Twisted Sister: An Unpublished History
But as had been the case too many times in the past, every step forward was met with a devastating step back. On the eve of a tour with NWOBHM greats Diamond Head, Secret Records went bankrupt, and Twisted Sister were, once again, a band without a label. “We were back in New York when we got the word,” says French. “So now we couldn’t get back over to England to tour. We decided it was over at that point. We couldn’t handle it any longer. We played one more show the weekend of Thanksgiving, on Staten Island, and then we were going to call it a day.”
Once again, however, fate intervened at the last minute. Mark Puma, Twisted Sister’s manager at the time, convinced the band to scrape together enough money to return to the UK to appear on a popular new television show called “The Tube.” At the filming, Puma bumped into Phil Carson, an Atlantic Records executive who was there with one of his clients, Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. As luck would have it, Carson had recently received an enthusiastic letter in regards to Twisted Sister from a young Atlantic employee named Jason Flom—a letter he had summarily thrown in the garbage. Additionally, the head of the label’s New York division, Doug Morris, had told Flom, in no uncertain terms, that Twisted Sister “sucked radically.” Nonetheless, Jones, who was living in New York at the time, had heard “Shoot ‘Em Down” on local radio station WPLJ and suggested that Carson check them out. He did, and soon after approached the band at a show at London’s Marquee with the intention of signing them.
“I looked at Carson and said, “What label do you work for?’” says French. “When he told me it was Atlantic, I just thought, Of all the record companies he could have said … I figured that we were done.” Turned out they weren’t. Carson alerted Doug Morris of his new discovery, to which, says French, “Morris went, ‘Fine, you deal with them. I don’t want to know anything about it!’ ” He laughs. “And that’s how we got signed to Atlantic Records.”
The band’s first album for the label, 1983’s You Can’t Stop Rock ’N’ Roll, only increased their standing in the U.K. They appeared on the long-running British show “Top of the Pops” and played that year’s Donington festival alongside acts like Meatloaf, ZZ Top and Whitesnake. In the U.S., however, things were slower going. “The band had been around for years, but people didn’t know who we were,” says Snider. “I remember playing out in the Midwest and fans coming up to me going, ‘Where’s your British accent?’ ”
You Can’t Stop Rock ’N’ Roll did eventually find some success stateside, thanks in part to a somewhat humorous video for the title track, in which the band performed the song inside a beat-up van while being chased by two nefarious looking men. The clip garnered airplay on the infant MTV network, the beginning of a relationship that would play a huge role in helping to make their next album, 1984’s Stay Hungry, a mainstream smash. “Around that time Doug Morris said to me, ‘You guys toured a year without any support and you proved yourself. Now I’m going to put money behind you. I’ll make you one of the biggest bands in the world,’” says French. “And most people don’t know this, but back then Warner Bros. [Atlantic’s parent company] had a financial stake in MTV. So anything that Atlantic gave them, they were going to play—there wasn’t all that much to play, anyway. So we did the right videos at the right time.”
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