photo & text by nacrowe
sometimes ROCK N ROLL bands overthink things. they try to get clever write songs that overly complicated and conceptually dubious for no reason other than because they can.
not TWISTED SISTER.
sonically id argue they are a back-to-basics TRADITIONAL band in the long GLAM ROCK-inspired bands like the NEW YORK DOLLS, THE RAMONES and even KISS. its no frills, meat-and-potatoes ROCK N ROLL but even under such limitations TWISTED SISTER went for maximum impact. look no further than their third record STAY HUNGRY (ATLANTIC, 1984) and their two MEMORABLE singles "WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT" and "I WANNA ROCK."
those two songs are the very poster children of bumper sticker song titles and instantly convey a sense of reckless abandon and directionless REBELLION. "WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT" has been used at sporting and political events for decades now to the point that it is a fangless parody of itself. but in my estimation thats fine because it is such an ENJOYABLE and SUCCINCT hit of WARPED POP PERFECTION. its impossible to hear and not smile. "I WANNA ROCK" is my personal favorite TWISTED SISTER song because it just cuts right to the chase and never lets up. its a HARD-CHARGING track about the TRANSCENDENT JOY of anticipating and being a part of ROCK N ROLL. there is almost something TRIBAL and COMMUNAL about it. it definitely brings people together with its INCLUSIVE sentiment even if it is more than a bit GOOFY and CARTOONISH.
and that is where i respect DEE SNIDER, who wrote those two songs, as well as his primary collaborator (and TWISTED SISTER founder) JAY JAY FRENCH. they are unafraid to lean in with absolute abandon into the RIDICULOUS theatrics and crushingly SIMPLE song concepts and structures. to me it feels unquestionably RAMONES-y, almost like TWISTED SISTER are the intentionally forgotten LONG ISLAND step children of JOEY and JOHNNY RAMONE.
the rest of STAY HUNGRY is UNINSPIRED and INCONSEQUENTIAL, but those two singles are well worth the price of admission. just leave any semblance of good taste and rock snobbery at the door. you wont be impressing anyone with that here.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
i really enjoyed this film.
not because of its subject necessarily since i have nothing against TWISTED SISTER, their music, their fans or their legacy. what i appreciate about THIS IS F***ING TWISTED SISTER! (ANDREW HORN FILMPRODUKTION, 2014) is that it is two-hour long documentary focused entirely on the tireless struggle to make it in the entertainment industry despite nearly overwhelming odds against the band.
the band spent more than 10 years relentlessly playing and replaying the TRI-STATE bar circuit, building up a rabid following based on SHOCK TACTICS that seemingly glossed over their accomplished MUSICIANSHIP, PRESENCE and STAGECRAFT. their narrative is a populous one since their success was not manufactured over night, but rather organically built up one fan at a time over the crucible of repeat live performances. i thought it was quite refreshing to hear DEE SNIDER and JAY JAY FRENCH speak about the lengths they went to differentiate themselves from the pack and just the general daunting work ethic that they maintained despite years of diminishing returns. it must have felt quite hopeless and downright QUIXOTIC to be in the band throughout the 1970s playing bars in small-town LONG ISLAND, upstate NEW YORK, CONNECTICUT and the JERSEY SHORE.
usually bands in documentaries highlight the glorified heights and record sales of years gone by, but here the band is focused on their salad days when the unspoken connection between band and audience was at its zenith. and looking back that is not to say there arent some CRINGE-INDUCING admissions, such as the DISCO SUCKS shtick that led them to hang an effigy of BARRY WHITE on stage, which went over real well in RACIST parts of upstate NEW YORK where it was confused with a promotion of lynching. yikes! just the idea that the band jumped on the DISCO SUCKS movement at all is a bit DISAPPOINTING given the HOMOPHOBIC and XENOPHOBIC overtones of that popular movement by a largely white heterosexual male audience. there is also a bit of lazy CHAUVINISM and lame attempts at MACHISMO on stage and off throughout THIS IS F***ING TWISTED SISTER! which grew a bit tired. one would think that the band would have been somewhat open to GENDER FLUIDITY or at least the concept of not being outright hostile to other sexual preferences given their stage presence but NO. such was definitely not the case at the time. like KISS, they aped the image of the NEW YORK DOLLS without every coming to terms with its broader meanings and ramifications.
but maybe such RETROGRADE attitudes was all just indicative of a time and place forty years ago. in a sense, i respect them for being open about their past and the choices they dont repeat now. i give them that. i was similarly impressed by how in depth they went back into their years of STRUGGLE, when they were aspirational wannabes living on a dream. doesnt get more AMERICAN than that. it is also a testament to their singular FOCUS, DRIVE and downright STUBBORNNESS that they ultimately succeeded. this documentary is definitely worth checking out and investigating on account of that alone.
i will probably rewatch it again within the year.