A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Twitter Thoughts

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.

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1992 – The Year That Hard Rock Forgot

1992 was the year of transition. Once the year was over; hard rock, melodic rock, glam rock and so forth would never be the same. In relation to hard rock releases, what a year it was. So many great albums got released, however according to the record labels barometer of success, those albums failed miserably. These days if an album sells 200,000 copies it is seen as a successful album.

One of the best releases from 1992 was “Blood and Bullets” by Widowmaker. Not only was it a great album, it was also the first “official” album to feature Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. The last album Dee was featured on was the “Love Is For Suckers” album from 1987, so it was a long time between drinks.

When I first heard the song “The Widowmaker”, I thought of the song, “The Beast from the “Stay Hungry” album. However, “The Widowmaker” is far superior. The sound on “Blood and Bullets” was the exact sound I was into in 1992.

Along with the self titled Lynch Mob album, “The Crimson Idol” from W.A.S.P., “Dog Eat Dog” from Warrant, “III Sides to Every Story” from Extreme, “Sin-Decade” from Pretty Maids and “Revenge” from Kiss, it formed my decadent seven wonders of heavy rock.

My metal tastes got serviced by “Countdown to Extinction” from Megadeth, “Fear of the Dark” from Iron Maiden, “The Ritual” from Testament, “Dehumanizer” from Black Sabbath, “A Vulgar Display of Power” from Pantera and a new band from Seattle called Alice In Chains” and their excellent “Dirt”.

Dream Theater blew me away with “Images and Words” while Yngwie Malmsteen delivered the excellent “Fire and Ice” and no one outside of his hardcore fan base heard it. Another neo-classical shredder Tony MacAlpine released “Freedom To Fly” and boy didn’t he fly with it.

“Hold Your Fire” from Firehouse, “Five Wicked Ways” from Candy Harlots, “Don’t Tread” from Damn Yankees, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” from The Black Crowes, “The Wild Life” from Slaughter, “Nothing Sacred” by Babylon A.D., “Hear” from Trixter, “Tangled In Reins” from Steelheart, “Double Eclipse” from Hardline and “Adrenalize” from Def Leppard satisfied by hard rock cravings.

A lot of good music was released and the record labels just abandoned it. It was all about greed. Even though hard rock albums would still sell, it wasn’t enough for the labels.

Granted there was quite a lot of deadwood rock bands on the label rosters that just should not have been signed. However they did, because everyone wanted to cash in. I am sure people like John Kalodner and Tom Werman could have done some creative merging, putting the best with the best, sort of like how Kaldoner got Coverdale to work with Page or getting Blades, Nugent and Shaw to get together as Damn Yankees. Seriously, you had great guitarist like Jake E Lee and Vito Bratta out of jobs and they could have been paired with some great vocalist.

Going back to Widowmaker. What was my attraction. First, it was Dee Snider. Come on, who wouldn’t want to hear what Dee Snider was involved in (though I can’t say that “Dee Does Broadway” was a good move).

Second, it involved Al Pitrelli. I first saw his name on the Y&T album “Contagious”. He was a co-writer for the song “Temptation” which was pure melodic rock. It was my best song on that Y&T album. Then I saw him on the video I purchased of Alice Cooper’s “Trashes The World”. What can I say, the dude rocked and I was interested to hear him on this album.

Bernie Torme was asked to come back again by Dee, however he said no. He was burned out, he had a punctured lung and his wife was expecting their first child. That is how Al Pitrelli came into the mix.

I’m telling you
I ain’t nobody’s fool
Don’t you run?
Can’t you see I got your bullet in my gun?

You know the feeling when people just don’t give you the credit that you deserve or that feeling when a record label boss tells you that the album you worked on for 12 months will not be released a week before it was due to be released. Looks like Bob Seger was right after all, rock n roll does help to soothe the soul.

I’m your judge and jury
I’m reality
I’m a never ending horror come for you
Don’t turn your back on me

It’s a Dee Snider and Al Pitrelli composition. This is the perfect song to listen too when you are pissed off. It just makes everything feel okay. The power of music. The power of artists that have a point to prove. The power of artists who have been ripped off and treated like dirt.

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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, 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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Bloodied But Unbowed – Passing Time with Dee Snider, Desperado and Shut Up And Give Me The Mic

I am about 200 pages deep into the Dee Snider bio, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic.” It got me into a Snider mood, so I turned to “Desperado – Bloodied But Unbowed”. You cant find it on Spotify, however all the songs are available on YouTube, the original unofficial streaming site. You see, while the Record Labels procrastinated over licensing Spotify, YouTube slipped in through the back door and won the streaming war. If you want to buy it, iTunes also has it for sale.

Bloodied But Unbowed means “harmed but not defeated by an unpleasant situation or competition”. It is a typical Dee Snider statement especially coming off the Twisted Sister meltdown. For the uninitiated Desperado also includes Clive Burr (RIP) on drums, Bernie Tormè on guitars and Marc Russel on bass.

The project never saw a proper release due to the record label Elektra, pulling the CD from the shelves, two weeks before its release. The quote from Bernie Tormè more or less sums it up; “Well, it took years out of all our lives, though for me 99.9% was pure pleasure. It was a great album, great singer, great band, but unfortunately for us, a shit record company.”

Dee sums up his feelings in “Shut Up And Give Me The Mic”;

“I was literally packing to leave for England to shoot our video when I received a devastating call from my manager, Mark Puma. Elektra Records had dropped Desperado and shelved our album.

The news hit me as if I’d been told a family member died. I collapsed in a chair and listened to an explanation of how my record—which already had a catalog number and was in the Elektra database and slated for release in just weeks—had come to an end. Brian Koppelman—the fan who had signed us—had left the label for a better offer at a new record company called Giant Records. Insulted by Brian’s move, Elektra got even with him by “shelving” all the projects he was working on. As if we were inanimate objects, Elektra Records shut down our careers. I couldn’t believe it.”

Back in the heyday of the record labels, as a musician, your career was in the hands of the record labels. The record company moguls had the power to make or break not only musical careers but the financial lives of individuals. Even though the Desperado project started in 1988, the story of their album getting shelved goes back to 1983, when Bob Krasnow was put in charge of Elektra and given the task of turning the Label’s fortunes around.

So what happens when making music and making profits collides? Careers get destroyed and careers get put on hold. Bob Krasnow came into power, destroyed the careers of many artists between 1983 and 1993. Desperado wasn’t the first project that Bob Krasnow left nor would it be the last. By 1994, he abruptly resigned (aka for pushed to resign) from Elektra, after he was excluded from the new Warner Music corporate inner circle. How does it feel to be on the outer, sucker? Payback

Emaheevul

Clive Burr lays the foundation for the song after the harmonica intro. The version on “Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker, is a modern radio friendly take, however the Desperado version has that Bluesy Classic Rock rawness that I like. This is the same feeling I had when I compared the Atlantic re-issue of “Under The Blade” with the original Secret Records version. For me the Secret Records version had that rawness that was just perfect.

Big credit to Bernie Torme and Clive Burr for the Classic Rock touch. Dee always wrote great melodies and with Torme on the scene, he now had a person that could write music that was more intricate.

Never thought much about right or wrong
Never thought much about what I’ve done
Never think much about what I’ll do

You know the story. Our upbringing is all about living as a member of the family, the community and the nation. It’s all about doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing and so on. Pursuing your own dreams and pleasures is frowned upon and seen as selfish, especially if it doesn’t involve earning a weekly wage.

Then you have Dee spitting out the words of Emaheevul. Don’t think about it, don’t procrastinate about it, just do it.

Am I evil?
What’s it to you?
Am I evil?
Compared to who?
Am I evil?
Death, where’s thy sting?
How you dare
Point and stare
Who made you king?

A funny thing happens to all the ones that point and stare. Their life eventually ends up in the doldrums because it isn’t as great as they make it out to be. The ones that judge end up being judged.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

It’s 7 minutes long and it’s got that large Def Leppard style chorus ala, “Headed For A Heartbreak”. Bernie Torme is allowed to take centre stage on this song, with his leads and fills.

Dee has said that “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is his proudest moment as a writer and nobody even knows the song. I know about and a lot of others know it. In time, millions more will know it. The music business model has always been about creating great music now, only to get recognition years later. Then the record labels got powerful and made the music business all about creating music now and expecting to be paid handsomely now. No wonder Dee has lost his motivation to create new material.

But a man ain’t a man if he don’t take a stand
And he won’t put it all on the line

One thing that I am taking out of the Dee Snider bio so far, is that he always put everything on the line just to make it. He was a leader. Leaders question authority, while followers obey the rules. Leaders have no safety net, while followers have a back-up plan. Leaders, start the corporation, while followers work for the corporation. Leaders do it their own way, while followers have conformity as their way of doing things.

I can’t see any band in today’s times, hanging in for seven to nine years before they get international recognition. The kids these days don’t have that mindset. Furthermore, the music model is totally different. Look at the band Heartist. They built their following online and then when they played their first gig, the buzz was there, the record labels came out in force and so did all the prospective managers.

The book also highlights the difference between “breaking through” in the 70s/80s and today. Fame and fortune in the music business can be gone in an instant no matter how hard a person works at it. The music industry is a brutal machine. From 1976 to 1992, Dee Snider was chewed up and spat out numerous times and he still made it through. The music business is about survival.

Ain’t the only one to ever lose
Ain’t the only man who had to choose
I’m no stranger to that kind of news
But a man ain’t a man if he don’t make a stand
And he won’t put his heart on the line

If you are afraid to lose, then you are a follower and you don’t belong in the music business. If you believe that you are destined to win and are not afraid to lose, then you belong in the music business. While followers plan, leaders make it up as they go.

This song is written before the “Desperado” album was pulled. It’s like Dee could see the future. Great music and great messages are timeless. The themes in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” were relevant in 1988/89 when the song came to fruition. The same theme was relevant when Widowmaker came to be in 1992 and in 2013 the message is still relevant. You will never be a winner if you don’t put everything on the line.

Calling For You

95% of the love ballads that came out during the Eighties I found corny. I really liked “Love Song” from Tesla. It was a whole different take on the format, with many different movements, like the Randy Rhoads inspired classical guitar intro, to the normal stock standard hard rock ballad and the big “Hey Jude”, “love will find a way” ending.

The original version of “Calling For You” leaves me speechless and the Widowmaker version is also top notch. When you have a quality song, the output will always be quality. Its great to hear Bernie Torme’s style in this song as I was so used to Al Pitrelli’s take. Clive Burr is hitting the skins, like it is his last day on this Earth especially on the pre chorus part of the song, when Dee starts singing, “Girl I want you to stay / I beg you, I pray / Don’t leave me this way / I’ve so much to say / Oh, don’t walk away / How long must I pay?”

There is that familiarity in the lyrics. The lyric line of “How long must I pay?” is referencing the song “The Price” from the Stay Hungry album. Back in 1984 it was a price that Dee had to pay and in 1988/89 he is asking the question, for how long must he pay the price.

See You At Sunrise

Classic solo by Torme. The lead break alone is one of those songs within a song compositions. It’s melodic and shredilicous. It goes on for about two minutes and it closes the song. No one has got the balls these days to go with a two minute lead break in a song. Everything is about conformity. Followers play the political game. Leaders on the other hand, play their own game. I really like how Dee uses the cowboy showdown analogy for the breakdown/showdown of a relationship.

See you at sunrise
See you in the morning’s light
There won’t be any compromise when I’m blowin’ you away

I was reading some reviews on Dee’s bio, and quite a few of them had the words that Dee’s ego is still uncontrollable. Maybe it is. While followers conform their personalities to get along, Dee just got to be himself. There was no compromise. That is what leaders do.

In the end, Twisted Sister became international stars because of Dee Snider. No one cares about the hard work that Jay Jay French put in behind the scenes. In the end, artists are judged by their songs and the songwriter in Twisted Sister was/is Dee Snider. Case closed.

Gone Bad

It’s perfect for 1989. It’s pop metal and it’s sleazy as hell. Again, both versions between Desperado and Widowmaker have their own uniqueness. The Desperado version, is edgier and rawer. If anything it is under produced. Torme again shines with his Guitar Heroics. The lead break is again a “song within a song” composition. Torme was really in his element working with Dee.

So I’m bad, cut off from the rest
So I walk alone, everything you detest
Why should I play the games you play
Should I worry ’bout all the things people say
Tell me why should I care
Won’t you tell me what should I prove
That I’m just as feeble and lost as you?

The Maverick (Run Wild, Run Free)

This is probably as close as Dee got to his Twisted Sister days with Desperado. It reminds me of the “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” period. The song to me is autobiographical.

It stood in the meadow, wind blowin’ through its mane
Cryin’ go, go, go, go and do it
He stares out the window, anger feeds his flame
Cries oh, oh, oh I can’t lose it
And he asks no questions why ’cause he knows it’s do or die
He got colder and tough, now he’s hard to the stuff
He’s got to go and try

While the majority of society argues about their pay, for Dee Snider money was secondary. The mission statement was always about succeeding. It was about making it. Any price would be paid in order to succeed.

Run wild, run free on the road to nowhere
No one’s gonna change your life

The mission statement is about running wild and running free and doing things your own way. Do not expect a shining light to arrive from out of nowhere and change your life. You are in control of your own life. If something is not working then something needs to change. It always starts with you.

But she asks no questions why ’cause she knows it’s do or die
She just smiles and hangs tough ’cause she’s hard to the stuff
She knows he’s got to try

The other side to the mission statement. In chasing dreams, how much are you willing to sacrifice. When it comes to music, a lot.

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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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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Dee Snider – Stay Hungry – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll preceded Stay Hungry, and it was this album that started to give the Twisted Sister machine some momentum. It was the You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll video clip that set the wheels in motion. It was the prequel of what was to come. The calm before the storm.

So Stay Hungry comes out and it’s huge. This is the period were the image of bands started to become bigger than the music. MTV was rising as a force to be reckoned with and Twisted Sister had the songs and the video clips/mini movies for this new market. Tom Werman was on deck to produce. He is also credited as a writer and arranger, however this has been disputed by Dee Snider. Tom Werman has even said in interviews that Dee could never deal with any credit given to anyone but him.

The band has also mentioned in interviews that they never liked the sound on Stay Hungry, however a stipulation from Tom Werman is that he always wants a member of the band in the control room during the mix, and an approval of the final mix by the band before the album was turned in to the label.

We’re Not Gonna Take It became the anthem for the teenagers of 1984. The clip featured actor Mark Metcalf, from the movie Animal House. If anyone has watched Animal House Metcalf plays the sadistic and military orientated Doug Neidermeyer. Both of the video clips (I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Gonna take It) have dialogue that references dialogue from the Animal House movie. The “Twisted Sister pin, on your uniform” and “you are all worthless and weak” appear in the movie and the Twisted Sister video clips. In Animal House, the Twisted Sister reference is for something else. A connection is made immediately with me.

We’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong

Rising up against authority. Rising up against the unwritten creed of Live, Work, Die. Rising up against the life that our parents, our teachers, our employers want from us. While other bands sang songs about reaching for the sky and all your dreams would come true, Twisted Sister brought it all back to reality. This is the street reality. The line is drawn, and we are saying, we are not going to take it anymore. Screw, reaching for the sky. All of that is fantasy rubbish. This is real. Making a stand right now.

I Wanna Rock is anthem number two for the disenchanted youth of the Eighties.

Turn the power up
I’ve waited for so long so I could hear my favourite song so, lets go!
GO! GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!

That is all we wanted to do. Turn it up, kick back, have a drink or two or three, have a smoke and enjoy.

I Wanna Rock, We’re Not Gonna Take It and Smokin In the Boys Room from Motley Crue, were in constant rotation on the music TV channels in Australia circa 1985. All three clips had the same theme and story to tell. All three clips are brilliant. All are produced by Tom Werman.

The Price

How long I have wanted
For this dream to come true

The Price is seen as the first Dee Snider solo piece. There are many songs about life on the road, and this is just another to add to that list. This is Dee’s take on touring Europe. It was written four months into that tour and by then Dee was getting homesick. He even wanted to re-record The Price with Widowmaker as he never believed that the song reached its full potential.

OH, it’s the price we gotta pay
And all the games we gotta play
Makes me wonder if it’s worth it to carry on

This is the part that no one tells you about. Life on the road, away from loved ones. This is the part where loneliness leads to addictions for many. This is the part where we question if it’s worth it to carry on. The people around you (like your band mates) are starting to get on your nerves. Are you prepared to pay the price?

S.M.F.

The best song on Stay Hungry by far. This song spoke to me. It connected on so many levels. Even in the metal and rock community, divisions existed. If someone liked Metallica, they hated people that liked Motley Crue, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Ozzy, Twisted Sister and so on. If someone like Slayer, they hated Metallica lovers. I liked all things metal and rock, however depending with which crowd I was hanging with, I could have been seen as a black sheep.

Black Sheep Of The Family
Nothing Like The Rest
Separate From The Others
Failing All Their Tests
Can’t They See You’re Different
So Hungry And So Lean
You’re A Walking Wonder
You’re A Metal Machine
Look And You’ll See
You’re A Lot Like Me

You’re An S.M.F.

In the end I am a music lover. I don’t believe in elitism. I don’t believe that to like Black Metal you need to worship Satan. I don’t believe that to like blues music, you need to have done it tough. I don’t believe that to like metalcore, you need to have a thousand tattoos and weird piercings. I don’t believe that to like glam rock, I need to wear lipstick and tease my hair. To me music is greater than the image.

And If They Think That We’re Sick
Then Sick Is What We’ll Be
Scream It Loud
Know What You Are Be Proud

A fitting end to it all. Be proud.

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