandy transformed from spotless bobbysoxer into a be-permed, tight-trousered temptress. But that probably says a lot more about my attitudes at the time than anything else ;)

    The song is great though. I’d probably give it 8.

  61. 61
    mike on 5 Aug 2008 #

    By a strange coincidence, I was handed the task of publishing a recent photo of Didi “Frenchy” Conn last night, onto the community village blog which I help administer (it’s a long-winded story, which involves our local TV celebrity and a charity event). Anyhow, here’s “Frenchy” in 2008.

  62. 62
    rosie on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Conversely, of course, female teachers often entertain fantasies of seducing teenaged boys.

  63. 63
    vinylscot on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Why did nobody tell me that in 1977?

  64. 64
    Snif on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Speaking of Allan Carr, he also produced another movie musical of note – should I be proud or ashamed that the only country in which “Can’t Stop The Music” was a hit was Oz?

  65. 65
    rosie on 5 Aug 2008 #

    63: Because then wild horses wouldn’t have dragged you into school?

  66. 66
    LondonLee on 5 Aug 2008 #

    One of our teachers did just that. Our young English teacher Miss Spyro slept with our Head Boy. She used to invite us round her flat and we’d smoke and drink and listen to The Doors and The Beatles (not my choice I hasten to add).

  67. 67
    Pete Baran on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Luckily it won’t be invoking the spoiler bunny to note that the teacher in Busted!’s first hit was 33.

  68. 68
    mike on 5 Aug 2008 #

    I never had a crush on a teacher – but with hindsight, I’m fairly sure that one teacher had a crush on me. Poor old soul. I couldn’t help being gorgeous.

  69. 69
    vinylscot on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Yes, no doubt all my teachers were after me, I was just too young and naive to realise.

  70. 70
    Lena on 5 Aug 2008 #

    The Grease soundtrack and movie were of course very popular in the US as well, but “You’re The One That I Want” (aka “You Are The One Of Whom I Am The Most Desirous”) only was #1 for a week as Andy Gibb mania reached its peak – “Shadow Dancing” was king of the charts for seven interminable weeks that summer. At this time I was living in a duplex on a dead-end street and I got to know the family in the upper half pretty well – their daughter was about six months older than me and she bought two copies of Grease so when one wore out, she’d have the other. Our friendship didn’t last, but it had nothing to do with music.

    (To make a comparison – The Bee Gees were clearly not supposed to appeal to preteen girls, but Andy was – he never did anything for me, perhaps because he looked a bit like a kangaroo.)

  71. 71
    Conrad on 5 Aug 2008 #

    I liked this one. It has great energy and a performance of gusto – the production is a bit muddy though. The only other track from the OST which does it for me is the title track, which is by a distance the best piece of music in the film.

    I went to see “Grease” with my family. I was 11 and I remember being shocked that the “two Johns” (as I recall S.Bates describing them) were meant to be teenagers. They were so old!

    My favourite track in the Top 40 during this song’s 9 week run at the top was Evelyn King’s Shame – which possibly outdid even YTWTIW in terms of weeks on the Top 75, although very few of those were spent in the 40 itself.

  72. 72
    rosie on 5 Aug 2008 #

    Bunny has warned me not to dwell on the converse situation. where some teenaged girls can be much more brazen and some male teachers can be daft enough.

  73. 73
    SteveM on 5 Aug 2008 #

    re #71 according to polyhex ‘YTOTIW’ beats ‘Shame’ by 26 weeks to an (impressive considering it’s peak of only #39) 23. Although if you add the Altern 8 remix of ‘Shame’ from ’92 to the latter’s total it boosts it by a whopping uno.

  74. 74
    Waldo on 5 Aug 2008 #

    The only time I got excited about Neutron Bomb is when she sang “Banks of the Ohio” and rather sweetly told of how she knifed a bloke to death because he was dumping her, putting me in mind of Janet Leigh playing the uber-sexy secretary to Jack Palance in an episode of “Man From UNCLE”, who moaned and shuddered orgasmically on putting one particular guy to death by a knife-throw as the errant and doomed agent attempted to flee on her breathless orders. The knife was housed on a garter worn high up on her bare thigh. She also tortured Kuriakin in the same episode with an electric prong. This was 1966. How it all got past the TV censor, I can’t imagine but I’m glad it did.

  75. 75
    The Intl on 6 Aug 2008 #

    I’ll tell you why I hated it: 1978. Who the hell wants to listen to this when they could be listening to Buzzcocks? That being said, it really is a high-energy bubblegum pop song. And it certainly tops Travolta’s “Let Her In”, or any other Olivia stuff.

  76. 76
    Tim on 6 Aug 2008 #

    I remember being confused by YTOTIW because (even as a kid)I couldn’t work out what sort of music it was – I could get that “Theme From Grease” (which was always my favourite song from the film and I recall being disappointed they didn’t play it again at the end) was funky disco, and that most of the songs were rock’n’roll or ballad-pop but I just couldn’t think what YTOTIW sounded like. I would still have trouble defining its genre, actually – pastiche girl group?

  77. 77
    DJ Punctum on 6 Aug 2008 #

    I don’t approve of the Buzzcocks’ continued long-term use as anti-pseudo-strawmen critical fodder.

  78. 78
    DJ Punctum on 6 Aug 2008 #

    A Pedant writes: as the sleeve itself confirms, you got the artist order wrong.

  79. 79
    Tom on 6 Aug 2008 #

    #77 I don’t like it either (I love it!) (dodges carrot). TBH I listen to the Buzzcocks as hi-energy bubblegum pop songs.

    #78 It’s a fair cop.

  80. 80
    SteveM on 6 Aug 2008 #

    film posters are often having the male lead’s name above an image of the female co-star and vice versa i’ve noticed.

  81. 81
    SteveM on 6 Aug 2008 #

    Tim is there not a skiffle element to consider? I keep getting in mind similarities between this and GA’s ‘Love Machine’ now.

  82. 82
    Pete Baran on 6 Aug 2008 #

    The film poster things is pretty standard, whatever the sex of the leads. The theory goes that if you need to put the name above the face of the person, that person can’t be that big a star! Also the cover of the single also misses out the “and” and so if we take the cover as gospel (which we should not), the song is by John Travolta Olivia Newton John.

  83. 83
    DJ Punctum on 6 Aug 2008 #

    It’s almost a Gertrude Stein haiku.

  84. 84
    SteveM on 6 Aug 2008 #

    Pete re ‘The theory goes that if you need to put the name above the face of the person, that person can’t be that big a star!’

    this seems absurd! no film posters leave out the names do they? or have i misunderstood ye?

    I mean the male lead’s name will seemingly be first (unless the leading male role is significantly less than the woman’s) sure – and I don’t suppose it would ever actually confuse anyone (“Woah I thought Mel Gibson was a man”) but still.

  85. 85
    Pete Baran on 6 Aug 2008 #

    Its a sign of stardom. Obv plenty of posters put the names above the photo but with really big stars the names get truncated to just surnames, you don’t need to tell people that its Sylvester Stallone not Frank Stallone in a Rambo film. BUT in a buddy comedy (say Tango & Cash to keep the Stallone theme going) if you swop the names around people look at it longer and remember it more because they EXPECT the names to match the faces. Hence puzzlement > understanding = thinking about it > memory.

    This was explained to me drunk once by someone who does film posters so could be bullshit.

  86. 86
    wichita lineman on 6 Aug 2008 #

    Re 81 It’s basically a rockabilly rhythm, similar to the one used on Love Machine, Ballroom Blitz and an early 80s update of a Rosemary Clooney hit that I’m forbidden from mentioning. But the doop-doop-doo bv’s suggest an attempt at bubbly doo wop.

    So, I’d define it as a rock ‘n’ roll pastiche, rather like the Happy Days theme (ie done in the late 70s, with so little attention to period detail that dodgy perms are almost audible).

  87. 87
    Chris Brown on 6 Aug 2008 #

    Just a word of warning to all – I’m beginning to catch up on Popular after moving house, and note quite a barrage of posts – about tracks I’m interested in too, so brace yourselves for some Gillivery.

    Notes on the present thread – no, I don’t really like this either, and I can’t really explain it. Possibly because I was a baby at this point and so genuinely can’t recall a time without it, and it’s the sort of thing that’s often inflicted on kids. It also gets a massively hyped revival every time there’s an anniversary – so we must be due for another one soon.
    I’d obviously heard of Stockard Channing, but I don’t think I’d ever seen her until a Google Image Search a few minutes back.

    And @77 – Another pedant agrees, but can’t help pointing out that they’re actually Buzzcocks.

  88. 88
    The Intl on 7 Aug 2008 #

    #77, & #87 – I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but I’ll take Buzzcocks bubblepop over stupid Grease anyday. Period.

  89. 89
    rosie on 7 Aug 2008 #

    The Intl @ 88: That’s fine, you’re allowed. And others are allowed to disagree. I do.

  90. 90
    mike on 7 Aug 2008 #

    Well, it all depends on where you were standing. 1978 was certainly Buzzcocks’ golden era (please note reluctantly dropped definite article, although in speech I think just about everyone still retains it, don’t they?), and four of their five (unimpeachably superb) singles went Top 40, and hell, even Tony Blackburn liked them (I’m almost certain they did a session for his show) …. but for all the “This Is The New Pop!” manifesto-ising (remember the “power pop” press hype of early 1978?), only “Ever Fallen In Love” could properly be called a hit single in the accepted sense of the word. So, in a sense (and it still depends on where you’re standing), John & Livvy succeeded where Diggle and Shelley failed.

    Perhaps Buzzcocks were the first of many subsequent bands to be critically lauded/fetishised as “pure” pop, or “perfect” pop, or what have you, even though they what they were doing was an indie-fied take on pop, that kind of missed its mark with mainstream pop audiences?

  91. 91
    wichita lineman on 7 Aug 2008 #

    Teenage Kicks (no.31), The Kids Are Alright (no.41), The Ronettes’ Walking In The Rain (didn’t chart here, no.23 in the US), Todd Rundgren’s I Saw The Light (no.36 in spite of a Radio 1 breakfast show single of the week)…

    These records are critically lauded as perfect pop because they ARE perfect pop. You can only be so objective; sales figures just don’t come into it. The constant clash of commercial and critical success is what makes Popular so absorbing, and why Baby Jump (in spite of itself) is my favourite number one of the lot.

  92. 92
    DJ Punctum on 7 Aug 2008 #

    These are all examples of pop records with a long-term life whose full appeal only becomes apparent with time (although “The Kids Are Alright” was not an official 45 release) so you could argue that fundamentally they have proved themselves more genuinely “popular” than the fly-by-night/big act at the time short term gain stuff which tends to populate the upper end of the charts in any given period.

  93. 93
    Pete Baran on 7 Aug 2008 #

    They may well also be lucky records whose themes have struck a chord with taste-makers, or become more relevant at a later age. (We’ve had the Teenage Kicks conversation elsewhere – but The Kids Are Alright gains a degree of resonance as we tiptoe to the 80’s and the resurgence of mod).

  94. 94
    vinylscot on 7 Aug 2008 #

    I wonder how important “The Kids Are Alright” was when it was new – perhaps someone of the correct vintage could comment. However, although I was certainly aware of the track while growing up, I didn’t attach any real importance to it at that time.

    It was only much later, probably 1976, when Eddie and the Hot Rods started playing it in their live set, that I took much notice of it. We all knew it was a Who cover, but nobody seemed to see much in that.

    I wonder if it is one of these songs upon which “importance” or “Greatness” has been bestowed retrospectively – probably due to several cover versions and its use as the title of the 1979 Who documentary.

  95. 95
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 7 Aug 2008 #

    “kids” was certainly canonic enough to be track two on the one-volume 1971 who greatest hits collection “meaty beaty big and bouncy”

    (tho oddly enough my sister owned a two-volume late 70s who best-of which — from memory anyway — it WASN’T on)

  96. 96
    rosie on 7 Aug 2008 #

    It wasn’t huge in the way My Generation or I’m a Boy or Pictures of Lily were but it was respectable enough and got a fair bit of airplay.

    I suspect it was a more “in” mod track than the others which had a big general appeal.

  97. 97
    wichita lineman on 7 Aug 2008 #

    Not much commercial impact here on initial release (as DJP said, it wasn’t an ‘official’ single), but in Sweden The Kids Are Alright went as high as no.2 in ’66.

    Then, as if to shatter their prescient cool, the Swedes sent the Who’s bonkers cover of Jan & Dean’s Bucket T all the way to no.1 – joint weirdest Swedish no.1 of the sixties along with The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Bald Headed Lena.

  98. 98
    Billy Smart on 7 Aug 2008 #

    ‘The Kids Are Alright’ – along with the marvelous ‘Dogs’ (which sounds exactly like ‘Parklife’ era Blur) – always seems to be omitted from the various Who compilations that I see. Irritating, that.

  99. 99
    Pete Baran on 8 Aug 2008 #

    I understand “The Kids Are Alright” is going to be the theme tune to the 4th in the CSI franchise set in an Austin high school. CSI: Juniors will star Freddie Highsmith as JR jr the idiosyncratic boss (and marching band snare player), the quiet voiced singing chick from School Of Rock and Dewey from Malcolm In The Middle as the weird forensic science kid.

  100. 100
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Never trusted Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy since most of the early songs there were Re-Recorded For Legal Reasons.

    If you want “Dogs” on CD you have to get the Maximum R&B 4CD box set – it’s routinely left off all their compilations (unless anyone knows different).

  101. 101
    wichita lineman on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Dogs, yes, their great lost single. I’m guessing its low profile on comps is because Pete Townshend is somehow embarrassed by it – maybe he thinks it lacks the gravitas of what followed (Tommy, Who’s Next)? Can’t think of another hit song that includes the word ‘buttocks’, either.

  102. 102
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Wasn’t it blue-suited brief Bright New Future of Power Pop merchants The Pleasers who covered “The Kids Are Alright” in ’78?

  103. 103
    rosie on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Dogs? Blimey – not one of Townshend’s monuments for sure. The one truly bloody awful thing The Who ever did. All true geniuses, even tortured ones like Townshend, produce the odd turkey and Dogs was a Bernard Matthews Twizzler of a track. A real dog, in fact. I’m sure Pete and Roger have enough money between them to ensure that they never have to endure it ever again!

  104. 104
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 8 Aug 2008 #

    the who went through a particularly debilitating change-of-label shenanigans, didn’t they? hence the somewhat random nature of what constituted a best (“best we can get hold of”) and the re-recording stuff (which i’d forgotten but explains an argument i had with tim ellison on ilx abt the VERY variable qualoty of early who reecordings)

    (can you say “a shenanigans”?)

  105. 105
    mike on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Never trusted Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy since most of the early songs there were Re-Recorded For Legal Reasons.

    Forgive my scepticism DJP, but are you sure about this? (Google is not coming up with any supporting evidence.) Apart from the 7″ of “Squeeze Box”, MBB&B is the only Who record in my collection (I bought it around 75/76), and I’ve always taken the songs contained therein to be the definitive versions.

  106. 106
    mike on 8 Aug 2008 #

    hence the somewhat random nature of what constituted a best (”best we can get hold of”)

    Butbutbut! 12 of the 14 tracks were hit singles, the only additions being “Boris The Spider” and “The Kids Are Alright”… and “Dogs” is the only single to be omitted from the album.

  107. 107
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    No, it’s “a shenanigan” singular.

    They had to re-record the early material because of long-standing disputes with Shel Talmy (which is also why the My Generation album only got a proper CD release a few years ago) but “Dogs” is essentially their “Popscene” except they’d like to forget it rather than punish the public for not buying it at the time.

  108. 108
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 8 Aug 2008 #

    i was hoping it work like “a shambles”

    yeah i’m probably overstating it mike — my memory is that this late-70s double Gst Hits my sister had, which i think was released to accord with quadrophenia and was quite a big deal (gatefold with a bound-in booklet of memoriabilia and everything) didn’t overlap as much as you’d expect with MMB&B… but i may well be expanding the lack of overlap in my head (ie it may just have been that “kids” wasn’t on it) (“dogs” not on either): she cleared it out long ago

    my mum was a who fan, rather unexpectedly (well, “fan” — she liked em, but she didn’t do anything like going to buy their records and such)

  109. 109
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Re. MBBB: no, Townshend confirmed this in interviews at the time. The Who had to re-record “My Generation” etc. and tried to keep as close to the originals as possible but there are differences, not least caused by the half decade of experience that had gone in between.

  110. 110
    mike on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Wow. This comes as such a shock, when you’ve spent 30+ years assuming that the re-recorded versions were the original versions.

    (It’s surely the same “Substitute”, though? My parents had the original 7″, which I nicked and played to death in 75/76 – simultaneously with the album – and I never spotted any differences.)

  111. 111
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    It’s the same “Substitute” but everything before that, i.e. “I Can’t Explain,” “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere” etc. are remakes.

  112. 112
    DJ Punctum on 8 Aug 2008 #

    Anyway, ’78 was a key year for the Who; Keith checked out, Who Are You? was released and so was All Mod Cons… ;-)

  113. 113
    Chris Brown on 9 Aug 2008 #

    I presume that double compilation would be The Story Of The Who. Which is a pretty weird selection, if this website is to be believed:

    My Mum had Meaty, Beaty etc. I used to walk past the hotel on that inner sleeve quite often, until it burned down.

  114. 114
    wichita lineman on 9 Aug 2008 #

    The Story Of The Who, the one with the exploding pinball machine on the cover, featured longer versions of Magic Bus and I’m A Boy, very different to the single versions but probably recorded in the late 60s (anyone know?). Pretty sure MBB&B was deleted by the time it came out, or I’d probably have opted for the single disc with more hits…

    Popscene bombed because it was all (willful, overplayed) attitude and no tune. The Who were already on a losing streak with I Can See For Miles only peaking at 10 (a relative failure) and The Who Sell Out doing very little business compared to their first 2 albums. So, Dogs and Magic Bus, their 2 ’68 singles, both made the Top 30 but did no more. Maybe wunnerful Radio One punished them after the openly pirate-worshipping Sell Out.

    Also, Call Me Lightning was released as an early ’68 single in the rest of Europe, where Dogs would presumably have made little sense (and once Walthamstow goes it’ll sound like a relic here, too). Maybe that’s why it’s been skipped on so many comps?

    “There was nothing in my life bigger than beer, ‘ceptin’ you little darlin'”

    A tragicomic knees-up, Dogs deserves a better afterlife. Rosie, you’re too hard on it. So many hooks. There’s the melancholy (Townshend sung?) section that builds up to “we’re a happy couple you and me, with a greyhound on either knee”, the rickety singalong intro, and the climactic choral, minor chord cymbal-splash finale is heart-twisting stuff (“yes it’s yoooou, little darlin’!”).

    Of course, if a cross between Heroes & Villains and The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery sounds bad on paper then it won’t tickle your fancy. But it’s much warmer, genuinely affectionate, and more loveable than Lazy Sunday. Or Popscene, for that matter.

  115. 115
    thevisitor on 10 Aug 2008 #

    Sorry for coming into this (compelling) thread so late. Here, for what it’s worth, are some thoughts.

    #7 If you think “Grease hankers for a watered down fifties aesthetic which makes Happy Days look edgy” you should try being an empathetic parent to children who worship at the altar of High School Musical. My two girls like both HSM and Grease (which, I guess is better than them just liking the former) but there’s more musical meat on the bones of YTOTIW (one of the weaker songs on Grease, I reckon) than the mechanically-recovered autotuned dreck of HSM. (Also, don’t get me started on the latter film’s excess of self-obsessed “I-just-need-to-work-out-who-I-am” soliloquies – a far cry from the Grease teens who are actually Out There getting their hands dirty, rather than rehearsing what they’ll go on to say to their therapists when they’re old enough to have them).

    Furthermore, I have to confess that the mere presence of this song in a film that was set in the late 50s/early 60s blinded me to the implausible genre-shift it represented. It only occurred to me a few years ago that it was a far more polished, muscular piece of pop than anything that could have appeared at the time. But because that didn’t bother me for so many years, it doesn’t particularly bother me now. It’s interesting (well, at least it is to me) that John Farrar, having written the song which transformed ONJ into a plausible object of desire, continued to write several ensuing hits which also fell into line with that perception.

    From the Physical album, he penned (Landslide and Make A Move On Me). But the best song he wrote for her was A Little More Love, which – if I remember correctly – she premiered on Parkinson, and was eagerly awaited as her first post-Grease hit. Brilliant predatory guitar motif on the verses which comes back in halfway through the chorus – all the better for the fact that it’s slightly at odds with the desperation of the lyric and the urgency with which she sings it. Always thought that when RCA were vainly searching around for a song that Natalie Imbruglia could do – one that might possibly revive her flagging career after Torn – then this would have done the job. After a 20+ year gap, it was certainly “forgotten” enough for her to make it her own.

    Finally, YTOTIW might not be a better song than, say, What Do I Get (and far worse than Teenage Kicks) but it effectively had a fantastic video and the promise of an hotly-anticipated film to support it – which must help account for its greater success at the time?

  116. 116
    Pete Baran on 10 Aug 2008 #

    Of course, with the exception of the actual musical at the heart of High School Musical, Grease and HSM have pretty much the same set up (mystery couple meet on holiday, turn out to be at the same school and then school society forces upon them a reason why they should not be together). The difference is that both Sandy and Danny have to change for each other to be acceptable, whereas Gabriella and Troy have to convince other people of who they actually are. But it is fundamentally the same plot!

    And as I am safe in as much as there have been no HSM number ones yet (HSM3 may change that), I think that there are at least three absolute show-stoppers in HSM, compared to probably just two in Grease (both of which weren’t in the original stage musical!)

  117. 117
    Erithian on 11 Aug 2008 #

    This is another one I’ve warmed to in the years since it was all over TOTP week after goddamn week, denying the number 1 spot to records I liked more (and I don’t mean the Smurfs…) – it’s great effervescent pop and the film is deservedly loved. Number 1 during my O-levels, which unfortunately clashed with the World Cup in Argentina. Revision or Scotland v Peru? No contest.

    Mike #3 (yes I know it’s a long way upthread but I’ve been away) – I know the style of the song clashes somewhat with the 50s setting, but then it is a fantasy at the end of which they fly up into the air in a car, so they can be as anachronistic as they want by this stage. Might as well criticise the “Camelot” routine in Python’s “Holy Grail” for not being minstrelesque enough. On the other hand, spot on about “Dirty Dancing” – that final “Time Of My Life” routine where they supposedly drop the needle on the Dansette or whatever it is, and out comes an archetypal 80s production which wasn’t technically possible in 1963… now THAT jarred.

    I remember a Record Mirror cartoon entitled “If John Travolta was a real person and he went to the Barnsley Mecca”. In which Travolta tries to get into said nightspot in his Grease outfit and is kicked out, then returns in his Saturday Night Fever gear to shouts of “flash git” from the girls and the bouncer saying “You’re not gerrin’ ‘in ‘ere dressed like that you poof”. Moral: even if you’re John Travolta it’s still crap in Barnsley.

  118. 118
    mike on 11 Aug 2008 #

    I bet that Record Mirror cartoon was drawn by Mark Manning, later known as Zodiac Mindwarp. It wouldn’t have been the only time he put the boot into disco culture, either.

  119. 119
    Erithian on 11 Aug 2008 #

    The very same.

  120. 120
    Mark G on 11 Aug 2008 #

    I was going to say Bring back J Edward Oliver, but I find he died last year…

  121. 121
    vinylscot on 11 Aug 2008 #

    Yes, Jack tragically died in May of last year. I had been in correspondence with him regarding one of his lesser-known characters “The Invisible Aardvark”, and he was a true gent. He sent me signed copies of the originals, and used our correspondence as the inspiration for one of his weekly e-mailshots, which he sent almost until he died.

    He was one of the main reasons I bought “Disc” originally, in preference to the other three.

  122. 122
    DJ Punctum on 11 Aug 2008 #

    I remember that in the later Disc and Music Echo days their singles column was allegedly written by a parrot.

  123. 123
    steve on 6 Mar 2009 #

    I know March 6th is a little late for a comment here. We newcomers to this excellent website will find our comments pushed to the nether regions of the comments section – probably never to be read as a result. May I recommend that all comments appear in “most recent first order” like many other websites do.

    With that off my chest: Surely WTOTIW deserves extra points from you for keeping that bloody smurf song off the top of the charts – we could have had 5 weeks of that! – Oh, I forget – you were 5 years old, so you probably loved it at the time…hehehe

  124. 124
    Tom on 6 Mar 2009 #

    Hi Steve – worry not! Comments appear on a feed on the front page – newest first – and on individual post you get the most recent 30-40 or so, so we make every effort to ensure new comments get noticed. Because so many of the comments are conversations and replies to other ones, putting the most recent first would disrupt that flow.

  125. 125
    Patrick on 9 May 2010 #

  126. 126
    Patrick on 9 May 2010 #

    Wasn’t sure if that would work! Not much to say about this song, except that I had similar feelings to you about the Megamix, Tom.

    As for Popular itself, I read all these entries the first time around and enjoyed them. Then recently I ‘acquired’ a collection of mp3s of all the number ones and have been diligently working my way through them with Popular as a guide. The blog – and all the comments – are such an incredible resource! Especially amazing to read comments from people directly involved with some of the earlier hits. Any thoughts of doing a Popular book? Would definitely buy a copy!

  127. 127
    nixon on 7 Apr 2011 #

    Strangely, given that I spent most of my teenage years obsessed with the charts, I never really bothered to investigate what was #1 when I was actually born… For the longest time, I thought it was “Summer Nights”. I bought the Guinness “Top 40 Charts” book (not to be confused with “British Hit Singles”), invaluable in the pre-Internet age, noted with a cursory glance that it was an ONJ/Travolta Grease thing, somehow got it immediately mixed up with “Summer Nights”, thought “Oh, that’s a bit crap”, and left that factoid unchecked in my head until just now.

    I hate “Summer Nights” – I don’t think I’ve ever liked it, but I quite vividly remember* a crushingly unfunny parody of it sung by Popeye and Olive Oyl on some variety show which totally sealed the deal, sat with the rest of my family in stony-faced silence, too embarrassed for my dad (who’d put the show on in the first place) to get up or even say anything at all – whereas I’m quite amenable towards this. Having laboured for the longest time under the impression that “my” number one was very poor, nothing to boast about (and sympathising with my younger sister, who got Renee and Renato), I actually feel rather pleased now.

    * (Not vividly enough to remember what show it WAS, obviously. A Popeye-themed TOTP spoof, I think – the joke was that Popeye had rigged the charts to keep his version of “Summer Nights” at number one for four years, or something. Google has no idea.)

  128. 128
    Mark G on 7 Apr 2011 #

    The first time I heard it I thought it was by the Muppets.

  129. 129
    richard thompson on 13 Aug 2011 #

    I liked Grease then but don’t now, there was this nostalgia for the fifties like there is now for the seventies, I was 16 back then when I saw the film

  130. 130
    Brendan on 24 Sep 2012 #

    Nothing much to add – I liked the movie and will happily watch it for the umpteenth time if I’ve nothing better to do. As has been pointed out by many, the best song from the movie (the title track) didn’t make number 1 while my other favourite ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ has been largely overlooked. Again, 6 is about right.

  131. 131
    Mark G on 24 Sep 2012 #

    Brendan, mate, if you have nothing much to add, don’t add it.

  132. 132
    wichita lineman on 24 Sep 2012 #

    Tsk Mark, that was a little harsh.

    I’ve only seen the film once, forced to, virtually at gunpoint in the mid 90s. It was ok, but what I really hold against it is that it really screwed up the 1978 summer holidays – most of my friends seemed to go and see it every other day. I stayed home sulking, memorising the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles so that in 2012 I could happily recite Manfred Mann’s chart positions (and get them all slightly wrong cos I’m old and wine-addled).

  133. 133
    Mark G on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Oh, it’s mildly irritating when someone new posts on *all* the pages purely for the sake of it. To be fair, most of Brendan’s comments are fine, but the odd one where he just saya “I have nothing to say” without being part of a broader conversation, I’d rather see that some other person said something interesting on one of the other songpages. (I read the ‘summary’ on the right a lot.

    Anyway, not trying to be snotty, just helpful. I know…

  134. 134
    wichita lineman on 25 Sep 2012 #

    It would be nice for anyone posting to stretch themselves and think of SOMETHING to say, I know what you mean. But I wouldn’t want to scare anyone off personally. There’s a frightening number of ‘old hands’ coming up with the dread line “this is where I lost interest in the charts…”

    Mark, do you fancy trying to come up with something to say about Frankie Vaughan’s Tower Of Strength? It’s got a paltry thread compared to Frankie’s herculean efforts.

  135. 135
    Mark G on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Ah, um, well, I’d have to have a listen to it as it’s not one I’ve heard before, and I dread being lead into saying “I have nothing to say”..

  136. 136
    swanstep on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Since Brendan has mentioned his two favorite Grease tracks, I guess I’ll add that I think that Greased Lightning and Hopelessly Devoted are the numbers that work best in movie musical terms. Grease is mostly shot fairly perfunctorily but HDTY, for example, is pretty well thought out. It’s mostly one long 2 mins+ shot – nothing fancy, but affecting and intimate, and another great Farrar composition and ONJ make it worth the camera’s while.

    Checking now I see HDTY spent 2 weeks at #2 (so I look forward to reading what Lena has to say about it in a few years’ time). More extraordinarily, one of those weeks saw Grease tracks also at #3 (Summer Nights) and #4 (Sandy). Rather popular this one was! Rather frighteningly, Grease was set in 1958, so its equivalent now would be set in that wacky, magical, what’s-the-matter-with-kids-today? world of 1992….

  137. 137
    pink champale on 25 Sep 2012 #

    oh my god swanstep. too much. too much perspective. (agree on HDTY, it’s lovely).

  138. 138
    thefatgit on 25 Sep 2012 #

    @136 Hopelessly Devoted To SL2?

  139. 139
    Rory on 25 Sep 2012 #

    @136 Set in the wacky, magical world of 1992, it’s ‘Gaze, with kicking tunes by Lush and Ride:

    Go-ing blank again, I left before I came (going blank again, go, going blank again)…

  140. 140
    swanstep on 26 Sep 2012 #

    @139, Rory. I could go for a reboot of the ending of Grease set to Slowdive’s When The Sun Hits, that’s for sure (although I personally use it to soundtrack 1927).

  141. 141
    punctum on 10 Oct 2012 #

    TPL tells you more.

  142. 142
    swanstep on 29 Oct 2012 #

    Andrew Sullivan’s Hurricane Sandy.

  143. 143
    Gareth Parker on 28 May 2021 #

    I like ONJ saves this single for me. 5/10.

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