Song: “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John
Reached #1: November 21, 1981 (her fourth, 10 weeks)
In 1981, the workout craze was really ramping up. Jane Fonda was in production for her 1982 “Jane Fonda Workout” video. Gyms were opening at a great rate…
…and an Aussie singer released a video with enough beefcake for her female fans (and her gay fans, too, as winked at by the final few seconds of the clip) – and enough of Olivia Newton-John in workout gear for the rest of us.
“Physical” was a major change for Newton-John’s singing style – her first two #1s, in the mid-‘70s, were ballads. Her next two were from soundtracks – the Grease #1 she shared with John Travolta, “You’re The One That I Want” and the only good thing about Xanadu, “Magic”.
But in all of those, she’d been the “good girl” type.
In “Physical”, she showed a bit of an edge for the first time. It’s not clear if it really worked out for her, as this would be her last #1 hit. There would be three more top 5’s in the next two years, and then she basically moved into acting and the nostalgia-tour circuit.
It’s kind of unfortunate that the most memorable event of her later career wasn’t career-related – but the still-unexplained disappearance of her long-time boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, at sea in 2005.
Today, she’s still acting and singing, and is married (to a natural-remedy huckster).
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving… and we’re only human, after all.
Other songs that reached #1 on November 21:
1960 – “Stay” by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs (their first, 1 week)
1970 – “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family Starring Shirley Jones Featuring David Cassidy (their first, 3 weeks)
1987 – “Mony Mony (Live)” by Billy Idol (his first, 1 week)