Where there’s a fad, there’s bound to be a whole bandwagon full of copycats and also-rans. After The Tokens‘ three-week reign atop the Hot 100 was a return visit of an old chart-topper: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which had peaked previously in 1960. This second run of “The Twist” was triggered by adults finally discovering the dance in nightclubs, most prominently the trendy Peppermint Lounge in Manhattan. The wave of enthusiasm for the Twist was even stronger this go-around, fueled by hipsters’ deep pockets and the plethora of Twist-themed product churned out to satisfy the public’s demand for hip-swiveling music. These cash-ins ranged from Checker’s attempt at staving off the inevitable (“Let’s Twist Again”), to recasting hits in the Twist-idiom (The Marvelettes‘ “Twistin’ Postman”), to creating “original” songs inspired by the dance craze (the best of which include “Twist and Shout” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”; the worst of which are lost to history).
It’s rare that one of these shadow records bests the one that instigated the fad, but “Peppermint Twist” proves the exception. The Starliters’ record is fresher and more immediate and features a pretty good guitar solo; unlike “The Twist,” I can imagine people actually listening to this for the quality of the music. Checker’s hit, first recorded in 1959, was already starting to show its age by 1962. (The Starliters’ lyric “I got a new dance and it goes like this/And the name of the dance is the Peppermint Twist” is somewhat specious.) The Starliters made two prescient choices that helped cement the success of “Peppermint Twist.” First, they updated the sound, upping the tempo and adding a more refined lounge rock swing, a la Dion’s “Runaround Sue” – appropriately enough, they were the house band at the Peppermint Lounge. Second, and more importantly, they rushed that mother out. Not only did they get in while Twist Fever was at its peak, but they beat out all other comers (including Checker’s own follow-up). If you can’t be first, you may as well be second and better. 6
- Although the record label spells the band’s name as the “Starlighters,” the band itself spelled it “Starliters” (thus the discrepancies in spelling in this entry).
- “Peppermint Twist – Part 2” was the instrumental B-side to the record.
Hit #1 on January 27, 1962; total of 3 weeks at #1
64 of 970 #1’s reviewed; 6.60% through the Hot 100