The ballad of Twisted Sister

In the early days of being a card carrying metalhead, I was a big fan of Twisted Sister, and I’m not ashamed to admit I still dig the band today. 

When looking back on the glory days of MTV, the band comes up a lot because of their groundbreaking videos for We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock, and it created a lot of fair weather fans who quickly abandoned the band a year later, but they were legends on the New York club scene years before that, and they still have loyal fans today.

Twisted Sister leader Dee Snider had a great singing voice, and came up with great melodies for their songs. They’d been slugging it out for years, put out one  album, You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll on Atlantic, and with their follow up, Stay Hungry, got a big boost from video director Marty Callner, who also helmed Whitesnake’s Tawny Kitaen video trilogy, Sam Kinison’s raunch-o-rama video for Wild Thing, and Aerosmith’s videos for Dude Looks Like a Lady, and Cryin’, among many others.

The videos for We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock each had hilarious prologues before the music started with Mark Metcalf, who played Neidermeyer in Animal House, reaming out his son, and a class full of students respectively before Dee and the gang give him a good workout. In the book I Want My MTV, Snider recalled that MTV executive Les Garland didn’t like the video and wanted to cut the segment before the music.

“That video was like nitrous oxide on a hot-rod car,” Snider said. “A great video will fuel-inject your career. And as huge as that video was, it was never in heavy airplay, because Garland didn’t like it. We’re Not Gonna Take It changed music videos. Everyone, metal bands in particular, started embracing story lines. You don’t have Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher without We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

It was especially unfortunate that once Twisted Sister finally made it, their success didn’t last long. Not only did their overnight MTV fans bail on them, but in the world of metal change was in the air with heavier bands like Metallica about to take over. 

Snider’s always been a straight shooter, and he recently admitted to Powerline that when Twisted played with Metallica in Europe, he watched them from the side of the stage and told Sister bassist Mark Mendoza, “These guys got a lot of heart, but they’re never gonna go anywhere.”

Once Twisted Sister finally collapsed in 1987, Snider had a rough go of it, but in recent years he bounced back writing a Christmas song for Celine Dion, performing in Rock of Ages on Broadway, and by bringing Twisted Sister back to perform again for their fans. Dee also deserves big credit for being one of the only artists who had the cajones to stand up against the Parents Music Resource Center, founded by Tipper Gore, who tried to give ratings to rock music deemed unsuitable for kids.

Most other artists ran and hid on this issue out of fear of reprisals from their record companies, but Snider, Frank Zappa, and John Denver were the only three who stood up against censorship when the record business was all too ready to cave in.

As Snider also recalled in I Want My MTV, the We’re Not Gonna Take It video was rated V for violence, and the song made the PMRC’s Filthy Fifteen of songs they deemed most offensive. “When I testified before congress, I said, ‘These lyrics are no more violent than the Declaration of Independence.’”