Friends, my introduction to Olivia Newton-John was courtesy of her role in the 1978 film adaptation of Grease – which I was lucky enough to see at the local Drive-In theater I frequently talk about. As I have mentioned ad nauseam, growing up music wasn’t a big presence in my household – but I did catch the occasional top charting songs while listening to the radio on drives with my Father. I suppose beyond those classic animated Walt Disney re-releases that I caught at the matinee on the weekends – Grease was my first musical. While I quite enjoyed the musical I have to admit that it was the cult film Xanadu that I enjoyed the most – which also featured Olivia Newton-John – this time joining up with Michael Beck (The Warriors, Megaforce) and none other than the legendary Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain). A film that also happened to boast the talents of not just Newton-John but The Tubes, but Electric Light Orchestra.
I feel it would be quite fair to say that while Olivia Newton-John had some success prior to her role as Sandy Olsson, it really was the 1978 film adaptation of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s popular musical that made her career skyrocket. Did you know that on May 17th of 1978 – less than a month before Grease premiered in theaters – Olivia Newton-John appeared in an hour long TV special for ABC? Entitled Olivia, this wasn’t just a solo special either as she was joined by ABBA as well as Andy Gibb. What is even more awesome is this appears to have been uploaded by someone who worked on the show itself as the following text is featured in the description:
“ONE OF A KIND – FIRST GENERATION AUDIO. This is the concert segment IN TRUE STEREO from the 1978 special “Olivia!” Just prior to shooting this segment with a live orchestra, the audio guy asked if I would like a stereo feed of the sound. Of course I said yes and fed two three-quarter inch VCRs with the special feed. Stereo TV was not available widely until the mid-1980s. After completion of the special, I manually synced the 2″ master of the show to my ¾” master and, viola, a stereo version of the concert with Andy Gibb, ABBA, and Olivia!
Shot just days before it aired, the ABC-TV special “Olivia!” was the marathon of all television specials I edited while in Hollywood. For 36 nonstop hours, director Steve Binder (my all time favorite) and the post-production crew dashed toward an unbelievable deadline and beat it. This is the entire concert segment. The air version begins at 3:01 and ends prior to “Thank you for the Music” (which was used for closing credits). Please select 480p and full screen (and don’t forget headphones!); the quality is matchless!”
ArgoWho is quite correct – you truly need to pop in your earbuds while watching this TV special – it is a night and day difference.