Checker’s “Twist” tops all-time singles chart
NEW YORK (Billboard) – The 50th-anniversary Hot 100 Song chart is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 since the singles chart’s inception in August 1958 through July of this year.
Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least.
To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all 50 years, earlier time frames were each weighted to compensate for the differences in the faster turnover rates from those earlier decades, compared with the slower churn the Hot 100 has experienced since the advent of Nielsen Music data.
Here are the top 10 singles on Billboard’s 50th-anniversary Hot 100.
1: THE TWIST (CHUBBY CHECKER)
Label: Parkway / Peak Date: 9/19/60 and 1/13/62 / Peak Position: 1 (1 week) and 1 (2 weeks)
“I resurrected a corpse” is how Chubby Checker feels about recording “The Twist” in the early summer of 1960. And Frankenstein’s monster had nothing on his achievement.
“The Twist” is the only song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to enjoy two separate chart runs to No. 1: September 19, 1960 (one week), and, after an October 1961 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” January 13, 1962 (two weeks). It also set a record for the most weeks (39) on the Hot 100 by a No. 1 song — which held until UB40’s “Red Red Wine” lasted 40 weeks in 1988. Others since have surpassed the mark.
“‘The Twist’ brought the world dancing apart (to) the beat,” says Checker, now 66, who was born Ernest Evans in South Carolina before moving to Philadelphia. “Then came all our dances — the Pony, the Mashed Potato, the Fly, the Hucklebuck — all dancing apart to the beat. Chubby gave us that. How did he do it? With ‘The Twist.”‘
Forty-eight years later, however, Checker fesses up to being a reluctant savior for the song. “The Twist” first came out as the B-side of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters’ 1959 single “Teardrops on Your Letter.” DJs largely ignored “The Twist,” but inner-city youth who had flipped the disc began doing a hip-wiggling dance to the track, which did not go unnoticed by “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark. When he couldn’t get Danny & the Juniors to record a version of the song, Clark went to Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway label and suggested that Checker take it on. Checker had recorded “The Class” for him in 1958 as a holiday single to send to friends.
“I said I didn’t want to sing that song,” Checker remembers. “It had been out already. Nobody was playing it. But I wanted to make records, and so when they said, ‘Come up here and sing “The Twist,”‘ I said, ‘OK.”‘
“The Twist” was the gift that kept on giving: Five more of Checker’s 32 Hot 100 entries mined the dance. He even joined the Fat Boys for “The Twist (Yo, Twist),” which hit No. 16 in 1988.
2: SMOOTH (SANTANA FEATURING ROB THOMAS)
Label: Arista / Peak Date: 10/23/99 / Peak Position: 1
Exactly 30 years before Santana reached No. 1 with “Smooth,” his eponymous band made its first appearance on the Hot 100 with “Jingo.” It wasn’t an auspicious debut, peaking at No. 56. But if you had told Carlos Santana back then that he would have the biggest hit of his career 30 years later to the week, do you think he would have believed you? Probably not. Co-written by Itaal Shur and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, “Smooth” introduced Santana’s smash album “Supernatural” and became one of the biggest radio monsters of the decade, spending 12 weeks at No. 1.
3: MACK THE KNIFE (BOBBY DARIN)
Label: Atco / Peak Date: 10/5/59 / Peak Position: 1 (9)
In 1958, “Splish Splash” put 22-year-old Bobby Darin on the map, and three more hits in quick succession cemented his teen appeal. But the furiously ambitious Darin wanted the longevity promised by singing in supper clubs, appealing to Frank Sinatra’s audience. “In night clubs I lean to other things. I even do ‘Mack the Knife’ from ‘The Threepenny Opera,”‘ Darin told Billboard at the time. He recorded “Mack” for his standards album “That’s All,” produced by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler for Atlantic’s Atco imprint. It won the Grammy for record of the year as well as a slightly belated nod for Darin as best new artist.
4: HOW DO I LIVE (LEANN RIMES)
Label: Curb / Peak Date: 12/13/97 / Peak Position: 2
LeAnn Rimes’ second Hot 100 entry, after the 1996 No. 26-peaking “Blue,” stands as the longest-running Hot 100 title of all time, charting for 69 weeks total between June 1997 and October 1998. The song, recorded when Rimes was only 14, even outlasted two of her follow-up releases on the chart. It also led the Adult Contemporary chart for 11 weeks and has gone on to sell 3.5 million physical singles. On the digital front, it routinely shifts more than 1,000 units per week, for a total to date in excess of 203,000. “It’s just one of those songs that lives on in everyone’s life,” Rimes says today.
5: MACARENA (BAYSIDE BOYS MIX) (LOS DEL RIO)
Label: RCA / Peak Date: 8/3/96 / Peak Position: 1 (14)
This flamenco-flavored party song and accompanying silly dance by two middle-age men named Antonio Romero and Rey Ruiz was a hit in Spain in 1993, and “Macarena” was a favorite on cruise ships before docking in Miami’s South Beach clubs by mid-decade, first appearing on the charts in 1995. But the bilingual Bayside Boys Mix of the song exploded on radio, spending 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1996 and reaching the top several weeks before it was used to introduce — and provide a punch line for — Al Gore’s speech at that year’s Democratic National Convention. Los Del Rio’s early version eventually returned to the chart, peaking at No. 23 and spending 21 weeks on the tally.
6: PHYSICAL (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN)
Label: MCA / Peak Date: 11/21/81 / Peak Position: 1 (10)
Olivia Newton-John was weary of the sweet love songs that had defined her career for more than a decade. With longtime producer John Farrar, she decided to up the tempo for the title track of 1981’s “Physical.” The song also stirred up controversy for its lyrical nod to sexual intimacy, ultimately fueling a 10-week stay atop the Hot 100 to become Newton-John’s biggest career hit. It had immense crossover appeal, scoring on the pop, adult contemporary, club play and black charts. After all was said and done, “Physical” was the No. 1 song of 1982.
7: YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE (DEBBY BOONE)
Label: Warner Bros./Curb / Peak Date: 10/15/77 / Peak Position: 1 (10)
Pat Boone’s four daughters tried for years to forge a music career as the Boone Sisters, with no luck. Label honcho Mike Curb was determined to launch lead Debby as a solo artist and found the ideal song at a screening of the movie “You Light Up My Life.” Curb borrowed the instrumental track and had Boone’s vocal recorded over it. His instincts were right on: “Light” remained at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for 10 weeks beginning in October 1977, a record at the time for a female artist, and won an Academy Award for best original song and a Grammy Award for Boone as best new artist.
8: HEY JUDE (THE BEATLES)
Label: Apple / Peak Date: 9/28/68 / Peak Position: 1 (9)
The first single the Beatles released on their Apple Records label, “Hey Jude,” was written in 1968 by Paul McCartney to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian during the divorce of his parents. “I started with the idea, ‘Hey Jules,’ which was, ‘Julian, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better,”‘ McCartney told biographer Barry Miles. “Hey Jude” entered the Hot 100 for the week ending September 14, 1968, at No. 10 and rose to No. 1 two weeks later. It held the top spot for nine weeks, making it the most successful hit of the band’s career. It remains a staple of McCartney’s live shows to this day.
9: WE BELONG TOGETHER (MARIAH CAREY)
Label: Island/IDJMG / Peak Date: 6/4/05 / Peak Position: 1
Early in the decade, Mariah Carey experienced a prolonged dry spell of hits that coincided with some bizarre public appearances, a film flop and a disastrous $80 million deal with Virgin. But she regrouped spectacularly on Island Def Jam with “The Emancipation of Mimi.” “We Belong Together,” the album’s monster second single, was produced by Jermaine Dupri. It spent 14 weeks at No. 1 and helped the album shift 5.9 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “I prayed to get through everything I got through, and I prayed for this record to be really good and really strong and for me to be proud of it,” she told Billboard in 2005. “God always answers my prayers.” Carey now has 18 No. 1 Hot 100 hits, second only to the Beatles’ all-time record of 20.
10: UN-BREAK MY HEART (TONI BRAXTON)
Label: LaFace/Arista / Peak Date: 12/7/96 / Peak Position: 1 (11)
Three years after winning the 1993 best new artist Grammy Award, Toni Braxton released her second consecutive multiplatinum album, “Secrets.” The follow-up to her self-titled LaFace Records debut spun off the preacher’s daughter’s first Hot 100 No. 1 (“You’re Makin’ Me High”) and this, the biggest hit of her career. The song — written by Diane Warren, produced by David Foster and rendered in Braxton’s distinctive, husky alto — spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. A “Diva Mix” of the track, inspired by her show-opening performance at the 1996 Billboard Music Awards, spread “Heart” to overseas success as well.
C’mon baby, let’s do the twist!
Checker’s “Twist” tops all-time singles chart