|Studio album by Olivia Newton-John|
|Released||13 October 1981|
Los Angeles, California
(Ocean Way Studios)
|Genre||Pop, dance, pop rock|
|Olivia Newton-John chronology|
|Singles from Physical|
Physical is the twelfth studio album by Australian singer-songwriter Olivia Newton-John, released on 13 October 1981 by MCA Records. The album was produced and partly written by her long-time producer John Farrar, and recorded at Ocean Way Studios in California at a quick pace. Physical continues the pop style in which Newton-John moved towards after Grease and her new-imaged album Totally Hot, becoming one of her most controversial and sexual records, and her most successful studio album to date. Musically, the album features songs with a considerable use of synthesizers and notable digital recording, something a new technique introduced at that time that had been used in furthermore Newton-John's 1980s records. Physical explores lyrical themes such as love & relationships, sex, kinesthetics and environmental protection. Upon on its release, the album received generally positive reviews from music critics, many of them considering it as Newton-John's best work. The album reached top ten in several countries across the world — including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and her native Australia, becoming one of the most successful albums of early 1980s. It is also one of the best selling albums ever by an Australian solo artist, selling more than ten million copies worldwide.
The album's title track, which was released as a lead single, was a commercial phenomenon, staying ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, the biggest setting at the time which was tied up with Debby Boone's 1977 hit single "You Light Up My Life". The song and its music video were very polemical, being banned or edited from several radio stations and music televisions such as MTV, due to its sexual and LGBT-themed content. The single was followed by "Make a Move on Me", another top ten worldwide hit, and "Landslide", which failed to enter into the majority of musical charts, but its music video caught the public's attention, specifically to the featured participation of Matt Lattanzi on the video, Newton-John's then-boyfriend and lately became her then-husband at that time in which she had also dedicated the album to him. A video compilation was made entitled Olivia Physical, featuring her music videos of all of the songs from the album. The material was a commercial and critical success, and earned her a Grammy Award for Video of the Year.
The album was promoted on Newton-John's fifth concert tour in 1982, the Physical Tour, in which she only visited North America and filmed for the television, also recorded for its home video released entitled Olivia in Concert. The Physical era marked the height of Newton-John's solo career, who was considered for several media vehicles such as Billboard and Cashbox as one of the most successful female artists of the early 1980s.
- 1 Background and development
- 2 Composition
- 3 Video album
- 4 Critical reception
- 5 Commercial response
- 6 Singles
- 7 Promotion
- 8 Legacy and controversies
- 9 Track listing
- 10 Credits and personnel
- 11 Charts and certifications
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Background and development
In 1978, Newton-John starred the musical film Grease, which was a worldwide blockbuster, and had a best-selling soundtrack. Olivia's career was boosted. Previously, she was know for sing country pop and adult contemporary genres, after, her image changed for a more aggressive pop image. In the same year, she released the studio album Totally Hot, and later Xanadu soundtrack (1980), both with a more pop style than her past albums. Physical was recorded and released only in 1981, making the longest gap between two Newton-John studio albums at the time (through 1971–78, she recorded at least one studio album per year). Newton-John claimed that her career could be overexposed with many works released in a short period.
The album was produced to follow the image change which Newton-John had chosen to show, making a more sexualized and mature record. It also marks her first studio album without any country track, at the time was a total departure of this musical genre for Newton-John. The new music style had generated some criticism from the country community and Olivia's old fans. Newton-John commented about her transition in an article for Billboard: "You might lose a few fans but you gain others. You have to do what's comfortable. [...] I've gotten the confidence to be more adventurous whereas in the past I didn't think it was the time".
The lead single "Physical" (originally "Let's Get Physical") was written by Steve Kipner (Olivia's long-time friend) and Terry Shaddick, and initially was planned to be sung for a "macho male rock figure like Rod Stewart", according to Kipner himself. But when Newton-John's then-manager Lee Kramer listened accidentally to the demo, he immediately sent the song to Olivia, who initially didn't want to release the song because it was "too cheeky". It was the first track written by Kipner released for Newton-John, he later wrote more songs to her. The songs "Recovery" and "Falling" are originally featured on John Farrar's 1980 self-titled solo album, but later were remodeled for Physical. The album's eighth track, "Carried Away", was written by Barry Gibb and Albhy Galuten for Barbra Streisand's Guilty album, but she refused the song and then was offered to Olivia, who accepted it. The song original demo sung by Gibb was released on the The Guilty Demos, released through iTunes in 2006.
Physical was the first album where Olivia included the environmentalism and animal rights themes. The album's tracks "Silvery Rain", which was written by The Shadows member Hank Marvin and released as single in 1971 by British singer Cliff Richard, and "The Promise (The Dolphin Song)", a Newton-John self-penned song, features these themes. Newton-John also wrote about ecologism on her albums such as The Rumour and Gaia: One Woman's Journey.
The photoshoot of Physical was shooted primarily in Honolulu, Hawaii by the famous American photographer Herb Ritts, in the first half of 1981. Olivia also filmed the music video of "The Promise (The Dolphin Song)" and some takes of Olivia Physical in that place. The photos consist on a mix of nature and sensuality, taking the meaning of "physical" to the two meanings present on the album content. The album cover is one of the most popular and iconic photos of Newton-John (and one of most popular works by Ritts). It's also been compared to the Madonna's True Blue album cover, which was shot by Ritts too.
Musically Physical is one of the most diverse records for Newton-John, and sets her career from a totally different direction. The album was completely produced by Newton-John longtime collaborator, John Farrar, who did a then-modern music production, which later became musical trend in the 1980s. The songs features a more pop rock sound, and more high notes than as usual in her country pop era. The album contains a large use of synthesizers, such on the songs "Make a Move on Me" and "Love Make Me Strong" (Totally Hot also made some use of the synthesizer, but Physical uses the electronic instrument tightly on almost album tracks). It made the album one of the most dance-pop recordings by Newton-John, especially on the songs "Landslide" e "Physical". The vocoders background vocals made by John Farrar also were used, most notably on "Stranger's Touch" and "Recovery". The songs "Carried Away" and "Falling" has a more soft rock sound than Newton-John's past ballads, because of the more extensive use of guitars and synthesizers.
"Landslide" is one of the most dance tracks of Physical. The song was released as a third and final single worldwide.
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Lyrically Physical explores themes of the behavior of humans and his relationship with the world around. The songs "Falling" and "Landslide" tells about falling in love and love at first sight. The lyrics of "The Promise (The Dolphin Song)" deals about the killing of dolphins for commercial gain, with sounds of the marine mammal in the background. "Carried Away" deals with lyrics talking about a relationship breakup, and "Recovery" talks about a lonely woman, who is recovering to a troubled relationship. "Silvery Rain" has lyrics denouncing the aerial application use for pesticides to exterminate insects. The lyrics of "Love Make Me Strong" tells about the power of love in the determination of a person. The songs "Physical" and "Make a Move on Me" has more sexualized lyrics, with some suggestive innuendos (like "there's nothing left to talk about unless it's horizontally" and "come on baby make a move on me tonight").
Each song from Physical has its respective music video. All the music videos were filmed from the Physical video album, which was directed by Brian Grant. The recordings were made in late 1981, in London, Honolulu and Newton-John's home at Malibu, California. The songs "Hopelessly Devoted to You", "A Little More Love" and "Magic" (Newton-John hit singles from the 1978 soundtrack Grease, the studio album of the same year, Totally Hot, and the 1980 soundtrack Xanadu, respectively) also had new music videos filmed from the video album. Newton-John's then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) Matt Lattanzi participated of "Landslide" music video.
The video debuted on 8 February 1982 on ABC as Let's Get Physical, and boasted 35% of the United States viewing audience when its first aired. The home video version was released later as Olivia Physical, on VHS, betamax and laserdisc formats by MCA Home Video. The television version has little differences from the home video version. The television version features video interludes starring Olivia, introducing some music videos, and the home video version features the music videos for "Love Make Me Strong" and "Falling".
The video was a critical and commercial success, being a Billboard top charting music video for many weeks in 1981, earning a Grammy Award for Video of the Year and a nomination for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program.
Physical received generally positive reviews from music critics, many stating that was the best album by Newton-John at the time. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic made a very positive review and gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars, writing that "Physical was a damn good record, in many ways one of Olivia Newton-John's very best". He further explained "[The album] skillfully balances catchy yet mellow dance cuts with immaculately crafted adult contemporary pop and ballads". Stephen Holden, in a review for Rolling Stone, said that Physical was "Newton-John's best album to date" and "a perfect aural milkshake from the Farrah Fawcett of rock". Holse also contemplated the Farrar's production, calling "a dazzling pop-rock bubblegum production". The album "Picks and Pans" review published by People magazine also was positive, stating that "This LP impressively completes the transformation that began with her 1979 [sic] album Totally Hot and has turned Newton-John into a much more aggressive, spirited and entertaining singer" and "This is mainly a pop-rock album, though, and it is a first-class production: danceable, listenable and beguiling".
The Physical era received three Grammy Award nominations. The song "Physical" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and the video Olivia Physical won a Grammy Award for Video of the Year at the 25th Grammy Awards. Olivia in Concert, the video recording of the Physical Tour, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Video Album at the 26th Grammy Awards. Newton-John won her fourth American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist at the 10th American Music Awards, making her the biggest winner on that category (tied with Whitney Houston). In 1981, at the time of Physical release, Newton-John was honoured with a Hollywood Walk of Fame, for her work in the music industry.
In the United States, Physical debuted at number sixty-eight and peaked at number six on the Billboard 200, making it the sixth album by Newton-John to reach the top 10 on this chart (and the last, to date). According to Billboard, it was the highest peak for a female singer album in 1982 (tied with Stevie Nicks' Bella Donna). This is only Newton-John's album which entered on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, peaking at thirty-two. At the 1982 Billboard Year-End, Olivia appears as the fourth most successful pop artist and Physical as the fifteenth best-selling album of the year. For his work with Newton-John, John Farrar was the pop producer of the year. On 12 October 1984, Physical was certified two times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of over two million units.
"Make a Move on Me" was the second single of the album. The song also was a success, and helped to establish a more sexualized image of Newton-John.
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In Canada the album debuted at thirty-seven on the RPM Albums Chart. On 30 January 1982 the album reached its peak, the third position. Physical was the twelfth best-selling album of the country in 1982 (and the best-selling by a solo female singer). The album was certified four times platinum by Canadian Recording Industry Association (now Music Canada) for shipment of 400,000 copies. On the UK Album Charts the album peaked at number eleven, making the best position for a Newton-John studio album to date. Physical was certified gold by British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 2 April 1982 (100,000 copies shipped). The album also peaked at top 10 on several charts across the Europe. In Australia (Olivia's native country), Physical peaked at number three on the Kent Music Report albums chart and was one of the 25 best-selling albums of the year. Worldwide the album has sold more than ten million copies.
"Physical" was released as the album lead single on 28 September 1981 by MCA Records. The single is the most successful solo hit of Olivia's career, and became her fifth number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 (and last, to date). "Physical" stayed for 10 weeks on the top of Hot 100, the largest permanence at the time, becoming the most successful song on the Billboard in the 1980s. The song and his music video (which was recorded in a gym, with several men working out) were very controversial due the implied sexual content, being innovative and provocative for the time. It was received positively by critics, with most of them calling it "good-naturedly sexy" and "an eighties gem". It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
"Make a Move on Me" was released as the album's second single in early 1982. The song is one of more dance singles released by Newton-John and also was very well received by music critics, particularly in Sweden, where it was a Number One single. The music video was recorded in the same nightclub that the videos "Stranger's Touch", "Love Make Me Strong" and "Magic" were filmed. It was a worldwide top 10 hit, peaking at five on the Billboard Hot 100. "Landslide" was released as the third and final single from the album. It does reach high positions in the music charts across the world, but archived a top 20 on the UK Singles Charts (where was the second single, and "Make a Move on Me" the third and last single). The song wasn't performed on the Physical Tour.
The album promotion was made throughout 1981–82, and included several appearances across the world. In the United States, Newton-John performed on the music television series Solid Gold (performing "Physical" and "Make a Move on Me") and at the award show of American Music Awards of 1982 (performing "Make a Move on Me"). She was interviewed on the television shows Good Morning America and The Merv Griffin Show (with the special guests John Travolta, The Carpenters and Rick Springfield). Newton-John also made performances and interviews to television programs in Japan, Brazil, South Africa (which was very controversial because some verses of "Physical" were banned in the country), Venezuela and several countries of Europe. In Canada, the album was promoted in Vic Tanny's health clubs, which offered Physical-thematized club passes and discounts on the album purchase in Capitol-EMI's Mr. Sound stores. At the 24th Grammy Awards, Olivia presented the Record of the Year category, together with Lionel Richie.
The Physical Tour to promote Physical was the fifth concert tour by Newton-John. The tour was announced in July 1982 and began in August of the same year. It was Olivia's first tour in four years, since Totally Hot World Tour and visited only the North American countries United States and Canada. The tour had 64 through 40 cities, with a total attendance of 562,428 people. Newton-John friends John Travolta and Karen Carpenter attended some concerts. The jazz musician Tom Scott was the musical director and also served as opening act.
The show consisted of four costume changes and three videos: for introduction, interlude and end credits. The encore consisted of the title song "Physical" (with Newton-John doing aerobic exercises and jumping rope through the performance) and "I Honestly Love You". The tour had generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Newton-John vocal performances and her ability to entertain the audience.
Two concerts in Ogden, Utah (the state where "Physical" was banned by two local radio stations) were filmed for a television special (titled as Olivia: Live in Concert) and a home video release, as Olivia in Concert. The video was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. It was the last concert tour by Newton-John for sixteen years (she originally said that would be her last tour), until The Main Event Tour, in 1998.
Legacy and controversies
Newton-John was one of the first artists to invest in music videos. The 1978 album Totally Hot was her first one to features videos accompanying all the singles from the album, but they were very simple, being primarily composed of Newton-John singing in the studio. The music videos of the songs of Physical are more complex, and were one of the firsts to present a plot line, and not just a video of the artist performing the song. According with Olivia Physical video album director, Brian Grant, Newton-John record company and management were reluctant about the project at the first moment: "I suppose there was a little nervousness at first. But, [Olivia] got us out here because she liked what we had done [...]". Newton-John herself was a supporter of the music video industry, as she commented in a Billboard article about the Olivia Physical production:
"I think this is the way albums will go in the future: visuals with the music. I got to be a different personality and play an other side of myself."
The sexual innuendos of "Physical" made several controversies. However, the single was a commercial phenomenon, becoming sixth most famous song of Billboard history.
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The record company also was afraid of the public and media feedback about the themes featured on Olivia Physical, especially these included in the music video made for the title track. The music video of "Physical" is considered very innovator, with a simple, but cohesive plot, and several sexual innuendos (including homosexual contexts) which also are featured in the song. The music video was a great success and help the single to be a one of the biggest commercial phenomenons of the early 1980s, but also attracted several controversies. After receiving numerous complaints, two Utah local radio stations (Provo's KFMY-FM and Salt Lake City's KSL-FM) banned the song from its playlists. According to a station's program manager "The lyrics are more suggestive than most songs. It goes the one additional step". These weren't the only radio stations which banned the song from its playlists. Several adult contemporary radios (many with mormon affiliations) across the North America also banned the single, causing a lower peak at number twenty-nine on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart. Newton-John usually has a large audience on the adult contemporary radios (she has eight #1's on the U.S. AC chart), but the loss was rewarded with the massive audience that "Physical" had on the pop radios, which are listened by a more younger audience. Later she recovered the adult contemporary audience with the next single, "Make a Move on Me", which peaked at six on the U.S. AC chart. MTV originally cut the music video ending, because "the beefcakes surrounding Newton-John turned out to be gay".
"Physical" also gathered controversies in South Africa. In 1982, Newton-John performed at the Bophuthatswana's Sun City Superbowl and the special appearance was recorded by South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). When Olivia was performing the single, the transmission was withdrawn without explanation, but later was reinstated, omitting the verses "There's nothing left to talk about" / "Unless it horizontally". According to Billboard, the "committee of moral" of South Africa under apartheid had always employed a policy of restricting airplay on certain material considered "offensive". About all the controversies over the song and its music video, Newton-John stated:
"Five years ago I would have died over a controversy like this. But now I just think it's foolish of them to take it so seriously."
According to Stephen Thomas Erlewine: "'Physical' became such a monster hit — not just a hit, but a pop-culture phenomenon that was impossible to escape — that it became difficult to view its accompanying album as anything other than a conduit for the single". Since its release, Physical has been a very remarkable piece of 1980s culture, and has received numerous tributes and citations in several media. The "Physical" performances and its music video popularized the fitness clothing that turned to be a popular fashion style in and out of health clubs, being used by several other artists like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Among the programs who have already made reference to Physical are Late Night with David Letterman (on the pilot episode), Sesame Street, Glee (with Newton-John as a special guest), The Office and The Simpsons. Besides the "Physical" single, "Make a Move on Me" and "Stranger's Touch" also are among the first songs in the mainstream media that deal directly or indirectly about sexual themes.
Physical was re-released by MCA Records on 25 October 1990. The album was available on cassette and CD formats, without its original booklet. In 1998, the album was re-released in a new digitally remastered edition in Australia by Festival Records, along with many other albums of Newton-John discography. Physical also was re-released on 2 February 2012 in Japan by Universal Music Group. It's available only on a SHM-SACD remastered edition, and also as a part of the 2010 box set 40th Anniversary Collection, which was released to celebrate forty years of Olivia's musical career (the box also contains other re-released albums of Newton-John's MCA era). The Olivia Physical video album wasn't re-released, but its music videos are available on Video Gold 2005 DVD release. The live recording Olivia in Concert was re-released on VHS in 1992, and also had a DVD version released in a few Asian countries (there are also several bootlets versions released by small distributors).
All songs produced by John Farrar.
|2.||"Stranger's Touch"||Farrar, Steve Kipner||3:49|
|3.||"Make a Move on Me"||Farrar, Tom Snow||3:17|
|5.||"Love Make Me Strong"||Terry Britten, Sue Shifrin||3:10|
|6.||"Physical"||Kipner, Terry Shaddick||3:44|
|7.||"Silvery Rain"||Hank Marvin||3:39|
|8.||"Carried Away"||Barry Gibb, Albhy Galuten||3:42|
|10.||"The Promise (The Dolphin Song)"||Olivia Newton-John||4:32|
|2010 Remastered edition bonus tracks|
|10.||"Heart Attack"||Paul Bliss, Kipner||3:01|
|11.||"Tied Up"||Farrar, Lee Ritenour||4:21|
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
Charts and certifications
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|1982||"Make a Move on Me"||8||4||38||49||22||43||5||6||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart or was not released.|
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- A. Baker, Glenn (1982-01-30). "Kipners' Friendly Rivalry Breeds Million Sellers". Billboard (New York) 94 (4). ISSN 0006-2510.
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- "AllMusic — Gaia: One Woman's Journey review".
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- "Houston Chronicle — At 37, Olivia Newton-John no longer does `cutesy' material".
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- "Billboard — The 50 Sexiest Song of All Time".
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- Brenner, Suzanne (1982-07-17). "'Physical' is Censored in South Africa". Billboard (New York) 94 (28). ISSN 0006-2510.
- "Youtube — Olivia Newton-John on Venezuelan TV".
- Farrel, David (1981-12-26). "MCA, Vic Tanny Get "Physical"". Billboard (New York) 93 (51). ISSN 0006-2510.
- "Youtube — Olivia Newton-John and Lionel Ritchie presents the Grammy category of Record of the Year".
- "Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Olivia Newton-John on the Road Again".
- "People — Animal Magnetism".
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- Grein, Paul (1982-10-23). "Talent in Action: Concert Review". Billboard (New York) 94 (42). ISSN 0006-2510.
- "New York Times — Pop: Olivia Newton-John".
- "EW — Olivia Gets 'Physical'".
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- Darling, Cary (1981-08-29). "Grant of U.K. Tackling Newton-John Video". Billboard (New York) 93 (34). ISSN 0006-2510.
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