Sunday, October 9, 2016
SHG: Chubby Checker: "Limbo Rock"
Chubby Checker: “Limbo Rock”
Entered the chart on: 9/29/62
Peaked on: 12/22/62
Weeks at #2: 2
Song at #1: “Telstar” by the Tornadoes
I was going to try a stalling tactic for this review, but there’s no way around it. Let’s just jump in with both feet and get it over with.
Mind you, Chubby Checker, despite his derivative name (and the fact that he’s of average girth), is not a man without talent. He had a strong voice and an uncanny talent for mimicry; listen to his now-forgotten debut hit, “The Class.” Cameo-Parkway used that talent for...um...ripping off Hank Ballard (the original singer of “The Twist,” whose rendition Mr. Checker’s twice #1 version blatantly carbon-copies). Checker blames Cameo-Parkway for ruining his career, making him a laughingstock. I’ll side with the man here, as I’ve heard some of his post C-P singles where it’s revealed, in his heart of hearts, he really wanted to be...Jimi Hendrix? And damn if he didn’t almost pull it off!
In other words, they took a man with scads of potential, and squandered his talents on faddish dance-craze records. I feel no regret for what I’m about to do.
I’ll be perfectly honest: this doesn’t even feel like a “real” song. This is what I call “functional” music. It’s like the Hokey Pokey, or the Chicken Dance. Something a wedding DJ puts on to get kids and grandparents alike out on the dance floor. Chubby tries to enliven this with the laughter, the spoken word breaks (“How low can you go?” Oh, the irony!), but I’m having none of it. The handclaps almost got me into it. Almost. But not quite.
The faux-calypso style, apparently inspired by half an hour of listening to a Harry Belafonte record, feels phoned in. It’s just so repetitive! And the unison sax/whistle repeat of that melody one more time certainly isn’t helping.
I can’t imagine anyone listening to this one on purpose. Obnoxious.