In the long, sad history of Rock censorship, few days can compare with September 19th, 1985. That's when Dee Snider, frontman for Twisted Sister, a group singled out by the Parents Music Resource Committee (PMRC) as being particularly vile (are you kidding?), testified before a Senate committee to defend his group, Rock in general, and by extension, the First Amendment. Oddly, he was addressed formally by the committee counsel as "Mr. Sister."
The twisted Twisted Sister saga begins in New York with guitarist Jay Jay French. Back in '73 he was known as Johnny Heartbreaker, a man who auditioned for Wicked Lester, a forerunner of KISS - but failed to make the cut.
Twisted Sister members came and went with the band achieving only marginal success until Snider joined in '76. The group's local releases and shows built a notable following. Finally in '81, the group's line-up solidified - Snider, French, Eddie Ojeda (guitar), Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (bass) and A.J. Pero (drums).
The band's full-length album debut "Under The Blade" hit in '82. The set, recorded on low-tech equipment, had a raw Metal sound. Despite its audio shortcomings, the Secret Records release made an impact getting the group compared to Motorhead; not surprising since the track "Tear It Loose," featured a guitar solo by "Fast" Eddie Clarke.
The following year, Twisted Sister moved to Atlantic Records and issued "You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll." The track "I Am (I'm Me) managed to crack the UK Top 20. The group retained their heavy sound but a change was coming. The set's initial success encouraged Atlantic to promote the group more heavily. Those efforts included making a comical video of the title track. MTV bit and the dye was cast.
Their next effort, "Stay Hungry," was the long anticipated breakthrough. The '84 release had more commercial polish than previous efforts and sold a couple million copies thanks to tongue-in-cheek videos for "We're Not Gonna Take It" (an anthem if ever there was one) and "I Wanna Rock." MTV played the videos into the ground. Meanwhile, Twisted Sister went on tour with Metallica as an opening act. They even did a cameo in Pee Wee's Big Adventure filming a fictional video for "Burn In Hell."
Well, success and their rebellious nature (if largely comic) earned them the wrath of the publicity seeking PMRC and other conservative groups. But that was nothing compared with what came next.
"Come Out And Play" hit in '85. The video for the lead track, "Be Chrool To Your Scuel," was banned by MTV on the grounds it was offensive; hard to believe considering the other videos airing in those days. The album went gold (500,000 copies) but no further. Two years later, Pero bailed and Snider became involved in a series of solo projects but only one was released, "Love Is For Suckers," and that was passed off as a Twisted Sister album. It died a well-deserved death. Later in the year, Snider left and it only became a matter of time before Twisted Sister was completely finished.
Jumping ahead a few decades, Snider received an unusual honor in 2010 - one not often bestowed on Rock stars. The town of Cridersville, OH, became Snidersville in Dee's honor. The change came after Snider jokingly made the request on his radio show. "Having a town change its name to mine — even though it is changing only a few letters — is one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me," said Snider.
Not cool was the '15 passing of drummer A.J. Pero who was with the band during their '82 - '86 'glory days'. He died on 3/20 of an apparent heart attack at age 55.
Drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob) signed on to perform with Twisted Sister for the remainder of the year.
But it was soon time to pull the plug. Twisted Sister played what was billed as their final U.S. concert in '16 at the conclusion of the Forty And Fuck It - The Final Tour. The anniversary (their 40th) concluded at Badlands Pawn Guns Gold And Rock 'N' Roll in Sioux Falls, SD.
1982 Under The Blade
1983 You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll
1984 Stay Hungry
1985 Come Out And Play
1987 Love Is For Suckers
2004 Still Hungry
2006 A Twisted Christmas
"Stay Hungry" is easily Twisted Sisters' best effort. The songs and performances are more sure-footed than previous efforts and have more life and punch than subsequent recordings. "Big Hits And Nasty Cuts: The Best Of Twisted Sister" provides a concise and entertaining dose of the group's anti-authoritarian Rock.