Today I'm turning over the "95 Songs of Summer" series to one such person, someone who has been a huge supporter of my blog, via re-posts, tweets, Facebook posts and the like. Michael Alatorre, better known to his blog readers as le0pard 13, is the proprietor of It Rains...You Get Wet, where, not unlike myself, he writes about film, music, books, TV, and many other topics. Our tastes are in sync often enough that I can even forgive the fact that he's a Dodgers fan.
So as a way to say "thank you," here is Michael's post on a song that most definitely was all over the radio during the summer of 1978. And lest you complain about the songs bonafides, don't forget that none other than Greil Marcus himself named it as his favorite single of the year, and even included it it in his legendary "Treasure Island" section of Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island.
And so, without further ado:
The year 1978 is sadly well known to me, but it did foster some significant remainders that reverberate to this day. Especially, in the films and music I'd follow that summer, and beyond, to say the least. Having never attended the 1971 musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, I (nor those I took to the movie theater with me for that initial screening) had little expectation with its film adaptation. The late 50s working-class youth subculture known as the "greasers" ended up both tantalizing and off-putting. Yet, musically, the film's songs were nothing short of intoxicating. That some of the scenes were lensed at my rival high school gym, Huntington Park's, made for another eerie happenstance.
Still, a good number of songs in the film's soundtrack made their way to the Top 40 that season, which helped to make it the second bestselling album that year. The irony is the most popular single, and the one that I most identify with the film that summer, didn't originate from the stage musical. John Farrar wrote You're the One That Want specifically for the movie. It topped the charts the same month the film debuted in the States, and remains one of the best-selling singles ever. It still baffles me that John Travolta, who was nowhere near the singer as Olivia Newton-John, didn't harm the duet. As Allmusic noted:
"... he takes the Sonny Bono role to Olivia's Cher on this short and sweet soundbite from a film that was the rage towards the end of the decade."It was an instant 'oldie' the day it hit the airwaves and remains one snappy ditty, even after all the years since.
"You're the One That I Want," John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, from the summer of 1978.