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Original Soundtracks Special: ‘Grease’ Is Still The Word

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As every film buff knows, February is movie awards month, and to mark the occasion we’re joining with the Original Soundtracks team in celebrating some of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Today, the spotlight falls on one of the bestselling score albums of them all, ‘Grease.’

The ‘Grease’ soundtrack is one of those extremely records that brilliantly encapsulates the spirit of two completely separate pop eras. It skilfully captured the youthful innocence and ebullience of the late 1950s and the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. But with sales estimated at 30 million-plus, it was such an astonishing worldwide success that it also came to represent the musical zeitgeist of the late 1970s, too.

The hour-long, RSO Records double album was released in April 1978, two months before the film itself. Flying the flag, and announcing the inspired co-star pairing that would make the film lift off around the world, was the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John duet ‘You’re The One That I Want.’ It went to No. 1 on almost every chart it entered, and has estimated sales of its own totaling some 6.5 million.

‘You’re The One’ was written and produced by Newton-John’s former beau John Farrar, a sometime member of British instrumental heroes the Shadows. He repeated the feat with Olivia’s winning ballad ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You,’ another monster hit from the score; the album’s chief songwriters Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey provided Travolta’s rock ‘n’ roll hit ‘Greased Lightnin.’’

Among the many master strokes of the album’s production was the involvement of Barry Gibb, red-hot at that time with the Bee Gees’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack. Coming up with a slick, irresistible title track, he made the brilliant and unexpected choice of Frankie Valli, already a pop veteran of more than 15 years’ success with the Four Seasons, to sing it.

Released as a single in May, the song, also produced by Gibb, spent two weeks atop the American singles chart in August, selling a million. By then, the album itself was in the middle of 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, as it moved to an official US certification of eight million, but a total (including pre-SoundScan sales) thought to be 14 million.

The soundtrack, like the film, had some other lovely cameos, including actress Stockard Channing’s charming ballad ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ and a leading vocal role on ‘Beauty School Dropout’ for Frankie Avalon — himself a teen idol of the very period that the film evoked, on hits like ‘Venus’ and ‘Why.’ ‘Grease’ was the word, and it still is.

Read more at the Original Soundtracks Facebook page and Twitter page
Listen to the ‘Grease’ soundtrack on Spotify
Download the album from Google Play or iTunes, or buy it on Amazon
Win tickets to the Grease Sing-A-Long at the The Prince Charles Cinema

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