Make A Move On Me

“Make A Move On Me”- 1982

Music & Lyric: Tom Snow & John Farrar

Song History: Recorded by Olivia Newton-John. The follow-up single to her huge U.S. #1 Hit Physical, it peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Author’s Note: When I was in music school I entertained the romantic notion of one day finding a mentor or musical advisor who would provide encouragement, constructive criticism, philosophical wisdom, and anything else I needed to expand my learning and broaden my horizon. Never happened. Had to learn, as I imagine 99% of my colleagues did, the hard way. Trial and error, on my own. I did find, however, a great example in John Farrar of what it takes to excel at the art of songwriting. Until I worked with John I didn’t fully understand the lengths one needed to go to in order to craft a hit song. He taught by example and knowing John I’m sure he never realized it. He just did what he did and I was smart enough to pay close attention to the way a master craftsman works. I consider my collaboration with John to be the single most important learning experience of my career. It was the moment I became a Professional. (Hopefully I have passed the knowledge on to someone else.) “Make A Move On Me” was a fun song to write. We started with a blank page and over a period of two or three weeks pulled the tune out of thin air. When we recorded the track in David Holman’s Laurel Canyon garage John had me playing the underlying synthesizer riff  over and over until it was perfectly “quantized”. Ah, the days before powerful sequencing programs and one touch buttons to make everything sound swell.”Make A Move On Me” is a personal favorite of mine as it has a sophisticated harmonic foundation, traveling from the key of A minor to E flat major and back again while managing to sound uncomplicated. We came up with a pretty cute lyric, too. It was the follow up to Steve Kipner’s smash, “Let’s Get Physical”, which had the effect of making it the quietest million selling single of the year. It was a privilege and a whole lot of fun working with John. I was blessed to have done so.

Click here to listen

12 Responses to “Make A Move On Me”
  1. Carlos Antonio Hdz. says:

    I knew the music of Olivia Newton John, for issues like Xanadu, Physical, and Twist Of Fate. However, it was the song Make A Move On Me, which made me acquire much of their discography. Thanks for such a beautiful song.

  2. billy Cunningham says:

    I love ONJ . beautiful chanteuse with a catalogue of some great songs . I especially love Make a move on me . it completely fitted her sexy persona at the time and the lyrics were clever with a melody very abba- esque . cheers Tom

  3. Dan Pine says:

    Hi Tom…Thanks for sharing your experiences with the co-writing this tune. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your transition to professionism. Your insights regarding working with a brilliant songwriter and musician such as John Farrar were a revelation, especially since there seems to very scarce information circulating about him, even after all these years. Olivia Newton-John’s breathy vocals on this track were sexy, alluring, and incredibly appealing. The pulsating beat was bouncy, catchy, and fun. The lyrics were highly engaging. I love the idea of making a variation on the lyric from the “Grease” megahit, ‘You’re The One That I Want” which was modified to the hook “I’m The One You Want!” A very catchy and most memorable touch! The artwork on that 45 single sleeve, was definitely her sexiest photo ever! “Physical” becoming the #1 song of the entire decade of the 1980’s was certainly a tough act to follow. “Make A Move On Me” was the perfect and logical follow up and was instrumental in continuing her streak of hot singles. It didn’t fare nearly as well as its predecessor which was an unlikely feat back in the day, but it did peak at a solid showing at #5 on the pop charts and #84 for the year 1982. It is noteworthy to mention that “Make A Move On Me” did top the Solid Gold Countdown for 4 weeks and placed #10 for the year 1982! Thank you Tom for your incredible contribution to Olivia’s most solid and consistent album of her career! (Dan Pine, Pompano Beach, Florida)

  4. Paul says:

    Make A Move On Me has always been one of my favorite songs, still gives me goosebumps after countless listens. Actually it brings me close to tears sometimes, as most of my favorite songs do.

    The complex driving interwoven keyboard riffs in the verses are great and unusual. What really gets me is the first bridge to the chorus, the way it slowly builds with downwards-modulating chords, and the sublime angelic high descending background-vocal melody coming in at “…on your side”. Then the second bridge (“won’t you spare me all the charms”), so determined and excited with anticipation. And the chorus is of course, drop-dead gorgeous.

    I don’t know if I have my songwriting terminology right, but aren’t there two bridges leading up to the chorus, and isn’t there even a short two-bar instrumental bridge between those two? 🙂 Transitioning from the angelic first one to the determined second one.

    I also can’t think of any other songs with lyrics like “…a heart that’s open wide…”. Just beautiful.

    Can I ask what synths were used on this track? I think I’m hearing a Yamaha CS-80.

    I also admire John Farrar’s songwriting. Magic is my favorite of his songs and some of the other tracks on Xanadu (like Suddenly) are stunning.

    I wish people were still writing songs of this high level of quality today in mainstream music. If there are, please point them out to me. I can’t seem to find them.

  5. Ben says:

    Greetings Tom!

    It was great to find this post of yours, as I like to read the background on the creation of songs that I love, and I am a big fan of your songwriting, and John Farrar’s writing and production too. I always preferred ‘Make A Move On Me’ to ‘Let’s Get Physical’, it’s one of my favourite ever pop songs.

    I love that the song’s structure – intro chords and synth hook, verse, pre-chorus and then chorus – repeats twice, with an added choruses out to the end… and no bridge. That bridge-free approach is in your songs ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ and ‘You Should Hear How She Talks About You’, where there are instrumental breaks, rather than a bridge. And of course in John Farrar’s pop masterwork ‘You’re The One That I Want’ whose structure mirrors ‘Make A Move On Me’. I like this structure style because it says that the melodic, harmonic and lyrical ideas are strong enough to just, well, repeat. (Not that I’m against a good bridge….!).

    I’m in my mid-forties, so I don’t want to sound like my dad complaining about ‘tuneless rock and roll’…. but songs like ‘Make A Move On Me’ are so deliciously complex and so well crafted when compared to much the one dimensional dross that dominates current pop radio. When Olivia sings ‘I can’t wait’ in the pre, it’s B7b9, but at the end of the chorus she sings the identical line and it’s over a B9. The verse is in Bbm but somehow you weave your way to a chorus in Emaj. It’s those touches that make this song such an endurable one. It’s just so bloody well written!

    Thanks to you and Mr Farrar for a truly great tune :-))

    • mrneige says:

      Hey Ben,

      Love your comment. I’m always so grateful to one such as you who is musically literate and appreciates harmonic subtlety. Thank you, so much. Yours in Words & Music, T

  6. Patrick Foster says:

    A truly great pop song. Great lyrics, great music—especially the chords underlying “I can’t wait, I can’t wait.” I wish I had something more constructive to say! The O.N.J. single is also an excellent performance of the song. It seems odd that there haven’t been more cover versions…

  7. Patrick says:

    If it were possible to wear out a digital recording, this would have been toast long ago! I love the throaty bass melody, the key changes, and just the overall feel of song that integrates these things. In my opinion it’s simply an expressive pop song that works many levels.


    • mrneige says:

      Thank you, Patrick.

      MAMOM was released as follow up to “Physical”. Kind of stuck in the shadow of that major hit. One of the quietest million selling singles ever. Always appreciate knowledgeable comments like yours. The song is one of John Farrar’s and my more harmonically advanced efforts. We had a great time wandering back and forth between three different key centers and still making it sound like a “Pop” song. This was pre-sequencer so I had to play that bass line perfectly. John made me do many takes to get it just so.

      Thanks for your kind words and most especially for listening.


Leave A Comment

Sign up for my mailing list!