1988 Countdown #85: Fat Boys, “The Twist”

Here’s a list of some of the albums that came out in 1988, hip-hop’s golden year: EPMD’s Strictly Business, Big Daddy Kane’s Long Live the Kane, Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary, Slick Rick’s The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton, the Jungle Brothers’ Straight Out the Jungle, Eric B. and Rakim’s Follow the Leader, and towering like the Colossus of Long Island, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.


I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything from any of those discs in this countdown–even though Yo! MTV Raps debuted in August 1988 with blockbuster ratings. (I expect Salt-n-Pepa and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince will make appearances later on, though.) But the Fat Boys’ Coming Back Hard Again? Bring it on!

The video opens in black-and-white, at the sweet-sixteen birthday party for a girl who’s helpfully wearing a “YoLinda” nametag. She’s arguing with her mom (yes, she’s sporting a “Mom” nametag), complaining about the musical act, who have jackets and fishermen’s hats that make them look like rapping Vegas Gilligans. “Where did you get this band?” she whines. “Mom, we should have gotten the Fat Boys! Mom, we could have gotten the Fat Boys!” I’m sure YoLinda’s right–by 1988, the Fat Boys were available for birthday parties, clam bakes, and pet-store grand openings.

The set is done in a cartoony PeeWee’s Playhouse style. There’s a big video screen at the back of the Vegas Gilligans’ stage–we see a static-filled image of the full-color Fat Boys cavorting on it. Then we zoom in, and a Fat Boy (Buffy the Human Beat Box), announces “Twist!” Since the Fat Boys had a #12 single with a novelty cover of “Wipeout” the year before, they followed up in 1988 with versions of both “Louie, Louie” and “The Twist.” (According to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, the complete title of this song was “The Twist (Yo, Twist!).”

We hear Chubby Checker singing “The Twist” over some cheesy keyboards, while panels of Fat Boy dancing scroll across the “video screen.” Two white girls in bikinis join in. The Fat Boys look like they’re having fun–I’m just glad somebody is, because it’s not me. The beats sound as canned and amateurish as the rapping. Hip-hop was changing quickly: the year before, the Fat Boys had their own movie, Disorderlies (and three years before, somehow they ended up on the “Sun City” single). But two out of the three Fat Boys were still sporting huge gold ropes. If even old-school valedictorians like Run-DMC were having trouble making the grade in 1988, is it any wonder that these goofballs were flunking out?


Anyway, our trio of overweight heroes step out of the video screen into the black-and-white party, turning the room into full color. They throw the Vegas Gilligans off the stage: one lands with his face in a birthday cake. The party-goers watch this action goggle-eyed, but YoLinda starts bobbing her head, delighted–this is clearly her best birthday ever.

Chubby Checker appears on the video screen in black-and-white. He’s wearing a checked jacket and appears to have a necktie wrapped around his head; the bikini girls are dancing with him. Turns out this isn’t a sample: Checker’s singing customized lyrics (“Chubby Checker and the Fat Boys, doing the Twist”). The crowd is now all dancing and having a good time. The Fat Boys rap some more; to demonstrate their verbal dexterity, the screen spins upside-down. Chubby Checker jumps out of the video screen, a little burst of red static trailing behind him like the hockey puck on a Fox broadcast of an NHL game. YoLinda’s mom faints into the arms of three waiters.


We get a close-up on Checker: what looked like a necktie turns out to be a long string of braided hair dangling on his left shoulder; his Afro is garnished with a bunch of ponytails. He’s pioneered some unforeseen fusion of the hairstyles of Angela Davis and Aimee Mann. More merriment and dancing. Checker sings more customized lyrics, name-checking all three members of the Fat Boys (Human Beat Box, Kool Rock-Ski, and Prince Markie Dee). Buffy the Human Beat Box does some beatboxing and some scratching on the turntables–this part isn’t bad.


The waiters twist on top of a table. Checker’s dancing with YoLinda. Mom’s twisting with Kool Rock-Ski. Buffy’s doing the limbo, which in his case, seems to mean sliding under a pole while he rests on his back. The whole party does a choreographed twist routine while balloons fall from the ceiling. As low-rent as this video is, they didn’t stint on party guests: often a cheap video will try to cast a party with twelve or so people, but it looks like we’ve got forty to fifty here–more black than white, but more racially mixed than you see in most videos.

The clip ends with an empty room and the Fat Boys back on the video screen. “Your party’s next!” they announce, making it sound like a threat. This video probably makes the most sense if you think of it as infomercial for the Fat Boys, trying to get those bar mitzvah gigs.

The Fat Boys’ version of “The Twist” peaked on the pop charts at #16. You can watch it here.

posted 31 July 2008 in 1988 and tagged , , . 2 comments

2 Comments on 1988 Countdown #85: Fat Boys, “The Twist”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Y’know what else came out in 1988, is equally of the radio-friendly party-rap genre, was also made massive by Yo! MTV Raps in its debut year — and yet doesn’t sound dated today the way this Fat Boys mishegoss does? And, like all the great but more grim-faced stuff you listed above, probably won’t be on this contemporaneous MTV countdown?

    Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two.”

    I mention this only to point out that, even in the world of pop-rap crossover, the big cultural gatekeepers were so bad at determining what the great or lasting or radio-gold records were. It isn’t just that MTV or Top 40 programmers had, until at least the mid-’90s, awful taste in hip-hop — that explains PE or Rakim not getting play. They couldn’t even identify the rap-based ear candy that helped change the sound of popular music and caught the fancy of the general public. They were too busy playing this dreck (no offense to the Fat Boys, who were once-great beatboxers and became pawns in this game).

    I mean, Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” is now considered a rap-pop crossover classic, but back in ’87–’88 (that year again!) it struggled to scrape the Top 20 of the Hot 100, despite selling more than 2 million singles. Think about that: in the days before SoundScan, not only was radio sheepish about playing a massively popular, if sexually aggressive, hip-hop song, retailers were sheepish about reporting how many copies they were selling! They couldn’t even properly report the songs that were becoming hits on their own!

    I basically regard the dominance by hip-hop over the pop charts over the last decade and a half as massive karmic revenge for the ways the genre got screwed by the industry in the ’80s.

  2. kevin smith Says:

    I’ve never ever forgotton that slightly fat girl in the video of the twist with chubby & the fat boys, I watch this over & over she was just so normal looking the skinny one was ok but the other one had just the right shape & that look oh so hot she is etched into my head for ever if she was twenty then then she’s only about 45 50 now i wonder where she is today does anybody know?

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