All right, let me stop all you young ‘uns right there — 1980’s Xanadu is not a great movie, a lost treasure, or an overlooked masterpiece of fun. It’s a dreadful film, downright boring in parts, somewhat laughable in others, but not quite laughable enough to deserve the “campy cult classic” tag it’s earned through the years. But the soundtrack — well, it was stellar enough to keep the brand alive for nearly 30 years and even give the film new life as an intentionally campy Broadway musical in 2007. We all know the Olivia Newton-John hits and ELO classics from the album, but one number is my favorite, and it’s my pick for quite possibly the first mash-up ever.
“Dancin'” (download) was the unlikely fusion of Newton-John doing her best multitracked Andrew Sisters imitation and a newly new-wave Tubes, ditching their arena art-rock pretensions for a stab at stadium-pop glory. Starting off as a big-band swing number, “Dancin'” segues into a borderline date-rape ode to having “it all my way,” with a kick-ass vocal from Fee Waybill. Predating the Tubes’ Top 40 aspirations with David Foster (hi, Terje!), “Dancin'” provided listeners with a road map of where the band was headed — minus the swing, of course.
While never released as a single, the Tubes and Olivia lip-synched the number on a memorable, all-Xanadu edition of The Midnight Special that asked the question “If one Olivia is hot, how about three?”
When it came time for the Broadway version of Xanadu, “Dancin'” made the cut, albeit in a truncated version. Here’s someone’s balcony recording:
The Tubes sent a signal to older fans that they were a new band at the dawn of a new decade. What better way to announce your intention to sell out than by being featured on a big-budget movie soundtrack with Olivia Freaking Newton-John, plus play yourselves in the movie? One short year later the band would finally score their first Top 40 hit with the schmaltz fest “I Don’t Wanna Wait Anymore.” But I won’t hold that against them — “Dancin'” proved that while Xanadu‘s filmmakers didn’t quite get camp, the Tubes were winking at us all the way to the bank.
“Dancin'” did not chart.
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