OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN 1971-1985

ONJ51

If You Love Me Let Me Know (J Rostill) and Have You Never Been Mellow (J Farrer) and Please Mr. Please (B Welch/J Rostill) – Olivia Newton-John 1975

The album entitled If You Love Me Let  Me Know, was only released in the USA and Canada, six of the tracks were lifted from Olivia’s Australian album release Long Live Love (#19 in 1974), but the title track by John Rostill was a new song and it continued Olivia’s run of hits.

By the time Olivia had taken  If You Love Me Let Me Know, into the top five in the US she was the top female country-cross-over star of the day, her unique brand of country pop was popular with fans in the US, the song also charted #2 in Australia, and #2 on the US Country charts, making this her biggest country hit. The title of the song is enigmatic and poses an intriguing question that resonated with C&W and pop fans, “If you love me let me know/ If you don’t then let me go/ I can’t take another minute/ Of a day without you in it/ If you love me let it be/ If you don’t then set me free/ Take the chains away/ That keep me loving  you..” The song has a classic country-pop cross – over ambience and was indicative of the diverging paths that Olivia’s career was taking, her album tracks too would also provide further clues as to her future directions, as these included covers of songs by the Beach Boys, Delaney and Bonnie, Gerry Rafferty, and Dr. Hook. The poignant breakup ballad Changes, was written by ONJ, and it captured the grief of a shattered marriage, and the emotional damage inflicted on family members, all cleverly wrapped up in crystalline acoustic guitar riffs and a John Farrar string arrangement.

John Rostill who had written three hits for Olivia, sadly never lived to see them enjoy chart success, as he was apparently electrocuted (suicide was suspected) at his home in November 1973, found by his former bandmate Bruce Welch, when he visited Rostill’s home for a music session.ONJ52Olivia Newton-John’s fourth album was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London with John Farrar producing the sessions and writing Have You Never Been Mellow, the title track, which was the first single released from the album and became ONJ’s second consecutive #1 hit in the USA, a top 10 hit locally and #37 in the UK. The song was a tender, gentle, adult-oriented pop outing which suited Olivia’s delicate, shy, feminine, vocals, the lyrics urge a highly strung Type A person to chill out, and relax, There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are/ I was like you/ There was a day when I just had to tell my point of view/ I was like you/ Now I don’t mean to make you frown/ No, I just want you to slow down/ Have you never been mellow?…” But behind the apparently innocent lyrics there lay a sultry, whispered invitation to relax, that promised something more interesting  than just snoozing. 

No steel guitar was used in the recording, so it was not strictly a country record, but the Americans lapped it up, and the total package of the girl and the song was highly successful throughout North America, and globally it was Olivia’s fourth consecutive million-selling single. The track was also included in the score for Xanadu, the Broadway musical, and has been covered by Livvy’s Aussie mate James Reyne and sampled by the Dutch band Party Animals who took their happy hardcore version of the song to a #1 in the Netherlands in 1996.

Please Mr. Please was a joint composition by Shadows former bass guitarist John Rostill and Olivia’s former fiancée Bruce Welch, the song was inspired by the couple’s painful break-up several years earlier, and the lyrical theme revolved around a jukebox song, that brings back too many painful memories of a lost love, to be played.ONJ54The song begins as an apparent tribute to the jukebox and how one can enjoy a lot of great music for a small price, but instead of continuing along those lines, the song picks up on how some songs on the jukebox can trigger bad memories. This happens when the protagonist—at a pub with friends, trying to get over a just-broken relationship—sees another customer at the jukebox, trying to play “B-17”, which is coded to a song the woman does not want to hear. The lyrics were slightly changed to enable ONJ to sing the song from the perspective of a woman, lamenting the break-up of a relationship.

It was the second single lifted from the album and became a substantial hit for ONJ in the USA where it charted #3, #1 in Canada, #7 in NZ, #35 in Aust and it was another million-seller. The next major boost to Newton-John’s career would be her starring role in Grease and the mega-selling album from that movie musical phenomenon, in 1978.

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