In an era when we’re supposed to be running scared from warnings about the global effects of Swine Flu, Bird Flu and other pandemic ailments, it’s nice to recall a time when the only thing that was sweeping the world and causing mayhem everywhere that it went was an easy to master and perfectly innocuous dance called the Twist. Twistin’ affected the global template of dance like no other craze before or since and, at weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs and social gatherings everywhere, people are still prone to go roundandaroundanda-upandadown whenever a Dave Doubledecks lets ‘Let’s Twist Again’ or ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’ fly – even people whose parents’ parents were not born when Chubby Checker first demonstrated how to do the dance on American Bandstand.
Originated by a giant of R&B, popularised by a Pennsylvanian former chicken plucker and sung about by everyone from the Chipmunks to the Beatles to Frank Sinatra, the twist is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Needless to say, just about everyone above a certain age at Ace has grown up with the twist, so we thought we’d offer a salute to the Grand Dame Du Danse, in the shape of a new addition to our “Land Of 1000 Dances” series. To be 100% accurate, the twist really celebrated its half-century last year, but Hank Ballard’s original 1958 recording sat in a tape vault until 1995 so we’re counting up from the original release of his and the Midnighters’ King 45 in January 1959.
One or two big names of twistin’ claimed a prior engagement and couldn’t make our party, but we’ve pulled together 24 tracks that really represent the full spectrum of what the twist actually embraced. Here you’ll find high-profile rock’n’rollers (Bill Haley, Danny and the Juniors), R&B greats (Isley Brothers, Freddie King, Linda Hopkins) European Pop royalty (Petula Clark), TV and radio DJs (Clay Cole, Murray the K), hipsters (Louis Prima), doo woppers (the Zircons, the Marcels), hillbillies (the Sprouts) twist legends (Joey Dee) out and out novelties (Tyrone O’Saurus and the Cro-Magnons), the terminally obscure (Billy Huhn, Robbie Lawrence) and much more, all united in the intent to cause a mass outbreak of gyrationitis like they did last summer. Well, as many as 50 summers ago in reality, but who’s counting?
For a few years, the twist was as newsworthy as any big political story of the day – and given that most of those who made the news were to be found twistin’ their nights away at clubs, lounges and parties, that’s not so surprising. In the 21st century it’s not likely to dislodge the credit crunch and MP’s expenses from the top of any news bulletin, but the next time some earnest newscaster is reporting on a new outbreak of some fever of another, it might just be Twist Fever.
Shake it up baby, we got a new dance and it goes like this: come on everybody let’s twist – around the clock! “Eee-aaah, Yeah, just like this….”
By Tony Rounce