A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Did Piracy assist the come back of Twisted Sister?

Young people today do not realise the impact that Twisted Sister had on the music business around 1984 and 1985. Sure, other bands had greater sales and bigger tours, however no one did MTV like Twisted Sister. They ushered in a whole new promotions medium for metal and rock bands.

Twisted Sister came into stardom and then disappeared. In order to understand what happened and then why the resurgence, we need to go back to 1984.

“Stay Hungry” is released, followed by three singles. Two of those singles, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” made MTV a giant in the rock and metal world. Prior to that MTV didn’t really have any traction with the rock and metal communities. People tuned in to MTV to watch these clips.

The “Stay Hungry” album goes multi-platinum in the U.S. Dee ends up before the Senate and “Come Out And Play” comes out in 1985. It doesn’t meet the sales target set by the label and the tour is losing money in the U.S.

Europe, on the other hand is a whole different story and they had sold out shows across the continent. How can this be when the actual sales of the album are low in Europe? Europe is renowned for it’s black market and sharing culture.

By 1987 it was game over for Twisted Sister.

How can a band that was riding high by the end of 1984, disappear by 1987, especially when lesser bands continued to have a career during this period;

The Michael Jackson business model from the labels

The music market collapsed in the late Seventies. In order to stay viable, the major labels decided on a strategy to make more money with fewer acts. Michael Jackson became the first artist to whom this new strategy for success was to be applied. By 1982, Michael Jackson released “Thriller” and by 1984, the album was certified 20x Platinum.

He wasn’t alone either. Artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Madonna, also benefited enormously from the new majors’ strategy to create superstars. When Bon Jovi and U2 exploded, they also joined this new superstar strategy. This is the way it worked; Large advances and marketing budgets, expensive music videos and fronting large amounts of money for large tours. Repeat if band/artist is successful or don’t repeat if band/artist is not successful.

Artist & Repertoire was unofficially outsourced to the independent labels and if they found an artist that had success, the artist would be transferred over into the major label network by default.

So a band like Twisted Sister comes on the scene and they don’t fit the new major label strategy. Anyway, the band persists and they end up breaking through. So the label is now thinking, maybe we should throw some money at this band and see what they can deliver. When “Come Out And Play” didn’t outsell “Stay Hungry” the label decided to move on, as it was clear that Twisted Sister didn’t fit the new model.

 

 

The Rise of the Thrash Scene

Twisted Sister to me are a heavy metal band. Yep they had that crossover appeal with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” however in the end, songs like “Burn In Hell”, “Stay Hungry”, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out And Play”, “Kill or Be Killed”, “Destroyer”, “Run For Your Life”, “Under The Blade” and “The Fire Still Burn”s are heavy metal to a tee.

Twisted Sister appealed to the kids who were alienated and subjected to ridicule for their choice of music. They appealed to the kids who had a stiff middle finger attitude at the establishments. In 1983, an album called “Kill Em All” was released, who took on the same themes that Twisted Sister started. Instead the word ROCK was replaced with METAL. The metal fans of Twisted Sister jumped ship to the new “Metal Militia” started by Metallica. With songs like “Whiplash”, “Seek And Destroy”, “Fight Fire With Fire”, “Hit The Lights”, “Battery”, “Damage Inc.” and “Leper Messiah”, Metallica and other thrash bands ushered in a new era for the youth that Twisted Sister had connected with.

If you have any thrash fans, check out their collection and I guarantee you that they will have a Twisted Sister album in there.

The Bon Jovi and U2 Effect

So what happens when your core metal audience abandons you. For Twisted Sister, they needed to reinvent themselves. By 1986, Bon Jovi and U2, exploded all over the world. The record labels are flush with cash and they want more superstar acts. So what do the record labels do? They persuade their bands to record similar sounding albums. They tell the independent’s to sign hundreds of other similar bands on bad contracts. It is all about the profits.

The Senate Hearings

In 1985, fans of metal music just didn’t understand what the hoopla was about. They had no idea why metal music would even need to be at the hearings. Metal music was always on the fringes. Big deal if they add a parental advisory sticker to the album.

Abandoned By MTV

MTV used Twisted Sister and Dee Snider to promote their channel. Once the channel had traction in the metal and rock community, MTV abandoned the band.

The Past Finally Takes Its Toll with the Ten Year Itch

By the time 1987, rolled around, the band Twisted Sister with Dee Snider fronting it, had been at it for over 10 years. Jay Jay French even more. The band almost called it quits by 1983 when their Secret record deal fell apart. If you look at the 10 year trend of other bands you will see that what happened to Twisted Sister is nothing new.

Aerosmith more or less broke up by 1981, ten years after the main line up was formed. It wasn’t until 1984 that they got back together and by 1987 they became a multi-platinum band again.

Motley Crue replaced Vince Neil in 1992, almost eleven years after the band formed.

Van Halen had a new singer almost 12 years after they formed in 1986. By 1998, they had another singer.

Iron Maiden by 1989 had a few line-up changes in a new guitarist, a new drummer and most importantly a new singer.

Alice Cooper was at a low by 1980 after 12 years of hard work. It wouldn’t be until 1989 that he found major success again with the “Trash” album. His first break in the Eighties came with Twisted Sister in the “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” song in 1985 and a song called “He’s Back” from the Friday The 13th soundtrack.

So what happened to get Twisted Sister back into the public imagination:

The Beavis and Butt-head and Green Day Connection

It all started in 1993 and 1994. It was Beavis And Butt-head and Green Day that re-ignited the public’s imagination with Twisted Sister.

In the Beavis and Butt-head episode, “Stewart’s House (Too Dumb For TV)”, “I Wanna Rock” is featured, as well as “You Might Think” by The Cars, “Kiss” by Art Of Noise and “The Majesty Of Rock” by Spinal Tap. After Beavis almost loses it acting out the teacher’s opening speech, they move on to complain about the lack of explosions and that Twisted Sister are “fat guys in clown makeup.” In the end it got people talking about Twisted Sister again.

Then came 1994. That is when Billie Joe Armstrong the singer/vocalist from Green Day sang the start of the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during Green Day’s infamous Woodstock ’94 performance. Yes, that is the same performance were Billie Joe Armstrong started a mud fight with the crowd. In the end Woodstock 94, was referred to as Mudstock ’94. Apart from the people at the event, the event was also viewed by millions by pay-per-view television. In the end, the Woodstock 1994 performance from Green Day, gave the band further publicity and recognition and it helped push the “Dookie” album to eventual diamond status.

In the aftermath of Mudstock 94, the millions of people that saw the event via pay per view, as well as the people that attended, asked themselves two things about “We’re Not Gonna Take It”; Which band sang that song and where can I get my hands on it?

With a combination of fans re-purchasing their LP’s and Cassettes on CD, and the Mudstock performance of Green Day renewing interest in the band as well as Beavis and Butt-head, the “Stay Hungry” album was certified 3 x multi-platinum in November 1995 almost ten years since is double platinum certification from 1985. In addition, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” was also certified “Gold” in November 1995.

A Radio Show and A Band called Sevendust

In 1997, Dee Snider began hosting the “House of Hair” radio show. With the catchphrase of “If It Aint Metal, its Crap”, the radio show focused on the 1980s hard rock/heavy metal period.

Also in 1997, a band called Sevendust released their self-titled debut album. It was produced by Mark Mendoza and Jay Jay French. By May 1999, the album was certified gold. Of course, Sevendust also had Jay Jay French as manager. Fans started asking how can that be? How can a person that dressed up like a chick in the Eighties, manage a band as brutal and heavy and COOL as Sevendust? If people are talking about you, that is a good thing. I remember when I purchased the Sevendust album and saw the Twisted Sister connection, I couldn’t stop telling people about it.

Heroes Are Hard To Find in a Strangeland of Napster, A Band Called Lit, Tribute albums and Spitfire Re-Issues.

In 1999, Napster exploded. I remember going on to Napster and seeing all the Desperado material, the Widowmaker material, the Twisted Sister material, as well as live concerts from Twisted Sister (from soundboard recordings and fan bootlegs). Thousands of people were uploading and downloading this content. While this would have hurt the RECORD LABEL, it didn’t hurt Twisted Sister at all in the years to come. I have always said that if you create great music now, expect to be paid well later. From Napster I got my hands on the Desperado era songs.

Also in 1999, the rock band Lit paid homage to the opening of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video clip. Dee Snider actually plays the role of the angry father (originally portrayed by Mark Metcalf) who verbally abuses his son for his lack of authority and uncleanliness. This was big from a Twisted Sister point of view for two reasons. Interest in the platinum selling band Lit was huge, after their number one rock hit “My Own Worst Enemy” remained at number one for 11 weeks on the Billboard Rock Charts. “Zip Lock” was the follow up single and what a video clip to lead with. Again, this got Twisted Sister and Dee Snider back into people’s imagination.

The movie Strangeland was also released in 1999, with a new song called “Heroes Are Hard To Find.” This was the first new piece of music from Twisted Sister and it was significant, along with the Spitfire re-issues of the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out and Play” and “Love Is For Suckers” album with additional tracks.

A Road Trip and That Bastard Solo Album

In 2000, a small budget movie came out called Road Trip. For a movie that cost about $17 million, Road Trip was a hit and what a perfect song they had for it. As the characters sing along to “I Wanna Rock” as it was playing on the radio of the bus, it was very reminiscent of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World. A perfect touch and what a promotion for the band

Dee Snider also released a solo album called “Never Let the Bastards Wear You Down” in 2000. Now this album was a “Best off” from songs that didn’t make it on any Twisted Sister albums, plus selections from the ill-fated Desperado project that Elektra boss Bob Krasnow destroyed two weeks before its release. It was a great album and the back stories provided with the CD, re-ignited the imagination.

A Culturally Significant Film

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed Animal House a culturally significant film and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. This was significant for Twisted Sister. Since their video clips of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” borrowed from Animal House, their name was out there again with the renewed interest in this movie.

Any person that grew up the Seventies and the Eighties cannot watch the Animal House movie and not think of Twisted Sister, especially when Nedermeyer has screen time.

Congressional Hearings are Finally Understood

Dee Snider is now seen as the hero and playing himself in a 2002 TV-movie called “Warning: Parental Advisory” got him back in our faces again.

 

Piracy and The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay debuts in 2003 in Sweden. Twisted Sister is one band that is shared a lot by the Europeans. A band with low record sales in Europe headlines Wacken.

Schwarznegger Is Not Gonna Take It

Dee sang, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which was adopted by the Schwarzenegger campaign. Of course, if you are a fan of the “Stay Hungry” album, you would know that the themes and the album title is from a book that Schwarzenegger wrote back in 1979.

A Film Called The Warriors and the Rise of Cyberlockers and Blogs

By 2005, blogs and cyber lockers are rising, especially in European countries. This is how it worked; A music fan creates a blog and they list all of the albums they have from bands. On each list they have a link that directs the person to a cyber locker site where they can download the album. If people kept on downloading the album, the link stayed up on the cyber locker website. If they didnt, the link would expire. Twisted Sister’s collection, plus live recordings did the rounds on these blogs and the links stayed up.

 

Also in 2005, Paramount Home Video released the “Ultimate Director’s Cut” DVD of The Warriors. As the movie came back into the public awareness so did “Come Out And Play” as people were reminded of Dee Snider clicking bottles together saying “Twisted Sister, come out and play” as a tribute to the movie.

The Wash Up

The fans of Twisted Sister in the Eighties had kids and those kids grew up. There is a study doing the rounds on the internet about how the musical tastes of kids are influenced by the musical tastes of their parents. 

In my opinion, the re-birth of Twisted Sister’s popularity in the 2000’s is due to piracy. In Europe, Twisted Sister’s music is pirated heavily. With this new distribution, Twisted Sister was given headlining slots at European festivals that still continues to this day. Being a killer live band, they always delivered and their legend grew even more.

It’s funny that the thing that the record labels try to stop is the same thing that gave Twisted Sister a new life.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Dee Snider – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics – Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down

After Widowmaker released Stand By For Pain in 1994, I was at a loss as to what was happening with Dee Snider. Information was hard to get. All of the music magazines wrote about Grunge, Alternative Rock and the rise of bands like Korn, White Zombie and so forth. Hard rock, heavy rock and heavy metal news was hard to come across, especially in Australia.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into an independent record store and came across Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down. This was in November, 2000 and the album had been out for about six months by then.

The album title alone made a connection with me right away. First, it was a typical Dee statement. Second, I was getting treated like dirt at work and it wasn’t long after I purchased this album that I left that employer.

I really liked the whole CD package, the booklet and the back stories provided by Dee for each of the songs. It is those connections that fans look for. The first working title for this album was Diamonds In The Dust.

Call My Name was written by Dee for the Stay Hungry album. As Dee stated in the CD booklet, he was so desperate to be somebody. WASP even wrote a song called I Wanna Be Somebody.

Now it may take a lifetime,
It might even take ten
Maybe nobody knows me,
They all will in the end

The path to musical stardom is right there in those four lines. To be somebody could take a lifetime. It could ten years, it could take 5 years. Nothing happens overnight. That is the cold hard truth of the music business. Jay Jay French stated in an interview with website Rockpages.gr

when Twisted Sister started in the United States gasoline was 30 cents a gallon, a hotel room was 19$ a night, a truck rental was 25$ a month, and you made 100$ a night! Now, gas in the US is 4$ a gallon, you truck rental is 400$ a week, your hotel room is 200 a night, and not only you don’t get that 100, but you have to pay 100, and there is no record deal, so the bottom line is “DON’T GET INTO THE MUSIC BUISNESS”! Go become a lawyer, a doctor… you’re not going to make money! The rock star dream is over! It’s gone!

While I don’t agree with all the words that French said in that interview, one thing is certain; the rock start dream is far from over. Music was never about platinum records or gold records. That part is all a fall out of the corporatisation of music. Music is all about making a statement. Music is about getting across a point of view that connects with people. Twisted Sister made that statement with You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll, I Wanna Rock, The Price and We’re Not Gonna Take It.

Cry You A Rainbow was originally written for the Desperado record. It was written by Dee Snider and Bernie Torme. Dee wrote some great ballads in Twisted Sister. The Price and King Of The Fools are two that stand out.

However Calling For You and Blue For You from the Widowmaker Blood and Bullet album set a new standard for me. Joe Franco even called Widowmaker the best band he has ever played in.

Calling For You is written by Dee Snider and Bernie Torme. It was actually written during the Desperado era. It was recorded for the shelved Desperado album. Thank God, Dee persisted in getting this song released. It’s quality all round. As Dee once said. “I can go out on stage and do that song knowing that not one word, not one note is contrived. The feelings are genuine.”

The Snider/Pitrelli/Torme penned Blue For You is a perfect illustration of the blues. The bridge is the best part of the song. Dee is summoning all of the Robert Johnson crossroad spirits for that vocal line.

First you want me
Say you need me
Then you tell me I’m a fool
Then you love me
Then you leave me
Oh, you’re breaking all love’s rules
Well I know I’ll love again
But I’ll never love anyone more

Cry You A Rainbow is another ballad that is up there. I remember reading the lyrics before hearing the song and making a connection to Calling For You. Again, Dee made a connection.

Ooh, our love is strong
Is it stronger than the pain all around us
Things we never thought we’d see
Ten thousand kinds of misery

Relationships are fragile. They could be heading full steam ahead and then something happens that changes everything. Most break up. The ones that don’t come out of it, changed and stronger. I have been married for sixteen years and I have three kids. Our love was stronger than the pain all around us.

Hardcore – Producer Tom Werman has gone on record stating that Dee doesn’t like to give credit to anyone else but himself. So how does Werman explain the song Hardcore. This is Dee, giving credit to Lemmy Kilmeister from Motorhead.

The power chord is all he needs
Kill or be killed his only creed
While death is certain, life is not
So he strikes while the iron’s hot

I love the Kill or Be Killed reference in this song.

Our Voice Will Be Heard is another Stay Hungry off cut. To plagiarise Dee, “another angry, young rocker anthem I’ve written over the years.” It’s about standing up and believing in yourself.

We are the people, we are the one
We’ve got the numbers, we’ll have the fun
Raise your fist in the air, show them all that you dare
And they’ll know, yes they’ll know

Our voice will be heard

You can tell that Dee went back to this song as a reference point when he was writing Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant). That is what artists do. They go back to their own body of work, twist it, rewrite it and make it better.

Isn’t It Time was originally written for the Desperado record. It was one of the first songs written by Dee and Torme. As Dee mentions in the booklet, “when Bernie and I started writing together, we had no band, no record contract, no band name and no real direction. As we worked together, a theme (albeit a Western one) started to come through. This is a great pop metal tune that didn’t fit into what became the Desperado sound.”

The song Desperado was meant to be the theme song of the Desperado project, instead it is seen as an epitaph of a dark period in Dee’s life.

Now just look how much you gave
The people that you tried to save
They don’t even wanna talk to you
And when you see just what you are
A desecrated fallen star
A bad man with something to prove

When I read the lyrics on the first verse, I immediately replaced the You with Dee. He is talking about himself. He is putting his emotions and feelings out there. It’s almost like Anakin’s fall to the dark side.

Desperado, how will the wind blow?
You’ve got the fire, it’s time to make a stand
Desperado, where did your love go?
Filled with desire, it’s time to tip your hand

When your life is going through a bad patch, everything around you bothers you. You start to argue with your loved ones, you feel that you have something to prove, so you lock yourself away even more. Then the desperation kicks in.

Better stop before you make a move
Think what you stand to lose
I know you’re mad because you were burned
But is there something that you’ve learned?

In the end, is it all worth it? In the end, is the path that a musician walks all worth it? That is the decision, we all need to make. When do you make a stand, when do you walk away, what have you learned and what do you stand to destroy? For any artist that wants to be somebody, Dee Snider has laid out the highs and lows for you in his songs.

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