December 1972 - as Silver Star
Core '80s Band Members:
- Dee Snider (born David Daniel Snider on March 15, 1955 in Astoria, Queens, New York City) - Lead vocals, songwriter
- Jay Jay French (born John French Segall on July 20, 1952 in New York City) - Guitar
- Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda (born August 5, 1955 in New York City) - Guitar
- Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (born Mark Glickman on July 13, 1955 in West Hempstead, New York) - Bass guitar
- A.J. Pero (born Anthony Jude Pero on October 14, 1959 in Staten Island, New York) - Drums
Though already East Coast hard rock veterans by the time the band found massive success during the mid '80s, Twisted Sister reigned for a few years as one of the leading acts of the era's highly popular pop metal movement. Boasting a sound significantly tougher and more simplistic (in a good way) than many of its hair metal contemporaries, the group embraced theatrics (primarily through the unforgettable image and visage of hulking, makeup-wearing frontman Dee Snider) but also generated plenty of unforgettable hard rock anthems. Here's a look at the career of this important '80s hard rock band.
Many fans of heavy metal and Twisted Sister may be surprised to learn that the band's roots go as far back as the early '70s, when guitarist French was inspired to form a band within the same New York City glam rock scene that birthed the New York Dolls. Immediately after joining drummer Mell Star in Silver Star, French helped push for the name change that resulted in one of hard rock's most colorful band names. Even with the new moniker, however, the young band struggled to find its place on the club scene, going through several lineup changes before finding a key ingredient to help the group move forward: Dee Snider.
In the Clubs Through the Punk Era:
With the physically imposing Snider at the helm as frontman by 1976, Twisted Sister began to attract increasing attention as a rousing club act. Focusing on theatrics and onstage banter - as well as an intimate connection with its small but devoted following of fans - the group managed to do quite well without a record contract or radio support. Ultimately, this couldn't go on forever, even as the band's unique place somewhere between glam rock, punk rock and heavy metal guaranteed somewhat of a niche as the '70s approached its twilight. A trip overseas finally resulted in a contract with often punk-oriented U.K. label Secret Records, and thus Twisted Sister set out to conquer its homeland in earnest.
Rise & Mainstream Success:
During the early '80s Twisted Sister softened its glam image by adding elements of the bizarre - especially in the form of Snider's crude, threateningly clownish makeup look. At the same time, the band toughened its sound, moving closer than ever to full-tilt heavy metal on its debut for Secret, 1982's Under the Blade. The record established credibility in the U.K., where the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was beginning to take shape. Armed with momentum, the band now needed a major-label deal and some accessible songs to begin riding the rising wave of American pop metal.
MTV & Superstardom Beckon:
After Atlantic Records signed the band, a better-supported and produced album emerged quickly in 1983's You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll. A music video for the title track helped establish Twisted Sister as a quirky favorite for the new medium, and by the time 1984's Stay Hungry dropped, the market was ready for the band's unique blend of heavy riffs, sense of humor and unforgettable visual appeal. "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" became immediately iconic hard rock anthems on the strength of both Snider's solid songwriting and the group's humorous and knowingly cartoonish music video narratives.
PMRC Fight, Back to Earth:
On the heels of Stay Hungry's massive success, the band remained relevant through Snider's direct involvement in rock music's fight against the newly formed Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The watchdog group targeted the band specifically for what it saw as offensive lyrics and violent videos, and it also went so far as to condemn the band for the unofficial name of its fan club, Sick Mother F@%!ers. Snider testified at the highly publicized Senate hearings, but later in the year backlash helped sink the band's next album, Come Out and Play. A serious decline had set in almost instantly for Twisted Sister.
Band Collapse & Later Reformations:
1986 and 1987 were relatively dreadful for the band, despite the rising popularity of hair metal in America. However, Twisted Sister had never truly climbed aboard the pop metal bandwagon until the group's final de facto album (produced generally without input from band members other than Snider), 1987's Love Is for Suckers. Even with a more commercial sound, the record went nowhere, and by early 1988 the band was no more. Band members continued separately in the music business for the next decade until the prospect of reunions and nostalgic interest got the group back on the road for the new millennium. Snider remains particularly in the spotlight as a radio personality and general hard rock dignitary.