Twisted Sister: An Unpublished History
“It’s become this weird, part-time super-stardom type of thing,” says French. “On the weekends, I’ll get dressed up, go onstage, look out at a sea of people and essentially play the part of ‘Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister.’ But come Monday, I’m back at work, on the phone going, ‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ ”
Adding to the list of strange developments was this fall’s A Twisted Christmas, a collection of the band’s interpretations of ten Yuletide classics. A holiday-season U.S. tour followed, which also served as their farewell sendoff, Snider having stated that 2006 would be his final year with the band. If this is indeed the case, then for all involved, the reunion proved a success—and not just in terms of tickets sales.
“Twisted came in with a roar and went out with a whimper the first time around, and that always bothered me,” says Snider, reached by phone a few weeks after returning from Bulgaria. “Considering how uproarious, obnoxious and uncompromising we were, we should have spontaneously combusted. There should have been nothing left but five pairs of boots and some globules of protoplasm! Instead it just fell apart. That was one of the purposes of reuniting—to repair some relationships and end this thing on a better note. Thankfully, it looks like we’ve achieved that.”
Twisted Sister’s uproarious, obnoxious and uncompromising story begins with a young music fan named John French Segall. As a teenager growing up in New York City in the late 1960’s, Segall, who would years later change his name to Jay Jay French, spent much of his time taking in Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band concerts at the legendary Fillmore East, in Manhattan’s East Village, and teaching himself to play guitar like his idols, English blues-based rockers like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. That all changed in the fall of 1972, when the 20-year-old received three albums in the mail in conjunction with a magazine subscription offer: David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes and Lou Reed’s Transformer. Segall, a self-described “long-haired hippie with John-Lennon glasses,” was instantly smitten with the overt sexuality and suggestive androgyny. “I looked at those album covers and my life came crashing down around me,” he says. “I thought, This is me.”
The young guitarist ditched the glasses, cut and dyed his hair blond and set out on the road to glitter-rock glory. In the fall of 1972, he answered an ad in the Village Voice placed by another pair of rehabilitated hippies named Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who were looking for a lead guitarist for their new band, Kiss. Coincidentally, Segall had earlier that same year auditioned for the two, then known as Gene Klein and Stanley Eisen, respectively, when they were still playing with their former outfit, Wicked Lester. “They had been doing the hippie thing the first time we met,” he says. “The music was much softer, and they had beards. I remember Gene coming up to me and saying, ‘You’re Jewish. I’m Jewish too, and I’m changing my name.’ ” Although Stanley and Simmons this time informed Segall that the lead guitar slot had just been filled by a musician named Paul “Ace” Frehley, he was invited to the band’s loft on 23rd street in Manhattan to observe a rehearsal. “I sat on a chair in this empty room and watched them perform the songs that basically became the first Kiss album,” he says. “They didn’t have the makeup yet, but they had the platform shoes and these big Marshall stacks. I was just stunned.”
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