The early 80s might have been the time when wearing sports/dance clothes became something you would do even if you didn’t play sport or train as a dancer. In the early 80s a few pop culture events coincided. In chronological order these “things” would be Fame (1980), Fame – TV series (1982-1987), Jane Fonda’s Workout (1982), Let’s Get Physical – Olivia Newton-John (1982), Wired for Sound – Cliff Richard (1982), and Flashdance (1983).

In 1982 Physical was number one in New Zealand for one week.

I'm so hot I glow

The video for Physical makes this song appear to be “cleverly” getting away with talking about having sex by pretending to talk about something else, but is actually just talking about having sex in a very upfront way.

I took you to an intimate restaurant
Then to a suggestive movie
There’s nothing left to talk about
Unless it’s horizontally

Let’s get physical, physical
I wanna get physical
Let’s get into physical
Let me hear your body talk, your body talk
Let me hear your body talk

Which is (a) quite an unusual lyric for a woman to sing, and (b) not at all about aerobics.  This makes it a very radical song. Since somebody first screamed wopbopalubopawopbamboo rock and roll has been pretending it’s not talking about sex.  This song just talks about sex, and then tries to get away with it by doing a cheeky little video.

The whole video is “fun” when you watch it, and confusing as hell if you think about it.  Here are a series of images to ponder.


Really?  You want that?  As a metaphor for a penis this is about as hard-core as you could get Olivia.


Ok, at least I could see where you were coming from in picture one, but this is just flat-out weird. 


No comment.


Laughing at fat people is so much fun.


After humiliating some fat people Olivia likes to take a sexy shower.

While taking a sexy shower the fatties in the gym magic into flexing hotties.


Look at her face.  Like a kid in a candy store.


Did I say sexy hotties?  I meant sexy, gay hotties.

Firstly, why are these men only wearing their underpants?  Is this why people looked at me funny the one and only time I belonged to a gym?  Was it because I was wearing clothes?  I had assumed it was because I was pudgy, pimply, myopic git, but it was probably because I wasn’t wearing briefs.

Secondly, watching the dudes run off together after being ogled by Olivia makes me wish more ridiculous rap videos would end with all the hotties in hot pants wandering off together and leaving the idiotic rap star playing with his jewellery.

Thirdly, WTF?


Olivia, this is never going to last.  Sure, there might be some fun sexual humiliation games for a while, but then you’ll get bored and want to move on.  Also, he wears his pants too high.

In Conclusion

I think what happened here was an accidental feminist/gay pride video, which really is an unusual accident.  I would tell you more but there are no Olivia Newton-John books in my local library so I can’t.  Apparently her song was banned by some radio stations because it was too sexy.  “Body talk” was deemed objectionable.  I also find it objectionable, but mainly because I think of people farting when I hear it.

17 thoughts on “Physical”

  1. Aside from the great topic you’ve selected today, I really appreciated the historical set-up for this song/video — all the things intersecting in pop culture. It really was a weird time, what with the legwarmers, torn sweatshirts and stirrup pants suddenly being the hot fashion to wear both in and out of the gym. Sweat never looked so good.

    Body talk reminds me of when my brother used to stick his hand inside his t-shirt and make his armpit “talk”. Sexy, sexy, sexy.

  2. Damn… I have to say I’m disappointed by Olivia’s attitude toward fat blokes. She totally leads that one guy on. Or maybe she’s a chubby chaser??

    Either, there’s nothing quite like sweaty headbands and 80’s hairstyles to get you in the mood.

  3. I think we can all be grateful that they went down the exercise video path and didn’t do a more literal interpretation of the lyrics.

  4. My eldest daughter has a whole langauge that involves body talk. Sometimes she does pieces of Shakespeare.

  5. I know! They have multiple Cliff Richard biographies, and nothing on Olivia. Ridiculous.

  6. I love the whole section where she bullies the out of shape guys. Such a nice thing to do. Why is she doing it? What did they do to her?

  7. I was 7 when this video came out. It seem even remotely sexual. It was just Olivia Newton John doing some fitness and singing a song about fitness.

    Then I watched it a few years ago and I was shocked. I even wondered if I was seeing a sexy director’s cut, but no. That’s what I watched in 1982. I guess my brain wasn’t yet hard wired with rudeness.

  8. Apparently MTV used to fade out the video before the guys started wandering off together.

    I mostly missed the sexual and gender bending content of the 80s (who knows how damaged we all are be people like Olivia).

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