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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Have To Believe We Are Magic...

Welcome to another "magical" edition of the Sunday Jukebox!  I hope you're having a great weekend so far! 

Now, I suppose you're probably wondering why I've put the word "magical" in quotation marks.  Well, there is a very good reason for that.  You see, today's song happens to be magic themed.

And, no, before you begin guessing, the song for today is not Steve Miller's "Abracadabra", Candi's "Under Your Spell", or the Hocus Pocus Alamagocus song from "Today's Special".  But it does have a little bit of magic, a little bit of beauty, and is synonymous with one of the biggest box office bombs of the 1980s.

(Hey...I postponed the scheduled movie post this week by four days.  I figure that people won't mind too much if I inserted a movie reference in this piece for today.)

So, what should I do first?  Should I post the music video and talk about the song first, or should I talk about the movie which will end off with the song?

Ah, screw it.  Let's post the song first.  It'll provide some mood music as you read on.

Unlike the film that this song's soundtrack comes from, this single managed to top the charts exactly thirty-four years ago this week.  Let's have a listen.

ARTIST: Olivia Newton-John
SONG:  Magic
ALBUM:  Xanadu
DATE RELEASED:  May 23, 1980

Okay, so this song might not be the most successful song that Olivia Newton-John has ever released (her 1981 single "Physical" lasted twice as long at the top of the charts).  But you know, "Magic" is one of those songs that instantly puts you in a good mood whenever you listen to it.  At least, that was the case for me.

Listeners seemed to agree with me at the time.  This single hit #1 in the United States and Canada, reached #4 in Australia (the country in which Olivia Newton-John grew up in), and #32 in the UK (the place where Newton-John was born).  It was considered the third most successful single of 1980 right behind Blondie's "Call Me" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II". 

And I can see why the song would touch a lot of people.  The lyrics can be interpreted as a love song between woman and man (or man and man, or woman and woman, or whatever coupling you can imagine).  Just listen to the lyrics really closely.  Aren't they absolutely beautiful?  I can only imagine dozens of thousands of lovers dancing together to this song - a song that promotes caring, tenderness, devotion, and pure joy that comes from loving someone so deeply.

May all of us be able to find that love with someone. 

But here's the interesting thing about this song.  The song was incredibly successful.  The movie was not.

And just before I go into the facts, I just want to make one admission.  When it comes to the movie "Xanadu", I don't actually hate the movie.  It's definitely not my all-time favourite movie, but I don't think it was as terrible as people made out to be.

In all honesty, "Xanadu" is probably one of those movies that makes the list of many moviegoers "favourite cult classics".

That said, it's hard not to deny the fact that the film was brutally raked over the coals when it was first released on August 8, 1980.  Initially designed as a roller-disco themed film, producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver, and director Robert Greenwald transformed the twenty-two million dollar budget film into a story of love, fantasy, and...well...magic!  And it ALMOST broke even, making twenty million at the box office.

That's not to say that the cast of the film didn't try to pull it off.  With Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and the legendary Gene Kelly on the payroll, it certainly did have star power.  And the plot, which sees a record album cover designer embarking on a quest to find his muse, and falling in love with a woman who is quite literally out of this world, did seem very interesting and was unlike any other plot that was featured in a film.

But for whatever reason, this film was not greatly received.  In fact, it was this film that inspired the creation of the "Golden Raspberry Awards" - the awards ceremony farce that awarded the absolute worst in film.  It's quite the contrast to the Academy Awards, which celebrate the cream of the crop.

Fortunately, while "Xanadu" was nominated for Worst Picture at the inaugural Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony, it lost to "Can't Stop The Music".  Or, I guess I could say, it won against it?  Depends on your perspective, I guess.

Anyway, since this is the thirty-fourth anniversary of the release of "Xanadu" and the thirty-fourth anniversary of the song hitting the top of the charts, I thought that I would share some trivia about the movie in which "Magic" comes from.  Why not, right?

1 - Since the movie heavily features roller skating, Olympic skater Peggy Fleming helped choreograph some of the skating scenes.

2 - This was the final feature film appearance for Gene Kelly.

3 - Interestingly enough, Olivia Newton-John turned down a role in "Can't Stop The Music" to take the leading lady role in "Xanadu".

4 - John Travolta turned down the role of Sonny - the part eventually went to Michael Beck.

5 - Andy Gibb was also considered for the role of Sonny.

6 - Olivia Newton-John fractured her coccyx while filming the "Suddenly" dance sequence.

7 - Olivia would meet her future husband, Matt Lattanzi, on the set of this film.  They stayed married for eleven years and had a child together, Chloe Lattanzi, before getting divorced.

8 - The script was supposedly written as the movie was filmed.

9 - The Pan Pacific Auditorium was used for the exterior shots of the Xanadu Club.  It was destroyed by fire in 1989.

10 - While the film bombed, the soundtrack of "Xanadu" was extremely popular, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200.

And, here's one final interesting fact about "Magic", the song that helped make the "Xanadu" soundtrack such a huge success.  In 2011, Australian DJ's Dan Murphy and Steve Peach created an updated modern dance mix of the classic 1980 hit.  Olivia Newton-John recorded all new vocals for the remix, and was sponsored by humanitarian group WACCI.  All proceeds raised from the single were donated to Olivia's charity, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, and the music video attempted to break a world record by casting 350 extras in the video.

Here's the finished product of the remix to conclude this magical Sunday Jukebox entry.

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