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"
Audio sample

"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.[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 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.


"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.[5][6] The song was very controversial due the implied sexual content, being innovative and somewhat provocative for the time.[6][7]

"Physical" has received positive reviews from music critics since release, with some of them calling it "good-naturedly sexy" and "an eighties gem".[8][9] The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and won the Billboard Award for Top Pop Single.[10]

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[11]), 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.

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 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.[14] 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,[15] number one on its Top 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time[16] and number one on its Top 100 Songs of the 1980s list.[17]

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 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".[18] 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".[citation needed]

English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa inserted a lyric interpolation in her song "Physical", second single taken from the album Future Nostalgia (2020).[19]


From the Physical album's liner notes:[20]


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[36] Platinum 100,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[37] 2× Platinum 200,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[38] Gold 10,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[39] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[40] 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. ^
  4. ^ A. Baker, Glenn (30 January 1982). "Kipners' Friendly Rivalry Breeds Million Sellers". Billboard. New York. 94 (4). ISSN 0006-2510.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. ^ "allmusic (((Physical > Charts & Awards)))". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Billboard — The 50 Sexiest Song of All Time". Billboard. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Olivia Newton-John tried to stop 'Physical' music video from being released in 1981". New York. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Physical - Olivia Newton John". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  9. ^ "People Picks and Pans Review — Physical". Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Olivia Newton-John award and achievements". Rock on the Net. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 810. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6.
  12. ^ a b "Physical". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "25th Annual Grammy Awards (1982)". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  15. ^ [1] Archived 1 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "The 50 Sexiest Songs Of All Time Page 5". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  17. ^ "The Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 Hits of the 1980s". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Physical - SuLu". Captain Wayne's Mad Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Dua Lipa Reveals New Album Release Date, Shares New Song "Physical": Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  20. ^ Physical (Liner notes). Olivia Newton-John. MCA Records. 1981. B004AH7W1O.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ 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. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 12 June 1988.
  22. ^ " – Olivia Newton-John – Physical" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Olivia Newton-John: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  28. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  29. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  30. ^ "Olivia Newton-John". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Talent in Action : Top Pop Singles". Billboard. 94 (51): TIA-20. 25 December 1982.
  34. ^ Bronson, Fred (2 August 2013). "Hot 100 55th Anniversary: The All-Time Top 100 Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  35. ^ Bronson, Fred. "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs by Women : Page 1". Billboard. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  36. ^ "Kent Music Report No 453 – 28 February 1983 > Platinum and Gold Singles 1982". (original document published by Kent Music Report). Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Music Canada. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  38. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  39. ^ "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.
  40. ^ "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. 

External links[edit]