A Twister of Twist Songs

In a recent MSNBC commentary, I mentioned that the old dance known as the twist was so ubiquitous in early 1960s that even soul great Sam Cooke spent time twisting the night away. Although some commenters seemed incredulous about this, that really is a fact: Cooke’s “Twisting the Night Away” hit Number 9 on the Billboard charts in 1962 (a cover version by Rod Stewart got to Number 59 in 1973).

  

That got me thinking about how the twist wasn’t just a trendy dance – it was an all-out craze. It took off in 1960 and then got revived two years later. I first noticed this while I was in college and used to spend my “study time” studying the Billboard book of   top 100 hits (aka “Top Pop Singles), which I later bought. A huge number of artists cut twist records. Most of us know all the hits, by Chubby Checker, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, etc. So here’s a list of some of the weirdest.

Rod McKuen - The Oliver Twist

“Twisting Bells” – Santo and Johnny (#49, 1960)

“Kissin’ and Twistin’” – Fabian (#91, 1960)

“Everybody’s Twistin’” – Frank Sinatra (#75, 1962)

“The Alvin Twist” – The Chipmunks (#40, 1962)

“Oliver Twist” – Rod McKuen (#76, 1962)

“Twistin’ Postman” — The Marvelettes (#34, 1962)

“The Basie Twist” – Count Basie (#94, 1962)

“Tequila Twist” – The Champs (#99, 1962)

“Twistin’ All Night Long” – Danny and the Juniors (#68, 1962)  

It’s Gotta Have A Hooks

As I sit here still suffering from computer woes, I have to tell you about a great little CD I heard a few weeks ago by the young soul artist Ellis Hooks.

It’s called Godson of Soul and it came out on the Evidence label last year. I ran into it a few weeks ago during one of my frequent record store CD hunting expeditions and it quickly became one of my favorite CDs.

Hooks is a relatively young (late 20s) Southern born gentleman who has the uncanny ability to channel Sam Cooke and Al Green whenever he wants to. That’s right: he plays vintage soul of the highest order but does it in-the-now, baby. This ain’t old sessions from an unknown found and released – this is the freshy fresh done with the old school flava!

Old rock hand and (I am sure) friend of co-blogger Gary Pig Gold (yes, Gary – Intercourse is what I am talking about – the album, that is!) Jon Tiven and his wife Sally have produced all of Hooks’ albums including this one and done an excellent job of capturing the old Stax and Hi Records’ sounds. Tiven himself is worth a few columns and his soul tributes on Razor and Tie featuring Gary Pig (among many others) paying props to Don Covay and Arthur Alexander are delightful.

But Hooks is what I am writing about today. By the way, search out his other three records. Most are on Evidence but I believe his debut from 1993 is out only as an import. I have searched them out in the past few weeks and they are all equally great.

To see a new artist go after the old sound and be unashamed about it is refreshing and wonderful as hell. Artists like Hooks and Joss Stone are giving me faith in the music business again. A bonus with Hooks is he can write some hellacious lyrics and with his good looks and talents there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to put the puzzle together and hit it really, really big. I believe he just needs an “in” right now – to do some work or a duet with some established artist on a “big” album. He could do it on his own, but let’s face it – he’s fighting all of the scum in the music business.

If you are a fan of old soul like Green and Cooke and would like to hear what they did done on a contemporary level without all of the Michael McDonald/Taylor Hicks/Michael Bolton cheesiness, check out Ellis Hooks – you won’t be sorry.

The Music Nerd Knows……..