Summer, 1978

Imagen 1Grease

Why was it so consuming? “I saw it three times like everybody else. It was a rite of passage,” explains Murphy Williams, arts editor of Esquire. “That moment when Olivia Newton John has been transformed and takes the cigarette out of her mouth and squashes it under her high heels was saying that innocence should become wanton. It was something we all aspired to. Grease was like Live Aid in that it reached across the world and was kind of a happy love-in. No matter your traumas, in Grease the sun kept shining.”

The waves kept rolling, unwanted pregnancies were a false alarm, we would be together forever and if everything else went wrong there was always fast food. Grease was glamorous – a far cry from Grange Hill, the British take on the high school experience which started the same year. With Grange Hill we waited at least five years for the first snog, in Grease it happened in the opening sequence. The number of British slumber parties rose exponentially. We all started wafting our letters with perfume and we listened to that double album over and over again. Was there a girl in the country who didn’t have a dance routine to “You’re the One that I Want”?

It had everything that the teen audience wanted: tears, laughter and sex. “There isn’t a subtext,” admits Lesley Felperin, deputy editor of Sight and Sound, who recently returned to Grease in the course of book research. “The film isn’t subtle enough to have a subtext; it’s all there on the surface. The songs are catchy and there was a huge tie-in marketing campaign at the time to catch the teenage imagination.” Felperin fancied Kenickie rather than Travolta, which was rather sophisticated of her. Who you fancied or admired in the film said a lot about you. Liking Rizzo was evidence of toughness; Sandra fans were way behind.

There are those that say that compared with the other themes around at the time – punk and political activism – the message of Grease was a bit fluffy. Nigel Andrews, Financial Times film critic and author of the new biography John Travolta: A Life, explains why Grease was just what everybody needed. “It was the beginning of a weird intermission. America had gone through a period of tearing at its conscience with Vietnam and Watergate and this was a weird primal escapism. People were sick of worry. They wanted to have a good time. John Travolta was this iconic symbol that was only into his own self-fulfilment. It was all made in great seriousness [the original stage play was a hard story for tough kids] but it became more and more camp.”

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Lyrics: Summer Nights

Summer loving had me a blast ohh yeah
Summer loving happened so fast
I met a girl crazy for me
Met a boy cute as can be

Summer days drifting away
To, uh oh, those summer nights

Mmm ha ha mmm ha ha mmm ha ha
Tell me more, tell me more
Did you get very far?
Tell me more, tell me more
Like does he have a car?

She swam by me, she got a cramp
He ran by me, got my suit damp
I saved her life, she nearly drowned
He showed off, splashing around

Summer sun, something’s begun
But, oh, oh, the summer nights

Tell me more, tell me more
Was it love at first sight?
Tell me more, tell me more
Did she put up a fight?

Took her bowling in the Arcade
We went strolling, drank lemonade
We made out under the dock
We stayed up ‘till ten o’clock

Summer fling, don’t mean a thing
But, oh, oh, the summer nights

Well-a well-a well-a huh
Tell me more, tell me more
But you don’t gotta brag
Tell me more, tell me more
‘Cause he sounds like a drag

He got friendly, holding my hand
She got friendly down in the sand
He was sweet just turned eighteen
Well, she was good you know what I mean

Summer heat, boy and girl meet
But, oh, oh, the summer nights

Tell me more, tell me more
How much dough did he spend?
Tell me more, tell me more
Could she get me a friend?

It turned colder, that’s where it ends
So I told her we’d still be friends
Then we made our true love vow
Wonder what she’s doing now

Summer dreams ripped at the seams
But, oh, oh, those summer nights
Tell me more, tell me more




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