Alas, it seems that Dee Snider and his merry band of louder-than-life hair-metal marauders Twisted Sister are finally destined, for real, to not take it anymore. On the heels of the tragic heart attack death of drummer A.J. Pero, the Long Island legends have announced that they’ll soon part ways. Naturally, Twisted Sister will not go quietly, so the band will be honoring A.J. with a couple of tribute gigs and then saying farewell to fans throughout 2016 on their amazingly named “Forty and F—k It” Tour. If this is truly where Twisted Sister history ends, so be it. The group is monumental in the annals of hard rock, heavy metal, glam, and pop culture. So instead of mourning TS’s imminent demise, let’s celebrate the band’s most luminous high-profile moments, when, in all manner of ways, Dee Snider and the boys imbued all of humanity to stand up, pump a fist, and let it be known: “I wanna ROCK!”
A Twisted Christmas (2006)
After nearly a decade off the pop charts, Twisted Sister stormed back up just in time for the holidays with their 2006 collection of carols done their way, A Twisted Christmas. Dee Snider once described the formula for TS’s signature hit, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as being “one part Slade, one part Sex Pistols, and one part ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’,” so it only makes perfect sense that the first single from the album would be just that aforementioned Yuletide classic. So, too, does the late-song musical appearance of “Hava Nagila,” given Dee’s half-Jewish family background.
New York Steel concert for 9/11 Convinces Twisted Sister to Reunite (2001)
In the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, hometown heavy metal heroes Twisted Sister reunited to headline the charity concert New York Steel. Other artists on the bill included native New York-area noisemakers Anthrax, Ace Frehley, and Overkill, with foreign aid coming in from Canada’s Sebastian Bach and Germany’s Doro Pesch. The show was emceed by New York Mets legend Mike Piazza and That Metal Show’s Eddie Trunk. Taking the stage for the first time in fourteen years, Twisted Sister wowed both the crowd and themselves, instantly lighting up the Hammerstein Ballroom as though they’d just gotten off the Stay Hungry tour and decided to plug in for one more run. Sure enough, Twisted Sister took the cue, got back together full time, and subsequently delivered another decade-and-a-half of new heavy metal glory.
MTV Bans the “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” Music Video (1986)
After essentially commandeering MTV with their instant-classic clips for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” Twisted Sister missed a step by releasing a cover of the girl-group nugget “Leader of the Pack” as the first single from their late-1985 release, Come Out and Play. No way would the group just let that slide, so for their next single, the original “Be Chrool to Your Scuel,” Twisted Sister busted out all kinds of amazements for the music videos. Bobcat Goldthwait plays a berserk teacher and closet TS fan and the group’s all-time idol Alice Cooper sings along with Dee amidst a high school whose student body is transformed into flesh-eating zombies. If you missed the clip, there’s a reason: MTV banned the video on the grounds that it was excessively violent and offensive, regardless that gore and gruesomeness on-screen was presented in so clearly comedic a fashion. Shortly thereafter, Twisted Sister fell off the radar of the very fans who’d made them superstars. Concert sales spiraled downward and the record company forced the band named to be on 1987’s Love Is for Suckers, which had been intended as a Dee Snider solo effort. That’s when Twisted Sister broke up—the first time.
Dee Snider Teaches Howard Stern How to Look Cool (1986)
Mr. Mister & The Bangles meet Dee Snider of Twisted Sister on Howard Stern – August 4, 1986
Prior to his arrival on New York’s FM airwaves in late 1985, King of All Media Howard Stern looked like, as he describes it, “just some Long Island schnook.” Liberated from the milquetoast pop of AM radio’s “Doubleya-ENNN-bee-see,” Howard threw open his studio doors for bona fide hard-and-heavy musicians at his new home base, WXRK aka “K-Rock.” Chief among Stern’s newfound rock-and-roll friends were larger-than-life (and a lot of other stuff) guitar wizard Leslie West of the proto-metal giants Mountain and Twisted Sister front-beast Dee Snider. Stern and Snider hit it off profoundly, with the pair of freakishly tall, naturally hilarious Long Island natives becoming personal friends and collaborating both on-air and off for the next decade. The most noticeable impact Snider made on Stern came in the way the radio host physically presented himself. Explicitly asking Dee to help him “look cool,” Snider routinely took Stern wardrobe shopping and effectively remade him into a heavy metal rock star who just happened to talk instead of sing or play an instrument. A schism between the pals occurred in the ’90s when Dee took a gig in morning radio, sparking hard feelings from the notoriously sensitive Stern. The pair have spoken on the air since but a distance seems to be maintained—although not in the memories of old-school Stern show listeners, who look back on the Dee Snider days with the most heartfelt of fondness.
Dee Snider’s Strangeland (1998)
A horror movie fanatic since birth, Dee Snider tossed his mountain of blonde curls into the fright-flick arena in 1998 by writing and starring (sans curls) in the enormously influential cult sensation, Strangeland. Tapping into 1990s body-modification culture and the burgeoning social media implications of online chat rooms, Strangeland casts Dee as both mild-mannered Carlton Hendricks and his bisexual sadist alter-ego Captain Howdy, who trawls the Internet for unwitting teens who are out to experiment with piercings and tattoos, then traps them in a nightmare of agony and mutilation. Although Strangeland slipped in and out of theaters quickly, the movie built a solid cult following and stands now as a significant forerunner of horror’s “torture porn” movement embodied throughout the 2000s by the Saw and Hostel movies. In 2007, Dee penned a popular comic book prequel, Strangeland: Seven Sins.
Under the Blade (1982)
After years of knocking rock club audiences dead in and around the New York area, Twisted Sister delivered a fantastically ferocious, filthy-sounding debut album in the form of Under the Blade. Scoring some local radio airplay with the title track and the single “Shoot Em’ Down,” Under the Blade truly took off over seas, particularly in metal-mad England, where the group became immediate hard rock heroes. Much ado was made over Blade’s rough-and-tumble production, and on the heels of 1984’s big-time breakthrough Stay Hungry, Atlantic Records issued a remixed version. Hardcore TS fans, of course, by and large preferred the original, so versions of both have always sold well, pushing the LP to double-platinum status.
“I Wanna Rock”
“I Wanna Rock” is the spiritual sequel and literal follow-up single to Twisted Sister’s 1984 breakout smash, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The song picks up logically from the notion that once you break free of oppressive circumstances, you’ve got to decide what destiny you desire. As the lyrics lay it out: “I’ve waited for so long so I could hear my favorite song/So let’s go, go, go, go, go, go, go/When it’s like this I feel the music shootin’ through me/There’s nothin’ else that I would rather do/I wanna rock/ROCK!” The video for “I Wanna Rock” also directly follows “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” with Animal House actor Mark Metcalf appearing again as a frothing-mouthed a-hole authority figure who gets nonstop slapstick comeuppance at the sheer metal might of Twisted Sister’s sonic majesty.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Humor has always been elementally intertwined with Twisted Sister, beginning with the band’s Long Island club origins, when uproarious stage banter between Dee Snider and lead guitarist J.J. French proved to be almost as powerful a draw for audiences as the music. Paul Reubens knew exactly what flaming-hot MTV band to turn to, then, when casting a scene in his 1985 masterwork Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure that had Pee-Wee inadvertently busting up a music video shoot on the Warner Brothers’ lot. Twisted Sister immediately explodes on screen during their cameo, cruising in a convertible and surrounded by video vixens while filming a clip for the song “Burn in Hell.” Pee-Wee pedals by on his bike, giggling asks the band, “How’s it goin’?!”, and then speeds off while a motor boat, Santa Claus’s sleigh, and a guy in a Godzilla costume careen right for the Twisted Sistermobile!
Dee Snider takes on the PMRC in Congress (1985)
The “Satanic Panic” of the mid-1980s put heavy metal on the hot seat. A hero was needed to stand up, slam down the truth, and righteously defend the rights of rockers against agents of oppression such as those in the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a cabal of uptight congressional wives led by Tipper Gore who sought to legislate governmental record labeling. Dee Snider proved to be exactly the right hero to knock the censors for a loop and elevate the forces of liberty not just for metalheads, but also for all Americans. Entering the hallowed halls of Congress in sunglasses, a Twisted Sister t-shirt, and a denim vest, Dee faced the fire of unsympathetic senators and their cohorts during the summertime 1985 PMRC hearings with wit, grace, confidence, and the knowledge that what was right was on his side. As a result, Dee’s defense defanged the PMRC and affixing warning labels to records was snatched from U.S. lawmakers and granted to be the private domain of the music industry. Tidal waves of “Parental Advisory” stickers soon showed up on albums everywhere, tipping off the kids to exactly which discs contained the good stuff.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984)
“We’re not gonna take it/No, we ain’t gonna take it/We’re not gonna take it/Any-mo-rrrre!” It’s one of the most familiar, beloved, and ingrained refrains in all of rock, and deservedly so. Twisted Sister’s signature anthem taps smack into the core of rock-and-roll’s antiauthority heart. Launching the song, of course, was its gut-bustingly funny music video, in which Mark Metcalf (the despicable Douglas C. Niedermeyer in Animal House) embodies the ultimate jerk dad who despises his kid’s rock music. After the son transforms into Dee Snider, the other Sisters join him, and they put Metcalf through slapstick paces unseen anywhere out of what Wyle E. Coyote went through in all those Roadrunner cartoons With direct, sing-along perfection, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” sounds exactly like how it felt the first time you stood up for yourself and/or others—and how it feels every time you’ve ever done it since.. or ever will. That profound “up yours” DNA instantly connected “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to the masses and it’s what keeps the song such a living, ongoing phenomenon. As a result of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” whether or not they ever truly stop playing together, Twisted Sister will live forever.
Mike “McBeardo” McPadden is the author of Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever! (Bazillion Points).