If I had to make a list of my favourite songs, I'm sure "Xanadu" would feature somewhere near the top. I've been in love with Olivia's collaboration with ELO since first seeing the film as a child. One critic famously gave the film a stinging one line review "In a word, Xana-don't" but I Xana-did. Again and again. "Xanadu" was one of those films that was always on tv when I was growing up, usually as a double bill with "Grease". I'm sure I never missed a screening. You can moan about the complete lack of plot and the indignity of a 68 year old (but still disturbingly sexy) Gene Kelly strutting his stuff at a rollerdisco but I defy anyone to say that "Xanadu" isn't a one of a kind viewing experience. There's Olivia at the height of her loveliness playing a supernatural muse whose job is to "inspire men", Gene Kelly's last truly great movie moment in the adorable "Whenever You're Away From Me" sequence, Don Bluth's beautifully animated interlude where Olivia and Michael Beck randomly turn into fish and not to forget possibly the best film soundtrack of all time. While every song featured in "Xanadu" is a winner, my personal favourite has always been the title track.
"Xanadu" was even turned into a highly collectible Marvel comic
"Xanadu" is quite simply pop perfection. ELO's mix of synths and strings provide sublime backing for one of Olivia's most iconic vocal performances. I'm constantly amazed how a completely non-sensical tune about an alternate universe can be so stirring and uplifting. Nothing brightens my mood quite like "Xanadu". The brilliance of the track hasn't gone unnoticed over the years. Olivia's anthem has been remixed several times and covered more often than I care to think about. My favourite cover of "Xanadu" is by German pop diva Ireen Sheer. Back in the days before the internet and instant musical gratification via downloading, it was common for local stars to cover international hits in their own language. Germany was renowned for the practice and Ireen's version of "Xanadu" is an exemplary example. Ireen is probably best known outside of Germany for her Eurovision appearances but, in my opinion, this cover version from 1980 is her finest moment.Australia's current queen of pop, Dannii Minogue, comes a very close second with her stunning 2007 cover version. Featured on her fabulous "Club Disco" compilation, Dannii transforms "Xanadu" into an atmospheric chill out classic. Dannii's version was only released last year and can be easily purchased from some international iTunes stores or from 7digital, so I'm not going to post it. Dannii needs that dollar for her next holiday! I'm rather fond of this fan made clip which combines Dannii's vocals with images from the film. This is by far the most experimental and original interpretation of Olivia's classic.
"Xanadu" experienced an unexpected revival in the mid-90s thanks to a trashy club mix credited to Olivia featuring Paula. I have no idea who the fuck Paula is or what Olivia's involvement was, if any, but I found the track on an old mardi gras compilation and thought I would post it. This is not to be confused with a white label remix of "Xanadu" featuring Olivia's vocals, which was released at almost exactly the same time. I've included that as well.
I couldn't write a post about "Xanadu" and not mention Bob Downe's amazing version. Bob's talent is truly unique and he outdoes himself with this camp classic. Bob's rendition appears on his greatest hits compilation, which you could be lucky enough to find on Ebay or in Oxford St bargain bin. A final rendition of "Xanadu" comes to you courtesy of Captain Smartypants. Originating from Seattle, this vocal group specialise in cover versions and sound something like a barbershop quartet. I think their interpretation is genius. You can purchase their album from CD Baby.
As good as all these versions are, nothing compares to the original. If you haven't seen the film for a while, take this three minute trip down memory lane. They certainly don't make 'em like this anymore!