Chubby Checker spreading the Twist
[A post for a pandemic.]
Hook experience is “infectious,” as we so often say, because musical content has easily entered your system (getting past the membranes that maintain your normal posture in your environment — your habits, your beliefs, all your inertia) and has changed the state of your system even as it is changing others around you similarly. Taken over as though by a vicious microbe, people start moving and speaking oddly. They gyrate, they babble nonsense. There is a craze.
The hook that most clearly displays the trespassing power, the flagrant impact, and the viral shareability of musical gesture is: well, how about “Shake it up baby!” in “Twist and Shout”?
Ronnie Isley’s vocal begins with shocking roughness, ripping past our defenses; this is after we’ve nearly been lulled by the relatively slow groove. Note that the melodic figure starts ahead of schedule, “Shake” coming on the 3-beat of the measure before we start on the tonic chord (F) with “baby.” There is pleasure in participating in this ambush. Note also that the melody plunges down home from the clarion 5th note, C, for “Shake it up ba-” down to the 3rd-2nd-1st notes A-G-F of the F chord rapidly on “-by.” Isley executes the A-G-F much better than you could, yet it’s easy to feel that you are singing the same thing. That makes two sneaky pleasures that you feel while the twisting and shouting cells are aggressively spreading through your body, unlocking your native cells to join them in this feverish new way of life.
Here is the Beatles’ version to compare, with the famous raw-throated John Lennon vocal (and he actually was sick) emulating the Isley intensity, a little more frantic:
I was part of the craze. It hit me (via the Beatles) in a soda shop in March 1964, spring break, Ft. Lauderdale, the beach, college students swarming. At the time, my music was
. . . I can’t remember what my music was, before I got infected.
 The first release of “Twist and Shout” by the Top Notes (1961), produced by Phil Spector, was much faster. Co-writer Bert Berns had something else in mind and enlisted the Isley Brothers in realizing it.