December 27, 1975: History of The Twist, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Tabou Combo, Chuck Jackson

New Spins

MANU DIBANGO: ‘Makossa Music’ (Creole CRLP 503)
I’ve had a bundle of Afro, Salsa, and Dub albums sitting in my drawer waiting to be reviewed, and never the space on the page for them.  Thank goodness for Christmas!  If you’re in a position to play great music like these ethnic sounds you’re a lucky DJ indeed, for although superb to dance to they remain unknown amongst the British majority. Manu Dibango caused a stir in funky clubs a few years back with his terrifically rhythmic ‘Soul Makossa’ (lead track here), which must have inspired the Fatback Band amongst others.  This virtual “Best Of” album has many of the saxophonist’s goodies such as ‘Oboso’, ‘Kata Kata’, and ‘Pepe Soup’, some of which may be a bit fast but are worth it for the lead track alone.

FELA RANSOME KUTI & THE AFRICA 70: ‘Gentleman’ (Creole CRLP 502)
Side one is the title track, and that is the goodie here.  After a bit of skippable doodling it suddenly erupts into a bouncing, leaping, joyful throbber, with hollow booming bass behind a brassy front line.  Jazzy and subtle, but infectiously happy as hell!

MASEKELA: ‘The Boy’s Doin’ It’ (Casablanca CBC 4005)
Now living in America, trumpeter Hugh Masekela has forgotten his jazzy leanings on this Afro-Funk outing, much of which futures that ‘Street Dance’ type of rhythm.  Title track’s a slow funker, while ‘Excuse Me Please‘, ‘Ashiko‘, and ‘Mama‘ have more bounce to the ounce. 

TABOU COMBO: ‘8th Sacrement’ (Decca SKLR 5227)
Completely foxed by its origin when reviewing their ‘New York City’ single, I now know that the Tabou Combo de Petionville are from Haiti, although this live album (containing the single) was recorded at a concert in New York City itself, where of course they are considered to be Salsa stars.  Their rhythms keep rollicking and throbbing along more in the style of Nigerian Juju (type of High Life) music and they make much use of accordion and rapidly played almost Shadows-ish guitar sound over the perpetually jumping percussion.

Import Picks

CHUCK JACKSON: ‘I’m Needing You, Wanting You’ (All Platinum AP 2360)
While in Britain Chuck’s singing ‘I’ve Got The Need’, in the States he’s doing his needing in a slower, more seductive way.  Starting with a sexy homecoming rap, he slides into this Moments-penned & prod smoocher like a sweeter-singing Isaac Hayes, as he suggests to his lady that they slip upstairs before their friends come around.

MARTHA VELEZ: ‘Aggravation’ (Sire SAA 722)
Back in about ’69 Martha cut an album over here penned by Mike Vernon (as is this) which, good in itself, spawned a single that to my mind remains the best ever version of ‘Tell Mama‘.  So I’m glad to hear her again on this bouncy bit of gritty funk, which whomps along without being quite another mother.

NOTATIONS: ‘It’s Alright (This Feeling)’ (Gemigo GMS 0503)
Penned/prod by the Jackson & Yancy team of Natalie Cole fame, this vocal group’s happy dancer has indeed got much of ‘This Will Be”s sprightly swagger, although the instrumentation is very different.  Somehow also the group itself sounds as if it’s made up of lots of Barry White’s.


BELIEVE IT or not, but the Twist was being danced right back at the turn of the century, and its basic pelvic motion can be traced to ancient tribal dances of the Congo!

It seems that the rotating hip movement was incorporated as one part of the dance called Ballin’ The Jack, which before it was even named people were doing in New Orleans around 1900. In about 1909 they evidently referred to something as “The Twist”, and said it was “vulgar” as well! Certainly, pianist Jelly Roll Morton as a youth in New Orleans sang in Winin’ Boy Blues the line, Mama, Mama, just look at Sis – she out on the levee doin’ the
double Twist.

In 1912 the young Ethel Waters sang an early dance song called Messin’ Around which mentions the directions “Twist around with all your might” – presumably suggesting the movement from Ballin’ The Jack, which was itself finally choreographed and presented on stage in 1913 with a pronounced version of the modern hip movement. The Georgia Grind seems also to have been similar, while in 1922 someone called Lemuel Fowler wrote The Fowler Twist. The Twist hip movement was used by black singers of the ’20s as they raised their arms to belt out a blues, and in the 30’s it was inserted during the breakaway (where partners separated) of the Lindy – better known as the Jitterbug!

So, as both name and movement, the Twist was not exactly new when R&B star Hank Ballard decided to put some words to the dance step that his group the Midnighters had introduced into their stage act while appearing at Atlanta’s Peacock Club. Hank elaborated on the dance routine, called
it The Twist and recorded it in November 1958. Issued as the flip of his Teardrops On Your Letter hit, The Twist actually entered the R&B chart in its own right during the spring of ’59 . . . a month and a half before young Chubby Checker scored his first hit with The Class.

Chubby Checker was the stage name given to Ernest Evans by the wife of Dick Clark, who, as host of the immensely influential American Bandstand TV Pop show, was a useful ally to have, However, Chubby had to wait for over a year until his next hit, during which time there had been a spate of dance records – like the Mashed Potatoes, Hully Gully, Slop and Madison – all helped towards popularity by Dick Clark’s TV show. When suddenly Hank Ballard’s original The Twist started to happen again, Clark wanted to feature Ballard singing it – but, the apocryphal story says, they disagreed over something and, in a fit of pique, Clark had Chubby rushed into the studio to record a note-for-note cover version which was used on the show instead. Certainly the facts would seem to confirm the chronology of this story, in that on both the R&B and Pop charts Hank Ballard’s version had a two week lead over Chubby’s.

The rest of the history of the Twist is better known. Chubby Checker topped
the US chart In September 1960, then went from Twisting to the Hucklebuck, Pony and Mess Around (he also recorded Ballin’ The Jack) before saying Let’s Twist Again the following summer. It was at this stage that gossip columnist Cholly Knickerbocker (real name Igor Cassin!) wrote in the Journal-American that he had seen such-and-such an inebriated dowager trying to Twist at New York’s Peppermint Lounge – thus giving the Twist a degree of class that the middle-aged could understand.

The place to be seen at was suddenly the Peppermint Lounge, and just before Christmas 1961 the club’s resident band found themselves chasing up the chart hard on the heels of Chubby’s revived Twist, so that the first two number ones of 1962 were The Twist and Joey Dee & The Starliters’ Peppermint Twist. Only then did the dance spread to Britain, via France, and following the fun of a trying out the step at all the Christmas parties.

Oh yes, and by the end of 1962, Hank Ballard’s slightly bluesier original version of The Twist had managed to earn a gold record, even though
its fairly modest chart heyday had been during the initial burst In 1960. He had far more success that same year with Finger Poppin’ Time and Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go, between which The Twist was sandwiched. Still, from B-side to World craze is no mean feat, especially with a dance that’s so old!

dj hot line

BAND OF THE BLACK WATCH: Dance Of The Cuckoo (Spark) gets ’em all linking arms and charging about causing another fine mess, reports Steve Day (Chingford) and Peter Greig (Route 66 Disco, Plympton), who are agreed about MIRACLES: Love Machine (Tamla Motown) too . . . Steve also infos that rapidly rising are CHUCK JACKSON: I’ve Got The Need (All Platinum), tipped by Ray Robinson (Tiffany’s, Leicester) and Jon Taylor (Crocker’s, Norwich) and JOHN CONTEH: The Boxer (Boxa), tipped by Chris Hill (Goldmine, Canvey Island), who also tips LOUIS JORDAN: Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie (MCA) as his Jitterbug of the week . . . GEORGE & GWEN McCRAE: I’ll Do The Rockin’ (President) is the word from Peter Greig and Jon Taylor again, together with Les Aron (Life Discos, Bognor Regis), who’s first onto REAL McCOY: Twist & Shout ( Route) . . . TRAMMPS: Hooked For Life (Atlantic) sees Les Aron and Ray Robinson joining Colin McLean (Acas Club, Hamilton), who says that O’JAYS: I Love Music (Phlla Int) has taken the club by storm . . . Colin also reports a “better than Wingfield” reaction to DERRICK HARRIOT: 18 With A Bullet (Trojan), breaking for Ashley Eatly (Ashley’s Disco, Ferryside, Dyfed), who’s been plugging SHANGHAI:
Candy Eyes (Thunderbird) for simply ages . . . ingenious Willy Cash
(Untouchables Disco, Appleby) combines STEELEYE SPAN: All Around
My Hat (Chrysalis) with APPLEJACKS: Mexican Hat Rock Twist (London LP, American Dream), which goes well once the audience know it as it changes from Twist to a strut, he says . . . Les Spaine (Timepiece, Liverpool) predicts his biggies for Xmas will be L.T.D. EXCHANGE: Money Mad (US RCA) and CLEVELAND EATON: Chi-Town Theme (US Black Jazz) . . . belatedly, Bob Sampson (Black Cobra Disco, Burgess Hill) has turned on in a big way to KOOL & THE GANG: Spirit Of The Boogie (Polydor), which I seem to remember segues beautifully into JIMMY CASTOR BUNCH: Bertha Butt Boogie (Atlantic) . . . suitably Xmassy, Tom Russell (Kirkintilloch) tips EARTH WIND & FIRE: Shining Star (CBS) and MIKE OLDFIELD: In Dulci Jubilo (Virgin) .  . . can contributing DJs please get their charts and hot shots in by next Thursday, New Year’s Day, please? . . . that night Incidentally, I’ll be playing the hits from 1960 (a very good year) at the Lord Nelson in London’s Holloway Road . . . so a frantic first and – uh – Cool Yule, y’all!

There was no Disco Top 20 this week, since the space was taken up by various year-end charts.  A year-end disco chart wasn’t among them, so here is a self-created list of the top 20 songs in the four months of charts that have been posted so far.

01 KC & The Sunshine Band – That’s The Way (I Like It) – Jay Boy
02 Roxy Music – Love Is The Drug – Island
03 Drifters – There Goes My First Love – Bell
04 People’s Choice – Do It Anyway You Wanna – Philadelphia Int’l
05 David Essex – Hold Me Close – CBS
06 George McCrae – I Ain’t Lyin’ – Jay Boy
07 Fatback Band – Yum Yum (Gimme Some) – Polydor
08 Maxine Nightingale – Right Back Where We Started From – United Artists
09 5000 Volts – I’m On Fire – Philips
10 Natalie Cole – This Will Be – Capitol
11 Esther Phillips – What A Diff’rence A Day Makes – Kudu
12 Rod Stewart – Sailing – Warner Bros.
13 Jim Capaldi – Love Hurts – Island
14 Trammps – Hold Back The Night – Buddah
15 Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing – Rak
16 George McCrae – It’s Been So Long – Jay Boy
17 Dee Clark – Ride A Wild Horse – Chelsea
18 Hello – New York Groove – Bell
19 Stylistics – I Can’t Give You Anything – Avco
20 Four Seasons – Who Loves You – Warner Bros.

james’ top twenty of 1975

01 MISTY, Ray Stevens, Janus
02 I’M ON FIRE, 5000 Volts, Philips
03 IN THE MOOD, Joe Bob’s Nashville Sound Company, US Capitol
04 LOVE ME LOVE MY DOG, Peter Shelley, Magnet
06 HOLD ME CLOSE, David Essex, CBS
08 I’M NOT IN LOVE, 10cc, Mercury
09 LOOKS, LOOKS, LOOKS, Sparks, Island
11 EL BIMBO, Bimbo Jet, EMI
12 LADY MARMALADE, Labelle, Epic
13 LOVE IS THE DRUG, Roxy Music, Island
15 LOVE HURTS, Jim Capaldi, Island
16 (ALL I HAVE TO DO IS) DREAM, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, UA
17 THAT’S THE WAY (I LIKE IT), KC and The Sunshine Band, Jay Boy
18 TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS, Doobie Brothers, Warner Bros
20 TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF, Three Degrees, Phila Int

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