Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Tom Werman

I have read a few rock bio’s and man, these rock stars go to town on the producers that were involved with their hit albums. Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater goes to town on Dave Prater who produced “Images and Words” which to this day, is Dream Theater’s most successful album. Dee Snider and Nikki Sixx go to town on Tom Werman, who for Twisted Sister was involved in “Stay Hungry” and for Motley Crue, he was involved in “Shout At The Devil”, “Theatre Of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”.

Let’s look at Tom Werman. The facts are out there. Most of the bands that he produced, achieved great commercial success. The majority of these successes happened during the heyday of hard rock music on MTV and when the recording industry abandoned hard rock acts to chase alternative grunge acts, Werman was part of the collateral damage.

Which is a shame as Werman is a rarity.

He forged a successful career as a heavy metal and hard rock producer because he was able to identify and feature the pop elements in the music of the bands that he was producing. Coming from an A&R background his whole set up was to get the band onto radio. He knew the game. If a band he worked with could get a hit single, it would translate into sales of millions of albums.

He also was a producer that didn’t really have an engineering background like Ron Nevison, Andy Johns, Jack Douglas, Bob Rock and so forth which freed him up to focus on other tasks like refining the songs and getting the artists to decorate the songs accordingly. To be a Producer is a tough gig. You are there to realise the bands musical vision. The producer is basically a hired independent consultant, paid by the band through a label advance and the band is perfectly free to replace the producer at any time, which is why the stories against Werman lack authenticity.

Werman is probably best known these days for producing Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil” (4x Platinum by 1997), “Theatre of Pain” (4x Platinum by 1995) and the “Girls, Girls, Girls” (4x Platinum by 1995) albums. Werman has gone on record to claim that Nikki Sixx was a friend until he revised history and created a work of total fiction in the “Heroin Diaries” book. John Corabi even questioned the authenticity of “The Heroin Diaries” along with Dee Snider.

However, Werman worked on other projects as well.

“Tooth N Nail” was released on 1984 and the album reached PLATINUM status in the U.S in 1989, after the mega successful “Back For The Attack” album along with MTV, got people interested in Dokken’s back catalogue. Tom Werman produced the “make or break” album and according to Don Dokken, Werman, almost came to blows with George Lynch during the recording. It got that bad, that at one stage, Lynch said to Werman that he will kill him. The issue arose when Werman asked Lynch to play a more substantive lead break for a particular song, which Lynch objected to.

Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” came out in 1984. In that same year the album went GOLD and then PLATINUM. Twisted Sister was everywhere, largely thanks to their clips doing the constant rotation on MTV. Dee Snider was a star who was also everywhere. Finally after paying his dues for 10 years, he was in the mainstream. By March, 1985, the album achieved 2 x PLATINUM status March 19, 1985. Then 10 years later, in November, 1995, the album achieved 3 x PLATINUM status.

Werman has stated in interviews that he feels that Dee Snider was unable to share credit for a hugely successful LP hence that is the reason why Snider has spoken negatively about Werman.

Snider has a different view. In his book “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic”, Snider goes into detail about his relationship with Werman.

First, Werman wasn’t their choice at all for producer. He was pushed onto them by Atlantic Records.

Second, in a meeting, Werman was asked a question by Snider that if Werman was to put his A&R hat on, would he had signed Twisted Sister. Werman answered NO.

Then there are further stories on the recording process and how Dee Snider had a routine to write songs for the next album, while the current album was getting mixed and finalised. However this didn’t pan out because Mark Mendoza who normally handled all of the production and sound duties refused to get involved due to friction with Werman which then left Snider to deal with it, which in turn meant, no new songs got written.

A point to note about Werman is that while he was at Epic Records his specific job was to get the bands on the radio. In order to get bands onto the radio, they needed to have singles. That is why Doug Morris (while he was president of Atlantic Records) called Werman to make a hit with Twisted Sister. That is why Doug Morris refused to hear Snider’s pleas to remove him. A general rule of thumb for Werman was to ensure that each record had at least two “singles” as he knew that hit singles would sell several million albums.

Kix released their self-titled debut album in 1981 and it wasn’t until their fourth studio album “Blow My Fuse” released on September 12, 1988 that they broke through.

By November 2, 1988, seven weeks later, the album was certified GOLD by the RIAA. In May 1989, the single “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was released and by February 5, 1990, eight months later, the single was certified GOLD by the RIAA. Finally, on August 28, 2000, the “Blow My Fuse” album was certified PLATINUM by the RIAA. Yep, that is almost 12 years from when it was released. Don Purnell of Kix (who was the main songwriter) distrusted Werman, however as others have mentioned, that was who Purnell generally was.

For Kix the success of “Blow My Fuse” came from a change to Tom Werman, a change to a better and aggressive manager in Mark Puma who got Atlantic to get behind the record and promote it, a natural progressing in the songwriting department and perfect timing.

Poison’s “Open Up and Say Ahh..” was supposed to be produced by Paul Stanley however due to schedule conflicts, Stanley was unavailable and Tom Werman was in. Keeping with Werman’s credo ensuring that each album he works on will have at least two hit singles, “Open Up And Say Ahh…” had three. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” is still a party anthem decades after its release, “Fallen Angel” is the clichéd moving to the big city to chase your dreams and the timeless classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.

The album sold over 5 million copies in the U.S and Werman has stated that it was not an easy record to make. According to Werman in an interview with the Legendary Rock website, “Bobby was the brains behind Poison, while Brett was the single most important individual in the band. CC did give the band its personality and its sound, but was so distracted by the recreational side of rock that he didn’t realize his potential. He was a lovable guy, but suggesting musical directions and recording his leads were formidable tasks.

Other albums that Werman worked on during the eighties are LA Guns “Cocked and Loaded” (their most successful), Junkyard’s self-titled debut (a cult classic), Love/Hate “Blackout In The Red Room” (should have been more successful), Babylon A.D “Nothing Sacred” (a very underrated album that deserved more attention), Steelheart “Tangled In Reins” (a solid follow-up that did well just before the Grunge movement), Lita Ford “Dangerous Curves” (she was on a downward career trajectory) and Stryper “Against The Law” (their least successful in sales however the album is chock full of fan favourites and live staples).

In the end his hit ratio was on average 1 out 3. Which means that one album out of three reached at least a GOLD status in the U.S. That is a respectable stat and if there is a history of Glam / Hard Rock, Tom Werman will and should be part of it.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

While The Music Has Achieved Worldwide Acclaim (the people behind the scenes have not)

I went to “The Powerhouse Museum” in Sydney today with the family. It was the “Game Masters” exhibition that sealed the deal. Video games are one of those peculiar cultural items where the games are well-known, however the actual designers are only known to the geeks.

This is what the “Game Masters” exhibition is trying to highlight; the key designers who have had a large influence on video games and video game culture.

I loved the exhibition (my only gripe is that you are not allowed to take photos inside the exhibition as I wanted to snapshot my boys playing Outrun). The retro arcade games made me relive some of my youth. Seeing “Outrun”, “Galaga”, “Space Invaders”, “Pac-Man”, “Donkey Kong” and “Elevator Action” in all of their glory, ready to be played, reminded me of visiting the local bowling alley with a pocket full of change.

Even my kids enjoyed themselves. This is when game play was simple. Insert a coin, move the joystick and press the only button you have to kill the baddies. How simple. I remember a comment from the Steve Jobs bio, that his motto about Apple products had to have the same ease of use as a Star Trek game that Steve Jobs played as a kid. The instructions where, insert coin and kill Klingons.

As the exhibition states, “While the games have achieved worldwide acclaim, their makers have yet to become household names.”

Does anyone know the names of Tomohiro Nishikado (“Space Invaders”) or Toru Iwatani (“Pac-Man”) or Yu Suzuki (“Outrun”)? I didn’t, however I knew the games. I spoke about the games to my kids.

And it got me thinking about some names behind some of the great music that I love.

Tom Werman is one person that comes to mind immediately. Regardless of the different versions of history out there from some of the artists that he worked with, one thing is clear; Tom Werman was a pop producer who got selected by the A&R people of the labels as the man to get hard rock acts on the radio.

This is what Werman had to say about it;

In those days, AM radio sold records and FM didn’t. FM played only album tracks, and AM played only singles. So I made singles with bands who were only being played on FM radio. This is why Doug Morris called me when he was the president of Atlantic Records and said I was the only producer he knew who could make a hit with Twisted Sister, who up to that point was a little known band in America. So I made sure there were two singles on the record, and they sold several million albums as a result. Same with Ted Nugent. Same with Cheap Trick. Same with Molly Hatchet. Same with Mötley Crüe. Same with Poison.

The first album I came across with a Tom Werman production was Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil”. Werman said that it was a hard record to make because Nikki Sixx had broken his shoulder when he drove his car off the road and that in turn affected his bass playing. However he credits Tommy Lee as the second-greatest drummer he’s ever worked with and Mick Mars as a guitarist who doesn’t get the recognition he should. History has shown that this album was a career defining album for the Crue in the same way that Master Of Puppets was a career defining album for Metallica. What a coincedence that both bands would go on to make their biggest albums with Bob Rock producing.

The second album I came across was Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” album. Tom Werman said that Dee Snider was a solid writer and that his songs were almost like nursery rhymes as Dee wanted everybody to understand his melodies. And didn’t we enjoy them, sending the band to the top.

The third album was Dokken’s “Tooth N Nail” and then it was a torrent.

Motley Crue’s “Theatre of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” followed. Krokus “Change of Address”, Poison “Open Up And Say Ahhh”, Kix “Blow My Fuse”, Junkyard’s self titled album, LA Guns “Cocked and Loaded”, Love/Hate “Black Out In The Red Room”, Stryper “Against The Law” and Babylon A.D. “Nothing Sacred” and Steelheart’s “Tangled In Reins”.

Michael Wagener is another that comes to mind. He was a producer, an engineer and a mixer.

He produced’s Dokken’s “Breaking The Chains” and then mixed the follow up “Tooth N Nail”, the same album that Tom Werman produced. He was on deck again to produce and mix “Under Lock and Key”. He then produced and mixed Stryper’s “Soldiers Under Command” and was on deck to also mix Poison’s “Look What The Cat Dragged In”. He then mixed Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”

Other production credits include Alice Cooper’s “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist N Yell”. White Lion’s “Pride” and “Big Game”. Skid Rows self titled debut and “Slave To The Grind”. Bonfire’s “Point Blank” and “Fireworks” albums. Extreme’s “Pornograffiti”. Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ozzmosis” and Warrant’s “Dog Eat Dog” followed.

He mixed WASP’s “Inside The Electric Circus”, Warlock’s “True As Steel”, Megadeth “So Far, So Good, So What”, Motley Crue’s “Decade of Decadence” and Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tears”.

What about Randy Staub? He engineered “Dr Feelgood” from Motley Crue, the black album from Metallica, “Keep The Faith” from Bon Jovi, Motley Crue’s self titled album, “Subhuman Race” from Skid Row, “Load” and “Reload” from Metallica, “Satellite” from POD and many others like Five Finger Death Punch’s “War Is The Answer.”

Mike Fraser is another whose name is in the majority of albums that I like as mixer. The two John Sykes/Blue Murder albums, “Blue Murder” and “Nothin But Trouble”. Most of AC/DC’s stuff, especially all of the remixes for digital transfer, Metallica, The Cult and many more.

Looking at the above list, I guarantee that you have at least 80% of the albums that the names mentioned have worked on in your collection. Of course there was Max Norman, Roy Thomas Baker, Jack Douglas, Bruce Fairbairn, Bob Rock, Duane Baron/John Purdell, Dave Prater and many more that shaped the albums that we have come to known to love. The music has achieved worldwide acclaim, the bands and the song writers have achieved worldwide acclaim however a lot of the people behind the scenes that captured the sounds, mixed them, edited them, spoke out about arrangements and so forth, have not.

What they have done is work on a consistent basis? That is what artists need to do today. Release on a consistent basis. It’s back to the single format. The great song.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

The Best Metal and Rock Top 10 for 2013

Well the year is almost over and it is time to look back at the albums that connected and hit the mark for 2013. Anyone who has been a constant visitor to this blog will notice that I have spoken about these albums in previous posts in more detail.

1. Protest The Hero – Volition

Disclaimer; I was one of those fans that contributed to this album, so the competition for the best album of 2013 wasn’t even close. Protest The Hero wins hands down. They delivered an album for the fans. It has everything that a condensed progressive technical metal album should have. Plus it has Chris Adler on drums. In 2011, “Scurrilous” was number seven on my list.

If you want the detailed breakdown, here it is;

This album also shows how the mainstream media is out of touch. Despite all the hype around Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Korn and Black Sabbath, the biggest release of the year belongs to Protest The Hero.

And deservedly so.

They connected with their audience via Indiegogo. They have cut through all the internet noise without the need of major label. In the age of information overload, Protest The Hero relied on their audience and their music to get their message through.

2. Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King

Call this album what you will, however no one can take away the fact that it is a damn good listen. Having those nods to the past and building on those influences is what music is all about. In twenty years time, this album will be revered and copied, because that is how music is made.

3. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1

Part 1 is a killer classic metal album with arena melodic rock chorus. Watch You Bleed, Lift Me Up, The Wrong Side Of Heaven, Anywhere But Here are all rock sing a longs.

4. Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent

Jesse Leach is back and man can he write a catchy chorus. Each song goes through so many vocal emotions, it’s one heck of a roller coaster. The Times Of Grace project brought Jesse back into the metal world. “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” was one great album and it was in my top 10 list for that year.

In 2009, I also had the self titled Killswitch Engage album at number five in my top 10 list.

5. TesserAcT – Altered State

This band is really branching out from the Djent constraints by embracing atmospheric style song writing. The math metal is still there and the vocals bring it all home. I have always said, TesseracT will be seen as the new Pink Floyd by a whole new generation. In 2011, TesseracT came in ninth position with the album “One”. I was pleasently surprised to see this one pop in Robb Flynn’s top 10 list.

6. Trivium – Vengeance Falls

Trivium have always had the balls to make decisions. Working with Dave Draiman is one of them. Seriously i cant see an issue with how the vocal melodies are phrased or delivered by Heafy. I really like this album. The music is top-notch and the songs are of high quality. In 2011, Trivium came in tenth position with the album “In Waves”.

7. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman – Descension

Another band that is employing data to connect with fans. They have been on the road since January and released two slabs of music within 3 months. This album doesn’t have Domino The Destitute, but it has Sentry The Defiant plus others.

8. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 2

A Day In My Life. Man that chorus just hooks me in. Put to the side the cliché rhyming from Moody and just focus on the musical melodies and you will be hooked as well. It’s been played on repeat on my iPhone on my way to work and on my way home.

“American Capitalist” was fifth in my 2011 list and “War Is The Answer” was 2nd in 2009, just behind “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” from Dream Theater.

9. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies

I was a fan of this band before they broke through in the U.S. It was the “Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil” album from 2007 that made me a fan. I was really looking forward to this release and the band didn’t disappoint. It has all of their trademarks with a dash of country and hillbilly thrown into the mix.

10. Alter Bridge – Fortress

Mark Tremonti is one hell of a guitar player and most importantly a hell of a songwriter. Teaming up with Myles Kennedy has been a godsend. Alter Bridge get better with each album and they rarely fail to disappoint.

Notable Mentions

Audrey Horne – Youngblood

If you don’t know this band, you should. I swear every genre of music and time period associated with music is heard on this album. Give this band the attention they deserve. Their whole catalogue is on Spotify so there is no excuse to not check them out. Any band that is from Norway and with a black metal post deserves to be heard in a hard rock context.

Mutiny Within – Synchronicity

The only thing holding this band back is what their definition of success is and Chris Clancy. He is so hung up on fighting for the old system and how it used to be, he is failing to see opportunities in front of him.

Hearts And Hands – My Own Machine

A great pop metal or pop rock album. Hearts and Hands started off as a side project for Chelsea Grin vocalist Alex Koehler. However since he departed after their 2012 self titled EP, the band has undergone a significant transformation and their sound has shifted away from breakdowns and screams to effected guitars, acoustics and great songs.

Love and Death – Between Here and The Lost

A hundred times better than the new Korn album. They even sound like Korn on some of the songs. Brian Head Welch is a star and this album proves it.

Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut

Progressive Rock and a voice that sounds very similar to Phil Collins. Plus any album that has a concept attached to it, always gets my attention. Its plot follows an alienated, unnamed human who is tired of humanity and embraces his fate as a traveler of dimensions, time and galaxies. Throughout the story, the dimensionaut constructs his escape from reality, realizing new experiences and encountering love in the process.

Faith Circus – Turn Up The Band

If this band had the same attention as Avenged Sevenfold, critics would come out and comment how each song sounds like a rip off from every successful glam rock and blues rock album made in the Eighties. Music is derivative and Faith Circus deliver. It is a great listen from start to finish. Another band from Norway that deserves your attention.

Final Notable Mentions

Due to my kids overdosing on the music I placed on their iPods certain classic rock albums have come back into my life.

Twisted Sister – You Cant Stop Rock N Roll
Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry
Kiss – Lick It Up
Kiss – Asylum
Kiss – Destroyer
Deep Purple – Machine Head
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
Europe – The Final Countdown

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

Metallica: Hot Metal – June 1992, the “Through The Never” Stage Idea Goes Back To This Period and Staying Power

I have been re-reading a lot of the magazines I have accumulated during the Eighties and the Nineties. I just finished reading a story about Metallica from the Australian magazine “Hot Metal”. It is the June 1992 issue.

The article is written by Robyn Doreian, who was the editor once however when this story hit the press, she had moved on to Metal Hammer. The story was a combination of two days she spent with the band, plus separate interviews with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.

The first part that got me interested was the following answers from James Hetfield;

RD – First up, I ask him about the new stage design, which not only challenges conventional rock shows but also has consider-able advantages for the fans.

JH – “We sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. For instance, Lars has his travelling drum kit that was all his thing. I have to make that clear,” he scoffs, “because I find it a little silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to travel. He’s basically a front man on drums. We should have thought of it earlier in our careers, I guess.”

“The snake-pit was a combination of ideas from band members and management. Initially that hole in the middle of the stage was meant to be a special effects area, with things like little crosses rising up, or a blow-up ‘Justice’ lady or something.” sniggers Hetfield.

“We said no’ Why not put some kids in there, some fans. That would be cool. We usually put between 40 and 90 kids in there, depending on each city’s fire regulations and stuff.”

RD – What about the area set aside for taping?

JH – “Fans have to buy a special ticket for the tape section. It’s like five bucks more, and there are like 20 or 30 kids who can get in there and video, audio or whatever they want to do. It’s a cool thing to do, to flood the market with bootlegs. And it makes it a little more personal.”

The above got my interest for two reasons;

1. The stage design.
2. Bootlegs.

First, the stage design. The grand stage design that is seen in the movie “Through the Never” was conceived back in 1991 for the tour in support of the Black album. Of course, an idea is just an idea until it is executed and with the exponential rise of technologies, that idea finally came to fruition in 2012.

The point of this is that no one should ever give up on an idea. If it doesn’t work at a particular given point in time, keep it filed away as it could work at a later time.

Second, the bootlegs. The Black tour did something great for the hard core fans that no other band had really done up until then.

Metallica in 1992, wanted to flood the market with bootlegs. Metallica in 2013 has the following disclaimer on their Live Metallica website “Terms of Use”;

Any violation of copyright laws may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. Violators will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.

Compare the above to the comments from Hetfield. What a difference between Metallica and the Metallicorporation? This is why Metallica messed up big time with Napster by handing over names of fans at the Senate Hearings.

Next up in the interview was Lars Ulrich. Knowing what we know now, words from the past is always interesting.

RD – Seizing the opportunity I ask him whether, seeing as Metallica have now been so firmly embraced by the mainstream, it’s possible that they are becoming what they once rebelled against.

LU – “I don’t disagree with that, but we were always more into doing our own thing, never about being shocking for its own sake or pissing people off. You should always be yourself.”

Lars admits that he and Metallica are becoming the entity that they rebelled against. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Can a band remain the same after they accumulate millions? No chance.

RD – Do you ever think that in years to come there is a danger of Metallica being viewed as a dinosaur band, some sort of corporate rock giant similar to what happened to bands like Zeppelin in the 70s?

LU – “I think there are a lot of people in the States right now who, simply because we have gained confidence in what we’re doing, are saying that we are doing the same arena rock clichés that these other bands were doing. My attitude is basically that if people come and see us and think its arena rock crap then that’s fine. It doesn’t affect me; because I know what we’re doing is distinctly different from what everyone else is doing.”

RD – With Grammy awards, cumulative record sales in the millions and adulation the whole world over, what is there left for the band to achieve?

LU – “Staying power. In terms of numbers, it’s not going to get much bigger but its important not to burn out. A lot of bands don’t have the confidence for a long term career, so they try and milk everything while they can. We plan to be around for quite a while, so when this tour is over we’re going to have a long period of inactivity.”

The above is interesting to me for the following two reasons;

1. Be Yourself / Stay true to yourself
2. Staying Power

I was a fan of Metallica coming before the Black album came out. It was “Ride the Lightning” that did it for me. I cannot recall how many arguments I got into over what is the better album between “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”.

Then the Black album comes out and I really liked it. I thought it was perfect. The songs hammered the ear drums from start to finish and the groove was undeniable. Metallica wrote and recorded an album that they wanted to write. It was never designed to have a hit single whereas “Load” and “Reload” to me, feels like Metallica had that single idea in the backs of their mind.

The comments about staying power ring true. As Lars said, in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t get any bigger than the Black album. However reaching the top is not the end of the journey. That is when a new journey begins.

Twisted Sister failed after “Stay Hungry” exploded.

Motley Crue fired Vince Neil after “Dr Feelgood”.

Guns N Roses became Adler-less after “Appetite for Destruction” and after “Use Your Illusion,” Guns N Roses became an Axl Rose solo project.

Motorhead had Fast Eddie Clarke play on one more album (“Iron Fist”) after “Ace of Spades.”

Skid Row got one more album out in “Subhuman Race” after the massive “Slave To The Grind” and disappeared.

Van Halen released “1984” and then fired David Lee Roth. They are one of the rare bands that changed lead singers and went on to bigger success, with the Van Hager era.

Poison got “Flesh and Blood” out after the mega successful “Open and Say Ahh” and it was curtains, even though “Native Tongue” with Richie Kotzen was a great album.

White Lion never recovered from the mega success of “Pride”.

Warrant released the excellent and heavy “Dog Eat Dog”, however it was no “Cherry Pie” and they got dropped after Jani Lane left.

Also when a band reaches the top, it opens up the opportunity for some time off. Metallica had been on an album and tour cycle since “Kill Em All” was released in 1983. After 11 constant years, by 1994, they had some time off, before they regrouped for the “Load” albums.

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Top 10

My 8 year old and my 7 year old love Twisted Sister. It’s the video clips that hooked them, so they started to dig deep into my LP and CD collection. Actually, the first LP they ever saw, was Twisted Sister’s “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.” So here it is, the Top 10 list of Twisted Sister songs, by an 8 year old and a 7 year old.

1. We’re Not Gonna Take It

When Quiet Riot topped the charts with “Metal Health” and it became the first heavy metal album to do so, it was a game changer for metal in general. For better or for worse a lot of bands got picked up by major labels in the U.S.

Twisted Sister on the other hand were still struggling to get ahead without any real support from their Atlantic U.S.

Not to be deterred Twisted Sister took this new fan interest in metal to a new level. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is all pop and a little glam infused with a lot of rock. It’s tongue in cheek video ensured that MTV played it non stop.

Dee Snider finally fine tuned that Chorus melody he had written back in 1979.

2. I Wanna Rock

Who would have thought that in 1987 when “Love Is for Suckers,” came out that it would be a long time before Dee Snider rocked out again.

Desperado proved unsuccessful due to record label politics taking up Dee’s time between 1988 and 1989. Widowmaker came out in the midst of the Seattle Revolution and an excellent band was ignored.

3. Shoot Em Down

This can be the new anthem for the fight against censorship by the Copyright Monopolies and the Corporations that issue DMCA takedowns.

In 1985, Dee Snider along with Frank Zappa and Bob Denver appeared before a Senate committee to testify against the Parents Music Resource Center’s demands for music censorship legislation.

All of this is happening while Twisted Sister was burning to the ground with low ticket sales and crowd animosity.

In 2013, this fight is still going on. This time it is the RIAA, the MPAA and the Copyright monopolies that are trying to silence free speech with bogus takedowns.

Shoot em down I say.

4. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll

“You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” laid the groundwork for the things to come. With the release of “Under The Blade” before it, the band was getting some serious respect with the metal crowd.

During the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” tour in Europe, especially England, Twisted Sister was the hottest “new” group.

They where selling out 3500 seaters all over the country, they had two hit singles, been on national TV in England and had been in all the papers.

Twisted Sister tour these days and they are more popular than they have ever been. It’s true, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”.

5. SMF

This is the ode to the original tri-state headbangers who would talk at length about the shows that Twisted Sister played in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester before Twisted Sister became a huge act nationally via MTV. This is their song.

When the band broke through and toured extensively behind “Stay Hungry” the band and Dee Snider especially became overexposed. After being the underdog that gave a voice to every angry teenager in America, Twisted Sister would end up losing the respect of their loyal and possessive core metal fan base.

In other words the SMF’s abandoned them only to return in greater numbers years later.

6. The Kids Are Back

While the record industry proclaims that the industry is dead without any evidence, the kids are all plugging away and creating.

Maybe we will never see another superstar act like the Eighties however we are living in a golden time for creators.

7. Burn In Hell

From reading all the press, it always came across that ”Twisted Sister” was in control of their lives and future. I saw them as a new generation of rock bands due to their hard work ethic to make it.

8. Come Out And Play

When I hear this song, I immediately think of the bands history playing the bar scene, especially when Dee screams out “Join our cavalcade / Enter the world we made.” That cavalcade started when Dee Snider joined in early 1976. That cavalcade kept on growing along with a growing collection of record company rejection letters.

The critics called “Come Out and Play” an uneven album. The weakest tracks on the album like “Leader Of The Pack” and “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” got released as singles. The singles that should have been released are the title track, followed by “The Fire Still Burn” and then “I Believe In Rock N Roll.” Imagine the film clip of “Come Out And Play” if Twisted Sister paid homage to “The Warriors” movie.

In the end “Come Out And Play” didn’t fit the “Michael Jackson business model” of the labels. Twisted Sister went from being hot to being the whipping boys again.

9. The Price

People have a lot of trouble dealing with failure. Twisted Sister had been through so much rejection it made them even more determined to make it. Everything comes at a price.

10. Stay Hungry

It was difficult for Twisted Sister to land a record deal, and the band ended up struggling for nearly a decade before finally getting their big break in the early ’80s.

Unfortunately, when this break finally came, the band would end up being the poster child of record company overexposure.

Stay Hungry stands as a reminder. With each rejection, you need to stay hungry and find the fire again.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Don’t Have The Grit To Rock N Roll)

I just finished reading a “Wall Street Journal” article that had a section about Angela Lee Duckworth, about how “GRIT TRUMPS TALENT” and the GRIT scale that she designed.

Grit means the passion and perseverance for long-term goals. In other words, the grittiest person will end up achieving much more than the talented person who doesn’t exhibit any grit. The career of an aritst is all about the taking risks, putting it all on the line and on occasion experiencing defeat. Add to that mix, “GRIT”.

So in every facet of our lives we will face a person that has super talent and grit. We will face a person who possess some talent, but a lot of grit. Finally, we will face a person who has no talent and no grit.

When I think of GRIT, I think of Mick Mars and Twisted Sister.

Starting off with Mick Mars.

Was he supremely talented? No.

Did he have the GRIT? Hell yeah.

Just think about it for a moment. Mick Mars started off doing the band circuit around 1971 and it was 11 years later when Motley Crue got picked up Elektra. Then came the shred era with the release of Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” in 1983 and poor old Mick Mars was blasted by the new guitar fans of the movement.

He was too sloppy, he was too old, he was too slow, he wasn’t technical enough and it just went on and on. The last laugh is being had by Mick Mars. He is still around. Regardless of what you think about Motley Crue, or the band members within, one thing they do have is GRIT.

Let’s look at Twisted Sister, the best bar band doing the tri-state scene. For Jay Jay French, it was a long way to the top. He started off Twisted Sister in 1972. Dee Snider joined in 1976. The band came to world-wide attention in 1983, with the release of “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” and the follow-up “Stay Hungry” in 1984.

Was Twisted Sister the most talented heavy metal band doing the rounds at this time? Of course not.

Did Twisted Sister have the grit to make it? Hell Yeah.

One could argue that the band ceased to be in 1987, so what happened to the GRIT? It lived on with Dee Snider. Regardless of the success of his post Twisted Sister bands, Dee Snider continued to battle it out. He never gave up.

Looking at some other artists, I immediately think of Vito Bratta from White Lion.

Vito Bratta is a favourite of mine and a massive influence. He is a supremely talented guitarist and songwriter, however with his exile from the music business since 1992, it looks like he just didn’t have the GRIT.

Mike Tramp on the other hand, has the GRIT (Freaks Of Nature, a new version of White Lion, plus a tonne of solo releases), but without Vito, he doesn’t have the talent in the compositions.

Jake E. Lee is another favourite of mine that has sort of disappeared from the public conversation. A very talented musician, who got the boot from Ozzy Osbourne because he couldn’t agree with Sharon Osbourne over the publishing rights of Ozzy’s music. So he goes on to form Badlands with Ray Gillen (RIP) and they release two excellent albums before calling it a day with ego tantrums and arguments.

Is Jake E. Lee talented? Of course

Does he have any GRIT? I am going to answer YES on this one. Since the end of Badlands, Jake E Lee has gone on to appear on a lot of tribute albums, along with a few solo releases and a couple of projects that he demoed songs with. The bottom line is, he never really stopped creating.

Currently, he is recording songs for a new project called Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

To finish off, the immortal words of Bon Scott (RIP) from AC/DC;

Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks

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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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