Grease is an absolute classic musical that gave us several incredible tracks. From Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want to Sandy and Hopelessly Devoted To You, it’s plain that John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and the rest of the cast were at the top of their game. But there are also some not-so-subtle metaphors hiding in those lyrics, with Greased Lightnin’ being a prime example of explicit lyrics and innuendos. In this article, we’ll delve into the sexual lyrics and meaning of Greased Lightnin’ by Travolta.
Background of the T-Birds and Greased Lightning Itself
The T-Birds are just a group of teenage guys that attend Rydell High School in every iteration of the story. The greaser gang is made up of Danny Zuko (Travolta), Kenickie, Doody, Sonny, and Putzie. Each of them has to be as cool as possible thanks to their status, sporting leather jackets, jeans, and T-shirts to match the too-cool-for-school vibe they have going on.
Kenickie is the owner of Greased Lightning, a car he bought that was an absolute piece of junk. It is an ironic name since it generally means something really fast, and before the performance of the song, the vehicle barely gets around as is.
The T-Birds have a bit of a scuffle with a rival gang called the Scorpions. Each member has different problems with the leader of the Scorpions, Leo Balmudo. In the end, they decide to settle their differences with a drag race, and Greased Lightning needs a serious tune-up before it’s ready, leading into the track we’re discussing today.
In the film, Greased Lightnin’ is part daydream and part auto-shop car build. The T-Birds dream of the vehicle becoming the flashiest thing on four wheels while making quite a lot of progress in turning the heap of parts into a race-worthy vehicle. Of course, they win the race, but Greased Lightning is damaged in the process.
What Exactly Is the Song About?
On the surface, the track is mostly about a car and all the repairs the crew is making to it to get it ready for a drag race against a rival gang. But that’s only what it is on the surface since if you analyze the lyrics at all, you’ll come across some pretty explicit lines, especially by 1970s standards.
When the T-Birds see the vehicle, they aren’t too impressed. But Zuko points out that it has the potential to help them get lucky with the ladies. The song itself serves as Zuko and Kenickie motivating the rest of the guys to get on board with their plan of fixing up Greased Lightning.
Starting off, the lyrics are about what you expect. It’s a bunch of car talk that a lot of people unfamiliar with vehicles might not understand. Those of us who have an inkling of what goes on in a car will notice that not all of the parts they talk about make much sense, but that isn’t important. What is important is that the track quickly devolves into a braggadocious speech you’d expect from a teenager.
Frankly, when you look for meaning in songs, you’ll usually have to comb through a lot of metaphors to find what the writer was talking about. I expected to have to liken car jargon to women in this one, but it isn’t really necessary. It is clear about the real reason to fix up Greased Lighting, and it isn’t about the race.
Right after Zuko opens the track and the T-Birds join in, you’ll see they expect to get “lots of tit” from driving the vehicle around. You can then look at the chorus, which is repeated twice more in the song, to find more explicit lyrics. “You are supreme, the chicks’ll cream, For Greased Lightnin’” is pretty self-explanatory. The T-Birds even call the car a real pussy wagon in the track.
While a good chunk of the lyrics are easy to overlook and just think of the song as being about a vehicle, it’s definitely not. It’s about Zuko and the boys “getting their rocks off” thanks to their flashy new car and daydreaming about all the other high school girls swooning at the sight of it.
To put it as simply and bluntly as possible, the track is about how much sex the guys will get with their super cool car.
Later Versions Of The Song
The original musical version of the track was the one sung by John Travolta and Jeff Conway in the film adaptation of Grease and included explicit sexual lyrics and lines like “it ain’t shit” from the musical. Later versions of the song did end up cleaning up the lyrics.
Greased Lightnin’ was a popular track and did well on the radio. Unfortunately, the explicit version of the song caused many stations to refuse to play it and was a big reason why it never broke into the Top 40 in the US.
Jim Jacobs released a set of revised lyrics that made it possible to perform the track in school plays, removing the sexual references we’ve discussed already. This is the version Fox used in their live television production of Grease in 2016. Even before that live performance was broadcast, TV edits of the film had already cut the offending lyrics to ensure they didn’t break any broadcasting rules.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.