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A 1978 Olivia Newton-John, ABBA, and Andy Gibb Concert in Stereo

A 1978 Olivia Newton-John, ABBA, and Andy Gibb Concert in Stereo

Music, Television

Olivia Newton-John TV Special 1978

I was doing some research yesterday and happened upon something wonderful: a 19-minute mini concert, the final segment from the eponymous 1978 Olivia Newton-John ABC special posted on YouTube by its original sound engineer (who goes by the name ArgoWho —check out his amazing videos). Here’s the best part: he remixed the entire segment in stereo.  So here’s a chance to hear lovely Livvy (in exceptional voice, I may add) and her compadres, ABBA and Andy Gibb, singing some of their biggest hits live.  It’s a veritable time capsule of pop music, circa 1978 as all three artists were at the apex of their popularity.

Andy Gibb sings “(Love is) Thicker Than Water,” “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” and a blistering “Shadow Dancing.”  ABBA definitely had the songs (“Fernando,” “Dancing Queen” and, best of all, “Take a Chance on Me”) but, in my opinion, Frida and Agnetha really lacked charisma; the camera is ambivalent about them and it’s hard to stay focused on the Swedish songbirds.  I kept wondering where Olivia was during their songs.

Olivia Newton-John, "Olivia!" 1978

Olivia, on the other hand, is every inch the winsome chanteuse in all of her luminous Grease-era glory.  Among others songs, she sings “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “If You Love Me (Let Me Know),” and just about the best-sung version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” that you will ever hear.  She is a generous hostess, ceding the spotlight to her co-stars.  As usual, her perfectly feathered hair alone is enough to engage Stargayzing readers (I was particularly fascinated by the slight asymmetry of the prominent curl near her right ear.)

Here is what the sound engineer who posted the video had to say in his YouTube introduction to the video.  I am very grateful to him for the audio insight and for sharing the piece.  Oh!  And definitely take his advice and watch the clip with headphones.  It makes a big difference.

ONE OF A KIND – FIRST GENERATION AUDIO. This is the concert segment IN TRUE STEREO from the 1978 special “Olivia!” Just prior to shooting this segment with a live orchestra, the audio guy asked if I would like a stereo feed of the sound. Of course I said yes and fed two three-quarter inch VCRs with the special feed. Stereo TV was not available widely until the mid-1980s. After completion of the special, I manually synced the 2″ master of the show to my ¾” master and, voila, a stereo version of the concert with Andy Gibb, ABBA, and Olivia! Shot just days before it aired, the ABC-TV special “Olivia!” was the marathon of all television specials I edited while in Hollywood. For 36 nonstop hours, director Steve Binder (my all time favorite) and the post-production crew dashed toward an unbelievable deadline and beat it. This is the entire concert segment. The air version begins at 3:01 and ends prior to “Thank you for the Music” (which was used for closing credits). Please select 480p and full screen (and don’t forget headphones!); the quality is matchless!

More Olivia Newton-John:

“Now That I’m Here, Now That You’re Near!” In Praise of Olivia Newton-John’s Wretched/Wonderful Xanadu

Eating With The Stars: Just In Time For Those “Summer Nights”: Olivia Newton-John’s Tamaramma Tuna Salad

#TBT: Totally Hot! Olivia Newton-John’s “A Little More Love” from 1978

Songs That Should Have Been Top-Ten Hits, Volume 4: The Elton John Edition