Both a song and an act that each conquered pop culture in the early ’60s maintain their historic legacies more than a half-century later.
Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” is the Billboard Hot 100‘s all-time No. 1 song, while the Beatles are the Hot 100’s top-performing act in the chart’s history, as reflected in Billboard‘s latest recap of the tally’s most successful songs and artists to date.
Not that it’s all nostalgia: artists including Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor and Katy Perry boast songs that now stand alongside the best of five decades-plus of hits, while Rihanna and Taylor Swift stand prominently among the Hot 100’s all-time top artists.
Our latest review of the Hot 100’s superlatives follows 2008’s inaugural flashback (marking the chart’s first 50 years) and 2013’s 55th-anniversary flashback. In each retrospective, “The Twist” has ranked as the top Hot 100 title and the Beatles have remained unrivaled among all acts.
First, the math: The rankings of the all-time top Hot 100 songs and artists are based on actual performance on the weekly Hot 100, from its Aug. 4, 1958 inception through the Oct. 10, 2015, chart. 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. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over various periods. Artists are ranked based on the combined point totals, as outlined above, of all their Hot 100 chart entries.
ALL-TIME No. 1 HOT 100 SONG: ‘THE TWIST’
“It’s a great honor. I’m humbled for all that I’ve achieved in the music industry,” Checker told Billboard in 2013 of “The Twist” topping the Hot 100’s all-time songs ranking. “I’m so proud of how ‘The Twist’ has endured and even more thankful for how long my career has endured.”
“The Twist” tops all other songs (more than 25,000 in all) that have hit the Hot 100 over the past 57 years powered by its unique chart record: The song is the only Hot 100 No. 1 to dominate in two separate release cycles. It first reached No. 1 on the survey dated Sept. 24, 1960. Following renewed popularity, notably among adult audiences, as its dance craze of the same name caught on further, it led for another two weeks (Jan. 13 and 20) in 1962.
Below “The Twist,” Santana‘s “Smooth,” featuring Rob Thomas, ranks as the Hot 100’s No. 2 all-time top title, bolstered by its 12-week reign in 1999-2000. Bobby Darin‘s “Mack the Knife,” a nine-week No. 1 in 1959; LeAnn Rimes‘ “How Do I Live” (1997); and LMFAO‘s “Party Rock Anthem,” featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock (six weeks at No. 1 in 2011), round out a wide genre- and era-spanning top five. Interestingly, Rimes’ hit never reached No. 1, peaking at No. 2 for four weeks, but its 32 weeks in the top 10 are the most in the Hot 100’s history. Its 69 total chart weeks are fourth-best all-time.
As for “The Twist,” it has consequences far beyond the Hot 100, thanks to its namesake dance, Checker says. “The way we dance on the dance floor is because of this song,” he explained in a 2013 visit to Billboard (in which the tireless live performer, 74, showed off his ever-impressive dance moves). “What ‘The Twist’ gave us was … you’re dancing in front of her … she’s dancing in front of you … You had a chance to exploit your sexuality while being fully dressed. Before, that wasn’t happening in music.
“And, we’ve been doing the same thing ever since.”
ALL-TIME No. 1 HOT 100 ACT: THE BEATLES
The Hot 100 began with Ricky Nelson‘s “Poor Little Fool” topping the first chart. (The total has grown to 1,048 No. 1s through Adele‘s current “Hello”; heartbreak never goes out of style in song). At the time, Elvis Presley was two years into his reign as the King of Rock and Roll. With 108 appearances, including 25 top 10s and seven No. 1s (again, the Hot 100 began two years after his career’s start), he’s the No. 4 Hot 100 artist of all-time.
In 1964, Beatlemania arrived on U.S. shores, via Liverpool, and, 71 hits (including a record 20 No. 1s, beginning with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”) later, the Beatles rule as the top act in Hot 100’s history. The band spaced 34 top 10s over more than 31 years, through 1995’s “Free as a Bird” (featuring the late John Lennon‘s vocals).
Madonna, with a record 38 Hot 100 top 10s (including 12 No. 1s), ranks as the Hot 100’s No. 2 artist, followed by Elton John, with 27 top 10s, including nine No. 1s, at No. 3. Below Presley, Mariah Carey places at No. 5. Carey has come closest to the Beatles’ vaunted chart-topping mark, notching 18 No. 1s from her 1990 debut through 2008. (She boasts 27 total top 10s.)
‘WE DON’T KNOW WHO’S GOING TO COME ALONG’
While both Checker’s “The Twist” and the Beatles became embedded in American pop culture more than 50 years ago, relative newbies also rank among the Hot 100’s all-time top songs and artists.
Among newer hit titles (and those on the list for the first time since the Hot 100’s last historical recap in 2013) are Mark Ronson‘s “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Mars. With 14 weeks at No. 1 in 2015, it ranks as the No. 12 song to date. Other rather recent additions: Robin Thicke‘s 12-week 2013 No. 1 “Blurred Lines,” featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams (No. 48); Lorde‘s “Royals” (No. 65); Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” (No. 69); Williams’ “Happy” (No. 76); and Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J (No. 100).
While the bulk of the all-time Hot 100 artists are veterans of multiple decades (unsurprisingly, since several years of hits naturally help acts’ standings), newer stars shine bright. Rihanna, a rookie in 2005, is the chart’s No. 13 act, powered by 13 No. 1s (third-best all-time, tied with Michael Jackson) and 27 top 10s.
Who’ll stand out next time Billboard recounts the Hot 100’s top songs and artists? Surely, still, Checker, the Beatles and other acts already honored. Beyond that, who knows?
“We don’t know who’s going to come along,” Billboard chart historian Joel Whitburn mused in 2014. Just as Checker and the Fab Four (and Rihanna, Perry and Swift) were once rookies, “There could be something amazing that could just set the world on fire.”