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, and the extravagant image of glam rock bands such as New York Dolls and Kiss, notably the makeup. Musically, the band implements elements of traditional heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, along with a style that is similar to early glam metal bands. The band is generally categorized as glam metal for their earlier work, although the band does not consider themselves to be so. They look ugly so how can they be categorized as a glam metal bands. Glam metal is short for glamour metal.
Although the band was formed by guitarist Jay Jay French in December 1972, all of their songs were written by Dee Snider from 1976 onward. Snider remarked to Johnny Carson that the proposed name for the band was "This" but was rejected for fear of fans saying "this sucks". He describes Twisted Sister as "Slade meets Sex Pistols". Twisted Sister's most well-known 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.
Pre-Dee period (1972–1976)
Twisted Sister was formed in December 1972 by guitarist Jay Jay French under the name Silverstar. In February 1973 Silverstar changed its name to Twisted Sister. 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, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Humble Pie, and New York Dolls. It played at local clubs without much success until 1976.
Club days (1976–1982)
In early 1976, Dee Snider joined the band as lead vocalist and principal songwriter. After replacing drummer Grace with Tony Petri, the group took a heavier musical direction, influenced by Motörhead, KISS, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper, but without abandoning its glam image.
Although glam was out of fashion in those days, Snider's phenomenal abilities as frontman propelled the band to considerable local success. It broke attendance records at large halls in the Tri-State Region 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." No record label was interested in signing the band, so in 1979 it 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". Eddie Kramer produced both singles.
In this period, the group's membership changed. On October 31, 1978, Neill left the band, the band's roadie and friend, Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, formerly bassist for The Dictators, replaced him. In December 1980, Petri also left for the Plasmatics and was replaced briefly by Ritchie Teeter. 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) recorded 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, it was finally signed by Secret Records, a small British label that was mainly a punk outlet.
Pre-MTV period (1982–1984)
In June 1982, the group released its first EP, Ruff Cuts, on the Secret Records label. 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.
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 its look and music, although still reminiscent of pop/glam styles, 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 #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 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" (US #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. (He was addressed formally by the committee counsel as "Mr. Sister".)
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 Chrool to Your Scuel" on the grounds that it was offensive. The song featured such guests as Alice Cooper (who also appeared 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 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, 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. Commercially, 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 canceled its contract, and Twisted Sister disbanded. The public announcement of the band's demise came in January 1988.