What’s the 4-1-1?
Twisted Sister labored day in and day out for more than a decade on the New York City club circuit before becoming a household name. When they originally formed in 1972 by guitarist Jay Jay French, the group was a glam cover band in the vein of the New York Dolls. It wasn’t until 1976 that wild frontman Dee Snider hooked up with the group. It was Dee that become the chief original songwriter and got Twisted Sister going toward their path of rock stardom.
The group’s first studio album Under the Blade was a hit by any standard, but it did cause quite a stir in the rock music underground. Atlantic Record released their follow-up album in 1983, You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll to mixed reviews. Some say it might have been Quiet Riot’s breakout into the pop charts that gave Twisted Sister and bands like them a chance to be heard. In 1984, the group released their third album Stay Hungry. And the rest, they say…is history!
Often overlooked is the albums title track “Stay Hungry.” The song has such a great heavy metal feel and bounce to it as Dee Snider wails away vocally, and his twin guitar attack of Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda back him up with a wall of power chords. You know it, you love it, and most of you youngsters think it’s a song for a nasal decongestant; it’s the rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” This is the one that got Twisted Sister noticed; for good and bad reasons.
Senator Al Gore’s wife Tipper singled out the video for this song for its violent content and the impact it would have on America’s youth. Mind you, this video was so cartoonish that if you actually threw someone out a window because of it, you have more problems than listening to Twisted Sister. The controversy only worked in the groups favor, as the album started flying off the shelves. It just goes to show that all publicity is good publicity.
“Burn in Hell” never makes the Twisted Sister best of albums, but it’s actually on of their coolest tracks. The tone is very dark and evil as you are taken into the bowels of hell. Once inside, the guitars ring out in a metal fury and summon the flames of Hades. I was actually introduced to this song when it appeared in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (yeah, I didn’t believe it either). “Horror-Teria” eventually went on to spawn Snider’s feature film Strangeland years later. The two-part track is just as twisted as the movie (okay, the movie was much more so).
Twisted Sister showed they were no slouches when it came to the anthem department with the inclusion of “I Wanna Rock.” This is another song that has bleed so much into our pop-culture that a version of it was used in the SpongeBob Squarepants Movie (sung lovingly by Dee himself). “The Price” was a heavy metal ballad tried and true. It’s not too sappy, but it’s heartfelt at the same time. Thunderous riffs run rampant on “The Beast.” When the axes are subdued, drummer A.J. Pero takes over. Now what I can’t understand is, everyone knows what “S.M.F.” stands for after listening to it, but it was We’re Not Gonna Take It” that Tipper had a problem with.
Twisted Sister went on to release several more albums, but none lived up to Stay Hungry. In reality, Twisted Sister wasn’t the biggest hard rock act in the world, but they did make their mark on the scene for a few years. The group called it quits in the late eighties. Jay Jay French went on to manage Sevendust and Snider worked any gig he could get. He formed three groups, Desperado, Widowmaker, and S.M.F. (a TS cover band), and hosted his own radio talk show as well as the syndicated program the House of Hair. Twisted Sister has since reunited and has decided to hit to nostalgia circuit. They’ve been crossing the country for the past few years and continue to keep the pace. Why? Because you wanna rock!
It’s not the greatest rock album of all-time, but you can’t discuss the history of rock and metal without mentioning it.