Twisted Sister: An Unpublished History
Unfortunately, the band wasn’t inspiring many record labels. They recorded a number of demos throughout the late Seventies, and in 1979 even landed a session with renowned Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin producer Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, which yielded a seven-inch single with the songs “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” and the more aggressive “Under the Blade.” Neither that single nor a subsequent one garnered any label interest. “We were turned down more times than a bed sheet in a whorehouse,” says French.
Not surprisingly, the band’s image proved to be a major sticking point. Punk and everyman arena rock were the sounds of the day at the end of the Seventies, and there was little regard for a veteran group of heavily made-up glam rockers—particularly one that looked like a gang of linebackers dressed in cheap drag. If Twisted Sister met with a detractor while performing in a bar or club, any strife was easily avoided—“We’d call the guy up onstage, and he’d see me, Dee and Mendoza standing there, each about six-foot-ten in our heels, and just shut the fuck up,” says French—the labels, however, could not be handled in such a manner. Rejection letters included criticisms that ran the gamut from “unable to apply makeup correctly” to “platform boots are too high.” One commented that the band was too much like Alice Cooper and Kiss, but not enough like Meatloaf and Boston, while another stated that Snider looked like a “poor imitation of Roger Daltrey.”
“We heard every excuse in the book,” says French. “I remember one rejection letter that just said, We can’t sign them—the singer’s pants are too pink.”
The obvious question, then: Why not just ditch the outdated glam look altogether? “It’s not like we didn’t think of that,” says Snider. “When we were on what I think was our sixth attempt to go to the majors, we did a photo shoot for what we were gonna call the ‘Have It Your Way’ press kit. There was going to be a photo of us in full makeup and gear, and another in our street clothes. It was just like, ‘All right. This is Twisted Sister. If the makeup is really bothering you, we’ll take it off.’ We were at our wit’s end. But right around that time is when we started getting attention overseas, and landed our indie deal over there.”
The contract Twisted Sister was offered was with a small British punk imprint called Secret Records, which was turned on to the band after their “Under the Blade” seven-inch single (which, faced with no other options, the band released on their own TSR label) began charting in the British rock paper Sounds. Engaged by the song’s driving, punk-metal rhythm—similar in style to that of the bands who were part of the then burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal—Secret president Martin Hooker flew to New York in December, 1981, to take in a Twisted Sister performance at the Manhattan Civic Center. Hooker loved what he saw, and after the show went backstage to offer them a deal. “We didn’t react at all,” says French. “So he walked out of the dressing room and said to our manager, ‘I don’t understand. I just told these guys I’m signing them.’ Our manager said, ‘You don’t really get the history of this band. Just send the contracts.’ ” Hooker did, and in April, 1982, ten years after forming in the suburbs of New Jersey, Twisted Sister signed with Secret and headed to England to record their debut album.
A four-song EP, Ruff Cutts, as well as series of shows supporting British metal legends Motorhead (during which time Twisted earned the support and endorsement of the band’s singer, Lemmy Kilmister) preceded the fall 1982 release of the band’s full-length debut, Under the Blade. Produced by ex-UFO bassist Pete Way and featuring new drummer A.J. Pero, the album included such Twisted Sister standards as “Bad Boys (Of Rock ’N’ Roll),” “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” and the title track, as well as the AC/DC-style three chord anthem “Shoot ’Em Down,” the galloping “Tear It Loose” (with Motorhead’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke on guitar) and the ultra-slow, ultra-heavy “Destroyer.” The record received promising reviews—Sounds called the band “metal megastars in the making”—and Twisted Sister were featured in Kerrang! and other top metal magazines of the day.
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