“Let me hear your body talk.”
Olivia Newton-John‘s “Physical” video came out in 1981, the same year MTV aired its very first music video, the Buggles‘ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It’s also the year Newton-John began a 10-week run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, culminating with Billboard ranking it the top single of 1982.
The ’80s in general saw a boom in fitness culture — with famous workout tapes from Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons — and, of course, the release of “Great Shape” Barbie. Considering that bit of pop-culture history, let’s revisit the music video that celebrates fitness, as we pump [clap] you up.
The video celebrates the male form, and there are plenty of bodies in motion and speedos to go around. Then there’s Olivia, sweatband and all, pulling you into the world of health and fitness with her come-hither glances. And suddenly, the room is filled with men who are out of shape.
Not in the mood to exercise? That’s OK. Olivia can whip you into peak physique faster than you can do five reps of bicep curls. Sure, her methods are unconventional, but rub that belly bulge and you’ll have flat, washboard abs in no time. By the end of the video, even Olivia can’t contain her surprise and marvels at her work — but when she seeks out a tennis partner, all the hot guys “play for the other team.”
Yes, in those days, even a hint of bromance (two men seen holding hands) raised red flags on MTV, which often cut the video short on the air, and some broadcasters banned it altogether. Seems downright silly when considering today’s videos. Though silliness is what makes this video what it is today too.