Quick, name a late ’70s blockbuster with a propulsive, lasting soundtrack!
Chances are you’ve got two films atop your list: Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Both were classics of their time, full of dancing, John Travolta and the influence of one or more Brothers Gibb. But it’s the latter we’re going to look at to definitively cap our look at summer reissues. Even 32 years after its release, Grease still seems to be the word – the film, complete with sing-along lyrics, is due for a limited theatrical reissue in a few weeks – but what is it that makes this soundtrack so notable?
It might be the star power. Travolta, as golden-hearted bad boy Danny Zuko, and Olivia Newton-John as definitive good girl Sandy, are one of the most enduring couples in musical history, and the pair that portrayed them have rarely been better.
It might have been the era; folks seemed to have been clamoring for a simpler time while hurtling through the highly decadent end of the 1970s straight to the 1980s, and the ’50s-friendly subject matter was a Happy Days-level breath of fresh air.
It might be those songs – not only the killer numbers from writers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey (“Greased Lightnin’,” “Summer Nights,” “We Go Together”) or the early rock classics added to the film (played by rock legends Sha Na Na), but the newly-included showstoppers from Aussie producer John Farrar (“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want”) and Barry Gibb (who penned the left-field title track for Frankie Valli to sing). All of which put the film’s soundtrack through sales in excess of 28 million copies across the globe.
Whatever the reason, Grease is a heck of a soundtrack to kick off the summer. Hit the jump and The Second Disc will tell you more, tell you more about the many releases of the record, including the singles that set charts on both sides of the Atlantic on fire.The original soundtrack to Grease was spread over two vinyl records, delivering nearly all of the music of the film (albeit in non-chronological order – no surprise to soundtrack buyers of the day). The album was one of the last great megahits on the RSO label, which had an extraordinary couple of years thanks to The Bee Gees’ dizzying heights of success at the time.
Various Artists, Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (RSO RSD-2001, 1978)
- Grease – Frankie Valli – 3:24
- Summer Nights – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – 3:35
- Hopelessly Devoted to You – Olivia Newton-John – 3:04
- You’re the One That I Want – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – 2:48
- Sandy – John Travolta – 2:31
- Beauty School Dropout – Frankie Avalon – 3:59
- Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee – Stockard Channing, Didi Conn, Dinah Manoff and Jamie Donnelly – 1:40
- Greased Lightnin’ – John Travolta – 3:13
- It’s Raining on Prom Night – Cindy Bullens – 2:51
- Alone at a Drive-In Movie (Instrumental) – 2:24
- Blue Moon – Sha Na Na – 2:20
- Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay – Sha Na Na – 2:03
- Those Magic Changes – Sha Na Na – 2:18
- Hound Dog – Sha Na Na – 1:24
- Born to Hand Jive – Sha Na Na – 4:37
- Tears on My Pillow – Sha Na Na – 2:02
- Mooning – Louis St. Louis and Cindy Bullens – 4:37
- Freddy, My Love – Cindy Bullens – 4:37
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Queen – Louis St. Louis – 2:11
- There Are Worse Things I Could Do – Stockard Channing – 2:22
- Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise) – Olivia Newton-John – 1:28
- We Go Together – John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Original Cast – 3:00
- Love is a Many Splendored Thing (Instrumental) – 1:23
- Grease (Reprise) – Frankie Valli – 4:37
There were a boatload of singles released from the record: “You’re the One That I Want,” backed with “Alone at a Drive-In Movie,” was issued as an advance single (RSO RS-891) and topped the U.S. and U.K. singles charts. It was followed quickly by Frankie Valli’s “Grease” and its reprise (RSO RS-897), another American chart-topper (in the U.K., which experienced a particularly enormous wave of Grease-mania, the song went to No. 3). With the film selling out through the summer, “Summer Nights” followed on the charts (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Queen” was the B-side to the single – RSO RS-901), going to No. 5 in the U.S. and spawning another U.K. No. 1. September saw “Hopelessly Devoted to You” b/w “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” (RSO RS-903) become the fourth Top 5 single (No. 3 U.S./No. 2 U.K.), and the same month saw a U.K.-only single, “Sandy” (Polydor POSP 6), reach No. 2. Final single “Greased Lightnin’,” with “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay,” released in November (RSO RS-906), was a comparative dud at No. 47 (it ascended to No. 11 across the pond), but had a unique single mix that collectors could get behind.
The original album was first released on CD (Polygram 817 998-2) in 1991, compiling all four sides of the original LP onto one disc. But it wasn’t quite the first taste of Grease on CD: the singles-hungry U.K. market got a crazy pair of new remixes, commissioned in honor of the release of the film on videocassette, that proved that Grease was still the word. The “Grease Megamix” (Polydor 879 411-2, 1990) collated “You’re the One That I Want,” “Greased Lightnin'” and “Summer Nights” into a party-ready medley that became an inescapable fixture of block parties on our shores as well. A year later, “Grease: The Dream Mix” (Polydor 879 795-2) spliced “Grease,” “Sandy” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” into one dance track. (Both were, unsurprisingly, big hits.) In 1998, Polydor attempted to make lightning strike thrice, either with U.S. house mixes of Valli’s “Grease” (Polydor PRSAD 00634) or new “Martian Mixes” of “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights” (Polydor 567 031-2). Suffice to say neither were as successful as the original remixes.
For the film’s 25th anniversary, Universal Music Enterprises added Grease to their deluxe edition canon. The original LP (which was not resequenced from its original running order) was paired with a bonus disc of remixes and rarities.
Various Artists, Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture – Deluxe Edition (Polydor B0001011-02, 2003)
Disc 1 – remastered version of Polygram 817 998-2
Disc 2 – Remixes and Rarities
- Grease (Instrumental) – 3:23 *
- Summer Nights (Sing-Along Version) – 3:34 *
- Hopelessly Devoted to You (Sing-Along Version) – 3:03 *
- You’re the One That I Want (Sing-Along Version) – 2:32 *
- Sandy (Sing-Along Version) – 2:30 *
- Greased Lightnin’ (Single Version) – 3:20 (single A-side – RSO RS-906, 1978) **
- Rydell Fight Song (Instrumental) – 0:20 *
- Greased Up and Ready to Go (Instrumental) – 4:49 *
- Grease Megamix (7″ Version) – 4:48 (from U.K. CD single – Polydor 879 411-2, 1990)
- Grease: The Dream Mix (7″ Version) – 3:45 (from U.K. CD single – Polydor 879 795-2, 1991)
- Summer Nights (Martian Mix) – 3:37 (from Australian CD single – Polydor 567 031-2, 1998)
- You’re the One That I Want (Martian Mix) – 3:25 (from Australian CD single – Polydor 567 031-2, 1998)
* previously unreleased ** previously unreleased on CD