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Physical (Olivia Newton-John song)

"Physical" is a song by British-born Australian singer Olivia Newton-John for her twelfth studio album Physical. It was released in September 1981 by MCA Records as the lead single from the album. The song was written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, who had originally intended to offer it to British singer-songwriter Rod Stewart, and produced by John Farrar.[2] The song had also been offered to Tina Turner by her manager Roger Davies, but when Turner declined, Davies gave the song to Newton-John, another of his clients.[3]

Physical (Olivia Newton-John single) coverart.jpg
Single by Olivia Newton-John
from the album Physical
B-side"The Promise (The Dolphin Song)"
Released28 September 1981
RecordedJanuary 1981
6:58 (extended)
Producer(s)John Farrar
Olivia Newton-John singles chronology
"Make a Move on Me"
Audio sample

The song was an immediate success, shipping two million copies in the United States, where it was certified Platinum and spent 10 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Physical" ultimately became Newton-John's biggest American hit and cemented her legacy as a pop superstar, a journey that began when she crossed over from her earlier country-pop roots. The song's suggestive lyrics, which even caused it to be banned in some markets, helped change Newton-John's longstanding clean-cut image, replacing it with a sexy, assertive persona that was strengthened with follow-up hits such as "Make A Move On Me", "Twist of Fate" and "Soul Kiss". The song's guitar solo was performed by Steve Lukather.

The song reached #7 on the UK chart in November,[4] was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and won the Billboard Award for Top Pop Single.


Recorded in early 1981, "Physical" rose to #1 on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 1981 and stayed there for 10 weeks (the most of any single in the 1980s[5]), remaining until the second half of January 1982. It reached #2 on the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Airplay chart on November 27, 1981, staying there for two weeks and remaining on the chart for 14 weeks.[6] In terms of chart placement, "Physical" was Newton-John's most successful single in the U.S., as well as her final single to reach #1. Billboard ranked the song as the #1 single of 1982 (since the chart year for 1982 actually began in November 1981).

"Physical" was both preceded and followed in the #1 chart position by recordings by the duo Hall & Oates: "Private Eyes" was dethroned by "Physical" in November 1981, and "Physical" was supplanted by "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" the following January. "Physical" held Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You" at #2 on the Hot 100 for nine weeks, and "I Can't Go For That" then held Foreigner at #2 for a tenth and final consecutive week.

The single achieved great success around the world, reaching #7 in the United Kingdom, where it was certified Silver.[7] However, the song was censored and even banned by some radio stations as a result of its sexually suggestive content, such as the line "There's nothing left to talk about unless it's horizontally." Despite Newton-John's status as a staple of soft-rock music, "Physical" peaked at only #29 on the adult contemporary (AC) chart, though Its follow-up, the slightly softer-edged "Make a Move on Me," reached #6 on the chart and #5 on the Hot 100. The song was a major dance hit, crossing over to peak at #28 on the Billboard R&B chart, and spawned a music video.

Music videoEdit


The controversial music video that was released to promote the song featured Newton-John in a gym with well-built men in the last half. Some of the scenes have sexual subtext, such as the shower scene or when Newton-John rubs herself on the men.

The song's music video, directed by Brian Grant, features Newton-John in a tight leotard trying to make several overweight men lose weight. The men fail comically and Newton-John leaves the room to take a shower. When the men work out on their own, they suddenly transform into muscular, attractive men. A stylistic shot shows one muscular man glancing at his overweight self in a mirror. Newton-John is shocked when she returns and starts to flirt with them. Two of the men secretly go out, holding hands, implying they are gay. This surprises Newton-John, as does the sight of two more of the men leaving with their arms around each other. Finally, she finds that the last of the overweight men is straight and they go off to play tennis together.


The Olivia Physical music video collection, which contained "Physical", won a Grammy Award for Video of the Year in 1983.[8] The video was featured on VH1's Pop-Up Video and was the first video to air on Beavis and Butt-head.[citation needed]


Billboard ranked "Physical" #6 on its All Time Top 100,[9] #1 on its Top 50 Sexiest Songs Of All Time[10] and #1 on its Top 100 Songs of the 1980s list.[11]

A revamped bossa nova version of the song was released on the 2002 Olivia duet album (2) as a bonus track, and this version replaced the original in Newton-John's tours. Her duet with Jane Lynch was included in the episode "Bad Reputation" of the television series Glee.[citation needed]

The song was later skewered by SuLu's parody "Physical", featured on Dr. Demento's weekly show, with such lyrics as "It's time I got a physical, physical" and "Press that thing against my chest and listen to my body talk, body talk".[12] In the 2008 episode of The Office entitled "Business Ethics", Michael and Holly teach the office about workplace ethics by singing and dancing (in headbands) to Physical, but changing the lyrics to "Let's get Ethical".[citation needed]


From the Physical album's liner notes:[13]


Sales and certificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[28] Platinum 100,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[29] 2× Platinum 300,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[30] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[31] Platinum 2,000,000^
Total sales: 2,550,000

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Physical - Olivia Newton-John - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Juke Magazine, 13 March 1982.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "American single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (6th ed.). Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 810. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6.
  6. ^ a b "Physical". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  7. ^ "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Type Physical in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  8. ^ "25th Annual Grammy Awards (1982)". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 1 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "The 50 Sexiest Songs Of All Time Page 5". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  11. ^ "The Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 Hits of the 1980s". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  12. ^ "Physical - SuLu". Captain Wayne's Mad Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  13. ^ Physical (Liner notes). Olivia Newton-John. MCA Records. 1981. B004AH7W1O.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 217. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 12 June 1988.
  15. ^ " – Olivia Newton-John – Physical" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Olivia Newton-John: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  21. ^ "Olivia Newton-John". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  23. ^ "Olivia Newton-John Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ Bronson, Fred (2 August 2013). "Hot 100 55th Anniversary: The All-Time Top 100 Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  27. ^ Bronson, Fred. "Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs by Women : Page 1". Billboard. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Kent Music Report No 453 – 28 February 1983 > Platinum and Gold Singles 1982". (original document published by Kent Music Report). Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  29. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". Music Canada. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Physical". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 1 April 2012. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Physical in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  31. ^ "American single certifications – Newton-John, Olivia – Physical". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 1 April 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit