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|Twisted Sister truly shocked their way into the mainstream of American rock with their ballsy New York street anthems. It was not so much the music though that triggered the attention but the band's accompanying garish glam drag queen imagery. Twisted Sister were never less than a visual spectavle to behold and, from humble club roots, rose to platinum status in America and enduring cult appeal in Europe, even scoring some notable successes on the UK singles charts.
According to the man himself, Twisted Sister co-founder Jay Jay French had his inauguration into the rock n' roll circus in esteemed company. French claims to have had an alleged tenure with Wicked Lester, the early 70's New York based eclectic act that included none other than Kiss legends to be Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza. on the other hand, had once trod the boards with gutter kings The Dictators.
Twisted Sister itself was born in December 1972 as a glam covers band performing songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Mott The Hoople. In 1974 the band was offered to record a song "To Serve Man" for the soundtrack to a Twilight Zone television episode but although finalised this was aborted when the band's vocalist Michael forgot to turn up for the sessions.
Demos were laid down in late 1975 with Twisted Sister consisting of French, guitarist Eddie Ojeda, bassist Kenneth Harrison Neill and drummer Kevin John Grace.
An extremely important event in the history of Twisted Sister came with the recruitment of enigmatic frontman Dee Snider in early 1976 who had previously sung with the club band Heathen. His joining of Twisted Sister combined the group's original New York Dolls style glam image with the more over the top shock rock theatrics of Kiss. Shortly after Snider's recruitment Grace was substituted by Tony Petri.
Twisted Sister, now heavily influenced by the heavy metal explosion laid down their first metal recordings in 1978. In December of that year Mendoza joined the ranks.
The independently released singles, Under The Blade, produced by Eddie Kramer and Bad Boys Of Rock 'N' Roll, produced by Rob Freeman, were recorded with Tony Petri on the drumstool. Following his departure from the group he teamed up with fellow New Yorkers The Plasmatics.
Those who auditioned for the vacant drumstool was one Walt Woodward III, then playing in the New Jersey club band Rachel fronted by future Riot vocalist Rhett Forrester. Walt is alleged to have been in Twisted Sister for three days before quitting, teaming up a little while later with Americade before trying his luck in Los Angeles and stints with Shark Island and The Scream.
Cities drummer A.J. Pero would eventually become Twisted Sister's permanent drumming thundergod in 1981/2.
Following press interest from "Sounds" journalist Garry Bushell and photographer sidekick Ross Halfin, Twisted Sister were brought to the attention of the British rock fraternity. It is due to the "Sounds" interest that Martin Hooker signed the group to his Secret label, then mainly a punk outlet. Secret immediately released the Rough Cuts EP, a four track 12" consisted of Twisted Sister demos. Amongst the four was an amusing, Metallized cover of the Shangri-La hit "Leader Of The Pack" in 1982.
Keen to create a following in Britain, Secret brought Twisted Sister over to the UK where the group played a festival date in Wrexham, two sell out gigs at London's Marquee and an eye opening set at the Reading festival. The group then began work at Maison Rouge Studios in London with UFO and Waysted bassist Pete Way to record the Under The Blade album.
On the verge of having to return to America with no deal after the demise of Secret Records and having to go back to the Tri-State club circuit they thought they'd finally managed to break free of, a storming performance on Channel 4's legendary television show "The Tube" ensued. Atlantic's Phil Carson moved in and immediately signed the group to a deal.
In support of the You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll album in America, Twisted Sister opened up for the likes of Blackfoot and Krokus. The band's success continued with 1984's Arnold Schwarzenegger inspired Stay Hungry album. Selling over a million copies Stay Hungry was in fact titled after an early Schwarzenegger movie. The song "We're Not Gonna Take It" made a huge impression on radio and even provided the band a track with valuable longevity, being used for a myriad of TV ad campaigns globally,
For 1985's Come Out And Play Twisted Sister assembled a roll call of noted guest contributers including Dokken's Don Dokken, Alice Cooper and even pianist Billy Joel and The Stray Cats vocalist Brian Setzer.
Twisted Sister announced both a new refined image (sans make up) and maturer sound for their 1987 album Love Is For Suckers. The album also heralded a fresh drummer in former The Good Rats, Fiona and The Ladder man Joe Franco, Pero having departed in 1986 and returned to Cities.
The resulting album, smoothly produced by Beau Hill, found the band leaping ahead in both songwriting prowess and musicianship. The latter being so startling as to fuel rumours that renowned session guitarist Reb Beach, later of Winger and Dokken, had performed the majority of guitar parts.
1987 found Franco and Mendoza touring America as part of an act assembled by former Mountain guitarist Leslie West. Franco was to cement the union by appearing on West's 1988 album Themes. Mendoza joined Blackfoot the year after.
With Dee Snider having announced plans for a solo album during 1987 that would not affect the future of the band, the announcement came in January 1988 that Twisted Sister had parted company amidst much bitter recrimination, despite demand for the band being unabated. Snider soon bounced back with the high profile Desperado, a band that featured ex Ozzy Osbourne and Gillan guitarist Bernie Tormé, bassist Mark Russell and Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr. Despite scoring a major deal Desperado's album Bloodied And Unbowed was passed over to another major label but still could not find a release. Needless to say the recording has been heavily bootlegged on CD nonetheless. Snider and Russell later took some of the Desperado material for their next project Widowmaker, an act which saw the frontman allied with latter day Savatage and Megadeth guitarist Al Pitrelli and reunited with Twisted Sister drummer Joe Franco.
Ojeda released an album with his act Scarecrow before founding Prisoners Of War with vocalist Eddie Prevot.
Snider continued to carry the flame though with his uncompromising act Widowmaker issuing two albums prior to found the Sick Mutha Fuckers, a Twisted Sister tribute band. The SMF's first gig has gone into the realms of myth now as the band included Marilyn Manson bassist Twiggy Ramirez and Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Fink. Snider subsequently forged a more permanent version of the band with members of local New York act Strength and subsequently released a live CD Twisted Forever.
Snider, Jay, Ojeda and Pero did briefly reunite for a one off show at New York's Industry Club in July 1997. The band would then engage in a search through the archives locating unreleased material for bonus tracks on future re-releases.
Dee Snider iossued a solo album in 2000. German label Koch International would issue a timely Twisted Sister tribute album Twisted And Strange in 2001. Amongst those participating were such high profile artists as Anthrax came in with "Destroyer", Nashville Pussy with "The Kids Are Back", Sevendust with "I Am (I'm Me)", Lit donated "I Wanna Rock", Swedish metal revivalists HammerFall cut "We're Gonna Make It", the veteran Motörhead supplied "Shoot 'Em Down", stoners Fu Manchu offered a take on "Ride To Live", New York thrashers Overkill contributed "Under The Blade" and even premier British black metal band Cradle Of Filth gave a rendition of "The Fire Still Burns". Oddly Twisted Sister themselves got involved- covering AC/DC's "Sin City". Such was the interest in the tribute affair it sparked off fresh rumours of a Twisted Sister reunion.
Snider would turn up at the MTV 20th Anniversary bash making an impression by thanking pop star Christina Aguilera for resurrecting his look in the recent Moulin Rouge video "Lady Marmalade". As various members showed a willingness to reform TV also aided the cause with a "Behind The Music" special broadcast in August and the band members also put in a guest appearance hosting VH1's 'The Rock Show' on August 24th.
Twisted Sister's motivation for re-assembling was given renewed impetus following the September 11th terrorist attacks on America. On November 28th at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, and alongside Ace Frehley, Anthrax, Overkill and Sebastian Bach, the band got back on stage for the first time in over 14 years at the "New York Steel" concert, a benefit for members of the New York police and fire departments. The whole event was organised by Eddie Trunk, the esteemed host of WNEW FM's "Saturday Night Rocks!".
Dee Snider assembled a live band for roadwork in America during June of 2002 comprising of his Twisted Sister colleague A.J. Pero, Widowmaker bass player Freddy Villano, guitarist Dan McCafferty, and drummer Tony Palmucci. Snider, now "Dr. Snider", would be afforded the honour of an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the New York college of health professions the same month, bestowed upon the singer for his uncompromising vocal stance against music censorship.
Two Twisted Sister related unions appeared to be on the cards when word was leaked that Eddie Ojeda was working up a fresh band project with Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso billed obviously enough Skid Sister. Meantime Mark Mendoza unveiled his new project Bad Animals, an all star Heart tribute band including erstwhile Vixen, Envy and Poison Dolly's guitarist Gina Stile, Atrium and Flight 19 vocalist Deana, former Hotshot, Dio, Great White and Rondinelli bass player Teddy Cook and drummer John Macaluso, a veteran of Ark, Yngwie Malmsteen, TNT and Riot.
The high profile German spoof band the Donuts released their cover version of "We´re Not Gonna Take It" as a single in September.
Twisted Sister reunited on at a Dee Snider's Sick Mutha Fuckers show on December 13th in New York, encoring on a three song mini-set comprising "Shoot 'Em Down", "You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll" and "We're Not Gonna Take It". As part of a long predicted comeback tour Twisted Sister themselves would be announced as special guest act at the Sölvesborg 12th annual "Sweden Rock" festival scheduled for June 2003 with a showing at the Chippewa Falls Music Festival the following month. A series of gigs at US Army and Marine bases in Korea, Japan and Okinawa would also be put in place. Dee Snider would also reveal the band were in discussions with Poison for a North American farewell tour. In a welcome twist the high profile campaign for California state governership by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger repaid the band their original 1984 compliment as election rallies used "We're Not Gonna Take It" as their supporters anthem. Performing live alongside the Hollywood star at the State Capitol the California Snider would be backed up by local band Systematic.
The band entered the recording studio in March of 2004 to completely re-record their 1984 Stay Hungry album. Tour plans to promote the revamped record included dates across Brazil, Spain, Italy, UK, Hungary, Holland and Germany. Festival appearances included showings at the UK "Derby Rock & Blues" event, "Gods Of Metal" in Italy, "Waldrock" in Holland and the Spanish "Medina Elvira Classic Rock" show.