Some Of my Favourite Olivia Newton-John Songs

If you know me, you know that Olivia Newton-John is “my” artist. Almost everyone has one; The artist or band that you discovered when you were young, and followed for most of your life. Olivia was mine.

Her passing after a long battle with breast cancer had many people remembering Olivia. For me, I almost feel like I lost a family member. Olivia’s music and career had a profound impact on me and my life. I even talked to CBC Radio about it.

Yeah, I’m a fan.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourite Olivia songs – some well-know, some a little more obscure. While many people know Olivia from her role in Grease, she has so many other great songs. My favourite Olivia era was 1978-1992, so many of my favourite songs are from those years.

Magic (1980)

When asked for my favourite Olivia song by CBC, I chose Magic (from the Xanadu soundtrack). It’s an all-time favourite, and some of the lyrics hit especially deep in the wake of Olivia’s passing. I love this version (from the movie), because the way she reads her lines is at once sweet and enigmatic. Much like Sonny Malone’s character, we’re instantly beguiled.

Fun fact: Olivia didn’t know how to stop on roller skates when she filmed this scene.

“We’ll see each other again. Bye, Sonny.”

A Little More Love (1978)

“Totally Hot” is probably my favourite Olivia album. It’s her “country-pop crossover” album (Yeah, Taylor Swift owes Olivia a huge debt of gratitude), and this song is just pop perfection. The chord modulation, the production… The chorus. It just works.

The Rumour (1988)

This song (and album) is an underrated gem. The album was co-produced by Elton John, and he sang backup vocals on the title track. If you listen closely, you can hear his unmistakable voice. It sounds like an Elton John song, as sung by Olivia.

Recovery & Stranger’s Touch (1981)

My two favourite songs from Olivia’s iconic “Physical” album were not released as singles… Although, in a music industry first, she made videos for EVERY SONG ON THE ALBUM, and released it on home video (and Australian TV). These two songs are impeccably produced by John Farrar, the videos tell stories, and I just love them.

Jolene (Physical Tour, 1981)

Yes, THAT Jolene.

Originally covered by Olivia on her 1976 album, “Come On Over,” her performance of the Dolly Parton classic during the 1981 “Physical” tour is a whole new, sped-up take on the song. Plus, the end wails of “Jolene” in this version are iconic, and show Olivia’s vocal range – Dolly would be proud.

Shaking You (1984)

Six years after Grease, Olivia re-teamed with John Travolta for a mess of a movie (which I absolutely love) called “Two Of a Kind.” While this song wasn’t as popular as “Twist of Fate,” and “Livin’ In Desperate Times,” it’s a heart-wrenching song of a relationship that’s just run its course.

I Honestly Love You (1974)

Of course, this is one Olivia’s most well-known and best-loved songs. But this song holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. Some of them are too personal for here… But I also performed this song in a teen talent show (circa 1990) at the North 40 Saloon in Brandon… So it will always have a special place in my heart.

There are so many more I could share – and maybe I will in the future… If you’ve gotten this far already, thank you. This post is as much for me as it is for the rest of the world. I’ve lost “my” musical artist. But I’ll never forget her.

Rest in peace, Olivia. We honestly love you.

My Favourite Weird, Wacky and (sometimes) Wonderful, Obscure Christmas Tunes

Welcome to the Island of Misfit Carols

So, the holidays are here, and you’ve no doubt heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” a kajillion times.  You’ve probably also heard Boney M’s entire Christmas catalogue dozens of times over.  The great thing is, there are lots of other holiday tunes out there – some are awful, some are awesome, and some are awesomely awful… But chances are you won’t be hearing these jingles in the malls anytime soon.  Presented in no particular order, I give to you some of these misfit carols.

Heidi Klum – Wonderland

What’s the German word for “steaming pile of reindeer crap?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me my Heidi Klum.  She’s a fabulous host on Project Runway, she always looks fabulous, and she’s just plain awesome.  But, as this song proves, she probably shouldn’t step into a recording booth again anytime soon.  Auf Wiedersehen, Wonderland.

Janice Dickinson – Twelve Days of Christmas

Speaking of models-turned-reality-show-judges-that-probably-should-step-away-from-the-microphone, “World’s First Supermodel” Janice Dickinson gives us 12 days of ridiculousness. I love Janice, but this is all just a little too… Janice Dickinson.

Burton Cummings – 8 Days of Christmas

I’m from Winnipeg, where we have a community centre, theatre and, probably, public toilet named after Burton Cummings.  There’s no doubt he shaped rock and roll with the Guess Who – but this ditty, composed in 1970, and performed here in 2010, won’t be getting him into any halls of fame.  In case you were wondering about Burton’s drug use back in the day…  Well…

“FIVE POUNDS OF HASH!”

(And boy, does he get excited about that).

A true Winnipeg hero. Or whatever.

Colin & Justin – Mary’s Boy Child

Having worked many years in retail, Boney M’s Christmas album gives me hives at the best of time, but this charity single from Colin & Justin takes an annoying Christmas song and makes it unbearable.  I love these guys, but this song is just wrong.  It’s just. So. White.

Olivia Newton-John – Christmas Time Down Under

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Olivia Newton-John fan… But this ditty (from 1965) is just bizarre.  Yeah, we get that things are different in Australia, and that Christmas is in the middle of summer, but this is just odd.  Also, it appears that Australian teens are forced to work in Christmassy labour camps, like The Christmas Pudding Detention Centre here.

Donny & Marie – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

Christmas specials in the 70s were pretty fabulous.  Here, Donny & Marie take a song with the word “rockin'” in the title, and turn it into something disco-riffic.  Also, D&M were totally down with the “ugly Christmas sweater” trend 30-some years before it was a thing.

There are so many more Christmas oddities, but hey, I gotta save something for next year, right?

To end off this collection of holiday weirdness, I have to post a TV Christmas special that very few people have seen.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a bizarre holiday special aired that was low-budget and bizarre – so much so, it has become pop culture legend.

No, not that holiday special!  This one…

Rupaul’s Christmas Ball

Before Drag Race, RuPaul was a B-to-C-list celebrity with a small cult following and a few hit dance songs.  Then, in 1993, the UK’s Channel 4 gave Ru a Christmas special… And boy, is it special. The Onion’s AV club has a great article about the history of this piece of ridiculousness.  To paraphrase SNL’s Stefon, this special has everything:

  • A-list guest stars: Elton John, Nirvana
  • B-list guest stars: Eartha Kitt, Boy George
  • …and LaToya Jackson.
  • Oral Sex References (courtesy of Taylor Dayne)
  • Laugh-in Style jokes courtesy of New York Club Kids

And so, so, so much more.  It looks like it was produced on a cable-access budget, but it’s just so gosh darn giddy you can’t help but watch it in all its WTF’ness.

And, actually, Ru’s “Little Drummer Boy” is pretty damn good. It’s just surrounded by more wackiness than you generally see anywhere outside of a bad acid trip.

As I snuggle up with my kitties and a glass of eggnog by the tree, I cap off this list with a song that is a little more well-known, but still pretty wacky…

Barbra Streisand – Jingle Bells?

Babs’ take on this classic is manic, ridiculous and, for my money, just plain awesome.  From the frenetic pace of the song to the “ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-jingle bells, ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-ji-jangle bells” and, my favourite part – “Upsot?!” – this song is a Christmas classic for me.

What did I miss?  Let me know your favourite Christmas oddities!

Wishing you and yours all the best for this holiday season – and here’s to a fabulous 2018!