She carved out a country pop career in the US in the mid-70s and seemed a surprising choice for the co-starring lead role in Grease. She was 28 when was cast as 17-year-old schoolgirl Sandy, far too old for the part (and, indeed, six years older than Travolta). But her innate quality of blushing, fresh-faced loveliness made it seem practically typecasting, and she played the role with perfect comic timing, and when she appeared post makeover in the climax getting hot and bothered with her co-star, she achieved some kind of pop immortality. You’re The One That I Want was a global international hit and remains the fifth best selling single of all time in the UK.
The success of Grease pushed her to some bolder choices. For many, the ultimate Newton-John pop song is probably Physical from 1981. The production is pure soft-rock eighties, with a slinky, horn and guitar-laden groove reminiscent of Hall & Oates, whilst a seductive Newton-John insists “let’s get physical/Let’s get animal/Let me hear your body talk”.
The playful video of a leotard-clad, headband-sporting Newton-John driving a gym full of buffed-up semi-naked men to distraction was deemed too sexy for MTV, but it didn’t stop the track spending 10 weeks at number one in the US. And while her follow-up film role in the musical fantasy Xanadu was a box office flop, its worth investigating it for her roller disco title song with ELO.