The Twist (song)

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"The Twist"
1960 45rpm label
Single by Chubby Checker
from the album Twist With Chubby Checker
B-side "Toot"
"Twistin' USA"
Released June 1960
Format 7", 45rpm
Recorded 1960
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:34
Label Parkway Records 811
Writer(s) Hank Ballard
Producer(s) Dave Appell
Chubby Checker singles chronology
"Dancing Dinosaur"
(1960)
"The Twist"
(1960)
"The Hucklebuck"
(1960)
Music video
"The Twist" on YouTube

"The Twist" is an American pop song written and originally released in early 1959 by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters as a B-side to "Teardrops on Your Letter".[1] Ballard's version was a moderate 1960 hit, peaking at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2]

Chubby Checker's 1960 cover version of the song gave birth to the Twist dance craze. His single became a hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 19, 1960, where it stayed for one week, and setting a record as the only song to reach number 1 in two different chart runs when it resurfaced and topped the chart again for two weeks starting on January 13, 1962.[3]

In 1988, "The Twist" again became popular due to a new recording of the song by The Fat Boys featuring Chubby Checker. This version reached number 2 in the United Kingdom and number 1 in Germany. In 2014, Billboard magazine declared the song the "biggest hit" of the 1960s.[4]

History[edit]

Songs about doing the Twist went back to nineteenth-century minstrelsy, including "Grape Vine Twist" from around 1844. In 1938 Jelly Roll Morton, in "Winin' Boy Blues," sang, "Mama, mama, look at sis, she's out on the levee doing the double twist"—a reference to both sex and dancing in those days. As for this particular song, "The Twist," Hank Ballard's guitarist, Midnighters member Cal Green, said they picked up the general idea from Brother Joe Wallace of the gospel group The Sensational Nightingales, whose position and its associated image concerns prevented him from recording the song himself. Green and Ballard already had written a song together called "Is Your Love For Real," which was based on Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters' 1955 song "What'cha Gonna Do," so they created an entirely new song by simply putting the new Twist words to the older melody. They originally recorded a loose version of the song in a Florida studio in early 1958, with slightly different lyrics, featuring Green on guitar playing like Jimmy Reed. However, they did not get around to recording the released version until November 11, 1958, when the Midnighters were in Cincinnati. Ballard thought "The Twist" was the hit side, but King Records producer Henry Glover preferred the ballad "Teardrops on Your Letter," which he'd written himself.

Chubby Checker version[edit]

The song became popular on a Baltimore television dance show hosted by local DJ Buddy Dean; Dean recommended the song to Dick Clark, host of the national American Bandstand. When the song proved popular with his audience, Clark attempted to book Ballard to perform on the show. Ballard was unavailable, and Clark searched for a local artist to record the song. He settled on Checker, whose voice was very similar to Ballard's.[5] Checker's version featured Buddy Savitt on sax and Ellis Tollin on drums,[6] with backing vocals by the Dreamlovers. Exposure for the song on American Bandstand and on The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show helped propel the song to the top of the American charts.[7]

In July 1960, Checker performed "The Twist" for the first time in front of a live audience at the Rainbow Club in Wildwood, NJ and just weeks later, on Aug. 6, 1960, the song became a national sensation after Checker performed it on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.

In 1962, the twist craze belatedly caught on in high society. Citings of celebrities doing the dance made the song a hit with adults, particularly after a report in the Cholly Knickerbocker gossip column. Soon there were long lines at the Peppermint Lounge nightclub in New York, the most popular celebrity twisting spot. This new interest made "The Twist" the only recording to hit number one on the United States charts during two separate chart runs, and marked a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music.[5]

Checker re-recorded the song numerous times. An updated 1982 recording (from his album The Change Has Come) was retitled "T-82", and in the 1990s, he recorded a country version. In the late 1970s, he recorded a new version that, except for the sound mix and some minor arrangement changes, was identical to the 1960 original; as a result this later version is often misidentified on compilations as the original recording. In 1988, he joined The Fat Boys on a rap version of the song, bearing the subtitle "Yo, Twist". This version hit number 2 in the UK, number 16 in the US, and number 1 in Germany and Switzerland. Checker also joined the group to perform the song that summer at a London tribute concert for Nelson Mandela.[7] In addition, he recorded variations on the theme, such as "Let's Twist Again" to keep the craze alive (although "Let's Twist Again" was and has remained more popular than "The Twist" itself in the United Kingdom). Joey Dee and the Starliters, the Peppermint Lounge house band, scored a hit with "Peppermint Twist", while other artists, including Sam Cooke scored with other "Twist"-themed songs. In Europe, Petula Clark scored hits in several countries with "Twist" themed records.

In the sixth episode of the second season of the TV series Quantum Leap, entitled “Good Morning, Peoria” (set in September 9, 1959), Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) have a Kiss with History, meeting Chubby Checker (played by himself) in a radio station (Sam leaps into a radio DJ called Chick Howell), where they sing and dance "The Twist". An impressed Chubby asks: "Can I use that move?". Sam responds: "Yah, but I got it from you!".

Chart (1960) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard R&B Singles 2
Chart (1962) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard R&B Singles 4

Accolades[edit]

According to Billboard Magazine, "The Twist" held the honor of being the number-one song on its "Hot 100 50th Anniversary" list of "The Billboard: All-Time Hot 100 Top Songs" in the first 50 years of the Hot 100 chart.[8] It retained this honor when the All-Time chart was retabulated for the 55th anniversary in 2013.[9]

The song is ranked number 451 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Jim Dawson wrote a 1995 book about the song and the Twist phenomenon called The Twist: The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World for Faber & Faber ISBN 978-0-571-19852-8.

The song is featured on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack released May 1, 2007, and was featured in the "Miss 1959" pageant in the third episode of the TV series Magic City screened in April 2012.

The song has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress on March 21, 2013 for long-term preservation.[10] In 2014, Billboard magazine declared the song the "biggest hit" of the 1960s.[4]

Quotations[edit]

  • "Come on, baby, let's do the twist!"
  • "Take the world by the hand and do the twist!" - line from The Fat Boys' version
  • "The gist of the Twist is chiefly in the hips" - Chubby Checker

Editions[edit]

  • USA: Hank Ballard and the Midnighters: "Teardrops on Your Letter" b/w "The Twist" 1959
  • USA: Chubby Checker: "The Twist" b/w "Toot" Parkway 811; 7/60
  • USA: Chubby Checker: "The Twist" b/w "Twistin' USA" Parkway 811; 11/61

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2000). Top Pop Singles 1955-1999. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, Inc. p. 32. ISBN 0-89820-140-3. 
  2. ^ The Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Jul 18 1960, Billboard.com[dead link]
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 20 - Forty Miles of Bad Road: Early '60s potpourri" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.  Track 2.
  4. ^ a b Leight, Elias (October 27, 2014). "The Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 Hits of the 1960s". Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Shannon, Bob; John Javna (1986). Behind The Hits:Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York: Warner Books. pp. 98–99. ISBN 0-446-38171-3. 
  6. ^ Jackson, Blair (May 1, 2007). "Classic Tracks: Chubby Checker's "The Twist"". Mix Magazine. 
  7. ^ a b Rees, Dafydd; Luke Crampton (1999). Rock Stars Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. pp. 192–194. ISBN 0-7894-4613-8. 
  8. ^ The Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary, Billboard.com
  9. ^ "Hot 100 55th Anniversary: The All-Time Top 100 Songs". Billboard. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Simon & Garfunkel song among those to be preserved". CFN13. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"It's Now or Never" by Elvis Presley
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
September 19, 1960 (one week)
Succeeded by
"My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" by Connie Francis
Preceded by
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
January 13, 1962 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Peppermint Twist - Part I" by Joey Dee and the Starliters