Motown RecordsMotown M 1022 (B), November 1961

B-side of Xmas Twist

(Written by Brian Holland, Berry Gordy and Barney Ales)

Scan kindly provided by Gordon Frewin.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!Right, I’ve calmed down a bit after my Youtube ranting yesterday while reviewing Xmas Twist, the A-side of this novelty Twist single. Unfortunately, this B-side is almost guaranteed to get on your nerves, so perhaps best not to play it if you’re in anything other than a playful, dancing mood.

As explained earlier, the Twistin’ Kings were really the Funk Brothers, corraled together to knock out an entire Twist LP at very short notice in an ill-judged bid to pick up sales on the back of the nationwide dance craze.

The A-side, Xmas Twist, was a loosely-fenced R&B instrumental rock-out, unfortunately saddled with a lead vocal that makes repeated references to the eponymous “Christmas Twist” and ends up diminishing repeat plays. Well, take everything I said about Xmas Twist (except maybe the shouty Youtube stuff) and amplify it for this B-side, because those criticisms go double here.

Things start off in highly unpromising fashion, Berry Gordy’s ex-wife Raynoma – “Miss Ray” herself – providing a spoken-word intro in a faux cut-glass accent that’s just OBVIOUSLY a setup for a weak half-joke:

“Oh dahlings! I’m just TOO, too glad to have you here at this historical occasion. Just relax while I play you some NICE, QUIET MUSIC.”

Can you guess what happens next? I bet you can’t. Oh, alright, you can. Because the record starts up, and it’s very loud and raucous, you see, and that’s VERY FUNNY, because she led us to believe it would be nice and quiet!

Anyway, the start of the record is indeed very loud and raucous, but not in a good way like Money (That’s What I Want); instead, it’s just annoying. The mystery chorus of vocalists who’d raised a half-smile on the A-side by unexpectedly breaking out a line like “Oooooooooh! Jingle bells!” here open the record – OPEN the record, mark you – with a bracingly loud, barely in-key shouted chant of “BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP! BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP! BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP! SHOOP!” – for what seems like an eternity, before they mercifully (at long last) stop doing it just as you’re leaping for the “skip” button.

The Twistin' Kings' one and only LP, the little-heard, little-bought 'Twistin' The World Around', released ready for Christmas 1961. Digital image from an original scan by Gordon Frewin. All applicable rights reserved.(At least modern CD and MP3 technology means you’re unlikely to scratch your valuable copy of the Twistin’ The World Around With The Twistin’ Kings LP by grabbing the stylus and dragging the needle on to the next song before your ears start bleeding).

After a start like that, I don’t think there’s anything in the world that could have saved the record. It’s a shame, because the rest of it is actually pretty good; once the vocalists shut up for a bit (Come on, let’s do it some more. Get up!) at 0:52 and the band are allowed to stretch their legs, the whole thing moves up several gears. There are some fun handclaps and a pounding, barrelling piano part as Benny Benjamin’s drums drive the whole thing crashing along, but the absolute star of the show is the sax player (either Beans Bowles or Ron Wakefield – or maybe both), who gives a blinding performance that all but erases the memory of that terrible start.

It can’t last; the vocalists come back at 1:27 and the sax is sidelined in the mix to better accommodate them. They do OK, although what’s going on behind them is far more interesting and I find myself wishing they’d pipe down for a minute so I can listen. Fat chance; 1:45 in and that stupid BOOGEDY BOOGEDY BOOGEDY vocal riff starts up again, at which point you’d be hard pressed to concentrate on anything else, except trying not to grind your teeth. Finally, at 2:02, blessed relief, the vocals are taken out altogether and it’s just sax, drums and piano belting out their intoxicating jam for the remaining twenty-odd seconds, making you want to get up and dance despite yourself. The ending is really weird, a positively savage edit at 2:26 dropping the volume and fading the record out in double-quick time.

The stupidly annoying bits mean this can’t really be considered as being on a par with Xmas Twist, but the band performance is nearly enough to outweigh them. Listen to it at least once, anyway, you might be less irritable than me.




(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)

You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.

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The Twistin’ Kings
“Xmas Twist”
Mickey Woods
“Please Mr Kennedy”