July 23, 2010
By David Huff
Twisted Sister - Rock 'N America 2010
Warning! "We're Not Going To Take It" Any More
Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider had only one thought in my mind when he sat down to pen the lyrics to a song he called “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. The singer’s original intent was to voice his concerns over the ongoing battle being waged in Washington, by Congressional wives no less, on whether a warning label system should be applied to recorded music. Snider’s words of defiance would eventually take on a life of its own. What started out as a personal protest instead became the rallying cry for a disgruntled generation.
Founded in December 1972 by guitarist Jay Jay French, Twisted Sister was initially a glam rock cover band modeled after the New York Dolls. It was with the arrival of Dee Snider in early 1976 that the band found a true leader. Snider brought a strong Alice Cooper influence to the band, giving their by-then antiquated glam sound a hardened edge. He also quickly developed into the band's dominant songwriter and overhauled the sound and image of the group. Their transformation from glam rock into metallic hard rockers was completed later that year with the arrival of ex-Dictators bass player Mark "the Animal" Mendoza. November 1979 saw their first single "I'll Never Grow up Now!" released on the band's own TSR label. Another single, "Bad Boys of Rock 'n' Roll" followed that summer. Despite their hard work, by 1981, the band had nothing to show except a growing collection of record company rejection slips.
Finally, independent Secret Records decided to take a chance on the group and, after cutting the four-track Ruff Cuts EP (initially released only in Britain), the group flew to London to record their first full-length album, Under the Blade, with famed UFO bassist Pete Way producing. The album became a surprise underground hit in England, due in part to the speed metal song “Tear It Loose” featuring a guitar solo by Motörhead’s "Fast" Eddie Clarke. After an appearance on the influential British TV variety show, The Tube, Atlantic Records came calling with contract in hand. The final ingredient was now in place for the band’s assault on America over the next two years.
In 1983, Twisted Sister unleashed You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll. The polished production and strong material helped push the single “I Am (I’m Me)” into the British Top 20 charts. Stateside, Atlantic decided to promote another single with a relatively cheap music cable network called MTV. A humorous video (the start of many to come from) was created for the title track and released. The video put a face to Twisted Sister and stirred interest in their first North American tour. Dressed in excessively garish costumes with highly teased hair and lavish eye makeup, Twisted Sister started to amass a large following across the country. Those ranks would soon swell into the millions from an unexpected political event that steamed Dee Snider to no end.
The sorted tale begins with Tipper Gore, the wife of then Senator Al Gore from Tennessee. The Prince masterpiece Purple Rain had caught the attention of Tipper’s 12-year old daughter, Karenna. She asked mom to purchase the album. One day mom heard these lyrics coming from her adolescent daughter’s stereo speakers. ‘I knew this girl named Nikki / I guess you could say she was a sex fiend / I met her in a hotel lobby / masturbating with a magazine'. The uptight mother rushed into her daughter’s room, grabbed the album off the turntable (under protest from her 12-year old no doubt), and began reading the lyrics on the jacket sleeve. Tipper was appalled by the content. Like a typically bored politician’s wife, she started complaining to other bored senator’s wives about explicit lyrics found not only on the Prince album, but others as well. She was concerned that music with questionable content was readily available to young, impressionable teenagers. The wives agreed with their friend that something had to be done.
Tipper and her colleagues formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) to inform parents about the dubious recorded material being marketed to their children. Their stated goal was to advise the music industry to monitor their artistic product. The P.M.R.C. even went as far as to create a list of music with offensive lyrical content they called “The Filthy Fifteen”. When Gore and her cohorts suggested rock and roll was responsible for the rising rate of rape and suicide among those between the ages of 16 and 24, Snider came unglued. When the PMRC’s media-friendly crusade graduated to the Senate, it was time for the rock establishment to fight back.
In a series of government hearings, the P.M.R.C. advocated printing lyrics on album covers; keeping explicit sleeves under the counter; urging broadcasters to avoid airing "questionable talent;" reassessing the contracts of artists who sang about sex, suicide, Satanism and the like; and most controversially of all, a labeling system of warning stickers on records with questionable content.
The unlikely trio of Frank Zappa, John Denver and Dee Snider went before a Congressional committee to rebut the claims of the P.M.R.C. They countered that any type of labeling would lead to industry-wide censorship. Astounded by what had taken place in Washington D.C., Snider went back to New York and wrote his now classic song.
Twisted Sister took advantage of this sympathetic musical climate in 1984 to unleash their definitive statement, Stay Hungry. Digging deep into his pop and glam roots, Snider added new commercial appeal to the band's hard rock onslaught. And with such monster hits as "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" (with their hilariously tongue-in-cheek accompanying videos) leading the way to radio and MTV saturation, the album would exceed the platinum barrier several times over.
After a rousing 1984 tour to support the album, Twisted Sister went back into the studio to build on the success Still Hungry had generated. Unfortunately, Come Out and Play didn’t have the raw energy its predecessor had, and quickly fell off the charts. Two years later, the band would call it a day. The various members went their separate ways, but their rock anthem “We’re Not Going To Take It” would always keep the Twisted Sister name alive and kicking. Two months after the 9/11 attacks, J.J. French was asked to reform Twisted Sister and play a benefit show for the NYPD / FDNY widow’s fund. French called his former band mates, and they all agreed to participate.
Twisted Sister’s performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom blew the doors off the building. Offers came pouring in from promoters around the world requesting booking information. With interest in Twisted Sister at an all time high, the group decided to give it another whirl. Soon, they were headlining the biggest rock festivals in Europe and continue to play selective dates to this day. Rocklahoma will be Twisted Sister’s only North American appearance in 2007.
Dee Snider-lead and backing vocals (1976-1987, 1997-present)
Jay Jay French-guitars, backing vocals (1973-1987, 1997-present)
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda-guitars, backing vocals (1975-1987, 1997-present)
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza-bass, backing "growls" (1978-1987, 1997-present)
A.J. Pero-drums, backing vocals (1982-1986, 1997-present)