Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The place where nobody dared to go

Xanadu references are all over the place these days. Between XO's post about Sharleen Spiteri's "gonad shrinking" cover of the song and multiple references across the blogosphere comparing the new Goldfrapp songs to "Xanadu" (they say that like it's a bad thing), you really can't escape it.

There are certainly worse things in life.

I went searching for the Xanadu finale on YouTube, which was harder to find than I thought it might be. As I said over on Facebook, it's 8 minutes of cheese at its absolute finest. You owe it to yourself to watch it. Wait for Mrs. Ming the Merciless at about 6:50.

I saw Xanadu at the Carroll theater when I was probably 8 years old. My mom took me to it and I remember nearly nothing of seeing it, but I do remember it being played about a half a million times on HBO, which is where I consumed it in exceptionally large doses. Forced to be totally honest, the movie really is pretty awful. Olivia Newton-John is not an exceptional actress (although she acts circles around Michael Beck as her love interest) and the story features just about every recycled Hollywood cliche there is. But for some reason, it's better than it should be. Panned at the time, it's somehow managed to become a cult classic.

I maintain that if it weren't for the music, this movie would be completely forgotten. We had the Xanadu soundtrack on 8-track cassette tape and for years that was the only version of the soundtrack we had. I purchased it on cassette tape in 1991 and it was eaten by my Walkman about 2 weeks after I purchased it. A year later, I found a used vinyl copy of it in a record store which I still own today. Finding the soundtrack on CD was a quest that seemed nearly impossible until I found an import copy of it in the Iowa City Best Buy. The sound quality was fair at best but it was on CD! It was ultimately properly released in the U.S. with pristine sound quality and that's the version I have today.

But one of my favorite (and most enduring) stories of Xanadu is how I subjected Heidi to the movie very VERY early in our relationship. We'd probably been dating a couple of months and I very excitedly - probably too excitedly - invited her over to watch Xanadu with me. Bless her, she tolerated it with great finesse and I think she actually liked it a little bit. Although looking back, she was probably just enamored with me. That was also the night we looked at my French copy of the Sex book. If you're looking for a moment where the deal was probably sealed, I think that was it - Heidi would probably agree. In who else's life besides mine would that happen?

The good news is that Olivia can still sing this song. Although her voice is showing some signs of aging, she's a great live act - one that I would go see again in a heartbeat. She appreciates her role as nostalgia act and milks it for every last bit that she can. For you, Xanadu.

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