Songs Of The Day 6/11/2016: Four Twisting Songs

Photo: David McLane/NY Daily News
Chubby Checker's "The Twist" was released 56 years ago this month. I wasn't around for it the first time (really, I wasn't), but felt its impact long after the last hip was replaced. The Twist was rock music's first big self-contained dance craze. You didn't have to have a partner to hurl across the floor; you could just twist by yourself. You could lift a leg up. You could bend or contract yourself at the waist. I don't know what all they did, because I wasn't there. (I wasn't. I hadn't been born yet.) "The Twist" was originally recorded by the great Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1959, but Checker's version was so beloved that it hit #1 twice, in 1960 and 1962. (Look, I hadn't even been conceived yet. And I mean mentally conceived. I'm not sure my existence was even on the table as part of a five-year plan at that point. Get off my lawn.)

As much as some tried to prevent it from happening, there were multiple knock-offs that cashed in on the Twist's establishment as a behavioral option. I've collected three of them in the above YouTube playlist, plus a fourth that came much, much later. Rod McKuen, the sensitive poet who was secretly bred in the novelty record business, allowed himself the obvious choice, co-writing and singing "Oliver Twist." Frank Sinatra, who once despised rock and roll as spoiled children's music, nonetheless figured out how to put some swing into "Everybody's Twistin'." The Fortune Tellers adapted the tumbleweeds-and-chew anthem "Home on the Range" so that people could do it in the sand. And finally, They Might Be Giants produced an actual song with a point, "Twistin'," for their classic Flood album.

Get going, dancers. And don't do the tango. That's the devil's music.

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