I was in love with her before I ever saw her. It happened in 1973 when I spinning records at my first radio job out of college. The station was so crappy it didn’t have a format. We just played whatever free records came in the mail. A typical hour could include everything from Perry Como to Elvis to Gordon Lightfoot to Merle Haggard to Barry White.
One day, among the 45’s that arrived was one on the MCA label by an artist with three names—Olivia Newton-John. It was titled “Let Me Be There.” Well, I was so tired of playing the same stuff all the time I tossed it on the turntable without even listening to it first.
That’s not really smart because Olivia Newton-John could have been the pseudonym for a guy named Ferociously Fierce-Frank who sang “I Beat Iguanas” but we had no listeners except three guys who worked in the hardware store so the risk wasn’t high. Even the boss didn’t listen.
Well, from the first note of the vocal I was swooning. Hey, I was 21, making $1.85 an hour as a DJ and getting horny over an unknown singer was totally on point. As the song ended I opened the mic and actually said, to human people, “Oh Olivia..what I wouldn’t give ya!. You may already have deduced my radio career was not distinguished.
But yeah, I became fan. The 45 in the photo is one of the freebies we got in 1975– “Have You Never Been Mellow.” I was at a different station by then and by then the lovely Olivia was becoming a big star.
My wife and I scored tickets to her concert at the Syracuse War Memorial. We doubled with one of my colleagues and his wife. He thought Olivia singing romantic pop songs would be a nice touch as an anniversary present. The show was great. Olivia bounced around the stage in a pink party dress, wearing shiny, silvery boots. I guess my colleague’s wife wasn’t impressed. Within days she left him for the kids’ school bus driver.
I guess she honestly didn’t love him…anymore.
I got out of radio way back in 1979 but remained a fan of Olivia Newton-John. No, I never bought any of her records until last year. It was right after reading her memoirs. She was quite frank about her long battle with cancer. She was realistic about the prognosis but always hopeful.
Shortly after that we were in an antique mall that also sold used records. There was a beat up copy of her album that featured “Let Me Be There,” the first song I ever heard her sing when I spun it on that old turntable so many years ago and fell for that voice. I took it home and placed it on my own turntable, listened to that song replete with all the pops and clicks that come with an old vinyl platter abused by its original owner. It sounded perfect to me. It always will. Olivia, what I wouldn’t give ya…for those memories you gave me. RIP.