Compiled by: Bill Oakes
Track listing: Grease [Frankie Valli] / Summer Nights [John Travolta, Olivia Newton John & Cast] / Hopelessly Devoted to You [Newton-John] / You’re the One That I Want (Travolta, Newton-John] / Sandy [Travolta] / Beauty School Drop-Out [Frankie Avalon] / Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee [Stockard Channing] / Greased Lightnin’ Travolta, Jeff Conaway] / It’s Raining on Prom Night [Cindy Bullens) /Alone of a Drive-In Movie / Blue Moon (Sha-Na-Na] / Rock n’ Roll Is Here to Stay / Those Magic Changes / Hound Dog / Born to Hand-Jive / Tears on My Pillow / Mooning [Louis St. Louis & Bullens] / Freddy My Love [Bullens] / Rock n’ Roll Party Queen [St. Louis] / There Are Worse Things I Could Do [Channing] / Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise) [Newton-John] / We Go Together [Travolta, Newton John& cast] / Love Is Many Splendored Thing / Grease (Reprise) [Valli]
July 29, 1978
12 weeks (nonconsecutive)
RSO Records was enjoying the incredible success of Saturday Night Fever while preparing to launch Grease, which mould turn out to be its second huge soundtrack hit of 1978. The project had all the right ingredients for success. The film version, based on the hit Broadway musical, starred Saturday Night Fever sensation John Travolta and pop sweetheart Olivia Newton-John. The story, set in the late ’50s, centered around the love affair between a greaser (Travolta) and a prim-and-proper high school girl (Newton-John). Like the musical, the film featured several remakes of rock ‘n’ roll classics, but RSO wanted something new as well, so they called on the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb to compose the title track.
Gibb was sitting at home in Miami the day he got the call. “Robert Stigwood called up and said he and [film producer] Allan Carr had everything they wanted for the film Grease, but the strangest thing is that they didn’t have a song called ‘Grease.’ They asked me if I I’d write a song for the movie. I went and sat back in the lounge and basically sketched the song out while I was watching television. I didn’t think that much of it.” An hour later, Gibb called Stigwood and sang him the song over the phone. “The word was that Allan Carr didn’t really like it, but Robert Stigwood did,” Gibb says.
Stigwood had the final word, and Gibb’s “Grease” was in. It would be performed by Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. “It was real smart casting, because they found someone to sing it who reflected that era,” says Gibb, who also produced the track. “I was a big Four Seasons fan in my childhood, so making the record with one of my heroes was real special to me.”
“Grease” became the second Number One hit from the soundtrack. “You’re the One That I Want,” a duet featuring Travolta and Newton-John, which was also written specifically for the film, also hit the top spot. “Grease revived Olivia Newton-John’s career,” says RSO Records executive Al Coury. Travolta was not known for his singing skills, despite the fact he had released two albums on Midland International Records. Yet Coury says he had the right stuff for a hit record. “He was young, beautiful, and had a great deal of appeal to young audiences, both male and female.”
Initially, executives at Paramount Pictures, which distributed the film, wanted to use an illustration on the album cover. “I went crazy,” Coury says. “With Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, we had two of the prettiest people in America, maybe in the world. ” In the end, Coury won, a photo of Newton-John and Travolta graced the LP cover, and Grease went on to become one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, moving over eight million copies.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of July 29, 1978
1. Grease, Soundtrack
2. Some Girls, Rolling Stones
3. Natural High, Commodores
4. Stranger in Town, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
5. Darkness at the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen