Physical (Olivia Newton-John song)
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|Single by Olivia Newton-John|
|from the album Physical|
|B-side||"The Promise (The Dolphin Song)"|
|Released||28 September 1981|
|Olivia Newton-John singles chronology|
"Physical" is a song recorded by English-born Australian singer Olivia Newton-John for her twelfth studio album Physical (1981). It was released as the lead single from the album on 28 September 1981, by MCA Records. 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. 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.
"Physical" was an immediate smash hit, shipping two million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum 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
"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". It was the first of several Newton-John releases written by Kipner.
"Physical" is the most successful single of Newton-John'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, from November 21, 1981 through January 23, 1982. It was the largest permanence at the time, becoming the most successful song on the Billboard in the 1980s. The song was very controversial due the implied sexual content, being innovative and somewhat provocative for the time.
"Physical" has received positive reviews from music critics since release, with some of them calling it "good-naturedly sexy" and "an eighties gem". The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and won the Billboard Award for Top Pop Single.
"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), remaining until the second half of January 1982. It reached number two on the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Airplay chart on November 27, 1981, staying there for two weeks and remaining on the chart for 14 weeks. 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 the 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" achieved great success around the world, reaching number seven in the United Kingdom, where it was certified Silver. 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." Despite Newton-John's status as a staple of soft rock music, "Physical" peaked at only number 29 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart, though its follow-up, the slightly softer-edged "Make a Move on Me," reached number six on the chart and number five on the Hot 100. "Physical" was also a major R&B hit, crossing over to peak at number 28 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
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 straight 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. The video was featured on VH1's Pop-Up Video and was the first video to air on Beavis and Butt-head.
Legacy and other versions
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. This version peaked at number 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010.
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". In the 2008 episode of The Office entitled "Business Ethics", Michael and Holly teach the office about workplace ethics by singing and dancing (in headbands) to Physical, but changing the lyrics to "Let's get ethical".
- Olivia Newton-John – lead and backing vocals
- John Farrar – guitar and backing vocals
- Steve Lukather – guitar solo
- David Hungate – bass
- Bill Cuomo – Prophet 5
- Robert Blass — keyboards
- Carlos Vega – drums and percussion
- Lenny Castro – percussion
- Gary Herbig – horns
Certifications and sales
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||10,000*|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||250,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||2,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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- "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 26 April 2020. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Physical in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "American single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 26 April 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.