I should probably provide a little context that accompanies this selection. I don’t think Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” is one of the more exquisite songs of the 80s. It’s simple and borderline corny. However, what made it so fantastic was the insanely sexual overtures that both boys and men (and I’m sure many females for that matter) spent a nice chunk of the decade fantasizing over.
Here’s the truth— Olivia Newton John was the first true celebrity crush of my life. I’m not joking. I legitimately recall having one of her posters, locating the address in tiny print on the bottom right corner and handwriting her “I’m your biggest fan” letters in hope I’d receive something from her in return (I never did and sadly neither did I for the other celebrity woman in my life, Deborah Harry).
Olivia Newton John could have literally released a song of her exclusively farting on a record for 3 minutes and 22 seconds and I’d have waited in line to purchase it at Record Theater on Main Street in Buffalo, after mooching the funds from my mother.
That’s not to say “Physical” wasn’t a good song. It was. Hell, this song was the unofficial national anthem for aerobic classes and sweaty workouts of its kind.
Even more so, it was a change of style for John, who previously was best known as sweet teenager Sandy from the epic musical Grease and puffy tunes from the Xanadu soundtrack.
In “Physical” you hear John very transparently singing about having sex. The video is sexually charged as well, as John is teasing fat dudes trying to get their fitness on but can’t because they’re staring at her.
Trust me, I was too.
It also dominated the pop charts like few others ever have. How much?
Chart Success: Not only did “Physical” reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100, but it stayed on top for 10 consecutive weeks, the longest number-one single of the decade. Not only did it finish number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1981, but it sits at the very top of the charts for the entire decade. Oh, and it’s also number-eight on the Billboard Hot 100 for all-time. God damn!
Great Lyrics: Olivia Newtown John became perhaps the first singer ever to use the term “horizontally” when describing having sex. You go girl.
“I’m saying all the things that I know you’ll like
Making good conversation
I gotta handle you just right
You know what I mean
I took you to an intimate restaurant
Then to a suggestive movie
There’s nothing left to talk about
Unless it’s horizontally”
Fun Fact: This song spent the most consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard since Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”. The biggest loser of this song’s success was Foreigner, as their “Waiting For A Girl Like You” hit came in on Billboard second for nine of the 10-week John reign. Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” (No. 100 on this countdown) finally broke the run. (Credit to Songfacts for those stats).
100. Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can D0)
99. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgetting
97. The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Does Is Magic
96. Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
94. Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
93. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
92. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
91. Night Ranger – Sister Christian
89. Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
87. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat
86. Glen Mederios – Nothing’s Going To Change My Love For You
85. John Cougar – Jack and Diane
81. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
80. Debbie Gibson – Only In My Dreams
79. Shelia E. – The Glamorous Life
77. Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All
76. Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
75. Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
74. Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It
73. Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie
72. The Police – Every Breathe You Take
71. Survivor – The Search Is Over
70. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You
69. Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams
68. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
67. Kenny Loggins – Meet Me Halfway
66. Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
65. Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
64. Phil Collins – One More Night
63. Europe – The Final Countdown
62. Patrick Swazye – She’s Like The Wind
61. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
60. Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
59. Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
58. Huey Lewis & The News – Power Of Love
55. Styx – Too Much Time On My Hands