As winter drags on, I’m definitely thinking of “Summer Nights”, but I’m not waiting until June, July, and August to experience them!
After 28 below zero mornings (-22° was the coldest) and 45.8″ of snow in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, I’m making plans to head to the desert.
In late May, in Las Vegas, the average high temperature is 94° and the record highs are between 104°-109°. And, who better to spend “Summer Nights” with (other than Ray), but the international superstar that sang that song in “Grease” with John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John.
Last week, Olivia announced that she would be playing 45 shows between April and August of this year at the Donny and Marie Showroom at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Strip.
The second I heard that, I started planning. Two weeks before the announcement, I had blogged that I wanted to see Olivia in concert this year, “if she tours”. Well, she may not be taking the show on the road, but there are planes that fly to Vegas, so we’re on our way!
After the last Riverfront Pops concert, I recommended to the Quad City Symphony Orchestra to get Olivia for the 2014 fall show since she has performed beautifully with the Sydney (Australia) Symphony.
I came close to seeing Olivia when she performed at the Northalsted Market Days in Chicago in 2012, but I had a previous engagement on the other side of Iowa, and couldn’t make it. But, that’s history because I’ll be seeing Olivia on May 30th.
I’ve been a huge fan from the first time I heard “Let Me Be There” in 1973, as an 8-year-old listening to my country music on WNGO, AM 1320, back in Mayfield, Kentucky.
While that was the first time I had heard of Olivia, she scored her first pop hit, “If Not For You” in 1971. It reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
From that first hit in 1971 to her last Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 smash, “Soul Kiss” (#20, 1985), Olivia charted with 27 Top 40 hits. Of those, 15 reached the Top Ten (she’s tied for seventh place amongst female singers with the most Top Ten hits on the Hot 100).
Olivia had five of those smashes to reach #1: “I Honestly Love You” (1974), “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975), “You’re The One That I Want” (1978 with John Travolta), “Magic” (1980), and “Physical” (1981), which spent ten weeks at the top of the chart becoming her biggest hit.
In today’s blog, my tribute to the stunningly gorgeous Olivia, I’m sharing some of my favorite songs and a couple of anecdotes to take you down memory lane.
“Please Mr. Please” became Olivia’s fifth consecutive Top Ten hit on both the country and pop charts. It reached #5 country and #3 pop (following her first two #1 hits).
In 1978, Olivia had the starring role as Sandy in “Grease”, a movie that racked up $395 million at the box office.
When I saw the movie, I was a shy, introverted, 13-year-old still listening to country music (occasionally, I’d sneak a listen to ABBA, the Bay City Rollers, and the Bee Gees). I connected with the innocent Sandy and was petrified when she came out dressed to the nines in leather and a cigarette! I’m no longer naive! 🙂
That was a turning point for me. Somewhere after “Grease”, I started listening to more pop or Top 40 music and I came across an 8-track recording of Olivia’s sultry album “Totally Hot”.
It was one of three 8-tracks that I owned. The other two were “Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits” and “Glass Houses” by Billy Joel.
Not too long ago, I watched “Xanadu” again and I can’t hear this song without smiling and feeling good.
Being a gay teenager in small town Kentucky in the early-1980s without knowing anyone else like yourself was very isolating. While there was never a thought of falling in love since you didn’t hear about those things back then, the release of “Physical” and its erotic (and homoerotic) video was definitely eye-opening and it gave this kid hope.
Another feel good song that stops me when I come across it is “Make A Move On Me”.
In 2000, Olivia starred in Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” as Bitsy Mae Harling, a bar singer with a “reputation”! She reprised her role in the 2008 miniseries for Logo.
If you’ve never seen this Texas “black comedy about white trash comedy”, you have to find it and spend two hours laughing!
Here’s Olivia singing the theme song (contains adult language) and her and the cast in the ending credits performing Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”.
I’ll close with a live performance of Olivia and the Sydney Symphony with her first Top Ten hit from 1973, “Let Me Be There”.
I have a confession to make. As an 8-year-old, I thought the beautiful voice belonged to Olivia Newton and the booming, manly back-up singer was named John!
Now, by chance, if I got to meet Olivia that night, I won’t share that story!