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Olivia Newton John – Twist of Fate

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Think back to a time when you teamed up with someone at work and it turned out to be unexpectedly brilliant. For most of us that amounts to doing a presentation where PowerPoint actually works, but for Olivia Newton John and John Travolta it involved the most successful musical film of all time and some of the most enduring hits ever recorded. Yes, Grease is a fully fledged cultural behemoth, beloved by millions around the world. And because it made a ton of cash, the temptation to do it again was always going to be irresistible. But just like that second presentation where you discover you’d caught your colleague on their one good day, disaster was inevitable. May I present to you the horror of Two of a Kind.

You can imagine the meetings that led to this horrendous outcome: “Gosh, Olivia and John really have some good chemistry going don’t they? Look how the world reacted when the only thing at stake was prom night? What if the entire PLANET was at risk? We can’t fail!” And so one of the worst films ever made was given the green light.

In Two of a Kind John and Olivia play entirely unpleasant characters (he’s a failed inventor turned robber, she’s a dishonest bank teller) upon whose actions rest the fate of the globe – if they don’t do the right thing God will rain down fire and brimstone. Twenty minutes in you are literally willing the planet to explode – either in the film or in real life, whichever will end your misery soonest.

The one saving grace is of course the soundtrack, because by 1983 Olivia Newton John was a finely-tuned hit-making machine, especially in the US: Physical had spent ten weeks at no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually becoming the biggest hit of the entire decade (with Kim CarnesBette Davis Eyes in second place). So even though the movie was a gigantic turkey, you could be sure Olivia was going to emerge from the whole sorry mess with at least another top 10 smash – and in America that’s exactly what happened, with lead single Twist of Fate soaring to no.5:

 
The video may look like Olivia’s wandered onto the set of a particularly expensive episode of Angela Rippon’s Masterteam, but other than that everything about Twist of Fate is perfect. Urgent and insistent, it’s synth-pop with a noticeably beefed-up sound provided by producer David Foster and lyrics that take just under four minutes to give you the gist of a film that takes eighty-eight to do the same job: “It’s gotta be a strange twist of fate/Telling me that heaven can wait/Telling me to get it right this time/Life doesn’t mean a thing/Without the love you bring/Love is what we’ve found/The second time around.”

With domestic box office receipts down a staggering 85% on Grease, it’s fairly clear that most punters preferred the short version – although it did do damage to Olivia’s long-term prospects, as Twist of Fate proved to be her last entry in the US top ten. In the UK we almost completely ignored it – in fact Olivia had last seen the inside of the top 40 in 1982 with Landslide, and she wouldn’t see it again until 1995 and that terrible Cliff Richard duet Had to Be from his best-forgotten attempt at a Wuthering Heights musical. But Twist of Fate is a fine pop song indeed, and is perfect for doing that quite fast wrists-held-out-kick-y sort of dancing you used to see at a lot of school discos. Try it.

Entered chart: 05/11/1983

Chart peak: 57

Weeks on chart: 4

Who could sing this today and have a hit? Who is Olivia’s natural heir? Clean cut, perky, fond of eyeshadow? It can only be Meghan Trainor.

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