Grease was the word in 1978, and 40 years later it still is for Barry Gibb. The Bee Gees legend, who famously penned the title track to the blockbuster John Travolta-Olivia Newton John musical recently revealed that the demo tape from his original song had been unearthed by Universal/Capital four decades after he recorded it.
While the title track to Grease was performed by Frankie Valli for the film, Barry Gibb sang on the demo version shortly after he wrote it all those years ago. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gibb said he remembers making the recording but doesn’t remember hearing it ever again. Gibb also revealed that when Grease producer Robert Stigwood called him to ask him to write a title song for the movie, he was confused as to how he could incorporate the word “Grease” into it.
“How do you write a song called ‘Grease’? I don’t understand what direction I would take to do that,” Barry told EW. “But I understood that they really wanted something that was positive and sunny.”
Gibb recalled that he wrote the song after walking out on the dock at his home in Miami on Biscayne Bay.
“And so I went out on the dock and walked around thinking, Well, Grease is symbolic of that period with the Greasers and all that. And it’s really my period. My favorite time is the late ’50s. And so it suddenly occurred to me to write about Grease as a word because it represented a time. So Grease became the word.”
The song took about two hours to write—and the rest is movie history. You can hear Barry Gibb’s original “Grease” demo below.
Of the decision to have Frankie Valli record the song for the movie, Gibb, who had just come off of a starring role with his brothers Maurice and Robin in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remake, said they needed someone like the Four Seasons frontman to fill the bill for the 1950s themed flick.
“They needed someone who was relevant in the period the movie is set in. And there was really no choice. Frankie Valli is probably my favorite pop singer of all time,” Barry told EW. “So it was an instant choice. The question was: Could we get him to do it?”
Frankie Valli didn’t have to be convinced to perform “Grease.” But he did reveal that he wondered if Barry Gibb would have given the song to him had he known it would become such a massive radio hit. In 1978, “Grease” hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts and sold more than a half a million copies in the U.K.
According to Express, during an appearance on the U.K. morning show On This Morning, Valli said ” I was a big fan of the Bee Gees for a very long time, and Barry Gibb and I had talked many times about doing something together…I had a call from Barry and he said, ‘I wrote this song, it’s perfect for you’. He sent it over and I listened to it and I loved it.”
But Valli added: “But I think if he knew the magnitude of that song and what it would be, I probably never would have got it.”
You can hear Frankie Valli’s version of “Grease” from the 1978 movie below.
Paramount’s Grease 40th anniversary edition 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital is available now.