Monday, December 10, 2018

Certain Songs #1395: Olivia Newton-John – “A Little More Love” | Medialoper

Album: Totally Hot
Year: 1978


I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before — in the course of 1400 posts, that’s gonna happen — but in the summer of 1978, I got my first job, working as a computer data entry person for the claims adjustment company my dad co-owned. I worked in the “computer room” — basically several terminals all hooked to a gigantic NCR computer, entering data and offering my takes on the programs my dad was writing to capture that data.

How long ago was this? When I first started, people were still smoking at their desks, and it was a huge huge huge deal a couple of years later when smoking got segregated to the break room. It was also during the period where there was music piped quietly throughout the entire company. Not Muzak, but the local “light music” station. Luckily, in the computer room, it was too noisy to hear the piped-in music, so we got our own radio. Unluckily, it was tuned to the top 40 station, KYNO AM, which I had recently outgrown as I turned more towards the hard the older guys on my block were digging.

And of course, as the new guy, and the youngest person in the room by at least a half-decade, I had no say on what that radio was tuned to, so for a couple of years — except when I came in on Saturday mornings and had the place to myself — I got hardcore exposed to the top 40 in a way I hadn’t before or since. And one of the songs that I heard over and over and over was Olivia Newton-John’s “A Little More Love.”

Now, I’d been ignoring Newton-John since her first flush of country crossover top ten singles in 1974 & 1975. I really didn’t have much use for songs like “I Honestly Love You” or “Have You Never Mellow,” and indeed, after that initial burst, her career started faltering.

Then Grease happened.

Maybe Grease wasn’t quite as big as Saturday Night Fever, but it was nearly as inescapable, and it was impossible to ignore the 50’s/disco/showtunes pastiches “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights,” which blasted from that computer room radio over and over and over while both songs. It was also impossible to ignore Newton-John’s transformation from pretty country girl to disco-fueled sexbomb.

I’m assuming that this all put a lot of pressure on her post-Grease singles, where the question was whether or not her new success could translate outside of that context. Of course, I neither knew nor cared about any of this. Instead, I was incredibly confused that she’d put out a single that I, gulp, actually loved. That single, of course, was “A Little More Love.”

Now, gentle reader, something else was happening to me during that autumn of 1978: I was discovering punk rock. I was buying and evangelizing life-changing albums by The Clash, Television, Ramones. The Jam and so forth, so how could I square my love of that with my love of this fucking Olivia Newton-John song, which of course, I kept to myself. 40 years later, it seems silly to worry about secretly enjoying a massive hit single while at the same time trying to explain to everyone in your peer group why “White Riot” is so important.

Part of it, of course, was the relative simplicity of “A Little More Love.” For the most part an incredibly sparse song, built upon classic pop chord changes and leaving lots of wide-open space during the verses. In fact, it’s really only during the pre-chorus where the pop tendency to overstuff things shows up, when 150 Olivias ask the questions:

Would a little more love make you stop depending?
Would a little more love make a happy ending?

But all of that overkill leads to the genius part of “A Little More Love,” because instead of going higher, they pull way way back so the only lead instrument is an jangly guitar while she asks the title question.

Will a little more love make it right?
Will a little more love make it right?

And it’s probably that jangly guitar that did it for me, somehow cutting through the fuzzy mono speaker of that radio in the computer room and digging its way into my pleasure center. The guilty section, of course, but in the intervening years I’ve remodeled so that section doesn’t exist.

Of course, “A Little More Love” was only a hit single for a few months, and my work circumstances eventually changed, as well, so once the song dropped from my life, I was able to pretend like it never even existed, and I was probably even a little relieved when I found myself able to resist future singles like “Xanadu” and “Physical,” though I will admit that I’ve probably underrated her songs, especially after another artist I’ve never really dug, Juliana Hatfield, did an Olivia Newton-John amazing covers album earlier this year.

“A Little More Love”

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