As soon as Dee Snider and his Twisted Sister band mates threw the teacher for a three-pointer in the “I Wanna Rock” video, I was hooked. Yeah, he looked all wrong but his attitude and message stuck with me. So it’s no surprise I follow Dee on Twitter and recently a few tweets got some discussions happening.
“Here’s a challenge for you (and no using the internet for the answer): Can you name all 7 (unsuccessful) albums I’ve done solo or been a part of with a band since I left Twisted Sister in 1987? You can use initials. Bonus points for naming the 1 live album. Good freakin; luck.”
You struggle your whole life to “make it”. And once you “make it”, you need to struggle to “keep it”.
And then “keeping the fame” ends up “breaking up” the band that “made it”. So you go solo but it’s many years later from your “making it” moment. And there are people who still crave your product but not as many as before.
For a very long time, the record labels convinced everyone that the only way to define success is sales. But people might have purchased an album, heard it once and never heard it again. The record label never considered that statistic because the sale has given them a monetary value, something they can count.
But as Dee said further on;
“While I’m proud of all the work I’ve done, YES success is defined by sales. I’m long past “making music for my own head”. Once you’ve had public acceptance of your art, you yearn for it. You want the world to see and hear “your children””.
The truth is, there is no secret formula for keeping the hits coming.
Artists always had a short life span at the top. Most of the 70’s acts would have been dead and forgotten if there was no MTV television in the 80s.
But the biggest obstacle is obscurity.
Someone tweeted back, “Didn’t know you did one, lol” in response to Dee’s post about the seven unsuccessful albums to which Dee re-tweeted with the following comments;
“This is the #1 response to my name the seven albums I’ve done since leaving Twisted in 1987. Which brings us to the age old question: “If someone puts out an album and nobody hears it…did it make a sound?””
Which someone else replied that Dee’s last album, “We Are The Ones” was excellent with the following questions;
“Do you consider it unsuccessful? Is success only defined by album sales or rather by the quality of the product?”
Another person commented that just because it isn’t popular it doesn’t mean it’s not valid and that music touches people in different ways.
And here we are again wondering what success is.
Is it sales?
Is it streams?
Is it video views?
Is it concert ticket sales?
Is it just people interacting with you on social media?
For Dee, he hit the mainstream with Twisted Sister and for a three year period he was on top. Success is defined as that same public acceptance for his other music.
So let’s talk about “Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker.
Post Twisted Sister, it was deafening silence. From being everywhere, Dee was nowhere. My cousin Mega, who has the TS logo tattooed on his shoulder told me about his Desperado project. It was mentioned in a shorts column of a U.S magazine. That’s it. One of the biggest voices between 1983 and 85 was reduced to a paragraph.
Then there was silence again. We got nothing Dee Snider related in Australia.
I then read a “Blood And Bullets” review in a magazine, three months after the Widowmaker album was out. It was in a Guitar magazine, because of Al Pitrelli’s involvement. Nothing from the mainstream metal rags.
So I went looking for it in the mainstream record stores and I couldn’t find it. I asked at the counter if they could get it and they could get it as an import and charge me $50.
I went to Utopia in Sydney, the home of heavy metal, who only had a few copies of the album and already sold them. They said they would order it in for me and it would cost me $30. It took another 3 months for it to “arrive” in Australia and into my hands. Imagine that. 3 months to arrive.
So six months after the album was released I had it. And I played it non-stop and I still play it and I told everyone I could about it. It’s angry, it’s hopeful, it’s sombre and it’s tongue’n’cheek.
For me, it’s highly influential. It’s got the kind of music I like making, all over the album.
“Reason To Kill”, “Blue For You”, “Calling On You”, “Snot Nosed Kid” and “Emaheevul” straight away stood out for me. “Blood And Bullets” and “Widowmaker” grew on me with every listen. The cover of “Evil” surprised me with its energy and increased tempo while another pop rock cover called “The Lonely Ones” was a sleeper hit waiting to smack me in the face. “Gone Bad”, “You’re A Heartbreaker” and “We Are The Dead” while sounding clichéd on earlier listens grew into unique contributions to the album.
Dee delivered a stellar vocal performance and Al Pitrelli also produced the goods in the guitar department, while Joey Franco and Marc Russell underpinned it all. Of course, Desperado guitarist Bernie Torme co-wrote 7 of the 12 songs on the album, so he deserves a huge 10 out of 10 for his stellar riffage and songwriting.
If you’ve read Dee’s book, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” Dee had to buy back the Desperado songs from Elektra who claimed ownership of them due to the label financing the demo song writing sessions and the failed Desperado album release.
But the problem with the album not setting the sales department on fire was not Grunge. It was obscurity. People didn’t know about it because there wasn’t a source of truth anymore.
Even in 1992 going onto 1993, we had a lot of different sources for information. The magazines were struggling to sell like they did in the 80’s, hence the reason why so many of them finished up.
So in order to stay relevant, the magazines only reported what was popular so they could sell. And no one bought all the magazines but in the 80s if you purchased Faces, Hit Parader or Circus or Metal Edge, you more or less had your rock/metal “source of truth” covered.
And MTV was moving into reality TV and out of music, especially music made by the metal community.
And speaking of the metal community, we had fractured into different styles. Once upon a time we liked metal. We listened to metal bands.
Suddenly metal (courtesy of magazines and record label A&R reps) had different genres like Glam, Pop, Thrash, Heavy, Hard, Death, Black, Industrial, Hardcore, Grindcore, Rap and whatever other term someone could think of like Sludge, Weed, Fart, etc.
So those metal bands in the early 80s got relabeled to something else.
And it shits me because the Widowmaker debut album is not on Spotify (well I don’t know about the rest of the world, but it’s not on Spotify Australia) and people who are fans of the band and who pay for Spotify cannot listen to it.
But it’s on YouTube and I don’t do YouTube. But I have a CD mp3 rip of the album on my devices and I listen to it that way.
The thing is, a lot of the albums which are really influential to people are rarely commercially successful.