Olivia, Andy Gibb and ABBA Sing in 1978 Jam Session

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It was May 1978. Olivia Newton-John, four months shy of her 30th birthday, had already earned five Top 5 singles in the U.S. And after a three-year gap of modest successes, she was about to return to the top of the chart with “You’re the One That I Want,” her duet with John Travolta from their upcoming movie musical, Grease, which would open one month later, on June 16. Andy Gibb, who had just turned 20, was well on his way to becoming the year’s biggest music sensation. His single, “Shadow Dancing,” would soon become his third straight #1 single within 12 months and his album of the same name had just been released. And then there were ABBA, who after achieving success throughout Europe, had finally conquered America two years earlier with the chart-topping “Dancing Queen.”

This package of stars appeared on May 17 on Olivia, a TV special directed by Steve Binder for “a sensational hour of fun, music and entertainment” that aired on ABC. Each of the stars’ music was featured including the host’s “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” and “Have You Never Been Mellow,” Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” and ABBA’s “Fernando” and “Take a Chance On Me,” which was climbing the chart. In many cases, the guests accompanied each other on their songs. It was filmed at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles in front of a studio audience just days before it aired during “ABBA Month,” a promotional blitz devised by Atlantic Records and ABBA’s management.

Olivia Newton-John singing on the Olivia 1978 TV special

The highlight of the program was a jam session with the six performers sitting in the round while chatting and singing such songs as the Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Barbara Ann” (with Newton-John delightfully clowning), Gibb leading the ensemble to sing his brothers 1967 hit, “Holiday,” and even Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock,” an homage, perhaps, to Binder’s having directed the King’s legendary comeback special in Burbank ten years earlier. Inexplicably, ABBA’s Anni-Frid shows off her vocal range with a portion of the opera The Barber of Seville.

Watch many of the other performances of some of the stars’ big hits

Related: The #1 singles of 1978

ABBA on Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Blvd.

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. Jeff H. - Tulsa
    #1 Jeff H. - Tulsa 29 May, 2023, 13:22

    Thanks for these great 1978 memories! Yes, you could say…our times have changed a bit over the years. So very sad about Andy later on.

    Reply this comment
  2. Jer
    #2 Jer 29 May, 2023, 14:10

    This article shows true respect for Dame Olivia. Perfect.

    Reply this comment

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