Chart Beat Chat

Fred and his readers discuss "The Twist," "Take a Bow" and more!


Dear Fred,

Twice in the last few weeks you have run letters reminding us that Chubby Checker's "The Twist" went to No. 1 on two separate occasions, separated by only 16 months.

I would better understand if there had been five or six years between these chart runs, but since very little time passed, it strikes me that much of the radio audience and record-buying public would be the same, and therefore burned out on the song from its high visibility the year before.

Were the chart rules for the Hot 100 considerably different back then? Meaning, was the single's first trip to the top based more on sales than airplay, and vice versa for the next chart run? Or did the same top 40 radio stations that put the song into high rotation initially do exactly the same thing 16 short months later? Or was the Hot 100 more sales-driven and thus different demos were being exposed to the song at different times?

This could never happen in the current climate -- could it?

John Buchanan
Boston, Mass.

Dear John,

Chubby Checker's "The Twist" spent one week on top of the Hot 100 dated Sept. 19, 1960, and returned for a two-week reign that started the week of Jan. 13, 1962. The unique feat of topping the chart in two separate runs had nothing to do with chart rules or differences in sales and airplay. You came closest to the right answer when you suggested it had something to do with different demos.

To find the definitive answer to your question, I turned to the ultimate authority on No. 1 hits: "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits." And with the author's permission, here is an excerpt that explains what happened more than 45 years ago, after the original chart run of "The Twist":

"...while the twist was passŽ for teenagers, it was just catching on with adults. Society columnist 'Cholly Knickerbocker' mentioned that Prince Serge Obolensky was seen dancing the twist at Manhattan's Peppermint Lounge, and suddenly it was a worldwide sensation, drawing the elite to discotheques to twist the night away.

"Because of the dance's newfound acceptance, Chubby was invited to sing "The Twist" on Ed Sullivan's show on Oct. 22, 1961, prompting a re-release of the single. A full-page ad in Billboard said it all: "'The Twist' dance rage explodes into the adult world!" This time around it was the grown-ups buying Chubby's single, and they bought enough copies to return it to the Hot 100 on Nov. 13, and send it all the way to No. 1 again just after the new year."

Could it happen again? Anything can happen but the generational divide isn't as pronounced today. For example, when "Macarena" was popular, it was popular with all generations at once, not kids one year and adults the next.


Hey Fred:

With Rihanna ascending to the top of the Hot 100 with her latest single, "Take a Bow," she joins two other artists in the top 10 this week who have recorded a song with the same title. Madonna, of course, took her "Take a Bow" to the top in 1995. Leona Lewis, also in the top 10 this week, has a song with the title "Take a Bow" on her debut album, "Spirit." Should she release this as a single and it, too, tops the chart, would it be the first time in history that three different songs with the same title have reached No. 1?


Dave Kosloski
Vancouver, Wash.

Dear Dave,

It is a little odd for the three female artists who have recorded different songs all titled "Take a Bow" to be in the top 10 of the Hot 100 at once, especially since of those songs is one of the "Take a Bow" recordings.
But even if Leona Lewis' "Take a Bow" debuted on the Hot 100 and went all the way to No. 1, it would not be the first time three different songs with the same title have been No. 1. I refer you to "My Love" as recorded by Petula Clark, Lionel Richie and Justin Timberlake featuring T-Pain. I also refer you to our next e-mail.


With Rihanna taking a bow at No. 1 with "Take a Bow," she has the fourth song title to hit No. 1 in two centuries:

"Family Affair": Sly & the Family Stone (1971), Mary J. Blige (2001)
"My Love": Petula Clark (1966), Paul McCartney and Wings (1973), Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. (2006)
"Big Girls Don't Cry": Four Seasons (1962), Fergie (2007)
"Take a Bow": Madonna (1995), Rihanna (2008)

Since this has happened in each of the last three years, I can't wait to see which title will be back at No. 1 in 2009.

Jeff Lerner
Long Island, N.Y.

Dear Jeff,

Maybe "The Twist"?