We’ve covered the men. We’ve covered the women. We’ve even covered a few people who run somewhere in the middle. But we have yet to cover the male-female Mellow Duet – and that’s what we’re going to tackle on this week’s Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!
Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard – Suddenly (download)
Hey, where’s everybody goin’?
Listen, before you start unplugging the computer from the wall, remember this: I can’t promise you amazing songs every week. Hell, I can’t even promise you mediocre songs weekly. Mellow Gold is like sticking a hot poker in your eye: even when it’s good, it’s still pretty bad. For every “Smoke From A Distant Fire,” you have an “I’ve Never Been To Me,” and for every “Moonlight Feels Right,” you have a “Suddenly.” Take your Mellow Gold lumps like a true wuss, wouldja?
Besides, I had to cover this song. It was on my iPod (I swear, I have no idea how it got there!), and as it finished…I played it again. And again. And again. I’m not saying that “Suddenly” is a good song, by any means. Something just attracts me to it. It’s a car-accident song, without a doubt.
So let’s talk a bit about our two equally smooth singers, although I don’t really need to say much, do I? Olivia Newton-John: huge celebrity, both as an actress and a singer. In 1980, she was still glowing from the massive success of Grease. Cliff Richard: immensely successful artist in the UK, moderately successful artist in the US. In 1980, Cliff was enjoying a resurgence on the UK charts after a number of years where he focused on gospel music. Americans probably don’t know that Cliff Richard has had more #1 hits in the UK, other than Elvis Presley and The Beatles. This guy was big (and still does pretty well, but that’s another story).
In 1980, Olivia Newton-John starred in Xanadu.
I’m really not going to say much about Xanadu. I’ll leave that to you in the comments, if you like. For starters, I haven’t seen it. Enough people have told me about it that I’m pretty sure I don’t need it entering my brain. Plus, I saw Two Of A Kind a number of times, and that was pretty much enough for cruddy Olivia Newton-John movies. Suffice it to say that the movie is that of legend, now; a colossal box-office failure and a waste of Gene Kelly that has now somehow not only become a cult favorite, but will appear on Broadway sometime this year.
The soundtrack, however, was a different matter: Xanadu, The Not-As-Shitty-As-The-Movie Soundtrack reached #4 and scored five Top 20 hits. The soundtrack, conceptually, was interesting: side A belonged to Olivia, and side B belonged to Electric Light Orchestra. (Wha?) Granted, I know about as much about ELO as I know about Xanadu, so again, my comments section is always open for tangential discussion. The soundtrack included our Mellow hit, as well as the title track and Magic, a #1 single.
“Suddenly” was written by John Farrar, who was Olivia’s longtime musical partner, doing much of the writing and producing for her big hits, including “You’re The One That I Want,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” and yes – “Have You Never Been Mellow” (which some might suggest is a better choice, but shit, I’ve written this much and can’t stop now). Farrar also knew Cliff Richard, having not only been a backng guitarist and vocalist for the singer, but was also a member of Cliff’s former group, The Shadows.
As for Cliff and Olivia, their connection dated back to the early ’70s when she regularly appeared on his variety show; as a matter of fact, Cliff’s first duet with a woman was with Olivia, in their 1972 telefilm The Case. “Suddenly” was their first charting duet together, and the lowest of the charting tracks from Xanadu. It only made it to #20, but it did reach #4 on AC. And AC, friends, is where Mellow Gold lies.
So have you listened to “Suddenly” lately, and if so, have you wondered if maybe Farrar had a crush on the Gibb brothers? “Suddenly” is, essentially, another Top 20 hit for the Bee Gees. Think about it. Actually, no, don’t think about it. Listen to it. Doesn’t Cliff Richard sound like a Gibb, especially that low, breathy vocal in the beginning of the song? Those gentle acoustic guitars playing through some weird effects pedal, the gentle keyboard and synth strings…has anybody called Barry about a lawsuit?
It’s true that I love me some Gibb, and for a while, I was thinking that maybe this was the reason I was so drawn to this number. But upon further reflection (and why anybody would spend this much time on anything from Olivia Newton-John is beyond me), I know what it is.
Suddenly, the wheels are in motion
I’m ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
I’m ready to take all my chances with yooooou
There is something so guilty-pleasure awesome about the way Cliff and Olivia made a conscious choice to completely obliterate the word “I,” and the way they go all staccato on the penultimate syllable. I feel like a complete idiot for spending this much time on this one line (which, by the way, took me five minutes to spell). But it’s clearly the focus of the entire song. If you were to try and describe “Suddenly” to someone, what part would you sing? At what point would they go, “Oh! I know what you’re talking about, and I don’t think we can be friends anymore”? It’s right here! The breathy part! Here at the corner of Gibb and Vagina!
So it’s all because of that one part that I listen to this song over and over again. I sing it, too. Out loud. Both parts. I take turns. Sometimes I feel more like Cliff than Olivia. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, and then I go searching for the outfit she’s wearing in the above photo. Have I-ah-ah-HA-ha said too much?
The only thing better/worse/better again than listening to “Suddenly” is watching it. This is my favorite version, from some German “Hooray For Hollywood” TV special. I always think it’s going to turn into a porno, and it doesn’t, which is disappointing.
Then there’s this version, an awkward roller-skating scene from the movie which, oddly, kinda makes me want to see the whole film. Olivia reportedly fractured her tailbone during the filming of this number.
If you really like the song and want to hear it with a full orchestra (oh, the majesty!):
And finally, this one makes me laugh, mainly just because Cliff Richard is such a dramatic tool, especially when he’s lip-syncing.
And there you have it. Way too much space devoted to a mediocre song that I can’t turn off. Hopefully it does the same for you. And if not, there’s always next week! See you soon for another Adventure through the Mines Of Mellow Gold!