Monday, August 13, 2012

Let Us Most Definitely Twist Again
New addition to the Greatest Rock and Roll Since Moses page


Checker in 2008 - Phil Konstantin photo
Chubby Checker's The Twist hit #1 on the charts twice, first in 1960, then after being released again the following year, again in January, 1962. The Twist, the song and the dance as a combined phenomena, swept the nation and indeed, much of the world, and literally transformed the way people danced -- apart, individually, for the first time, instead of holding on to each other.

Checker has sold more than 250 million records. The Twist initially sold more than three million copies and the album it was on was the first ever to go platinum. The Twist was named the number one chart record of all time by Billboard Magazine.  So it's understandable that Chubby Checker is most known for The Twist, and for the series of dance tune songs he released over the next few years. But he has recorded a wide range of music, and much of it is represented in a collection of 52 songs at Archive.org. When you're ready for a Chubby Checker Fest, tune in here.

You can let the embedded player roll through every song, or scroll down a little and download individual songs, all for free since the music is in the public domain, meaning the copyright has expired.

His big hits are all here -- Limbo Rock, Peppermint Twist, Slow Twistin' (with Dee Dee Sharp), Pony Time ("Hey now everybody, in the union hall, it's Pony Time, when you hear this call") and a couple versions of The Twist. I always loved Let's Twist Again even more than The Twist, and it's here, too.

The collection also has some surprises, had for me at least. Victoria, from a 1971 album recorded in Europe, is in the vein of experimental music that came after the British invasion and was being done by groups like Procul Harem, after Tommy James' Crimson and Clover expanded the limits of Top 40 music. Burn Up The Night and Harder Than Diamond can be classified as Rock, as Checker, who has spent much of his career living and performing in Europe, advanced with the times.

The 50s music lover in me dictates that I love the hard driving Fly, and Dancin' Party. Checker was born in South Carolina but grew up and learned music in Philadelphia, the epicenter of early Rock and Roll, and of the rock and roll hits he covers he seems to particularly enjoy Runaround Sue, which is in the Doo Wop style he knew well, having performed a cappella Doo Wop with friends on the streets of South Philly. Let's Twist Again is in a modified, upbeat Doo Wop style.

Doo Wop, incidentally, is still popular in the Philadelphia area and especially right across the Delaware River in South Jersey, kept alive by various clubs, and by a few small radio stations that I'm always looking for when I head south from New York City on the New Jersey Turnpike, like WIBG, 94.3 FM, where, coincidentally, one of the Chicago disc jockeys I grew up listening to across Lake Michigan from Chicago now works, John "Records" Landecker.

This collection even includes the novelty single that first got Checker noticed by a big time record label, a song Chubby recorded privately for American Bandstand host Dick Clark, on whose Philadelphia based program he often appeared, in which he imitates various artists singing Mary Had A Little Lamb.

There are many delights here (including the original Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, apparently included by mistake), songs like Cu Ma La Be Stay and Hoola Toola, and a cover of La Bamba in which he seems to make up lyrics in English, to this song written in Spanish, as he goes along.

Checker has expressed dismay over always having been closely, almost exclusively associated with The Twist and his other dance songs, to the extent that his talent has never been truly recognized. Well, here's your chance to not only listen to and download all Chubby Checker's classics for free, but to see what else he can do, too. This is really good, really fun stuff.


 

Note: Chubby Checker doesn't hesitate to talk about the cultural impact he has made, and about his lack of recognition for it. For more on that aspect of his life see:

Columbia, South Carolina's The State newspaper did a nice layout on the 50th anniversary of
The Twist. Checker was born in the small town of Spring Gully, SC, near coastal Georgetown, an area interlaced by the vast swamps along the Pee Dee River and its backwaters.

And in an interview with Gary James posted at Classicbands.com

And in a Bill Harry article at Sixtiescity.com in which the artist who first recorded The Twist, Hank Ballard, weighs in.




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