During the latter half of the 1970s, John Travolta was the biggest star in Hollywood; after a string of hits in films, on television, and on the radio, he had emerged as a true cultural phenomenon, defining tastes in music and fashion while dominating innumerable column inches in newspapers,…
Listen to John Travolta's most popular song
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The first movie that popped in my head, when I heard we, at Kurrent Music, were doing a special on soundtracks, was ”Grease”. I think I was born in the year this movie came out, so I don’t even know why it popped in my head, but it’s just the one movie soundtrack, that I actually played over and over again while growing up. And I did the same with the movie.
I don’t own many movie soundtracks, to be honest. I have Prince’s “Purple Rain”, which also would’ve been a good choice to write about, come to think of it. I also have a lot of soundtracks from Madonna movies, but I consider most of those an “obligated buy”, because I used to be a Madonna collector for a while. The only exception is probably “I’m Breathless”, the soundtrack for Dick Tracy, which I loved because it was way out of her comfort zone.
Anyway, they say, that the things you grow up with, impact you the most, so I think that’s why “Grease” was my first instinct. It also represented a lot of girlie wishes. The typical dreams you have when you’re a little girl; the growing up, the getting a really cool boyfriend, becoming popular… Ah, the high school allure.
Either way, when I got into this movie I was too young to notice anything about John Travolta and the focus was way more on Olivia Newton John. I really looked at the movie from a little girl’s perspective: Pretty colors, pretty dresses, cool songs to sing along to. It was just fun.
In case you’ve never seen the movie, here’s the plot in a few lines: Aussie girl meets boy during the summer holiday, she moves to the US, goes to her new high school there and runs into the boy, who turns out to be one of the cool people, while she’s not. He’s got an image to protect, so pushes her away when he doesn’t really want to. Eventually they decide to change to be in each other’s world. He becomes less cool and she becomes cool. Voila.
Alongside though, a few additional story lines, bring in a few more adult topics, like an unwanted pregnancy, but the main topic is how everyone falls victim to their own image. This gives the movie the depth that it needs and it also balances out the songs on the soundtrack.
Looking back, a lot of the actors have spoken with pride about being part of this movie. None of them seemed to have expected the success of it, still lasting today, but the heart is always fonder looking back at something, than it is in the moment.
Olivia Newton John really had to work at shaking off her good Sandy image, while pursuing her music career, and John Travolta had to make some daring role choices, in order to break away from his dance movie roles and get to be taken seriously as an actor.
Musically, it’s not “Purple Rain”, a music stand out that is actually better than the movie. Nope, it’s actually a classic example of how music and movie can enhance each other. I think, without the songs, the movie would not have been so popular, and without the movie, the songs wouldn’t have survived with this popularity all these years. Together though “Grease” is a classic that still lives on today.