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This was featured in the movie of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Valli was not in the movie, but another Frankie was: Frankie Avalon played the Teen Angel and sang "Beauty School Dropout." Valli would get a turn in acting: he appeared in seven episodes of the HBO series The Sopranos, which was about a quirky mafia family.
This song was written and produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees specifically for the movie. His music helped make Saturday Night Fever
a huge hit two years earlier. That film was produced by Robert Stigwood, who was a partner in the Grease
movie and got Gibb on board for the title song.
For this project, Stigwood was interested in Gibb's pen, but not his voice, since The Bee Gees sound ingrained with Saturday Night Fever
and he wanted Grease
to have its own identity. Frankie Valli
, who could sing in a similar high vocal range to Gibb, was asked to record it. Thanks to his many previous hits, Valli provided a familiar sound, but one that was not saturated on Pop radio, as he hadn't had a hit for a while. Gibb did sing backup on the track.
Speaking with Billboard magazine in a 2013 interview, Valli explained how he came to record this song. "Barry Gibb called and said, 'I wrote a song. I think it's for you. It's going to be the title song for this motion picture," Valli recalled. "My manager at the time was Allan Carr, who was partners in Grease with Robert Stigwood. He called and said, 'What do you want to do? Do you want to be in the movie? Or sing the title song?' Well, I had already heard the title song, and I loved it. I called [famed arranger] Don Costa up and told him to come over right away and hear this song. He said, 'If you don't record this song, you're crazy.' So I said, 'What's the song if I want to be in the movie?' And they said 'Beauty School Dropout.' It was done by Frankie Avalon. It never became a hit, but he made a lot of money from it being on the soundtrack. But 'Grease' was one of the biggest records I ever had in my career."
This was not used in the stage production of Grease - it was written specifically for the movie.
The song doesn't make any specific references to the movie, but elegantly expresses it's theme: individuality. It explicitly empowers the title:
It's got a groove, it's got a meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion
Grease is the way we are feeling
In the bridge, the song gets transcendental:
This is a life of illusion
A life of control
Mixed with confusion
This was quite a departure for Valli: the Jersey Boy typically sang about girls and romance, not spiritual discovery.
This was Valli's second US #1 hit as a solo artist. Three years earlier, he hit the top spot with "My Eyes Adored You
," and before that he had an astonishing five #1 hits with The Four Seasons.
When he was approached about "Grease," Valli didn't have a record deal - the single was released on Robert Stigwood's RSO label, which issued the soundtrack. Valli quickly landed a deal with Warner Brothers, but never scored another hit on the Hot 100.
"Grease" was Valli's only #1 not co-written by Bob Crewe or Bob Gaudio.
Peter Frampton played lead guitar on this track.
With its Disco beat, this song is way out place for the '50s, which is when Grease takes place. Audiences didn't seem to mind this anachronism: the single went platinum, and the soundtrack sold over 8 million copies in America. (thanks, James - Beverly Hills, CA)
Barry Gibb produced this song with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson, who worked on the music to the movie Saturday Night Fever.
This was the second US #1 hit from the Grease
soundtrack, following "You're The One That I Want
," which was released ahead of the movie and hit the top spot on June 10, 1978, six days before the film hit theaters. The title track benefited from the success of the movie, which was a summer blockbuster. "Grease" rose up the Hot 100 in July and reached #1 on August 26.
The Bee Gees never recorded a studio version of this song, but included it on their 1997 live set One Night Only, which was recorded at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Their performance was augmented by Frankie Valli's recorded vocals, which come in for the second verse.
The performance was also released on DVD; during this song there are lots of shots of Olivia Newton-John, who earned a seat in the front row.
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