When I was a wee lad, one of my early and favorite metal bands was Twisted Sister. They may not seem as “metal” when compared to all the death and black metal bands of today, but back then this was metal at its finest. In a pre-Metallica world (the early thrash bands took a little while to filter into the Mid-West) this was the latest and greatest heavy metal had to offer. I have been meaning to write this album up for awhile, and since I am currently reading Dee Snider’s book “Shut Up and Give Me the Mic”, it seems like a perfect time to get it done.
I am not entirely sure how I first heard about Twisted Sister, but I remember ordering “Stay Hungry” from the Columbia Record & Tape Club without having heard any of the songs. I bought the album on reputation alone. When the cassette arrived I spent a considerable amount of time inspecting such bizarre looking album art. I do not think I had ever seen anything quite like Dee on that cover. I was too young to have experienced the glitter rock era and hair metal had not yet gone glam.
Upon listening to the album, I was immediately a fan. Of course the first song I loved was the one everybody loves, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I was never bothered by how they looked. I know some people thought they were gay because they dressed in women’s clothes and wore make-up, but that never occurred to me. First of all, they did not REALLY look as if they were trying to be women. I mean come on; they would have made exceedingly ugly women. I thought it was obvious that it was just a rebellious thing they did for shock value. Getting upset over something done so tongue-in-cheek just seemed ridiculous to me.
The video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (included below) was an early favorite of mine, as well. Since I was roughly thirteen at this time, I was just starting to experience teen angst and rebellion, and Twisted Sister seemed to be able to relate to the rage and injustice I felt. That video was so relatable that my hormone-addled mind decided Dee and the boys must be my new heroes. As metal became heavier and Twisted Sister less so, it became harder to justify my love for the band, but I never did give up on them.
Growing up, Star Wars taught me about right and wrong. It taught me about heroes. Twisted Sister taught me about justice. And vengeance. The track “Horror-Teria” was a horror story that seemed unthinkable to my young, suburban, Mid-West point of view. People actually did things like that to kids? And they got away with it? It blew my little mind. I used to bring a boombox into the bathroom and listen to music while getting ready for school in the morning. To this day I remember listening to this track in the shower, staring at the tiled wall as these ideas took root in my mind. Life is not fair, and people do terrible things. And if the justice system will not do anything, you have to take matters into your own hands. That day in the shower I vowed never to stand idly by when someone needed help; or someone needed an ass kicking. I have more or less kept that promise to myself. Years later Dee would write a movie called “Strangeland” which was based around the story in this song. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks for the eye-opener, Dee, and for giving me some backbone.
“I Wanna Rock” was another of my favorites from this album. How could you not like this song? This is a classic. Another track that is apparently classic, but I did not know it at the time, was “The Price.” In retrospect, it seems “The Price” was a pretty big song, but at the time I never seriously gave it much notice. I think that I was too young to be able to relate to the lyrics in the song, and so it was not until years later that I eventually fell in love with it. Now it is one of my favorite Twisted Sister songs.
I cannot think about “The Beast” without thinking about my friend (and co-Twisted Sister Fanatic) Jim. He always called this song “The Nature of the Bitch”, which he dedicated to his mom. I think he even came up with new words for it. She was Jehovah Witness, which put a real damper on being a kid that loves heavy metal. She thought that the music I was exposing her son to was Satanic. Whenever she would find any of his heavy metal cassettes she would throw them out. To get around this, he started swiping her religious tapes, and we would record metal albums over them so they would be incognito. Ah, the good old days.
“S.M.F.”, which stands for Sick Mother Fucker, was another beloved song. While they never spelled out the words in the song, we knew what they meant. Especially since their fan club was called the Sick Mother Fucking Friends of Twisted Sister. Dee has a real knack for writing about things that angst-ridden teens could relate to, and this track was one more example.
I never got to see Twisted Sister play during their heyday, but eventually I got to see them play at Jaxx in Springfield, Virginia. Seeing them in such a small venue, while shit for them, was awesome for me. I got to get right up on the stage and at one point I high-fived Dee and got whipped in the face with his long blonde hair. Can you say Greatest. Moment. Ever? I know; I am such a dork.
In 2004, Twisted Sister re-recorded this album and released it under the title “Still Hungry.” It was a novelty to hear the songs done with the latest recording technology, but to longtime fans of the album, it just does not compare to the original. When listening to “Still Hungry” it sounds like the album I know, but lacks all the tiny little nuances that are tattooed on my consciousness and spark recognition. It just is not the same. If only George Lucas would learn that lesson and leave the original Star Wars trilogy alone.
One of the things in Dee’s book that made me chuckle was the design of the Twisted Sister TS logo. Dee talks about how he wanted it to carve-able, like the Van Halen VH logo. Growing up in the 80s I understand this, because I remember seeing school lockers and textbooks with the mighty VH winged logo emblazoned across them. Well, I was never much of an artist, but I did draw that TS logo on anything I could find, so I have to admit that the logo idea was brilliant.
I love the entire Twisted Sister catalog, even “Love is for Suckers” (I remember wearing out that album while taking driver’s education), but “Stay Hungry” will always be my favorite. I give my thanks to Dee, Jay Jay, Eddie, Mark and A.J. for making the soundtrack of my youth a rocking one.
Educate yourself with some of the Twisted Sister classics below.