I Wanna Rock With Twisted Sister
My Journey Into Twisted Sister
Around 1997 I started getting into Twisted Sister. I was in High School and my cousin would be in the same art class as me. We would talk music all the time. Mostly KISS and Twisted Sister. The first thing I bought was the compilation "Big Hits and Nasty Cuts". Of course I knew the songs "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" from when I was younger. I can't remember a time when I never heard those songs on the radio, but that was as far as I ever went with the band until I purchased that Compilation. I also remember the cameo of the band in Pee Wee's Big Adventure while they were performing the song "Burn In Hell". Thankfully it was on "Big Hits and Nasty Cuts" so that became my favorite Twisted Sister song instantly cause I finally got to hear the entire song. Still to this day it's one of my all time favorite songs and would make a list in my top 10 favorite songs. I liked the compilation as far as the album tracks went, but as for the live tracks, I really didn't care for those songs that much so I figured, I guess that's it and i'll be happy just owning a best of.
Fast forward to 2001, an uncle I don't really see or talk to much saw my music collection and he immediately was shocked I was into Twisted Sister. He told me the stories of how he loved the band and would always go to their shows and how crazy they were, so that made me more interested. A few weeks after that I saw an ad at a music store I used to go to on Long Island called Slipped Disc. It was in Valley Stream, NY and was THE PLACE TO GO for music. I'll never forget the first day I found out about the store and took the 50 minute drive. I never wanted to leave. They sold everything and anything by every band you could have possibly ever heard of.
A tribute album to Twisted Sister was being released at the time and Slipped Disc was holding a signing with the band. I thought it was strange the band was there to sign a tribute album, but whatever, I never met a band before at the time and I thought it would be cool to get my Big Hits cd signed. When I got there I was hearing you had to purchase the Tribute album. Not wanting the Tribute album I was getting nervous cause I thought I wasted all the time to get the bands autographed and they wouldn't sign my cd. Thankfully as I got closer in the store I saw you could purchase the Tribute album or any of their other albums and they will sign it. Since I didn't own the other albums I bought them all, but had them sign Stay Hungry.
I was nervous and didn't know what to say to them so I didn't say much but thank you and handed Dee a demo of my band at the time, which he probably threw in the trash before he left the store (haha) but I now had all the albums and I can finally hear what else they had to offer and I was expecting any of what I heard.
Under The Blade
Released in 1982 "Under The Blade" was produced by Bassist Pete Way of UFO in London England. On the official release by Secret Records there was a grittier/raw sound but after the success of Stay Hungry, the album was re-released with a new mix to fit the sound of Stay Hungry and You Can't Stop Rock N Roll. Also, there was an added track "I'll Never Grow Up Now" that seems a little out of place, but its still a decent song. It wouldn't be until 2011 another record company, Eagle Rock, would re-release the original recordings the way it was on the original release through Secret Records.
At the time when I got into Twisted Sister, I bought all the Spitfire Records re-releases not knowing there was different sounding version of "Under The Blade". When I found about the original release I searched for the vinyl version not knowing that the album cover is also slightly different. The photo of the band was from the same photo session but the band was in a different pose, which I also think looks better than the Atlantic/Spitfire re-release. When I put the needle down on the record I was shocked at the difference in sound. It was almost like a whole new album. The music sounded heavier and more in your face. To this day I never bother listening to that awful remix version and I encourage everyone to find that original vinyl released by Secret or purchase the Eagle Rock version which also features the Ruff Cuts EP a live version of Shoot 'em Down and a DVD of their appearance at the Reading Festival in 1982.
"Under The Blade" really grabbed my attention, especially the title song. Just something about the simple chugging guitar intro, the lead guitar fading in, Dee coming in with the lyrics
"A glint of steel
A flash of light
You know you're not going home tonight
Be it jack or switch
Doctor's or mind
Nowhere to run, everywhere you'll find
You can't escape
From the bed you've made
When you're time has come,
You'll accept the blade"
then the drums coming pounding and the song takes off. Everything just blended together so well and even the lyrics put a vision in your head of what's happening in the song. It's a simple song for today's standards in metal but at that time it's such a heavy powerful song.
I could say the same thing for the rest of the album. You can tell they were a band on a mission to get to the top. The way they dressed even made a statement. Even though they looked a little more on the glam rock side, they were still more a heavy metal band than anything.
I'm pretty much a big fan of the whole album except for maybe the last song "Day Of The Rocker" which really has an AC/DC feel to it and is almost completely different from all the other songs on the album.
One last note, on the back of the album cover it shows the band without all the make up and costumes and they're just standing there on some street in just denim and jeans. They look like a bunch of tough guys who would kick your ass if you looked at them the wrong way and it almost looks like a completely different band than what's on the front cover. I think they could have really went with that look and still came out on top.
You Really Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll
Released in 1983, "You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll" is Twisted Sister's major label debut for Atlantic Records. Not much changed with the band. The hunger was still there but you could tell they were going to start heading in a more commercial direction, especially with their first ballad "You're Not Alone", which was dedicated to Dee's Wife who was also the bands make up artist and costume designer.
The album would reach #164 on the US billboard charts and #14 on the UK album charts, but it wouldn't be until 1995 when the album would be certified gold for selling over 500,000 copies in the US. 3 singles were released for the songs "You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll, I Am (I'm Me), and The Kids Are Back. There is also different artwork for this album as well. The UK version having a red background which I prefer over the US version which is just a black background.
There are a lot of great tracks on this album. I don't feel it's as strong as "Under The Blade" there are a couple filler tracks but the majority of the album is great. One noticeable difference is the production.It sounds more clean and slick, but the essence of the band is there and you know it's Twisted Sister from the opening track and the stomping feet of "The Kids Are Back". Some of the other great tracks are the empowering "I Am (I'm Me)", "Like A Knife In The Back", The song that makes you want to buy a motorcycle and ride out into the sunset "Ride To Live, Live To Ride", "We're Gonna Make It", and the commanding title track "You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll".
The other tracks I didn't mention "Power and The Glory", "I'll Take You Alive", and "I've Had Enough" just all felt like filler tracks. All in all its a great debut album full of enough good songs to make you not worry about a few clunkers. It wouldn't be long before the record company would want the band to release a new album and what came next really shot Twisted Sister into that spotlight they were looking for.
Everyone who is my age (40) and over (and maybe some of the younger ones too who have cool parents) remembers seeing the video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" playing non stop on MTV. The one thing, besides the music of course, that stuck out about this video was that intro. The father yelling at his kid for listening to rock music and wanting to be a guitar player. I think a lot of people at that time could really relate to that. Heavy Metal and Rock music have always been this evil thing that parents (at least the lame ones) were always against. Thankfully I didn't grow up in that type of family. I think everyone watching that video felt (street) justice when the father went flying out of the window when his son says "I Wanna Rock" and hits that guitar chord. It's just such an iconic video from the 80's.
With that being said, 1984 Twisted Sister would release their third album "Stay Hungry" on Atlantic Records. The album went to #15 on the US Billboard charts and by 1995 went 3 times platinum for selling over 3,000,000 copies. "Stay Hungry" would also feature the bands biggest hits "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" along with another ballad "The Price".
With "Stay Hungry" the band gave it everything they had. With Dee Snider being the main songwriter in the band he wrote his ass off. You had the anthems and you had the ballads, but Dee tried something new with the song Horror-Teria which comprised of Two songs, "Captain Howdy" and "Street Justice" which is about a guy who would lure potential victims to his home to torture and kill them. Sounds like a cool concept but as a Twisted Sister song, it's the worst song on this album. I'm just not a fan of the "Captain Howdy" song. It seems like it tries to take a little bit from the song "Destroyer" back from the "Under The Blade Album" but just fails to deliver. On the other hand, the song "Street Justice" is much better and is a nice finish to that concept but it's still the odd song out on the album. The end of "Captain Howdy" and the start of "Street Justice" just doesn't lead in and out of each other right and sounds unfinished or they were uncertain on what to really do. The only thing that saves it for me is the chorus in "Street Justice". Years later Dee would turn the song into a movie called "Strangeland" where he would play the part of Captain Howdy. Pretty much a straight to dvd (VHS at the time) movie, which wasn't terrible. It was updated a bit to fit with the times and they changed the ending a bit as well but it wasn't all that bad.
Getting "Horror-Teria" out of the way, the rest of the album is excellent and one of the best albums released in 1984 and would easily make anyone's list of top albums of all time. With songs like the opener "Stay Hungry" which Dee would get the idea for the title from Arnold Schwarzenegger. of course "We're Not Gonna Take It", One of my all time favorite Twisted Sister songs "Burn in Hell". This is another song that kind of reminds me of the song "Under The Blade" with the intro of Dee talking with the music, then the music kicks in almost similar to "Under The Blade" and has a catchy chorus as well. Also every time I hear this song I always think of Pee Wee's Big Adventure where towards the end of the movie when Pee Wee finds his bike and rides it through the backlots of Hollywood, Pee Wee bikes through Twisted Sister making a video for the song.
Side 2 of the album opens up with the fist pumping "I Wanna Rock". Not to get back on my dislike of Horror-Terria but it's just weird, one minute their talking abductions, the next minute they want to rock. See how easy the 80's were? After that, the ballad and another one of my all time favorite TS songs "The Price". Where "You're Not Alone" from the previous album fell a little flat they really made a kick ass ballad with "The Price". Dee's vocal performance alone on this song is what makes it so great. The chorus has a really strong meaning and talks about the sacrifices we make to achieve our goals.
"Oh it´s the price we gotta pay
And all the games we gotta play
Makes me wonder if it´s worth it to carry on
'Cause it´s a game we gotta lose
Though it´s a life we gotta choose
And the price is our own life until it´s done"
The double bass intro with the dual guitars of "Don't Let Me Down" almost has a Iron Maiden like feel to it. Another great song with its catchy verses and chorus'. "The Beast" leads up to the final track "S.M.F." which stands for Sick Mother F**ker. It's a song for all their loyal fans that were there in the early inception of the band and its a great closer to the album.
A 25th anniversary edition of "Stay Hungry" was released with a bonus disc containing 15 unreleased outtakes and demos as well as a new song recorded by the band entitled 30.
In 2004 the band would get back together and release a new album but it wasn't of new songs. It was a complete re-recording of the album "Stay Hungry" except this time around they entitled it "Still Hungry". We all know why bands re-record their albums but in this case apparently the band was never happy with the final outcome of the original "Stay Hungry" album and they wanted to make it the way they intended it to sound. Remember that saying to leave well enough alone? Well....the album isn't terrible. Obviously they all still have it. Dee sounds great and so does the whole band but the original album itself sounds so much better and there was no reason to re-record this album again when it sounded perfect to begin with. There are also bonus tracks taken from the original recording sessions as well. Again the album wasn't terrible but I wouldn't tell the casual fan to run out and buy it.
The Nature Of The Beast
As with any band that is together as long as Twisted Sister was, there is bound to come a time when members of the band might start to not get along. Whether it be jealousy, or just the struggles from being on tour, the life of being in a band and away from your family can take a toll on anyone. I chose to only do the first 3 albums cause that was when the band was wanting to succeed. With tensions rising in the band, the next album "Come Out And Play" suffered because the band seemed unfocused and confused at what they should have done after following the success of "Stay Hungry". Aj Pero would leave the band after the tour that had low ticket sales.
Dee planned on a solo album but the record label had another idea and forced Dee's solo album into becoming the next Twisted album that would prove to be the last. With its departure from the typical Twisted Sister sound the album was pretty much rejected by fans and after a month of touring the band would break up.
As I mentioned earlier, the band would release "Still Hungry" and a Christmas album as well that seemed to get good reviews, but I've yet to listen to it. They would also play various shows and even get back into their old gear until the untimely passing on AJ Pero from a heart attack. They performed a final tribute to AJ with Mike Portnoy on drums and it was also the farewell to the band.
Twisted Sister really had a lot going for them once the line up really got put together and even though their rise to fame didn't last that long, they still left a legacy of Heavy Metal for all generations of S.M.F's to listen to for years to come.
Please feel free to check out our Youtube channel where we will be discussing more of the first 3 Twisted Sister albums in our 3 part mini series.