Although a concert tour wasn't something she had planned to do at that time, or was even keen to do, when the Physical album exceeded 10 million sales, and the single placed her at number one in Billboard's single chart for ten weeks, and became the equal second longest chart-topper in US pop history behind Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog, she knew it was time to hit the road, for what would turn out to be the biggest and most successful tour of her career. Most of the dates across North America were staged in large stadiums and arenas and were pretty much sold out, but the one that attracted the largest audience, and had fans going mad for tickets was at the open air CNE Grandstand in Toronto on the 26 August 1982. For author Darlene L'Archeveque, then a 17 year old fan who had travelled on a Greyhound bus for three solid days from one side of Canada to the other, it was, she wrote in her award-winning book, A World of Good, one of the most magical moments of her life! Having been a fan since she first heard Have You Never Been Mellow seven years before, she couldn't believe she was now in the same place at the same time as Olivia.
"There were thousands and thousands of people just like me there waiting to see Olivia. We were all there for the same reason. Suddenly, loud crisp music began to play and the crowd burst into cheers. Flashes from the camera bulbs played with my vision. A giant video screen played a retrospective of Olivia's career from her Country days, to Grease and Totally Hot, to Xanadu, Cliff Richard, and then, Physical. The response from the crowd was deafening. Just when l thought it couldn't get any louder, from out of nowhere, Olivia appeared! I clapped along but I was as so captivated by the sight of her that I preferred to stand and take it all in. The atmosphere was spectacular. Even from a distance Olivia looked absolutely radiant."
Equally excited was Brad Gelfond, then a young agent, who was involved in the booking of the tour, and spent a lot of his time on the road with the tour. "There was something really thrillingly excellent about being in the arena when the lights go down, and the fans start screaming for the artist. When the artist arrives on stage, it’s the greatest moment. I learned a lot about representing big, popular clients through working with Olivia. The coolest thing for me was that they were traveling by private jet. That meant that they would be based in a centrally located spot, like Atlanta, Nashville or Dallas, for a week or so, and on the afternoons of the shows, the touring party would hop in limousines to the airport. The plane would take off when we got there, and we would fly for about an hour to the next city, get limousines there, and then go to the backstage area of the arena. After the show, before the lights were even on in the arena, we would be in the limos on our way to the airport, then flying back to the city we were based in." Not that was always the case. In Toronto for instant, Olivia stayed overnight, in her tour bus, which also doubled up as a dressing room in certain cities that the tour visited.
With the success of the Physical TV special and video release the previous year, and the album now being in the Top Ten albums of the decade, it was no surprise that she became obligated to providing footage for a TV Special and video release of the tour. That footage was filmed during two shows at the Weber State University in Ogden at Utah on the 12th and 13th October, which to many seemed an odd choice as it was the very same city where two radio stations had banned Physical for its suggestive lyrics, but perhaps that was intended as a statement of just how popular Olivia and her #1 song had become. The final edit for the TV special and subsequent video release of the concert, with added special effects and several songs and video interludes cut from her 90 minute set, was first shown on BBC1 in the the UK as a 60 minute special on 21 December 1982, one week before Grease had it's first UK TV airing on the same channel. In the States, HBO premiered the 90 minute version on 23 January 1983, as Olivia: Live in Concert, and later released on both VHS and Laserdisc by MCA Home Video. As expected the TV special was quickly snapped up for worldwide distribution and ended up being shown on most television networks across the world, as well as being released on VHS video in most international territories. The project was another roaring success the world over, winning awards and accolades and added yet another dimension to what had now become the most successful period in Olivia's career. In Britain it was supported with the release of a new 20 track Greatest Hits compilation and a single featuring a remixed I Honestly Love You and an extended live version of Physical.
|Olivia with her 1982 tour crew, rig truck and bus. Photo by Michael Landau|
Since the album had been released I had collected a stack of promo material from EMI, for my own private collection, as well as providing me with all the necessary material to create some visuals for my art portfolio to illustrate my graphic design abilities in my attempts to get bigger and better artwork gigs! I produced a tour book cover, an EMI Records ad and a backstage pass, simply to have her in my portfolio! Unbeknown to me at the time, they would provide me with enough material to show Arthur what I was capable of as a graphic designer. But that was before I had seen the tour book that Arthur showed me in his office and told me to take home to take a closer look at it to give me some ideas. When l looked at it, it completely blew me away, simply because it was so arty, creative and imaginative, and was something I felt I couldn't have bettered or even equaled! To me, it was light years away from the kind of tour book I had been doing at that time, which was simple tour book design for the likes of such artists as Frankie Laine, Rita Coolidge and Glen Campbell. Olivia's tour book was what I called the top end of the pop market, the kind that bands like Bananarama were producing.
Back in those days, of drawing board graphics, and being pretty much a newbie in that field, I was still some years away from doing tours for the likes of Elkie Brooks, Chris Rea and Elaine Paige! I think that is when I realised I couldn't better it, and had Olivia toured the UK, as was being planned at that time, Roger Davies Management would have simply done the customary thing and sent the U.S artwork to the British promoter for the appointed merchandiser to change things like the itinerary, tour credits, discography, update the programme notes to reflect her career in the UK, and change the album page from her MCA catalogue to her British EMI releases, so I realised pretty quickly that all I could hope to get out of it was maybe artworking some of those changes, and perhaps designing a poster, newspaper ads, and backstage passes! Back then, before I was a writer, I was chasing several ideas for my Artsleeves design studio, all of which included designing for Elvis, Blondie and Dr Hook, and along with Olivia, I did in fact have mock up visuals for all those artists in my portfolio! What haunted me in early 1983 was the fact that this was likely to be the last time Olivia would tour for some years, so it was the perfect opportunity and my best chance yet of getting my foot in the door, so to speak, despite the fact that it was at that time, out of my graphic design expertise. Having Olivia in my portfolio was a perfect artist to have among my mock ups to show tour promoters, merchandisers and record companies, but like with my ideas for the Elvis, Dr Hook and Blondie album covers, nothing came out of it! Call it timing, inexperience or just unfortunate, but I was chasing something I wasn't quite ready for.
When Physical came out in 1981, the album not only transformed her but also her fans, of which I was one, and had been since seeing her live at the Brighton Dome in 1971. It was like we had all suddenly been given permission to get physical from an artist who was thought of as a miss goody-two-shoes but actually wasn't. By her own admittance she regarded herself too old to be innocent. It was like she was duplicating her own coming of age and was telling a generation of musical virgins to lose their virginity to her album! The impact that the album, the tour, the TV specials and videograms made on me and a whole generation of Olivia and music fans was truly amazing to witness. You couldn't walk into a store in 1981 and not hear the album being played over the loudspeaker system, or see the VHS showing on TV screens that some shops had set up in their stores! Olivia and Physical was everywhere! She was the hottest name in music! More so than she had been in her entire career. And I wanted to be part of it, but sadly for me, there was nothing to be part of!
|Olivia during tour rehearsals with Dennis Tuffano|
Four years later, I got a taste of what meeting Olivia could have been like, when I designed the tour book for the 1987 Elaine Paige UK tour, and had to take the artboards for Elaine to approve where she was rehearsing at the Nomis Studios in London. After we had been through the artwork page by page, I was invited to stay and watch her run through her show with just her basic band! To be in a tiny studio and observe Elaine sing live, just yards in front of me, was in the words of Olivia's 1980 hit, magic! Although I had listened to Elaine many times on record, nothing prepared me for how powerful her voice would be in person in such an intimate setting. Simply put, it was out of this world and to use an overused cliche, literally blew me away! I imagine that is exactly how I would have felt had I watched Olivia run through the set list for her Physical tour if she had brought it to the UK and had I got the gig!
With thanks to Darlene L'Archeveque for the scans from her private collection of the Toronto Star cutting, Michael Landau's tour crew photo and her after show guest sticker, and to Sabrine Korsel for allowing me to use the rehearsal shot she posted on the Official Olivia Facebook group, and to Bri Leic for the audience recording of Olivia's concert in Oakland on 10 October 1982.