Twisted Sister was an American Heavy metal band originally from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, and later based on Long Island, New York. Their best-known songs include "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", both of which were associated with music videos noted for their sense of slapstick humor.
Twisted Sister evolved from a band named Silver Star, and experienced several membership changes before settling on the classic lineup of Jay Jay French (guitars), Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda (guitars), Dee Snider (lead vocals), Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (bass), and A. J. Pero (drums) in 1982. It was this lineup which recorded the band's first four albums. Twisted Sister's first two albums, Under the Blade (1982) and You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll (1983), were critically well received and earned the band underground popularity. The band achieved mainstream success with their third album, Stay Hungry (1984), and its single "We're Not Gonna Take It", which was their only Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Their next two albums, Come Out and Play (1985) and Love Is for Suckers (1987), did not match the success of Stay Hungry, and Twisted Sister disbanded in 1988.
The band briefly reunited in the late 1990s before more permanently reforming in 2003. The band released two more albums: Still Hungry (2004), a rerecording of their third album, and the Christmas album, A Twisted Christmas (2006). Following A.J. Pero's death in 2015, the band embarked on a farewell tour and broke up again after completing the tour in 2016.
Although Twisted Sister is often regarded as Glam metal due to its use of makeup, Dee Snider considers the term to be inappropriate. Twisted Sister is also ranked No. 73 among VH1's 100 greatest artists of hard rock.
In late December 1972, Manhattan resident John Segall (who later renamed himself "Jay Jay French") auditioned and was asked to join the "glitter band" Silver Star from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. Silver Star was formed by drummer Mel Anderson ("Mel Star") as the "New Jersey version of the New York Dolls", and consisted of Billy Diamond (lead guitar), Wayne Brown (lead vocals and guitar), Tony Bunn (bass), and Steve Guarino (keyboards). Michael O'Neill took over the lead singer role from Wayne Brown who had left; John Segall hated the name "Silver Star" and pushed to have it changed.
Miuchael O'Neill came up with the name Twisted Sister at a rehearsal on Valentine's Day in February 1973. Along with the name change came stylistic changes that eventually resulted in several members leaving the band amicably. Tony Bunn and Steve Guarino left, and Billy Diamond, Mel Star, John Segall (now "Johnny Heartbreaker"
and soon to change his name permanently to "Jay Jay French"), and new bass player Kenneth Harrison Neill (Kenny Neill) made up the next lineup of Twisted Sister.
The band found work immediately and started playing six nights a week. The group secured a residency at the Mad Hatter in East Quogue, New York for the summer of 1973 and played 78 shows there, and another 27 shows elsewhere, for a total of 105 shows from Memorial Day to Labor Day. By December 1974, Jay Jay had already played nearly 600 nights and about 3,000 performances as the band played five 40-minute shows per night, each with costume changes, some ending as late as 8 a.m. the following morning. At this point the band broke up and a second version of the band brought in a new lead singer (Rick Prince) and guitar player (Keith Angel).
After singer Rick Prince failed to show up for a rehearsal in early 1975, Jay Jay took over the lead vocals and management duties. The band split up after Labor Day weekend 1975. In October 1975, the fourth version of the band started to play the club circuit. Jay Jay hired a former high school friend named Eddie Ojeda, who joined as co-lead singer and second guitarist, and got drummer Kevin John Grace after reading an ad that Kevin had put in the Village Voice. Bassist Kenny Neill remained and completed the lineup. The band followed a more Glam rock direction, influenced by David Bowie, Slade, Mott the Hoople, the Rolling Stones, and the New York Dolls. They played at local clubs, but floundered in relative obscurity.
In February 1976, at the suggestion of the band's agent, Kevin Brenner, Jay Jay was told that the band could only go so far without being able to play Led Zeppelin cover songs and urged Jay Jay to hire Danny Snider (Dee Snider), who had been in the bands Peacock and Heathen. Danny changed his name to Dee at Jay Jay's suggestion and thus began line up number six of Twisted Sister.
This version lasted just six weeks, with drummer Kevin Grace departing. The group took a heavier musical direction in April of 1976 with the addition of new drummer Tony Petri, who was heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Slade, and Alice Cooper. In 1978 Kenny Neill became a born-again Christian after a stint in rehab for alcoholism; his parish, however, objected to his participation in the band, which they deemed to be Satanic. After his departure, the band recruited The Dictators bassist Mark Mendoza to replace him.
The band moved in a more heavy metal direction in 1978, when the group began to record its demos. Two of their demos found their way to compilation albums by New York classic rock radio station WBAB, and were later re-recorded for the band's first two albums.
Having audience participation in the "Sweet Jane Gong Show" and the "Death to Disco" stage routines became legendary. The band broke attendance records at large halls in the Tri-State Area and its growing fan base began to take the name "S.M.F.F.O.T.S.", for Sick Motherfucking Friends Of Twisted Sister, later shortened to "S.M.F." for "Sick Mother Fuckers". NME reported that Twisted Sister had sold out the 3,000 capacity New York Palladium for a March 16 show without a recording contract or radio airplay. Fan hysteria and the seemingly "lost art of entertainment" soon became the hallmark of a TS show. After selling out the Palladium, the group began aggressively pursuing a recording contract, with an aim to get out of the club circuit before its impending collapse due to the upcoming change of the drinking age from 18 to 21.
The band went through three more line up changes between 1979 and 1982. Drummer Joey Brighton replaced Tony Petri, former The Dictators drummer Richie Teeter replaced Joey Brighton and, finally, on April 1, 1982, A.J. Pero replaced Richie Teeter. Future Shark Island and The Scream drummer Walt Woodward III was also in the band for three days in 1982.
The band started its own T-shirt company and record label. The group released two singles that eventually made it over to the UK and caught the attention of Martin Hooker, the president of indie label Secret Records, a small British label that was mainly a Punk outlet. Jay Jay remained as manager through 1981 at which time he hired Mark Puma, a local promoter, to manage the band. This lineup (Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and A.J. Pero) is considered the "official Twisted Sister line up" because this version is responsible for almost all the studio albums, singles, videos and DVDs. On the suggestion of two reporters from Sounds and Kerrang! magazines, Twisted Sister left New York to find a label in the UK. There, in April 1982, they were finally signed by Secret Records. The band also took $22,000 to the UK to appear on the show The Tube.
In June 1982, the group released its first EP, "Ruff Cuts", on the Secret Records label, still featuring Tony Petri on the drums. This was followed shortly by the group's first studio album, Under the Blade, produced by Pete Way of UFO. Despite rather low production quality, the album was an underground hit in the UK, providing the band with sufficient name recognition to open for such metal acts as Motörhead. The album had an overall raw metal sound and included "Tear It Loose", a very fast speed-metal song featuring a guitar solo by "Fast" Eddie Clarke of Motörhead.
Another single, the future hit "We're Not Gonna Take It", was planned for release, but Secret Records went out of business before Dee Snider was able to complete the lyrics. After an appearance on the music TV program The Tube, Atlantic Records approached the band and signed them. Atlantic was one of the labels that had turned Twisted Sister down in the Club Days period. The band's first LP under Atlantic, You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll, produced by Stuart Epps, was released in 1983 and included the UK No. 19 hit "I Am (I'm Me)".
From a production standpoint, the album sounded better than its predecessor, and it was every bit as heavy. Upon the success of the album the company decided to promote the band more heavily. A music video was made for the title track, "You Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll", which was to become the first of a series of comedic videos that popularized the band.
International fame came for Twisted Sister when the band's third LP, Stay Hungry, hit the stores on May 10, 1984. During the successful tour, a young Metallica supported the band. Stay Hungry sold more than two million copies by the summer of 1985, and went on to sell more than three million in subsequent years. It remains the band's biggest success.
Videos of hit singles "We're Not Gonna Take It (a No. 21 hit in the United States) and "I Wanna Rock" (No. 68 in the United States) ran almost constantly on MTV. The acclaimed surreal comedy film Pee-wee's Big Adventure took this further with the band having an appearance making a fictional video for "Burn In Hell" on the Warner Bros label. backlot only to be interrupted by Pee-wee Herman passing through. Despite being comedic in nature, the videos featured violence against parents and teachers, which placed the band under heavy criticism by conservative organizations. The group was singled out by the PMRC in 1985. Their songs "Under the Blade" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" were specifically mentioned in the associated Senate hearings. Dee Snider, along with John Denver and Frank Zappa, testified before a Senate committee during these hearings on September 19, 1985. In May that year, Eddie Ojeda took part, on behalf of the band, in the recordings.
On November 9, 1985, the band released its fourth studio album, Come Out and Play, produced by Dieter Dierks. It was not nearly as successful as its predecessor, although it did earn the band a gold certification for sales of 500,000 copies. Some speculate that the failure was partly due to MTV choosing not to air the video for "Be Chrool to Your Scuel" on the grounds that it was graphically offensive. The song featured such guests as Alice Cooper (who also stars in the video), Brian Setzer, Clarence Clemons and Billy Joel. The tour supporting the album was a near fiasco, with low attendance and many cancelled dates. Not even Atlantic's re-release of a remixed Under the Blade helped the band recover its popularity. Come Out and Play was one of the first CDs to go out of print.
In 1986, Dee Snider embarked on a solo project, reportedly approaching future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, but this did not work out. Janick recalls it as follows: "He rang me up and we talked but I remember saying, "There is no way in this world that I am putting on make up or anything like that, I'm just not into that shit." But we had a chat and he seemed like a nice enough guy. But I never heard back from him."
Dee Snider then recorded an album with Franco programming the drum machine and featuring several session musicians such as Reb Beach on guitar and Kip Winger (just before they formed Winger) and Steve Whiteman of Kix. Atlantic Records refused to release it unless it was labeled as a Twisted Sister album. So, on August 13, 1987 Love Is for Suckers made its debut. Although the band had not played in the recording sessions, it was mentioned on the album cover as if the group had, and the band did play some of the songs in subsequent shows. Beau Hill's production gave the album a very polished pop metal sound. The band's members had also removed the makeup that they had been wearing since their early days. The music video for the lead single "Hot Love", featuring the band members without their makeup, had moderate success on MTV. Commercially though, the album was a complete failure and many of the band's metal fans were disappointed with the pop sound.
On October 12, 1987, almost two months after the release of Love Is for Suckers, Dee Snider left the band, the record label cancelled its contract, and Twisted Sister disbanded. The public announcement of the band's demise came in January 1988.
After the band's break-up, former members were involved in different projects:
A.J. Pero was involved in several projects and subsequently toured with Snider's SMFs. Pero for a time during this period also worked in a now defunct (as of January 2017) Staten Island, NY audio shop called Clone Audio.
In 1992, Atlantic Records, released a "best of" album Big Hits and Nasty Cuts that also featured some live performances from the Under The Blade period. This album was compiled by Jay Jay French. A live album from the Stay Hungry era named Live At Hammersmith was released in 1994 by CMC International.
In 1999, Spitfire Records re-issued the group's back catalog, supplemented with previously unreleased tracks. This was followed by Club Daze Volume 1: The Studio Sessions, an album containing demo recordings from the pre-Under the Blade era, which has three songs that were written by Jay Jay French, this was the first time someone other than Dee Snider was writing songs, and Club Daze Volume II: Live In The Bars, a live counterpart.
In 2001, Koch Records released a tribute album under the name Twisted Forever: A Tribute To The Legendary Twisted Sister. The album featured a wide range of artists and bands who had been influenced by Twisted Sister, including Lit, Motörhead, Chuck D, Anthrax, Overkill, Cradle of Filth, Joan Jett, Sebastian Bach, and HammerFall. Oddly for a tribute album, Twisted Sister was also present with a cover of AC/DC's "Sin City".
In November 2001, the reunited Twisted Sister joined fellow New York metal artists Anthrax, Overkill, Sebastian Bach, and Ace Frehley from Kiss to headline a benefit concert for NYPD and FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. New York Steel raised over $100,000 for the charity, and the reaction to the first Twisted Sister set in 14 years was overwhelming. The demand for more live dates was immediate, and the band took the first steps toward returning to the concert stage.
2002 also saw the featuring of "I Wanna Rock" as one of the gameplay radio songs on the videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The song features in the playlist of the fictional radio station "V Rock".
In 2003, Dee Snider and Joey Franco collaborated on a Halloween-themed project called Van Helsing's Curse. The project's first album, "Oculus Infernum", was released by Koch Records and featured a blend of Heavy metal and orchestral elements in the style of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Twisted Sister, this time including Mark Mendoza, reunited again for the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2003. The band also appeared in August of that same year at the Wacken Open Air festival. Footage from that show was filmed for a DVD release, which featured former Violent Apathy and Spite member, Tommy Fuller.
In March 2004, the band entered the studio to completely re-record the group's Stay Hungry album for Demolition Records. The band members reported that they were not happy with the original album's production, so this time they produced it themselves. The re-recording was released under the name Still Hungry and contained seven bonus tracks. In July 2005, the group played a free concert in Edmonton, Canada for the Klondike Days festival. In late 2005, Dee Snider appeared on Numbers from the Beast: An All-Star Tribute to Iron Maiden, performing vocals for the Iron Maiden classic "Wasted Years".
Dee Snider was joined by his contemporaries and peers George Lynch, formerly of Dokken, and Bob Kulick. Also in 2005, the band released the 2003 Wacken show on CD and DVD simply titled Live at Wacken The Reunion. It also went on tour with Alice Cooper, acting as the support band but delivering a set similar to a headliner's. In 2006, Dee Snider and Jay Jay French worked with Lordi to produce and play on a few tracks on their new album The Arockalypse. Dee Snider was featured on the first track, "SCG3 Special Report", as the voice of Lordi warning of the upcoming Arockalypse. Jay Jay French guest starred on the song "Chainsaw Buffet".
In June 2006, the band announced that it had signed with the American record label Razor and Tie to release a final album, of heavy metal Christmas music, called A Twisted Christmas. The album was released on October 17, 2006, and was a commercial success. On July 8, 2006, Twisted Sister played in front of 80,000 people in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The show featured Scorpions as the headliner. It also played a small concert at the Wolverhampton Civic Center.
The group is still together and occasionally makes small tours around the world, in full makeup. Before each of these mini-tours, they perform as Bent Brother, practicing their set and appearing without makeup, usually at reduced ticket prices.
Twisted Sister was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. On December 13, 2006, Twisted Sister made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The group performed its rock version of "O Come, All Ye Faithful", which is arranged in the style of "We're Not Gonna Take It". On December 22, 2006, Twisted Sister performed the song on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. On an episode of Dee Snider's syndicated radio program "The House of Hair", he stated that due to the success of the Christmas album, and also due to the response to the tour promoting the album, that Twisted Sister might not retire, and the band's future was being discussed.
On July 15, 2007, Twisted Sister performed at metal festival Rocklahoma.
Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" was featured in the game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s as a playable song (instead of being a cover like several songs featured in the game, it was the version from the 2004 remake of the group's classic album Stay Hungry, titled Still Hungry).
In 2008, Dee Snider appeared on the CMT television show Gone Country. On February 25, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at "Aftermath - The Station Fire 5 years later" in Providence, Rhode Island. On May 10, 2008, Twisted Sister performed a free concert at the Bulgarian town Lovech. On July 13, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at Snatch Rock n Roll Lounge, in Calgary, Alberta. On September 1, 2008, Twisted Sister performed at the Rock The Bayou Festival in Houston, Texas.
On June 4, 2009, Twisted Sister performed Stay Hungry in its entirety for the first time at the Sweden Rock Festival. This included never before played songs such as "Don't Let Me Down" and "Horror-Teria: Street Justice".
On February 16, 2010, Twisted Sister were confirmed to play at Bloodstock Open Air 2010.
On July 15, 2011, Twisted Sister were confirmed to play at Masters of Rock.
Twisted Sister performed at Copenhell 2014 in Denmark to an audience of 20,000 as part of the group's Stay Hungry 30th Anniversary World Tour. This was the group's first show in Denmark in 30 years. The Twisted Sister show was praised as one of the best concert performances. The band was "..As Sharp, Crazy and Witty as 30 years ago" according to the Danish press.
On October 13, 2011, the band announced a five-disc DVD set of live performances over the group's entire career entitled "From the Bars to the Stars", with a release date of November 8.
Former Twisted Sister drummer Richard Teeter, who had played with the band in 1980 and 1981, died from complications due to esophageal cancer on April 10, 2012.
On March 20, 2015, drummer A. J. Pero died in his sleep of a heart attack. Twisted Sister released the following statement: "The members of Twisted Sister are profoundly saddened to announce the untimely passing of our brother, A.J. Pero. The band, crew and most importantly the family of A.J. Pero thank you for your thoughts and prayers at this time." Shortly thereafter, Adrenaline Mob, which also featured A.J. on drums, released a statement revealing that he had died while sleeping on the band's tour bus.
On April 7, 2015, TMZ.com reported that Twisted Sister would embark on its final tour, dubbed "Forty and Fuck It", in 2016. Mike Portnoy (of Sons of Apollo, The Winery Dogs and Transatlantic and formerly of Dream Theater and Adrenaline Mob) filled in for A.J. Pero on drums on this tour. The band also announced tribute shows in honor of A. J. Pero; the first was in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 30 and was recorded for the CD/DVD release
"Metal Meltdown Featuring Twisted Sister Live at The Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas", released that July. The second was dubbed "Twisted Sister – A Concert to Honor AJ Pero" and held in Sayreville, New Jersey on June 13. On this tour a recording of a drum solo, from one of A.J.'s last concerts with Twisted Sister, was shown on the stage screen, giving the fans one final experience of the classic line-up together. The recording was from the Faroe Islands Summarfestival. The group played its final concert on November 12, 2016 in Monterrey.
On January 26, 2023, Twisted Sister reunited as they were inducted into the Metal Hall of Fame at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. At the event, they performed a special one-off onstage three song set featuring drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist Keith Robert War, who filled in for Eddie Ojeda after contracting COVID-19. Dee Snider addressed that there were no plans for the band to perform anymore shows. On April 7, 2023 Dee Snider announced the band will reunite in 2024 for appearances at various Democratic political rallies during the 2024 election season.
Twisted Sister is generally classified as Heavy metal Glam metal, Hard rock, Shock rock, and Glam rock. Despite its classification as a glam metal band, Greg Prato of AllMusic compared the band's debut album Under the Blade to early 1980s New wave of British heavy metal.
Moreover, despite the disdain that Thrash metal musicians and fans in the 1980s had towards glam metal, Twisted Sister bridged the gap and could appeal to both thrash metal and glam metal fans, with thrash metal band Metallica even opening for Twisted Sister in the 1980s, despite Metallica's disdain for glam metal music at the time. Thrash metal bands Anthrax and Overkill had covered Twisted Sister songs. Dee Snider spoke about this, saying:
"Twisted was a band that confused people a bit. When we first played at the Marquee in London, it was a really mixed crowd. There were metalheads and punks and skinheads, and everyone was looking around 'Wait a minute? What are we about to see here?' At the beginning there was no hair metal or glam movement. We were just a weird metal band at that point! But then we started to break through and we were pulling in people from all areas."
Dee Snider rejected the glam metal label of the band, saying he prefers the band is called "hid metal", describing his own band as "hideous": "I don't think Twisted Sister is 'Glam' because that implies glamour, and we're not glamorous. We should be called 'Hid' because we're hideous." In interviews, Dee Snider cited Slade, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Monkees, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and AC/DC as influences. Dee Snider underscored Slade and said: "If not for the [English glam-rock] band Slade, there would be no 'We're Not Gonna Take It'."
Still Hungry (2004)
A Twisted Christmas (2006)
Live At Wacken: The Reunion (2006) live
A Twisted Christmas - Live (2007) live
Live at the Astoria (2008) live
Live at the Marquee (2011) live
Rock 'n' Roll Saviors - The Early Years -(2016) live
Metal Meltdown (2016) live
Feel Appeal: Love Is for Suckers Extras (2021) ep
Jay Jay French – guitars, backing vocals (1972–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2003–2016, 2023)
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda – guitars, backing vocals (1975–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2003–2016)
Dee Snider – lead vocals, occasional guitar (1976–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2003–2016, 2023)
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza – bass, backing vocals (1978–1987, 1988, 1997, 2001, 2003–2016, 2023)
Anthony Jude Pero– drums, backing vocals (1982–1986, 1997, 2001, 2003–2015; his death)