Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Frankie Valli, “Grease”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Frankie Valli, “Grease”

36 years ago today, the once and future frontman for the Four Seasons took a song written by the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb and rode it all the way to the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100.

Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, Grease arrived on the big screen with director Randal Kleiser at the helm, but its theme song was a new addition to the production, as was “You’re the One That I Want.” As it happens, Kleiser wasn’t a fan of either of ‘em, owing to the fact that they didn’t match up with the ‘50s style or lyrics of the existing songs, but given that both tracks ended up hitting #1, one has to presume that there weren’t a lot of complains coming from the studio or the record label.

Ah, but here’s a fact about “Grease” that you may not know: the song features guitar work from none other than Peter Frampton. As the recording sessions for the track took place not so terribly long after the filming of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it’s reasonable to presume that Frampton got the gig through his connection with Barry Gibb, which is how the song came to feature additional instrumentation from musicians who’d been playing at the time with Barry’s brother, Andy.

In addition to its spot on the soundtrack, “Grease” also leads off Frankie Valli’s 1978 album, Frankie Valli…Is The Word, which finds Valli riding the disco train as far as he possibly can, but you can’t really argue with the guy’s decision to do so: given that “Grease” remains his most recent #1 hit, the greater shame is that he hasn’t been able to jump onto any other musical trends since then.