Physical (Olivia Newton-John song)

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Physical (Olivia Newton-John single) coverart.jpg
Single by Olivia Newton-John
from the album Physical
B-side"The Promise (The Dolphin Song)"
Released28 September 1981
RecordedJanuary 1981
Producer(s)John Farrar
Olivia Newton-John singles chronology
"Make a Move on Me"

"Physical" is a song recorded by British-Australian singer Olivia Newton-John for her 1981 eleventh studio album of the same name. It was released as the album's lead single on 28 September 1981. The song was produced by John Farrar and written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, who had originally intended to offer it to Rod Stewart.[2] The song had also been offered to Tina Turner by her manager Roger Davies, but when Turner declined, Davies gave the song to Newton-John, another of his clients.[3]

"Physical" was an immediate smash hit, shipping two million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and spent 10 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. "Physical" ultimately became Newton-John's biggest hit and cemented her legacy as a pop superstar, a journey that began when she crossed over from her earlier country pop roots. The song's suggestive lyrics, which even caused it to be banned in some markets, helped change Newton-John's longstanding clean-cut image, replacing it with a sexy, assertive persona that was strengthened with follow-up hits such as "Make a Move on Me", "Twist of Fate" and "Soul Kiss".

Background and recording[edit]

"Physical" (originally "Let's Get Physical") was written by Terry Shaddick and Newton-John's longtime friend Steve Kipner, and initially was intended for a "macho male rock figure like Rod Stewart", according to Kipner. When Newton-John's then-manager Lee Kramer accidentally heard the demo, he immediately sent the song to her, but initially she did not want to release the song because it was "too cheeky".[4] It was the first of several Newton-John releases written by Kipner.

The song's guitar solo was performed by Steve Lukather, best known as a founding member of the American rock band Toto. "Physical" is written in the key of E minor.[5]


"Physical" was described by Mark Ellen of Smash Hits as "one of the most successful career-revivers in living memory".[6] It is the most successful single of Newton-John's career and became her fifth number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 (and last, to date). "Physical" stayed for 10 weeks on the top of Hot 100, from 21 November 1981 through 23 January 1982. It was the largest permanence at the time, becoming the most successful song on the Billboard in the 1980s.[7][8] The song was very controversial due to the implied sexual content, being innovative and somewhat provocative for the time.[8][9]

"Physical" has received positive reviews from music critics since release, with some of them calling it "good-naturedly sexy" and "an eighties gem".[10][11] The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and won the Billboard Award for Top Pop Single.[12]

Chart performance[edit]

"Physical" rose to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 in November 1981 and stayed there for 10 weeks (the most of any single in the 1980s[13]), remaining until the second half of January 1982. It reached number two on the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Airplay chart on 27 November 1981, staying there for two weeks and remaining on the chart for 14 weeks.[14] In terms of chart placement, "Physical" was Newton-John's most successful single in the United States, as well as her final single to reach the top spot. Billboard ranked the song as the number one single of 1982 (since the chart year for 1982 actually began in November 1981).

"Physical" was both preceded and followed in the number-one chart position by recordings by American duo Hall & Oates: "Private Eyes" was dethroned by "Physical" in November 1981 and "Physical" was supplanted by "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" the following January. "Physical" held Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You" at number two on the Hot 100 for nine weeks and "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" then held Foreigner at number two for a tenth and final consecutive week. "Physical" remained in the top-ten for a total of 15 weeks, thus making it the longest run of 1981, as well as tying it for the longest run of the decade among number-one singles. "Physical" also peaked at number 28 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

"Physical" achieved great success around the world, reaching number seven in the United Kingdom, where it was certified Silver.[15] However, the song was censored and even banned by some radio stations as a result of its sexually suggestive content, such as the line "There's nothing left to talk about, unless it's horizontally."

Music video[edit]


The controversial music video that was released to promote the single featured Newton-John in a gym with well-built men in the last half. Some of the scenes have sexual subtext, such as the shower scene or when Newton-John rubs herself on the men.

The accompanying music video for "Physical", directed by Brian Grant, features Newton-John in a tight leotard trying to make several overweight men lose weight. The men fail comically and Newton-John leaves the room to take a shower. When the men work out on their own, they suddenly transform into muscular, attractive men. A stylistic shot shows one muscular man glancing at his overweight self in a mirror. Newton-John is shocked when she returns and starts to flirt with them. Two of the men secretly go out, holding hands, implying they are gay. This surprises Newton-John, as does the sight of two more of the men leaving with their arms around each other. Finally, she finds that the last of the overweight men is heterosexual and they go off to play tennis together.


The Olivia Physical music video collection, which contained "Physical", won a Grammy Award for Video of the Year in 1983.[16] The video was featured on VH1's Pop-Up Video and was the first video to air on Beavis and Butt-head.[citation needed]

Legacy and other versions[edit]

Billboard ranked "Physical" number six on its "All Time Top 100" list,[17] number one on its "Top 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time" list,[18] and number one on its "Top 100 Songs of the 1980s" list.[19]

The song was later skewered by SuLu's parody "Physical", featured on Dr. Demento's weekly show, with such lyrics as "It's time I got a physical, physical" and "Press that thing against my chest and listen to my body talk, body talk".[20]

Kylie Minogue performed a cover of the track on her On a Night Like This Tour in 2001 and released a recorded version of the song on the Australian tour limited edition of her album, Light Years.

A revamped bossa nova version of the song was released on the 2002 Newton-John album (2) as a bonus track, and this version replaced the original in Newton-John's tours. Her duet with Jane Lynch was included in the episode "Bad Reputation" of the television series Glee.[citation needed] This version peaked at number 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 2010.

In 2003, Sophie Ellis-Bextor covered the song on her album Shoot From the Hip.

In 2018, Delta Goodrem performed the song in the mini-series Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You and the accompanying soundtrack, I Honestly Love You.

Also in 2018, Juliana Hatfield covered the song on her album Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John.[21]

In 2020, Dua Lipa's "Physical" was released. The song interpolates the "Let's get physical" lyric from Newton-John's song. Later that same year, Lipa featured on Miley Cyrus's single "Prisoner", which contains a melodic interpolation of Newton-John's "Physical".

In 2021, Doja Cat released "Kiss Me More" which interpolates the chorus of the song.


From the Physical album's liner notes:[22]


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[57] Platinum 100,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[58] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Japan 200,000[59]
New Zealand (RMNZ)[60] Gold 10,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Gold 500,000^
United States (RIAA)[62] Platinum 2,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Physical - Olivia Newton-John - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Juke Magazine, 13 March 1982.
  3. ^ "Steve Kipner Talks About His Great Songwriting Career". 2 May 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  4. ^ A. Baker, Glenn (30 January 1982). "Kipners' Friendly Rivalry Breeds Million Sellers". Billboard. Vol. 94, no. 4. New York. ISSN 0006-2510.
  5. ^ Terry, Shaddick; Alan, Kipner, Stephen; Olivia, Newton-John (22 June 2009). "Physical". Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  6. ^ Ellen, Mark (21 January 1982). "Singles". Smash Hits. p. 17.
  7. ^ "allmusic (((Physical > Charts & Awards)))". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Billboard – The 50 Sexiest Song of All Time". Billboard. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Olivia Newton-John tried to stop 'Physical' music video from being released in 1981". New York. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Physical - Olivia Newton John". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  11. ^ "People Picks and Pans Review — Physical". Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  12. ^ "Olivia Newton-John award and achievements". Rock on the Net. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 810. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6.
  14. ^ "Physical". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  15. ^ "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". British Phonographic Industry.Select singles in the Format field. Type Physical in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  16. ^ "25th Annual Grammy Awards (1982)". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  17. ^ [1] Archived 1 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time Page 5". Billboard. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  19. ^ a b Leight, Elias (29 October 2014). "The Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 Hits of the 1980s". Billboard. Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  20. ^ "Physical - SuLu". Captain Wayne's Mad Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  21. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  22. ^ Physical (Liner notes). Olivia Newton-John. MCA Records. 1981. B004AH7W1O.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  23. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 217. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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  25. ^ "Olivia Newton-John – Physical" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
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  27. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  28. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Physical". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  29. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Olivia Newton-John" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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  32. ^ "Hits of the World" (PDF). Billboard. 12 April 1982. p. 81. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  33. ^ "SA Charts 1965–1989 (As presented on Springbok Radio/Radio Orion) – Acts N". The South African Rock Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 6 September 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  34. ^ Salaverrie, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Madrid: Fundación Autor/SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
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  38. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Archived from the original on 31 August 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  39. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Archived from the original on 31 August 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  40. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Archived from the original on 31 August 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  41. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles – Week ending November 21, 1981". Cash Box. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  42. ^ " – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  43. ^ "Glee Cast Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
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  47. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1981" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
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  49. ^ "Scweizer Jahrehitparade 1981". (in German). Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  50. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1981 – Top 100 Pop Singles". Cash Box. 26 December 1981. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  51. ^ "National Top 100 Singles for 1982". Kent Music Report. No. 445. 3 January 1983 – via Imgur.
  52. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 82". RPM. Vol. 37, no. 19. 25 December 1982. p. 17. ISSN 0315-5994 – via Library and Archives Canada.
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  55. ^ {{cite web |first= Fred |last= Bronson|url=
  56. ^ "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs by Women". Billboard. 30 November 2017. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  57. ^ "Kent Music Report No 453 – 28 February 1983 > Platinum and Gold Singles 1982". (original document published by Kent Music Report). Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  58. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Music Canada. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  59. ^ "'Physical' sales up". Billboard. 30 January 1982. pp. 68–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  60. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  61. ^ "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  62. ^ "American single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 26 April 2020.

External links[edit]