Twisted Sister (1972-1988, 1997-1998, 2001, 2003-2016): a Glam Metal band from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, USA.
s an answer to the disco movement that was sweeping the world in the mid 1970s, the New York Quintet Twisted Sister set up their show. Featuring Dee Snider (vocals), Eddie Ojeda (guitar), Mark 'The Animal' Mendoza (ex-Dictators; bass), Jay Jay French (Real Name: John Segall; guitar) and Tony Petri (drums), Twisted Sister borrowed their image from Kiss, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. On the musical side, they combined sexually provocative pop-ish silly lyrics with heavy and melodic rock 'n' roll.
Originally from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey and later based in Long Island, New York, self-defined "glitter band" Silver Star, soon to be renamed to Twisted Sister, was formed by drummer Mel Anderson (a.k.a. Mel Star) as the "New Jersey version of The New York Dolls". The original act consisted of Billy Diamond (lead guitar), Wayne Brown (lead vocals/guitar), Tony Bunn (bass) and Steve Guarino (keyboards); John Segall (later renamed as "Jay Jay French") was added following auditions in the "band house" located in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey late December 1972. At the time, Mel Star's brother, Al Anderson, was the guitar player for Bob Marley and the Wailers. Segall openly hated the name "Silver Star", and when Michael O'Neill took over the lead singer role from the departing Wayne Brown, he sympathized with the desire to change the name and quickly came up with "Twisted Sister" at a rehearsal on Valentine's Day in February the following year. Anderson also loved the idea, so Twisted Sister it was! Along with the name change came stylistic changes and eventually an amicable parting of ways for most members. The style change in question began in haste in 1978 when band decided to play a heavy metal sound, in the beginning days of recording their demos
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The first official line-up of Twisted Sister, featuring Billy Diamond (guitar), Mel Star (drums), Johnny Heartbreaker (a.k.a. Jay Jay French) and Kenneth Harrison Neill (bass), found work immediately and started playing six nights a week (mostly in the same club for the entire week). But the line-up was unstable and suffered changes regularly over the next few years.
For a time, the band boasted its own T-shirt company and record label.
Twisted Sister signed to an unknown German label for the one-off single I'll Never Grow Up, but it would be the Ruff Cuts EP on the British punk 'Secret' label' that got them some exposure during their gigs around London. A few months later, A.J. Pero (ex-Cities) took over on drums before their debut Pete Way (U.F.O.) produced album Under The Blade (1982) was completed featuring the first 'official' membership of Dee Snider (lead vocals/assistant producer), Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Jay Jay French (rhythm & lead guitar/backing vocals), Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (bass/backing vocals/assistant producer/remix producer/engineer) and A. J. Pero (drums/percussion).
Following a successful appearance at the Reading Festival and a controversial appearance on the UK TV show The Tube, 'Atlantic' took over where 'Secret' left off.
Although less innovative musically, You Can't Stop rock 'n' Roll (1982) was nonetheless another hit with the title track, but also on the strength of the track gone single I Am I'm Me (a The Who cover) peaking at 18 in the UK. The follow-up album, Stay Hungry (1984), became their best over-all by achieving a top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, with another The Who cover of We're Not Gonna Take It propelling the band into anthemic infamy.
Infamy... indeed! Videos of singles We're Not Gonna Take It from the motion picture Gung Ho (a charting 21 hit in the US) and I Wanna Rock (68 in the US) became staples of MTV. The surreal comedy film Pee-wee's Big Adventure took this further with the band having an appearance in a fictional video for Burn In Hell, performed at 'Warner Brothers' backlot, interrupted by Pee-wee Herman passing through. Although all these videos were intended to be comedic in nature, they nonetheless featured violence against parents and teachers. This violence was too much for conservative organizations, specifically the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) in 1985. The PMRC was up the backsides of many metal bands of the time and Twisted Sister's tracks Under the Blade and We're Not Gonna Take It were specifically mentioned in the associated US Senate hearings. Snider was one of the few musicians to testify before a Senate committee during these hearings on September 19, 1985.
By the time the next album, Come Out And Play (featuring guest stars Alice Cooper, Don Dokken and Billy Joel) emerged in 1985, Twisted Sister was well on their way to cleaning up in the teen rebel and pop style heavy metal markets, but it quickly went terribly wrong when the UK market had suddenly bored of them and the subsequent supporting tour was a flop, instead of getting platinum, the band had to settle for gold again. Piro quit to return to his former outfit Cities; Joey 'Seven' Franco (ex-Good Rats) replaced him. Love Is For Suckers (1987) was Snider's attempt to make the band more melodic, but by now even the Americans were tiring, and the album floundered helplessly in the charts and sales arenas.
With the glam metal movement, and the days of Twisted Sister being "cool" dressed up as Betty Midler gone bad with mascara, tight leather and women's shawls, quickly fading into history, (a movement they paid their rent on) 'Atlantic' too got tired and dropped them. The band split soon after, with Snider going on, in 1988, to form Desperado with ex-Gillian guitarist Bernie Tormé, ex-Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr and Marc Russell (bass) to release Bloodied But Unbowed (1996), Ace (2006) and Dee Snider Desperado Limited Edition (2009); all released posthumously. In 1994 This operation would evolve into Widowmaker consisting of himself with Al Pitrelli (ex-Asia/ex-Danger Danger/ex-Great White/ex-Alice Cooper; guitar), Marc Russell (ex-Beki Bondage; bass), Joe Franco (ex-Good Rats/ex-Doro/ex-Vinnie Moore/ex-Leslie West; drums) to release two albums Blood And Bullets (1992) and Stand By For Pain (1994) before folding.
Big Hits And Nasty Cuts - The Best Of Twisted Sister (1992), a "best of..." compilation, and the live effort Live At Hammersmith (1994) were released posthumously with the "best of..." compilation Club Daze: The Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (1999) following it up several years later, after a brief one year reunion in 1997-1998 and another one-year in 2001, to prove that heavy metal hadn't fully gotten over Twisted Sister yet. Indeed, a reunification of sorts occurred again in 2004 when the band re-recorded their multi-platinum album Stay Hungry.
In 2003 the group would reform again but never record any new studio albums. During this time, they did play live together, including June 4, 2009 performance of Stay Hungry in its entirety for the first time at the Sweden Rock Festival, including never before played songs: Don't Let Me Down and Horror-Teria: Street Justice.
On March 20, 2015 drummer A. J. Pero died in his sleep of a heart attack. The group's permanent split would be the following year after their Forty and Fuck It tour in 2016.
During the 1980s Twisted Sister was one of the bands said the be corrupting the morals of young people by the PMRC with Dee Snider personally speaking to the US government against proposed censoring sanctions; sanctions for the most part which never occurred thanks to testimony of his and others.
Footrnote: Dee Snider's Widowmaker is not related to the 1970s UK band..
Footnote [from Wikipedia]: The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed in 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. The committee was founded by four women known as the "Washington Wives" - a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington, D.C. area. The women who founded the PMRC are Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The PMRC eventually grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s.
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