Endlessly No. 1 – Billboard

Endlessly No. 1 is a Billboard sequence that pays particular tribute to the lately deceased artists who achieved the best honor our charts have to supply — a Billboard Sizzling 100 No. 1 single — by taking an prolonged look again on the chart-topping songs that made them a part of this unique membership. Right here, we honor the late Olivia Newton-John, who died this week at age 73, with a glance again at her fifth and remaining No. 1: “Bodily,” essentially the most iconic solo hit of her storied profession, and one of many defining smashes of the Eighties. 



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There’s an honest argument to be made that “Bodily” was the No. 1 single that kicked off the ’80s in earnest. To not say that the last decade hadn’t already produced its share of epochal Sizzling 100-toppers by the point of the track’s late 1981 launch, however many have been nonetheless produced in a post-disco ’70s hangover, or represented the form of protected, traditional balladry that prime 40 tends to default to when it’s undecided what else is happening for the time being. “Bodily,” however, set the tone for the mainstream pop of the last decade to return: glistening synths, whip-smart guitars, grooves faintly paying homage to (however not overpowered by) funk and disco, sultry sax, and catchy, intelligent lyrical hooks that teeter on the sting of tasteless with out ever falling onto the fallacious aspect.

And the track was solely half the story. “Bodily” debuted on September 28, 1981, lower than two months after the seismic launch of MTV, and oh boy did it have an accompanying visible prepared for the event. So did the remainder of its guardian LP of the identical title, really: Bodily was launched as an entire video album, a pioneering follow in ’81, which earned Newton-John a primetime Let’s Get Bodily TV particular (and, finally, the second-ever video of the 12 months Grammy.) However the title observe’s clip was the crown jewel. Set in a gymnasium that appears extra like the ultimate stage of an early arcade recreation — the form of sharply geometrically outlined, impossibly shiny-surfaced room that solely appears to exist in ’80s music movies — Newton-John leads a bunch exercise with a bunch of oiled-down muscle males, who inexplicably flip into obese klutzes (after which again once more) over the course of the video. It’s campy, it’s attractive, and it’s completely incomprehensible from a story standpoint. In different phrases, it was excellent — significantly from the vantage of early MTV, the place the golden rule was shortly established: Be sure that no person can ever hear your track with out additionally picturing the video once more.

In fact, none of that is what anybody was anticipating from Olivia Newton-John in 1981. She had spent the ’70s because the healthful good lady on the coronary heart of AM radio, gentle and delicate and positively inoffensive. Her Sandy character’s well-known “inform me about it, stud” pivot to cigarettes and black leather-based on the finish of 1978’s cartoonishly profitable Grease — a visible transformation continued on the duvet to her Completely Sizzling album later that 12 months — had offered her in a extra grownup gentle. However that was nonetheless throwback household leisure at coronary heart, closing along with her and John Travolta’s Danny actually driving off into the sky collectively. The “Bodily” video, however, ends with Newton-John’s scantily clad iron-pumpers largely coupling off collectively and leaving the gymnasium hand in hand, maybe headed to a distinct form of exercise. This was uncharted territory for Australia’s sweetheart.

However a reinvention was maybe vital for the ’70s famous person on the onset of a brand new decade. Completely Sizzling tread water commercially, reaching the highest 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart however spawning only a single Sizzling 100 prime 10 hit within the No. 3-peaking “A Little Extra Love,” and her 1980 duet with fellow solid-gold ’70s hitmaker Andy Gibb “I Can’t Assist It” had missed the highest 10 fully, stalling at No. 12. Newton-John discovered larger success — together with her fourth Sizzling 100 No. 1 — with the soundtrack to Xanadu, the movie musical fantasia that marked her first function function since Grease, however the film itself was such a business and important failure that it was basically a wash for her momentum-wise. She was in want of a brand new sound and a brand new picture to mark a brand new section of her profession.

She discovered inspiration for each in a comparatively unlikely supply: the health craze that was sweeping the globe, significantly America, within the early ’80s. It was the period of Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda and Jazzercise, and each the look and language of the second proved an impressed match for Newton-John’s comeback. She donned spandex, a scarf and a extra economical, Princess Diana-reminiscent haircut within the video, whereas the motivational converse of aerobics lessons knowledgeable — and supplied believable deniability for — the track’s in any other case sexually ahead refrain hook, “Let’s get bodily, phy-si-cal… let me hear your physique discuss.” Different lyrics within the verse have been much less ambiguous, however the track’s exercise framing supplied simply sufficient double to the entendre for many programming administrators to look the opposite method on what one PD referred to in Billboard as “an uncomfortableness” that the track produced of their listenership.

It helped the track’s case that it was an plain winner. The “Bodily” groove, anchored by storied studio drummer Carlos Vega’s muscular shuffle and flecked with longtime ONJ producer John Farrar’s guitar pops, is as slick and taut as one in all its video’s hairless naked chests. And simply as she does along with her exercise buddies within the clip, Newton-John slithers across the beat with sly however unmistakable intent, not a lot seductive as lascivious as she remarks with growing impatience, “I took you to an intimate res-tau-rant, then to a suggestive film/ There’s nothing left to speak about, except it’s… ho-ri-zon-tal-ly.” There’s a touch of stalker-movie suspense to the verse, an apparent pressure lurking beneath the floor of these guitars and Olivia’s repeat “ what I imply” insistences. “Bodily” was first penned by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick for Rod Stewart, and it’s not shocking that it was initially envisioned from a male perspective — girls hardly ever received to play the hunter and never the prey in turn-of-the-’80s pop. However that’s a part of the joys of Newton-John’s rendition: the scandalous notion that even whereas she was sighing about being hopelessly dedicated to you, this would possibly really have been what was happening in her head all alongside.

“I Truthfully Love You” (1974) | “Have You By no means Been Mellow” (1975) | “You’re the One That I Need” (1978) | “Magic” (1980) 

In fact, the verses are simply the wind-up for That Refrain: a five-star KO that you just’d nonetheless keep in mind 40 years later even in the event you solely ever heard it as soon as. “Let’s get bodily,” a rising Newton-John instructions, earlier than repeating the final phrase in descending cadence — “PHY-suh-cal” — as if she’s apprehensive you would possibly want the message actually spelled out for you. After which, simply in case, as soon as extra: “I wanna get PHY-SI-CALLLLL!!!” Because the guitars and saxes get growlier, she transitions related phrasing to her subsequent message: “Let me hear your physique discuss/ Your physique discuss.” It really works not solely as an enlargement of the “bodily” concept within the refrain’ first half, however as a callback to Newton-John’s frustration all through the verse on the unbearable diploma of extra typical mouth-talking transpiring; now she needs to listen to what your different components need to say. Sensible, powerful, playful and instantly unforgettable, it’s every little thing a terrific pop refrain must be.

The entire “Bodily” bundle shortly proved to be an unstoppable phenomenon. It debuted at No. 66 on the Sizzling 100 dated Oct. 3, 1981; by Nov. 18 it was No.1, changing “Personal Eyes” by Daryl Corridor and John Oates, one other duo of lately re-fashioned ’70s survivors. It dominated for the remainder of 1981, and nicely into 1982 — 10 weeks in all, tying the document (beforehand set by Debby Boone’s “You Gentle Up My Life” from 1977-78) for the longest run at No. 1 in Sizzling 100 historical past — earlier than being dethroned by, coincidentally sufficient, Corridor & Oates once more with “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” It despatched its guardian album of the identical title to RIAA-certified double-Platinum standing, and established Newton-John — alongside maybe solely Debbie Harry of Blondie, whose “Rapture” back-to-back slinking she briefly borrows within the “Bodily” clip — as a pre-eminent pop star of MTV’s earliest days.

Olivia Newton-John

It was a standing that didn’t final significantly lengthy, nevertheless. Each Newton-John and Harry have been about to be supplanted by a brand new class of do-everything MTV super-duper-stars, led by a pair rising powerhouses in Michael Jackson and Prince, and one model new ’80s icon in Madonna. The latter particularly took the drugs ball from “Bodily” and ran with it, making a cultural empire out of her model of self-aware, sexually unapologetic, nuclear-strength pop music. (She even included a “Bodily” track of her personal on her 1983 debut album.) Newton-John scored two extra Sizzling 100 prime 5 hits in 1982, with Bodily follow-up “Make a Transfer on Me” and her new Biggest Hits, Vol. 2 recording “Coronary heart Assault,” and another in ’83 with “Twist of Destiny,” from the soundtrack to rom-com Two of a Variety, which served because the movie reunion of her and Grease co-star Travolta. However over a decade into her profession, she didn’t fairly have the firepower to maintain up within the quickly advancing prime 40 panorama, and by the top of the ’80s she had largely turn into.a legacy act.

It was fairly a legacy, although: 5 No. 1 hits, with the largest saved for final — one which at the moment ranks simply exterior the highest 10 on Billboard‘s Biggest of All Time Sizzling 100 chart. As Newton-John pivoted to extra of a profession in humanitarian causes and advocacy within the ’90s and past, significantly following a breast most cancers prognosis in 1992, her music continued to achieve new generations, by means of Grease revivals and Glee covers and even some Xanadu cult reappraising. And “Bodily” continues to impression pop music to today, by way of singles by the 2 largest feminine prime 40 stars of the early 2020s: Dua Lipa’s “Bodily,” which resurrects the refrain chant and cardio vibes of Newton-John’s traditional, and Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me Extra” collab with SZA, which borrows sufficient of the hook’s melodic phrasing in its personal clipped chorus to earn Kipner and Shaddick a writing credit score on it. Exercise developments and fad diets come and go, however a long time from now, you’ll nonetheless be listening to “Bodily” pumping out of your gymnasium’s audio system.

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