I Know That Song! The One Kept From #1 By Olivia Newton John's "Physical"

Have you figured out this weeks theme yet? Tomorrow we'll ask you to name the theme to win free lunch from Jersey Mikes at 7:10am.

When this band put a big number two on the cover of their single, they were just riffing on the cover art from 4, their 1981 album. But maybe they were also putting something out into the universe, setting a cosmic chain reaction into motion. 

The single with that big number two would become, to that point, the band’s biggest-ever hit. And yet it would STAY right outside the #1 spot longer than any song had ever done!

In the days before a digital release, the singles chart behaved in a pretty orderly way. Songs would move their way up and down the charts sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. If a song made it up to #2, then stayed there for a while, that song would probably make it to the top spot. But today’s power ballad, a truly massive hit, had the misfortune of going up against an even more massive hit.

Olivia Newton-John’s aerobics-class jam “Physical” made itself at home at #1, and stayed there for 10 weeks. It was only the second song ever to last that long at #1. For nine of those weeks, today’s song was stuck behind it. 

Then, when “Physical” finally fell from that spot, Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” leapfrogged over today’s song, jumping from #3 to #1!

Years after, this band’s lead singer, Lou Gramm, said, “Being that close to #1 with such a strong song and not quite making it leaves you with a little sour taste, I admit.” 

But you can’t really consider today’s song a failure. This band was already a huge band, and that song made them a ton of money. It also helped establish a model for the synthed-out rock ballads that would conquer the world in the decade ahead.

Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the man who would become one of the driving forces behind the sound of ’80s rock, produced today’s album and song. He had been searching for a new synthesizer driven sound and was impressed by a demo tape from a 19 year old busker named Thomas Dolby.

You might remember that name from Dolby’s one and only 80’s hit, “She Blinded Me With Science” which would dominate MTV a couple years later

You can hear a whole lot of Dolby on the album's first single “Urgent”, and he wrote and played the song’s searching, ambient synth intro, though he didn’t get a songwriting credit for it. 

Instead, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm got credit for writing the track together. Jones has said that writing today’s song was an almost mystical experience, that he was “plugged into the currents of the universe.” Guess the Universe didn’t invite poor Thomas Dolby.

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