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How the Twist Worked

        Culture | Fads

The Twist Craze
Chubby Checker's hit and related follow-ups had folks Twisting all over the world. These kids in Shoreditch, East London, Twisted during recess.
Chubby Checker's hit and related follow-ups had folks Twisting all over the world. These kids in Shoreditch, East London, Twisted during recess.
Evening Standard/Getty Images

No. 1 is a feat. Worldwide phenomenon is a feat. Simply performing on "American Bandstand" is an honor. "The Twist," however, earned a much more significant achievement in 1962, when it accomplished something no other song has, before or since: The exact same version of "The Twist" song landed at No. 1 for a second run in 1962.

The total time Checker's hit spent on the charts came to nine months (with three weeks in the top spot), and its impact ran deep. For one thing, it was the first popular dance in which the dance partners didn't touch, but instead danced separately to the beat.

It fit the '60s -- a decade moving away from the structure of the 1950s, of poodle skirts and cone bras, a perfect accompaniment to the pencil skirts and slacks that suddenly put girls' hips (and rear!) in the public eye. "The Twist" had girls and boys dancing on their own, individuals rather than a single unit, and gave them the freedom to express themselves as such.

Chubby Checker's song and dance became a symbol of the decade, landing at or near the top of the charts in Great Britain, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Brazil, for a start, and inspiring countless Twist-related follow-ups, and not only by Chubby Checker, of which Sam Cooke's "Twistin the Night Away" (1962) and The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" (1964) are two of the best-known [source: Tsort].

Even in the 21st century, "The Twist" lives on in movies, TV shows, and its ever-lasting effect on couples'-dancing styles. You'll find people twisting on dance floors today -- although they may not be aware of it.

So, how do you know if you're Twisting? It's easy to tell…


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