Twisted Sister is an American band from Long Island, New York. Twisted Sister's most well-known hits include "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock". Many of the band's songs explore themes of parent vs. child conflicts and criticisms of the educational system.
While the band members' famously cross-dressed appearance might seem to link them with the 1980s glam metal movement, Twisted Sister's aggressive musical style was coupled with a more grotesque use of makeup and women's clothing resulting in a product quite distinct from the more hedonistic androgyny of glam metal groups like Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Poison. Often mistaken as glam metal for their image, the band often are not recognized as glam metal and the band considers the "glam metal" tag to be inappropriate.
Twisted Sister are also ranked No.73 in VH1's 100 greatest artists of hard rock.
History of Twisted Sister (1972–1976)
The band Silver Star, soon to be renamed to "Twisted Sister", was formed after John Segall (later renamed to "Jay Jay French") was added following auditions in the "band house" located in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey in late December 1972. Manhattan resident John Segall auditioned and was asked to join the "glitter band" Silver Star. Silver Star was the creation of the drummer Mel Anderson (Mell Star) as the "New Jersey version of the NY Dolls", consisting of Billy Diamond (lead guitar), Wayne Brown (lead vocal and guitar), Tony Bunn (bass), Steve Guarino (keyboards). At the same time as Silver Star/Twisted Sister was created, Mell Star's brother, Al Anderson, was the guitar player for Bob Marley and the Wailers. Segall hated the name "Silver Star" and pushed to have it changed. At a rehearsal on Valentine's Day in February 1973, Silver Star changed its name to Twisted Sister. Wayne and Mel were so excited about the new name that, as soon as rehearsal ended, they went directly from Mel Andersen's house in Montclair, NJ to the band's Manager's office in West Orange, NJ, and barged in to make the announcement. Along with the name change came some stylistic changes that eventually resulted in an amicable parting of ways for some members. Wayne Brown left the band a few months later; Tony Bunn and Steve Guarino followed soon thereafter. Micheal Valentine took over the lead singer role, guitarist Billy Diamond, drummer Mell Star, bass player Kenneth Harrison Neill, and Johnny Heartbreaker (soon to change his name to Jay Jay French).
The band found work immediately and started playing six nights a week (mostly in the same club for the entire week). They secured a residency at the Mad Hatter in East Quogue, NY for the summer of 1973 and played 105 nights from Memorial Day to Labor day. The band played 78 shows there and played at other places as well. By December 1974, when this first version of the band broke up, Jay Jay had already played nearly 600 nights and about 3,000 performances as the band played five 40-minute shows per night, each with costume changes, some ending as late as 8 a.m. the following morning. The second version of the band changed lead singers (Rick Prince) and guitar player (Keith Angel) and continued for a couple of months into 1975 before singer Rick Prince failed to show up for a rehearsal. In the third lineup change, Jay Jay took over the lead vocals and management duties. The band split up after Labor Day weekend 1975. In October 1975 the fourth version of the band started to play the club circuit. Jay Jay hired a former high school friend of Eddie Ojeda, who joined as co-lead singer and second guitarist, and got drummer Kevin John Grace after reading an ad that Kevin put in the Village Voice. Bass guitarist Kenny Neill (Kenneth Harrison Neill) remained and completed the lineup. However, in the autumn of 1975, Dee Snider left to join Peacock and Heathen but didn't like it and came back and they returned to play more on Halloween. The band followed a glam rock direction, influenced by David Bowie, Slade, Mott the Hoople, the Rolling Stones, and the New York Dolls. It played at local clubs but floundered in relative anonymity. Many former band members were fired or left the band and had some issues with the other members like Jay Jay French.
Club days (1976–1982)
In February 1976, at the suggestion of the band's agent, Kevin Brenner, Jay Jay was told that the band could only go so far without being able to play Led Zeppelin cover songs and urged Jay Jay to hire Danny Snider (Dee Snider). Danny changed his name to Dee at the suggestion of Jay Jay and thus began TS line up number six. This version lasted 6 weeks before version seven began on April 1, 1976 with new drummer Tony Petri, the group took a heavier musical direction, influenced by Led Zeppelin, Slade, and Alice Cooper.
At this point, the band's popularity began to soar as the band, especially Dee and Jay Jay started to talk (rap) to the audience about current topics of the day between songs. These raps started to take on a life of their own and pretty soon the band could get away with playing one song per set and talk the rest of the time.
The band decided to play a heavy metal sound in 1978 where they began to record their demos.
Having audience participation in the "Sweet Jane Gong Show" and the "Death to Disco" stage routines became legendary. The band broke attendance records at large halls in the Tri-State Area and its 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." NME reported that Twisted Sister had sold out the 3,000 capacity New York Palladium for a March 16 show without a recording contract or radio airplay. Fan hysteria and the seemingly "lost art of entertainment" soon became the hallmark of a TS show.
After selling out the Palladium theater in NYC without a record deal, they began aggressively pursuing a recording contract, with an aim to get out of the club circuit before its impending collapse due to the upcoming change of the drinking age from 18 to 21. The band then had a record deal with Secret Records.
The band went though 3 more line up changes between 1979 and 1982. Drummer Joey Brighton replaced Tony Petri, former Dictator drummer Richie Teeter replaced Brighton and finally AJ Pero replaced Teeter. On April 1, 1982, AJ Pero joined the band. Future Shark Island and The Scream drummer Walt Woodward III was also in the band for a brief period in 1982.
The band started its own T-shirt company and record label. They released two singles which eventually made it over to the UK and caught the attention of Martin Hooker, the president of indie label Secret Records. Jay Jay remained as manager through 1981 at which time he hired Mark Puma, a local promoter, to manage the band. This lineup (Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and A.J. Pero) is considered the "official Twisted Sister line up" because this version is responsible for almost all the studio albums, singles, videos and DVDs. 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, it was finally signed by Secret Records, a small British label that was mainly a punk outlet. The band also took $22,000 to UK to appear on the show The Tube.
Pre-MTV period (1982–1984)
In June 1982, the group released its first EP, Ruff Cuts, on the Secret Records label, still featuring Tony Petri on the drums. This was followed shortly by their first studio album, Under the Blade, produced by Pete Way of UFO. Despite rather low production quality, the album was an underground hit in the UK, providing the band with sufficient name recognition to open for such metal acts as Motörhead. 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 Motörhead. 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. "We're Not Gonna Take It" later became one of its top singles.
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 its look and music, and were growing closer to heavy metal's leather and chains image.
After an appearance on the music TV program The Tube, Atlantic Records approached the band and signed them. 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 No. 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.
MTV videos (1984–1985)
International fame came for Twisted Sister when the band's third LP, Stay Hungry, hit the stores on May 10, 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 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.
Videos of hit singles "We're Not Gonna Take It" (a No. 21 hit in the US) and "I Wanna Rock" (US No. 68) 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. backlot 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.
In May that year Ojeda took part, on behalf of the band, in the recordings for the Hear 'n Aid project, "Stars", although the single was not released until the following year.
Decline and fall (1985–1987)
On November 9, 1985, the band released its fourth studio album, 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. Some speculate that the failure was partly due to MTV banning the video for "Be Cruel to Your School" on the grounds that it was graphically offensive. The song featured such guests as Alice Cooper (who also stars in the video), Brian Setzer, Clarence Clemons 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 1986, Snider embarked on a solo project, reportedly approaching future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, but this did not work out.
Janick recalls it as follows: "He rang me up and we talked but I remember saying, 'There is no way in this world that I am putting on make up or anything like that, I'm just not into that shit.' But we had a chat and he seemed like a nice enough guy. But I never heard back from him."
Snider then recorded an album with Franco programming the drum machine and featuring several session musicians such as Reb Beach on guitar and Kip Winger (just before they 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, it was 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 a very polished pop metal sound. The band's members had also removed the makeup that they had been wearing since their early days. The music video for the lead single "Hot Love", featuring the band without their makeup and co-starring Dee Snider's wife, had moderate success on MTV. Commercially though, the album was a complete failure and many of their metal fans were disappointed with the pop sound.
On October 12, 1987, almost two months after the release of Love Is For Suckers, Snider left the band, the record label cancelled its contract, and Twisted Sister disbanded. The public announcement of the band's demise came in January 1988.
Separation period (1987–1997)
After the band's break-up, former members were involved in different projects:
- Snider formed Desperado, Widowmaker, and SMFs. Joey Franco also played drums in Widowmaker. He also wrote and starred in the movie Strangeland.
- Ojeda went on to join Scarecrow and then formed Prisoners of War. Both projects were unsuccessful. He also worked as a session guitarist and guitar instructor.
- French stopped performing except for some guest appearances. He formed French Management and produced the alternative metal band Sevendust's first self-titled album.
- Mendoza briefly joined Blackfoot. Then he worked as a producer and manager. He also occasionally pursued solo projects.
- Pero was involved in several projects and subsequently toured with Snider's SMFs.
- Franco worked as a session drummer and played with Snider's Widowmaker.
In 1992, Atlantic Records, released a "best of" album Big Hits and Nasty Cuts that also featured some live performances from the Under The Blade period. This album was compiled by French. A live album from the Stay Hungry era named Live At Hammersmith was released in 1994 by CMC International.
Reunions and reissues (1997–present)
In 1998, the band recorded a song for the soundtrack of Snider's movie Strangeland.
In 1999, Spitfire Records re-issued the group's 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, which has three songs that were written by French, this was the first time someone other than Snider was writing songs, 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, Motörhead, 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 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.
2002 also saw the featuring of "I Wanna Rock" as one of the gameplay radio songs on the videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The song features in the playlist of the fictional radio station "V Rock".
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, which featured former Violent Apathy and Spite member, Tom Fuller.
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: An All-Star Tribute to Iron Maiden, performing vocals for the Iron 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. It 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 The 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 called A Twisted Christmas. The CD was released on October 17, 2006, and was a commercial success. On July 8, 2006, Twisted Sister played in front of 80,000 people in Quebec City, Canada. The show also featured Scorpions as the headliner. It also played a small concert at the Wolverhampton Civic Center.
The group is still together and occasionally makes small tours around the world, in full makeup. Before each of these mini-tours, it performs as Bent Brother, practicing its set and appearing without makeup, usually at reduced ticket prices.
Twisted Sister was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. On December 13, 2006, Twisted Sister made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The group performed their rock version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" which is arranged in the style of "We're Not Gonna Take It". On December 22, 2006, Twisted Sister appeared on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, performing its rock version of "O Come All Ye Faithful". On an episode of Snider's syndicated radio program "The House of Hair", he stated that due to the success of the Christmas album, and also due to the response to the tour promoting the album, that Twisted Sister might not retire, and the band's future was being discussed.
On July 15, 2007, Twisted Sister performed at glam metal festival Rocklahoma.
Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" was featured in the game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s as a playable song (instead of being a cover like several songs featured in the game, it was the version from the 2004 remake of their classic album Stay Hungry, titled Still Hungry).
In 2008, Snider appeared on the CMT television show Gone Country. On February 25, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at "Aftermath - The Station Fire 5 years later" in Providence, Rhode Island. On May 10, 2008, Twisted Sister performed a free concert at the Bulgarian town Lovech. On July 13, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at Snatch Rock n Roll Lounge, in Calgary, Alberta. On September 1, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at the Rock The Bayou Festival in Houston, Texas.
On June 4, 2009, Twisted Sister performed Stay Hungry in its entirety for the first time at the Sweden Rock Festival. This included never before played songs such as "Don't Let Me Down" and "Horror-Teria: Street Justice".
On July 16, 2009, in an interview on Live with Regis and Kelly, Snider said that 2009 was the last year that the band would perform with makeup and costumes.
On February 16, 2010, Twisted Sister were confirmed to play at Bloodstock Open Air 2010.
Twisted Sister has recently announced that they will be performing at Dillo Day 2011 at Northwestern University.
On July 15, 2011, Twisted Sister were confirmed to play at Masters of Rock.
On October 13, 2011, the band announced a five-disk DVD set of live performances over their entire career entitled From the Bars to the Stars, with a release date of November 8.
Former Twisted Sister drummer Richard Teeter, who had played with the band in 1980 and 1981, died from complications due to esophageal cancer on April 10, 2012.
- Current members
- Jay Jay French – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1972–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003–present)
- Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1975–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003–present)
- Dee Snider – lead vocals (1976–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003–present)
- Mark "The Animal" Mendoza – bass guitar, backing vocals (1978–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003–present; substitute 1978)
- A. J. Pero – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1982–1986, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003–present)
- Ruff Cutts (1982)
- Big Hits and Nasty Cuts (Compilation, 1992)
- We're Not Gonna Take It! (Compilation, 1999)
- The Essentials (Compilation, 2002)
- We're Not Gonna Take It & Other Hits (Compilation, 2003)
- The Best of Twisted Sister (Compilation, 2005)
- Live at Hammersmith (Live, 1994)
- Club Daze Volume 1: The Studio Sessions (Live, 1999)
- Club Daze Volume II: Live in the Bars (Live, 2002)
- Live At Wacken: The Reunion (Live, 2006)
- A Twisted Christmas - Live (Live, 2007)
- Live at the Astoria (Live, 2008)
- Live at the Marquee (Live, 2011)
- Destroyer (Recorded 1997, Issued 2001)
- Twisted Forever (2001)
- Stay Hungry Tour (1984)
- Come Out and Play (1985)
- Live at Wacken - The Reunion (2004)
- The Video Years (2007)
- A Twisted Christmas Live: A December To Remember (2007)
- Live At Bang Your Head!!! (2008, recorded in 2005)
- Live At The Astoria (2008, recorded in 2004)
- Double Live: Northstage '82 & Ny Steel '01
A new DVD was recorded at the Bang Your Head!!! in Germany, on July 17, 2010
- Official website
- Official Dee Snider website
- Official Eddie Ojeda website
- Official A.J. Pero website
- Dee Snider interview on Sleaze Roxx
- Twisted Sister - S.M.F.'s Slovakia
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