40 years ago, Olivia Newton-John invited us all to get “Physical”: “At the time, I was horrified”


Forty years ago today, Olivia Newton-John released the song that made her a pop superstar: “Physical.” Olivia was given “Physical” after Tina Turner rejected it, and it became her all-time biggest hit, no doubt in part due to the lyrics, which were considered super-provocative for the time. Just last year, songs by two pop superstars, Dua Lipa and Miley Cyrus, offered nods to “Physical” lyrically and melodically — something which amazed Olivia.

“Who would have thought that all these years later this song was still popular?” she told ABC Audio of the 10-week number-one hit. “I think it struck the chord of getting fit at that time.”

She laughed, “It was the perfect opportunity and combined a lot of messages, but that was one of them! And yeah, I can’t believe it. Forty years on. I mean, Grease and ‘Physical,’ [it’s] amazing that these things are still alive and popular.”

“Physical” was actually considered so racy that it was banned in Utah, which Olivia said she’s “very proud” of now.  “Even though at the time, I was horrified, now, it’s like a good thing!” she noted, laughing.

And boy, was she ever horrified: She told ABC Audio, “I knew it was a fun song, but I didn’t really focus in on how people were going to take it until I was banned. And then I called my manager and I said, ‘We got to pull it off the radio…I think I’ve gone too far!’ And he said, ‘It’s too late, love. It’s climbing up the charts!”

But now, Olivia noted, “‘Let’s get physical/ Let me hear your body talk’…compared to what’s on the radio now, it’s like a lullaby!”

A new deluxe edition of Olivia’s 1981 Physical album is now available for pre-order.

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