September 1981: Olivia Newton-John Releases "Physical"

Olivia Newton-John, nach Auftritt ARD-Show "Musikladen" am 04.06.1981 in Bremen, Deutschland. (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)
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(Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)

It was September 28, 1981, when Olivia Newton-John released "Physical." The high-energy song soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, holding onto the #1 spot for an impressive ten weeks straight. THe chart run makes "Physical" the biggest biggest single of the entire Totally '80s decade.

RELATED: August 1980: Olivia Newton-John Casts a Spell on #1 with "Magic"

Visionary music video director Brian Grant explained the inspiration and creative process behind the song's wildly popular music video in a 2018 interview: "When it came to coming up with the idea, my partner Scott Millaney put me together with a writer, Marcelo Anciano, on a plane to Los Angeles. He put us up in a famous hotel on Sunset Boulevard called the Chateau Marmont, and told us we'd be her for two weeks, and that we wouldn't come out until we had written a concept for every single one of the ten tracks on the Physical album. This was a big task in that amount of time, so Marcelo and I threw them all up in the air, flipped a coin and split them all in half."

Grant ended up with the responsibility for brainstorming a video concept for the album's title track. He thought it might be interesting to put a comedic spin on the song's overt sexuality: "I do remember going to Capitol Records with this as the concept, and having a whole pile of executives in this meeting room. Despite everybody else kind of thinking it was a terrible idea, Olivia Newton-John said it was a good idea."

With the singer's support they made the video. Much to Grant's delight, it went on to become everything he'd dreamed and more: "Lo and behold, 'Physical' became her biggest hit. It spent ten weeks at #1, the video went all over the place and she gained a whole new audience, including gay men. I won the first music video Grammy ever awarded to a director. All due to throwing cares to the wind, a bit of luck and serendipity."

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