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Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister

A product of New York City's early '70s glam rock scene, Twisted Sister were eager students of the New York Dolls, with Kiss's theatrics, Slade's pop acumen, and the shock rock of Alice Cooper tossed in for good measure. Based out of Long Island and featuring the core lineup of guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, vocalist Dee Snider, bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, and drummer A.J. Pero, the group issued two critically acclaimed, under-the-radar efforts before breaking into the mainstream in 1984 with Stay Hungry. The LP went multi-platinum on the strength of the monster singles "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." Twisted Sister released two more albums (Come Out and Play and Love Is for Suckers) before ceasing operations in 1988. They reformed in the early aughts and issued the holiday album Twisted Christmas in 2006 but disbanded again in 2016 following the death of A.J. Pero the year prior.

Founded in 1972 by guitarist John Segal (aka Jay Jay French), Twisted Sister based their every move on the New York Dolls. Their apprenticeship on the local club scene was a slow one. Still, by late 1975, a somewhat stable lineup had coalesced around French, fellow guitarist and high-school buddy Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, bassist Kenneth Harrison Neil, and drummer Kevin John Grace. Several different vocalists filed through their ranks, but it was only with the arrival of Dee Snider in early 1976 that the group found its true leader. Snider brought a strong Alice Cooper influence to the band, giving their glam-forward sound a welcome kick in the ass. He also quickly developed into their dominant songwriter, and with new drummer A.J. Pero in tow, Twisted Sister began making a name for themselves in and around N.Y.C.

Arriving in 1983, the seminal You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll laid the groundwork for future endeavors. With its polished production values and more consistent material, the LP yielded only one chart-flirting single in the title track (for which the band filmed their first video) but garnered serious cred with the metal crowd. Later that year, L.A.'s Quiet Riot topped the charts with their smash hit Metal Health (the first heavy metal album to do so), and Twisted Sister took advantage of this sympathetic musical climate to unleash their definitive statement, 1984's Stay Hungry. The album saw Snider dig deep into his pop, punk, and glam roots and infuse massive commercial appeal to the band's hard rock onslaught. Bolstered by the anthemic singles "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock," Stay Hungry was certified platinum in five countries (triple platinum in the U.S. and quintuple platinum in Canada) and pushed Twisted Sister to the fore of the pop/hair metal scene. The songs' accompanying videos, which featured actor Mark Metcalf reprising his role as the hot-headed ROTC leader Douglas C. Neidermeyer from the movie National Lampoon's Animal House, received heavy rotation on MTV. The extensive touring that followed guaranteed the album's stay near the top of the charts for many months to come and, against all odds, helped make Twisted Sister into household names in America.

1985's Come Out and Play received mixed reviews, attempting to cater to the band's hardcore elements and newfound pop constituency while introducing an excessively glammed-up image makeover. Snider remained in the spotlight, appearing before a Senate committee later that year (along with Frank Zappa and John Denver) to testify against the Parents Music Resource Center's demands for music censorship legislation. Drummer Pero had tendered his resignation at tour's end, opening the door to a very troubled 1986 for Twisted Sister as rumors ran rampant about an irreparable rift between Snider and French over the band's direction. They eventually re-emerged with 1987's Love Is for Suckers, which commenced with the mighty "Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)" and featured new drummer Joey "Seven" Franco. However, not even the services of pop-metal producer Beau Hill could save the album from disappointing sales, and Twisted Sister wound up disintegrating shortly thereafter.

Dee Snider soldiered on with a new hard rock band named Desperado (later renamed Widowmaker and featuring guitarist Bernie Tormé and drummer Franco). Grunge came and went, and posthumous releases like 1992's Big Hits and Nasty Cuts and 1994's Live at Hammersmith provided glimpses into Twisted Sister's meteoric flight across the hard rock firmament. As the '90s wore on, Snider transitioned into a widely syndicated radio DJ and even sometimes movie producer. He wrote and starred in the 1998 horror flick Strangeland, for which he also managed to reunite Twisted Sister's final lineup to record a brand-new song entitled "Heroes Are Hard to Find."

His reconciliation with Twisted Sister founder Jay Jay French (who'd kept busy managing bands, most notably nu-metallers Sevendust) eventually paved the way for a reunion of the "classic" Stay Hungry lineup, which performed publicly for the first time in almost 15 years at a post-9/11 benefit concert for New York City. By then, Spitfire Records had reissued much of the group's original catalog, along with a pair of Club Daze collections documenting their "lost" '70s recordings and, in 2004, a re-recorded Stay Hungry (retitled Still Hungry) to mark its 20th anniversary. This activity fostered further demand for a more permanent return to action, resulting in the release of 2006's likable holiday effort, Twisted Christmas. The band continued to tour at home and abroad, performing to massive European festival audiences and releasing the occasional concert LP. In March 2015, the band announced that drummer A.J. Pero had passed away; he was 55 years old. Twisted Sister embarked on a proper farewell tour the following year, with Mike Portnoy filling in for Pero, and played their final show on November 12, 2016, in Monterrey. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia & James Christopher Monger

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