At The Number Ones, they review every single # 1 in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the beginning of the chart in 1958, and I’m currently working.
Frankie Valli – “Grease”
HIT # 1: August 26, 1978
STOP ON # 1: 2 weeks
Frankie Valli and Barry Gibb are probably the two greatest pseudo-psychologists in historical rock. In the pre-British days of the invasion of the early 1960s, Valli and his four seasons were built on the doo-wop scheme and added to cat strokes, becoming one of the decisive actions of that time. More than a decade later, Barry Gibb discovered his own top register and put it on the record, cracking down on kick-in-the-dick for entertainment.
So you would think that a group of Frankie Valli and Barry Gibb would be a perpetual scream, a psychedelic kaleidoscope of inexplicably sure sunglasses. Instead, Frankie Valli sings the song in what goes for a normal voice. It’s just weird. Imagine if Al Pacino and Robert De Niro got together in 1995 – not to make an all-time cop and theft movie, but to start a juggling act. But this is “fat”.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC7v2gFsCz0 (/ embed)
“Grease” is a weird little phenomenon, for reasons beyond Balli’s decision to sing it in a voice that doesn’t sound like an air raid siren. This is the original theme of the greatest film of 1978, a Broadway adaptation built by nostalgia for the era of early rock ‘n’ roll. And yet, Balli, who became the first major success in the season immediately after being depicted on Grease, does nothing to return to that era. Instead, Barry Gibb has written to him a smattering of strange aquariums about general confusion. “Grease”, the song, appears in the movie Grease, but has virtually nothing to do with Grease.
Perhaps Grease producer and Bee Gees label leader Robert Stigwood was just applying a lesson learned from Saturday night’s fever production: If you’re going to give audiences a movie where John Travolta does a lot of dancing, he helps sell with Bee Gees songs. These two films are not the same. Saturday Fever Fever is a deeply depressing contemporary socio-realistic drama, while Grease is a proudly silly piece of music at the time. But apparently the same strategy worked both times, as both movies and soundtrack albums were successful.
At Grease, Valli’s song plays during the opening credits, recording a series of 50s cartoon images of life: Elvis, hula hoops, hair bands. The animation is crude and ugly, made to look like a 60s underground comic book or Rock School. It pulsates in the rhythm of the song, which does not sound like any of the songs that appear later in the movie. Perhaps the idea was to slowly wipe out the audience at that time – to give them something contemporary, adjusting their aesthetic sensibility. I do not know. I arrive. It’s some weird shit.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMALsLe_4N4 (/ embed)
Barry Gibb wrote “Grease” while he and the other Bee Gees were filming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Stigwood’s devastating movie for the Beatles album-music release. Barry was incredibly busy at the time and I can’t imagine putting too much thought into “Grease”, given how little he has to do with the actual movie he is recording. My best guess is that Stigwood asked Gibb to write a song called “Grease” without telling him just one thing about the film. So we get deeply meaningless things like this: “Fat is the word, it’s the word you’ve heard / Has a groove, has a meaning / Grease is the time, it’s the place, it’s the movement / Grease is the way they feel. “Is;
Maybe Gibb was thinking about some slippery sense of reality. If the word “Grease” says anything, it is a relaxed thought for a generation that is lost and weakened: “This is a parallel life, a life of control / Confused mixed – what are we doing here?” I do not know! Frankie Valli doesn’t sound like she knows. It sounds like he is singing words in a foreign language. There is no expression in his voice. Words are just spoken.
Valli embarked on a remarkable late-career path when recording “Grease.” It had come out of psychedelic obscurity, hitting # 1 with the solo 1975 soft-rock ballad “My Eyes Adored You” and the nostalgia of 1976 -Dazed Disco “Doo-wop disco number” in December 1963 (Oh what night). “But even then, he was without a label, so he jumped at the chance to work with an on-top-of-the-world Barry Gibb. Later, Ballie said he was given the opportunity to sing the theme song Grease or appear in the movie, singing the song “School Dropout.” Valli took the lead and his colleague Frankie Avalon played the role of beauty dropout.
Barry Gibb accompanied “Grease” with his regular Bee Gees partners, Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson. Gibb also sings the copy of the song. is the only fake we hear. And Gibb isn’t the only super late 70’s on the track. also called his Sgt. Pepper’s boasting Peter Frampton to play guitar. (“I’m In You” in 1977, Frampton’s top single-frampton, reached # 2, is 4.) But you can’t hear anything specifically Frampton-ish on “Grease” and you just hear nothing specifically Balli, either.
In contrast, “Grease” is, more or less, a Bee Gees song that wasn’t good enough for Saturday Night Fever’s soundtrack. There are good things about it. I like the almost empty stroke and the opening of the horn is quite exciting. Balli lost his hearing when he recorded the song. will be restored to a business two years later. Maybe that’s why it never really fails to deliver high notes. Instead, he sings the whole thing in a kind of pinched tenor, a not-so-good version of what Gibb himself could do with him.
Fat was the highest-grossing film of 1978, and Bee was the dominant team of the day. Without those two things, I can’t imagine a replacement Barry Gibb song like “Grease” hitting # 1. But there is a cross between some different cultural phenomena, so maybe 1978 disc buyers were helpless in front of him. Wally said there was no way Barry Gibb would give him the song if he knew how big it would be.
Frankie Valli has never reached the top-10 hit since “Grease”, but it is quite surprising that he managed to record so slowly, reaching # 16 years after his first preparation with Sherry of the Four Seasons. in the coming years, Balli will take up the stage, playing mafia bosses in the Miami Vice President and Soprano. And it will become the subject of his own Broadway. Jersey Boys, the show for the Four Seasons, opened on Broadway in 2005 and ran for 14 years. Clint Eastwood arrived in a movie in 2014. So Frankie Valli is doing very well. Barry Gibb, meanwhile, will return to this column again.
BONUS BEATS: Prince Paul dealt with breaking the “Grease” horn in “De Roller Skating Jam Named” by De La Soul in 1991. “Here’s the video for the song:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tu-qDHSSZo (/ embed)
(De La Soul had never hit the top-10. Their tallest single, 1989’s “Me Me And Me”, reached # 34 and dug in Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” in 2005.)
BONUS BEATS BONUS: Here is Mike Patton singing a song “Grease” in Mr. Bungle’s 1991 song “Quote Unquote (Travolta)”:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kGhzf5cESU (/ embed)
(Mr. Bungle has never had a top-10 hit. However, Patton’s other band, Faith No More, reached # 9 with 1989’s “Epic”. That’s a 10.)
BONUS BONUS BEATS BONUS: J Dilla obviously liked “Grease” so much that sampling over and over again – usually echoing “is the word, it’s the word” chorus piece “over the years.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flR-xMGIn-8 (/ embed)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FQLgD_8wcs (/ embed)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg40MvbhkC8 (/ embed)
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGc0zFumcBA (/ embed)
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS BONUS: Here is Jessie J singing “Grease” at the beginning of the 2016 Fox live-music special Grease Live:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGObkWnXWMs (/ embed)
(Jessie J of America’s latest casinos, the 2014 Ariana Grande / Nicki Minaj Prize “Bang Bang”, peaked at # 3, is 7.)