Members: Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza, A.J. Pero
Active: 1973 - 1987, 1997 - present
Twisted Sister is an American heavy metal band from New York City. Their work fuses the shock tactics of Alice Cooper, the rebellious mood of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the style of the New York Dolls, and the extravagant makeup of KISS. The group has a glam-like image and implements musically elements of classic heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest and Mot?rhead as did some of the earlier glam metal bands. However, Dee Snider, the group's frontman, has been quoted as saying:
"I don't think Twisted Sister is "Glam" because that implies glamour, and we're not glamorous.
We should be called "Hid" because we're hideous. "
Although the band was formed by guitarist Jay Jay French in 1973, all of their songs were written by lead singer Dee Snider. The group's hits include "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", both popularized by regular airplay on MTV in the 1980s. Many of the band's songs explore themes of parent vs. child conflicts and criticisms of the educational system.
Twisted Sister began on February 14, 1973, when guitarist Jay Jay French joined a band called Silverstar. In those days, French was using the stage name Johnny Heartbreaker. He had previously played in some local bands and had auditioned for Wicked Lester, the band that would eventually become KISS. On the suggestion of Silverstar's lead singer Michael Valentine, the band changed its name to Twisted Sister. Valentine and the other guitarist, Billy Diamond, soon left, prompting French to assume vocal duties as well.
In 1975, Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, a former high school friend of French, joined as co-lead singer and second guitarist. He had previously recorded with a New York City band called SPV. Kevin John Grace replaced Mel "Starr" Anderson on drums. Bass guitarist Kenny Neill (Kenneth Harrisson-Neill) completed the lineup. The band followed a glam rock direction, influenced by David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Humble Pie, and New York Dolls. They played at local clubs without much success until 1976.
In 1976, Dee Snider joined the band as lead singer and principal songwriter. After replacing drummer Grace with Tony Petri, the group took a heavier musical direction, influenced by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper, but without abandoning their glam image.
Although glam was out of fashion in those days, Snider's phenomenal abilities as frontman propelled the band to considerable local success. They broke attendance records at large halls in the Tri-State Region and their growing fan base began to take the name "S.M.F.F.O.T.S.", for Sick Motherfucking Friends Of Twisted Sister. Later shortened to "S.M.F." for "Sick Mother Fuckers."
No record label was interested in signing the band, so in 1979 they released the single "I'll Never Grow Up Now" / "Under the Blade" on their own label, Twisted Sister Records, followed in 1980 by "Bad Boys (Of Rock & Roll)" / "Lady's Boy". The legendary Eddie Kramer produced both singles.
In this period, the group suffered some member traffic. On October 31, 1978, Neill left to be a born again Christian, according to an interview with Snider. The band's roadie and friend, Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, formerly bassist for The Dictators, replaced him. In December 1980, Petri also left for Plasmatics and was replaced briefly by Ritchie Teeter. Ironically Teeter, also formerly of The Dictators, was replaced in that band by Mel Anderson. In April 1981, Teeter was replaced by "Fast" Joey Brighton, who was in turn replaced by A.J. Pero from Cities, another unsigned band with local fame.
This lineup?Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and A.J. Pero?is considered the band's classic lineup, with which they would record four studio albums and perform numerous live shows around the world.
Upon the suggestion of two reporters from Sounds and Kerrang! magazines, Twisted Sister left New York to find a label in the UK. There, in April 1982, they were finally signed by Secret Records, a small British label that was mainly a punk outlet.
In June 1982, the group released their first EP, Ruff Cuts, on the Secret Records label. This was followed shortly by their first LP, Under The Blade, produced by Pete Way of UFO. Despite rather low production quality, the album was a surprise underground hit in the UK, providing the band with sufficient name recognition to open for such metal acts as Mot?rhead. The album had an overall raw metal sound and included "Tear It Loose", a very fast speed metal song featuring a guitar solo by "Fast" Eddie Clarke of Mot?rhead. Another single, the future hit "We're Not Gonna Take It", was planned for release, but Secret Records went out of business before Snider was able to complete the lyrics.
Somewhere around this time, Twisted Sister updated its feminized image with a more grotesque look that distinguished them from other glam metal bands of the era. The group was now regarded more as a weird-looking heavy metal band because their look and music, although still reminiscient of pop/glam styles, were growing closer to heavy metal's leather and chains images.
After an appearance on the music TV program The Tube, Atlantic Records approached the band and signed them. Ironically, Atlantic was one of the labels that had turned Twisted Sister down in the Club Days period. Their first LP under Atlantic, You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll, produced by Stuart Epps, was released in 1983 and included the UK #19 hit "I Am (I'm Me)". From a production standpoint, the album sounded better than its predecessor, and it was every bit as heavy. Upon the success of the album the company decided to promote the band more heavily. A music video was made for the title track of You Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll, which was to become the first of a series of comedic videos that popularized the band.
International fame came for Twisted Sister when the band's third LP, Stay Hungry, hit the stores in 1984. The album was a little more commercial-sounding than the first two, owing to Tom Werman's production, but it still included heavy songs such as the title track and "Burn In Hell". During a very successful tour, a young Metallica supported the band. Stay Hungry sold more than two million copies by the summer of 1985, and went on to sell more than three million in subsequent years. It remains the band's biggest success and is considered a classic among heavy metal fans.
Videos of hit singles "We're Not Gonna Take It" (a #21 hit in the US) and "I Wanna Rock" ran almost constantly on MTV. Their pervasive slapstick comedy proved a change of pace for the genre and gave the band a distinctive appeal. The acclaimed surreal comedy film, Pee Wee's Big Adventure took this further with the band having an appearance making a fictional video for "Burn In Hell" on the Warner Bros. back lot only to be interrupted by Pee Wee Herman passing through. Despite being comedic in nature, the videos featured violence against parents and teachers, which placed the band under heavy criticism by conservative organizations. They were singled out by the PMRC in 1985. Twisted Sister songs "Under the Blade" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" were specifically mentioned in the associated Senate hearings. Snider was one of the few musicians to testify before a Senate committee in these hearings on September 19, 1985.
DECLINE AND FALL
On November 9, 1985, the band released their fourth LP, Come Out and Play, produced by Dieter Dierks. It was not nearly as successful as its predecessor, although it did earn the band a gold album for sales of 500,000 copies. The failure was partly due to MTV banning the video for "Be Chrool To Your Scuel" on the grounds that it was offensive. If it had not been banned, it is arguable that Twisted Sister would have continued to gain popularity and credibility and become bigger than they already were. The song and video featured such guests as Alice Cooper, Brian Setzer and Billy Joel. The tour supporting the album was a near fiasco, with low attendance and many cancelled dates. Not even Atlantic's re-release of a remixed Under the Blade helped the band recover its popularity. "Come Out and Play" was one of the first CDs to go out of print.
After the tour, Pero left to rejoin Cities. He was replaced by ex-Good Rats drummer Joey "Seven" Franco. The nickname "Seven" comes from his being the band's seventh drummer.
In 1987, Snider embarked on a solo project, reportedly approaching future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, but this did not work out. He then recorded an album with Franco programming the drum machine and featuring several session musicians such as Reb Beach on guitar, Kip Winger (just before he formed Winger) and Steve Whiteman of Kix. Atlantic Records refused to release it unless it was labeled as a Twisted Sister album. So, on August 13, 1987 Love Is For Suckers made its debut. Although the band had not played in the recording sessions, they were mentioned on the album cover as if they had, and they did play some of the songs in subsequent shows. Beau Hill's production gave the album had a very polished pop metal sound. The band had also removed the makeup that they had been wearing since their early days. Commercially, the album was a complete failure, and many of their metal fans were disappointed at how poppy it sounded.
On October 12, 1987, almost two months after the release of Love Is For Suckers, Snider left the band, the record label canceled their contract and Twisted Sister broke up. The public announcement of the band's demise came early in 1988.
REUNIONS AND RE-ISSUES
In 1998, the band recorded a song for the soundtrack of Snider's movie Strangeland.
In 1999, Spitfire Records re-issued their back catalog, supplemented with previously unreleased tracks. This was followed by Club Daze Volume 1: The Studio Sessions, an album containing demo recordings from the pre-Under the Blade era, and Club Daze Volume 2: Live In The Bars, a live counterpart.
In 2001, Koch Records released a tribute album under the name Twisted Forever: A Tribute To The Legendary Twisted Sister. The album featured a wide range of artists and bands who had been influenced by Twisted Sister, including Lit, Mot?rhead, Chuck D, Anthrax, Overkill, Cradle Of Filth, Joan Jett, Sebastian Bach, and Hammerfall. Oddly for a tribute album, Twisted Sister was also present with a cover of AC/DC's "Sin City".
In November of 2001, the reunited Twisted Sister joined fellow New York metal artists Anthrax, Overkill, Sebastian Bach, and Ace Frehley to headline a benefit concert for NYPD and FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. New York Steel raised over $100,000 for the charity, and the reaction to the first Twisted Sister set in 14 years was overwhelming. The demand for more live dates was immediate, and the band took the first steps toward returning to the concert stage.
In 2002, a remastered "best of" compilation named Essentials was released. Fans generally consider this to be a better compilation than the one previously issued by Atlantic.
Twisted Sister, this time including Mark Mendoza, reunited again for the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2003. They also appeared in August of that same year at the Wacken Open Air festival. Footage from that show was filmed for a DVD release.
In March 2004, they entered the studio to completely re-record their Stay Hungry album for Demolition Records. They reported that they were not happy with the original album's production, so this time they produced it themselves. The re-recording was released under the name Still Hungry and contained seven bonus tracks.
In July 2005, the group played a free concert in Edmonton for the Klondike Days festival. In late 2005, Snider appeared on Numbers From The Beast, a tribute album to Iron Maiden, performing vocals for the Maiden classic "Wasted Years". Snider was joined by his contemporaries and peers George Lynch, formerly of Dokken, and Bob Kulick.
Also in 2005, the band released the 2003 Wacken show on CD and DVD simply titled Live At Wacken. They also went on tour with Alice Cooper, acting as the support band but delivering a set similar to a headliner's.
In 2006, Snider and French worked with Lordi to produce and play on a few tracks on their new album Arockalypse. Snider was featured on the first track, "SCG3 Special Report", as the voice of Lordi warning of the upcoming Arockalypse. French guest starred on the song "Chainsaw Buffet".
In June 2006, the band announced that they had signed with the American record label Razor and Tie to release a final CD, of heavy metal Christmas music. The planned release date is October 16, 2006 (as stated by Snider himself at the Quebec City, Canada gig, on July 8, 2006, played in front of 80,000 people. The show also featured Scorpions as the headliner). They also played a small concert at the Wolverhampton Civic Center. The concert was a success, with many fans hailing it as just the same as Twisted Sister at their prime.
The group is still together and occasionally makes small tours around the world, in full makeup. Before each of these mini-tours, they perform as Bent Brother, practicing their set and appearing without makeup, usually at reduced ticket prices, although Snider and French have both voiced the opinion that they do not enjoy playing as Twisted Sister.
Twisted Sister was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on Oct 15, 2006
1982 - Under the Blade
1983 - You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll
1984 - Stay Hungry
1985 - Come Out and Play
1987 - Love Is for Suckers
1992 - Big Hits and Nasty Cuts: The Best of Twisted Sister
1994 - Live At Hammersmith
1999 - Club Daze Volume 1: The Studio Sessions
2001 - Club Daze Volume 2: Live In The Bars
2002 - The Essentials
2004 - Still Hungry
2005 - Live At Wacken: The Reunion
2006 - A Twisted Christmas
1982 - Ruff Cuts
1983 - I Am (I'm Me)
1983 - The Kids Are Back
1983 - You Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll
1984 - We're Not Gonna Take It
1984 - I Wanna Rock
1985 - Leader Of The Pack
1986 - You Want What We Got