The word Xanadu showed up in the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). Xanadu is the fictional name of the land where Khubla Khan ordered the dome to be built. The word Xanadu came to mean a paradise. In the movie Citizen Kane, Xanadu was the name of Charles Foster Kane's house.
This was written for the movie musical of the same name. Newton-John starred in the film with Gene Kelly. The movie was a bomb, but the soundtrack, which contained all songs by Newton-John and The Electric Light Orchestra, was a hit.
In the trailer for the film, Olivia-Newton John is billed as "the girl you loved in Grease." This song plays over the end of the trailer. Quite a bit is made of the singing and dancing and starring cast, not much is mentioned about the plot.
Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne wrote this song, which turned off many of the group's hardcore fans who felt they were veering too far into disco territory. The foray into disco was very successful and produced ELO's most popular work, but it got away from their core orchestral sound. They got diminishing returns on their next four albums, and in 1986, the band went on hiatus.
For those of you who have heard of this film's reputation but not yet seen it, you might be asking yourself, "What on earth is so terrible about it?" It's famous for being a box-office flop, but what, did it stink all over? And you might even go hunting down reviews online, only to find a queue of user reviews on IMDB defending it for dear life and crying that it's not that bad.
Here's the gist of it:
The concept, story, and overall dialog is pathetic, even though everything else is great.
They blew $20 million cool ones on the budget for this in 1980! Consider that Star Wars, released just three years previously, had a budget of $11 million. And there's no way Xanadu would have outsold The Force, even with dialogue by Shakespeare.
It's basically a roller-disco fantasy made at a time when (a) disco, (b) roller-skating, and (c) fantasy all became as dead as fried chicken. It was the dawn of the '80s; Reagan was in office and people wanted either hard sci-fi or down-home country folk, and it was time for heavy metal and greed.
The studio executives made bone-headed decisions slapping this together, like with the animated sequence in the middle which just confused the bejabbers out of everybody. It was basically just thrown in for the sole purpose of Universal thumbing their nose at Disney.
Key words from above point: "slapped together." Including one each of every kind of music genre. The whole thing plays like it was built by sugar-hyped six-year-olds who couldn't resist gluing on "one more cool thing," whether it fit or not.
Nevertheless, it is a guilty pleasure, Olivia sings her sweet little heart out, Gene dances up a storm, ELO rocks out, and it's all now an interesting historical period piece with a modern-day cult following.
Electric Light Orchestra released a new version of this song on their 2000 compilation Flashback. This rendition has lead vocals by Jeff Lynne, who sings it in a more subdued manner.
Kelly reluctantly dusted off his dancing shoes for Xanadu. "I had already decided about a year and a half before I did Xanadu that I was through with dancing," he explained in a 1985 interview. "In fact, I wasn't going to dance in Xanadu, but several journalists told me that Olivia Newton-John kept saying how sad she was that she wouldn't get the chance to dance with me. So I finally said, 'All right, throw in a number.' But I'm through with dancing."
Titan from Adelaide, South AustraliaIn the late 60s there was a song called 'The Legend of Xanadu' by a bunch of guys named Dave, Dee, Dozy, Mick & Titch which was a bit of a novelty song which made it all the way to No.1 in the UK, then ONJ and ELO hit No.1 in 1980 with Xanadu, making a success rate of 100% of songs with Xanadu in the title getting to No.1, in the UK art least.
Esskayess from Dallas, TxAnyone else notice the similarity of the percussion and string riffs in this song to those near of the end of 'Mr. Blue Sky?'
Esskayess from Dallas, TxOnly pop soundtrack I can think of that charted at or near #1 all over the world, while its movie was a mega-bomb. I played this song and 'Magic' to death during the summer and fall of '80.
Xav from Chicago, IlHeard ELO's new version from their "Very Best Of..." CD. Lemme tell ya, the song does not work without Olivia's voice.
Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI love the song Xanadu.
Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaThis is the only time ELO hit #1 with a song beginning with the letter "X". Very few songs begin with the letter X because it is difficult to start a song that way.
Stormy from Kokomo, InThis song still gives me chills! We used to dress "to the nines" and go disco dancing to this song and others. We even skated to these songs! what a GREAT time!
Guitar Chic from Small Town, KyWhen I was a kid, I use to listen to this album for hours...have no idea it's meaning. Just dreamed of skating by the cutest boy at the rink as the air flowed through my hair...LOL:)
Richard from Bronx, NyNothing worse then Xanadu closet cases go on admit you love this song!!!Olivia is still amazing better then most of those pop tarts that are out there now!!
Emily from Abingdon, VaThis song is quite possibly the biggest mistake ever to hit popular music.
Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesIn Xanadu did Kublai Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree; / And Sam was smoking opium / And getting stoned enough for three. Sure, I went to college once!
Tom from Wood, SdWhy did Jeff Lynne let Olivia Newton-John ruin such a great song? I have nothing against her - I actually kind of like her - but God almighty I hate her version of this song. I mean, check out the ELO-only take on ALL OVER THE WORLD. Man oh man.
Dee from Indianapolis, InI was 11 when this movie came out. My good friend and I use to listen to this and Queens "Play the Game" all the time on LP's. I wasn't allowed to own records or listen to this type of music back then. When I think of what gets on the radio today, that was tame in comparision.
Brian from Meriden, CtCale, who is Sir "Auther" Conan Doyle anyway? Certainly not the "author" of Xanadu. Or the Sherlock Holmes mystery series either... Sorry Bro, I'm sure it was a simple blunder. Couldn't agree more, Dave.
Patrick from Conyers, GaFrom what I remember learning in Lit, Coleridge based his poem from an opium-induced dream. However, he was unable to finish the poem since the dream was interrupted suddenly.
Craig from Madison, WiIn regards to Coleridge's poem, he did indeed write it under the influence, but it was not due to the fact the drugs wore off, but rather he was interupted by a visitor, remembered in history as "The Man from Porlock," who threw off his train of thought. By the time the visitor left, Coleridge couldn't remember where he was going with the poem and so the poem remains incomplete. "The Man from Porlock" is now a term used for any literary buzz kill.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe (incomplete) poem Kubla Khan, on which the film 'The Legend of Xanadu' was based, was actually written by Samuel Taylor-Coleridge. According to Alex Lifeson (of the aforementioned Rush, who also released a critically acclaimed song based on the poem), he began writing it while under the influence of drugs, but after the drug-trip wore off, he was unable to complete it.
Cale from Atlanta, GaBased on a incomplete poem by Sir Auther Conan Doyle.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesPity they didn't think to also include Rush' 1978 epic of the same name on the soundtrack - it might have added some class to the otherwise awful film. The soundtrack was quite good, though - particularly ELO's contributions
Jed from Somerset. Uk, EnglandIt was the only time that ELO ever reached the top of the UK charts. Olivia Newton John had managed it twice earlier with John Travolta, but never as a solo artist.