Top 40 Smash Taps: “The Alvin Twist”

These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

Ross Bagdasarian famously stumbled upon the the notion of a singing group comprises of small furry mammals by playing around with tape speed in the studio. He was already a relatively successful figure in the entertainment industry, having appeared on Broadway and in several films, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. he also co-wrote the hit song “Come On-A My House” with his famed novelist cousin William Saroyan. Still, it’s probably safe to say that nothing else he did had the long-lasting impact of The Chipmunks.

Arguably the most significant success early on was a novelty Christmas song that was actually somewhat charming despite its overly jokey nature. There was actually something kind of endearing about the furry trio’s plea that Christmas not be late, and Alvin’s fixation on the hula hoop he hoped to receive from Santa captured the childhood eagerness for the holiday in a surprisingly effective manner. Bagdasarian successfully parlayed the notoriety of the character into a slew of ancillary products: a television show, comic books and enough toys to make a chest overflow.

Never one to miss out on trend suited for a quick cash-in, Bagdasarian saw to it that his fictional charges joined the legion of performers releasing their own versions of the blockbuster “the Twist.” Indeed, the Billboard review of the single opened with the simple statement, “It had to happen.” (The b-side of the single housed the sublimely weird “I Wish I Could Speak French.”) The song hardly duplicated the massive success of Chubby Checker’s original, but it did manage to become a Top 40 hit for Alvin & The Chipmunks, although just barely.

The Chipmunks continued to get revived throughout the years, slightly reimagined to suit each new generation of fans. The less typed about the latest iteration of the group, the better.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton

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