July 3, 2008

ONJ …So my wife comes to me earlier tonight and asks, if we can have all this great surf music playing on our mix, how about creating for me an Olivia Newton-John CD? “Olivia Newton-John”, I responded – “now there’s a blast from the past!” You see, I have very fond recollection of ONJ’s earlier music – y’know, before she shimmied into tight jeans and spandex for “Grease” with John Travolta and began her transformation from sweet innocent country girl to sex kitten / disco queen.

And boy, did she pile up a number of great tunes before tossing aside that wholesome image: “If Not For You”, “Let Me Be There”, “If You Love Me Let Me Know”, “I Honestly Love You” (an all-time favorite of mine, BTW), “Have You Ever Been Mellow”, “Please Mr. Please”, “Sam”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Come On Over” (another fave), “Something Better To Do”. But even her non-hit album material was excellent – a passionate “Banks Of The Ohio” and a wonderful copy of Elton John’s “Love Song” Phew! Great stuff there. And who can forget her wonderful uncredited cameo on John Denver’s “Fly Away”, where she single-handedly turns a pleasant but rather pedestrian tune into a shining jewel. Between the years of 1971-77 one could argue she and Linda Ronstadt were the top pop female vocalists in the world.

The funny thing is, she didn’t have a lot of range vocally, but her long-time producer oshe was always given great material by her long-time producer John Farrar to work with, and he knew what worked best for her. That my brother Mark and I were real Olivia fans there was little doubt – we had all her albums right up until “Grease”, and we made sure our band Top Priority included “Let Me Be There” in our wedding and dance repertoire as a tribute to her. Given the fact that at the same time we were totally into Pink Floyd and going the same route with The Beach Boys, you could say our tastes were pretty eclectic!

But it wasn’t just the music – let’s face it, she was pretty damned cute. I wouldn’t call her beautiful but she was sexy in a wholesome, girl-next-door way. One look at the album cover of one of her great early albums, “If You Love Me Let Me Know” illustrates the point. Not suggestive in any way, just a pretty girl in jeans who looks like the kind of girl that would rip your heart out and leave you gasping for more and loving every minute of it. Once she did “Grease” and got into disco with her “Physical” and “Xanadu” albums, however, the bloom was kinda off the rose as I got into my punk and Ramones craze, and Mark joined the Army and got into the late ’70s hard rock of Kansas, Boston, Aerosmith, and fifty million other bands with one-word names.

Listening to some of those tunes as I try to build Tracey’s ONJ compilation disc sure brings back some fond memories and reminds one of just how at the top of her game she was in the ’70s. Unbelievable as it seems, most of her early albums are no longer in print or created for CD; fortunately, however, most of the material on those albums is spread across a variety of compilation and “greatest hits” collections.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:14 | Comments (0)
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