Like you, as soon as HERC heard the words "Grease" and "Olivia Newton-John Travolta" (because they go together) the soundtrack started playing in his head. Sure it's a stage play, still performed across the country and around the world today, but for most of us, Grease will always be the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Released the day before HERC's little sister's 9th birthday, Grease had a long journey before hitting the big screen. Originally written by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs as a "raunchy and raw" drama in 1971, at the beginning of a '50s nostalgia wave that included the film American Graffiti and the television show Happy Days, the original production was called Grease Lightning. Wisely heeding suggestions to make it a musical, the play was reworked and briefly staged off-Broadway before moving up to Broadway proper where it ran for a then record 3,388 performances. Over the years, the cast included Barry Bostwick, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Gallagher, Marilu Henner, Richard Gere and two men who would go on to star in the movie: Jeff Conaway played Danny on stage while John Travolta was Doody!
Before filming began in 1977, Henry Winkler was briefly considered for the lead role of "Danny" but turned it down for fear of being typecast as he had already played a leather jacket wearing character in The Lords Of Flatbush and Happy Days. Marie Osmond and The Partridge Family's Susan Dey were both offered the lead role of "Sandy" and both turned it down. The play was rewritten for the screen to accommodate Olivia Newton-John landing the role of "Sandy". John Travolta was cast in the lead role, three new songs were written for the movie and the rest is history:
It was the highest grossing movie of 1978 with $156 million, out-grossing other HERC faves like Superman, Halloween and Animal House;
Adjusting for inflation, it is the currently the 27th highest grossing movie of all time in America - just behind The Avengers(!) - with and adjusted box-office take of more than half a billion dollars;
It is the highest grossing musical of all-time with almost $189 million, after re-releases in 1998 (20th Anniversary) and 2010 (Sing-A-Long);
And it's double disc soundtrack album topped the charts for 3 months, sold millions of copies and saw five singles released with four of them reaching the Top 5. It finished 1978 as the second biggest selling album behind Saturday Night Fever.
"You"re The One That I Want", written especially for the film, was released in advance of the soundtrack album and peaked at #1 in many countries including the United States, eventually becoming one of the biggest selling singles of all-time. This was HERC's favorite song for most of the Summer of 1978.
The soundtrack album was released in April 1978, almost two months before the movie premiered, and HERC SR. bought a copy home one day after taking the family to the local drive-in to see the movie.
When Paramount issued the movie on VHS in a 20th Anniversary Limited Edition in 1998, they included an Exclusive Grease Megamix CD Single featuring "You're The One That I Want", "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights". The Megamix had originally been created by DJ Joe Masciantonio in 1990 to promote the initial video release and managed to chart outside of America.
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The soundtrack was released on CD first in 1991 as a single disc version and then in 2003 as a two disc 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition featuring remixes, medleys, instrumentals and other rarities.
"Grease" was the second single released when it debuted in May 1978. The movie's theme song was written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb and sung by Frankie Valli. It peaked at #1 and is both the first song and the last song on the soundtrack album as originally released. The above performance is from The Midnight Special and first aired on November 9, 1979.
"Hopelessly Devoted To You", another song written just for the movie, was released in July 1978 and peaked at #3. Olivia performed it at the Oscar ceremony but lost "Best Original Song" to Donna Summer's "Last Dance" from Thank God It's Friday. It was the final song written for the movie and among the last scenes filmed. It has been widely reported that the scene was filmed on the day Elvis Presley died - August 16, 1977.
"Summer Nights" followed in August 1978 and peaked at #5 here in the States but made it to the top of the charts over in the U.K. where it stayed for seven weeks. The only cast voices on the song are Travolta and Newton-John's. The song was covered by those wild and crazy Glee kids last season but the BIG NEWS is the show is doing a Grease episode in early November. Gleek out!
"Greased Lightnin'" was the final single released from the soundtrack in September 1978. It managed to crack the Top 50. In the stage version, the song is sung by the "Kenickie" character but Travolta convinced the director and his co-star Conaway that his character "Danny" should perform it in the film.
It's no secret that Martin of Martin's View prefers Grease 2 over Grease - both as a movie and as a sountrack - but head over to his blog to read his review of the Grease soundtrack.
Paramount is reportedly working on a third Grease film, due in 2015.