How this 1978 Motion Picture Soundtrack makes it one of the most palatable musical albums of its time.
When I first moved back to PJ back in 2000, I lived with my godmother and her family who had also recently moved back from Australia a few months prior. I had nothing much to look forward to besides spending time with my cousin, who had introduced me to a whole new world of entertainment with material from Pokemon, A-Teens, Tomb Raider & Gruntz.
Then one fine day, as I sat my 8 year old ass on the cold marble floor of her house, she brought out something that would shape my entire perception of music from the get go-
A VHS tape of a show named Grease. It featured a woman ( Olivia Newton John ) with eccentric blonde curls & a handsome lad ( John Travolta ) with his dark hair all slicked back with, well, grease! I had no idea what to expect. Until this number started playing.
I was hooked from the minute Frankie Valli started singing "I solve my problems and I see the light", from there my eyes were opened and stayed glued to the screen throughout the entire duration of nearly 2 hours. The opening cartoon scene gave me a glimpse of the American teenage experience which was set in the 50's, with boys clad in leather jackets and girls who donned rockabilly dresses. As an 8 year old kid, I immediately wanted to be Danny Zuko who was played by John Travolta and I wanted to look for my Sandy Olsson. Unfortunately, it still remains as a pipe dream to this day.
For those of you who have not seen this musical, but know of its name, just shut the fuck up and stop saying "Oh yes! I love Grease!", because there is more to the entire OST than just Summer Nights & Greased Lightnin'. Sure those numbers are the reason why Grease is the cultural phenomenon that it is today, but it also why the rest of the songs on this album is overlooked. But for everyone's sake and to appease most of you, I will leave this number here for you to appreciate in all of it's popular glory. (Admittedly, I still jive and sing along to this banger)
Despite all the sexual innuendos that were thrown around throughout the entirety of the musical, its fundamental appeal lies in its music. With Jim Jacobs, Michael Gibson & Warren Casey at the forefront of the musical direction, this album featured an array of stellar artists such as Frankie Valli from The Four Seasons, Sha Na Na, Barry Gibb, Frankie Avalon & not forgetting Olivia Newton John herself who at that time was already making a name for herself in Australia as a singer.
In my opinion, there are a few essential songs from this entire album that hold this musical together. I don't have the time to talk about all of them, so ill just mention the few that would make an impact on you as a reader if you ever decide to pick this show up.
The first which is one of my favourite tracks from the album is definitely Look at Me, Im Sandra Dee. There are too many memorable scenes within the entire movie but this one where The Pink Ladies are having an all-girl slumber party at Jan's place and Rizzo being the bitch that she is decides to throw some shade about Sandy being all goody two shoes with this number. From "Won't go to bed till i'm legally wed", to "I don't drink or swear I don't rat my hair", this number was made for a slumber party. From the essential bell rings to the strings section before this number ends, Sandra Dee gives this musical the playfulness it needs. More like the playfulness of young girls who are growing up in this time and age of youth. Sandra Dee speaks of puberty, innocence & upbringing.
The second song is Beauty School Drop-out sung by Frankie Avalon in the second half of the show and boy, this has to be my favourite track of all from this entire album. The song begins as a result of Frenchie having some sort of epiphany after being told that she shouldn't drop out of Rydell High to pursue a career in beauty care & make-up. Frankie then makes this epic entrance with harps playing and the song begins with a tune that's too familiar. A typical D major, B minor, G7 to A7 progression. ( Listen to the first part of the song & you'll know what im saying ) The lyrics behind this song are simple and straight forward. He basically is telling Frenchie to stay in school instead of wasting it trying to figure out what do without ever graduating high school. "Your future's so unclear now, what's left of your career now, can't even get a trade in, for your smile", to "If you go for your diploma, you could join the steno pool, turn in your teasin' comb & go back to highschool", Frankie really is just trying to tell the audience at that time or even now that basically education is crucial in your survival in a world that is cruel. Just listen for yourself.
Jesus, what a damn good song.
Lastly, there's We Go Together which is the banger that ends the entire show after everyone graduates high school and are preparing to move on with life after. This number is a doo-wop banger with big bang elements mostly from the way the drums are being played and the lyrics once again, are simple and sweet. The catchiest part of this song is when the saxophone "drop" comes in at minute 1:30 where the entire fucking cast just blows up into a huge dance routine in the middle of the funfair at Rydell High. Back in 1978 it was a feat, today I still think its a feat and that no other musical has been able to recreate the emotions this number brings to the lot who follow this musical religiously. The camera cuts, panning & timing made this number the banger it is today.
Till this day, I still get goosebumps watching this show, like I said, if you're looking for a musical to start off with, watch Grease. It's cast, charm and most importantly its musical direction paved a way for modern musicals during its time thus sealing its place as a staple.
God I can cry.