REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)

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My Twisted reviews: “We’re Not Gonna Take It” single, Under the Blade, Live at the Marquee

TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition, Atlantic, 2009 originally 1984)

Fact:  When I was a kid, I used to think that Jay Jay French might in fact be blind; I never saw him without his dark shades!

25 years of Stay Hungry?  Actually 29 years at press time!  I don’t want to believe it.  Anyway, this reissue was a pretty big deal because Stay Hungry was out of print on CD.  For whatever reason (legal, contractual?) when Twisted issued their series of remasters with bonus tracks back in 1997, Stay Hungry was not one of them. Then in 2004, the reunited band recorded an album called Still Hungry, which was all of Stay Hungry re-recorded “the way they originally wanted it to sound” (cough). As a fan, I only enjoyed it for the new and unreleased bonus tracks. I was underwhelmed by the re-recording. It’s impossible to duplicate a specific recording, especially when the singer can no longer hit the high notes in “The Price”.  And it just didn’t sound good.

That was then, this is now, and Stay Hungry has finally been remastered and beefed up with a bonus disc of unreleased material and one brand new song! (None of these unreleased songs were even heard on Still Hungry, but a couple were remade by Dee on a solo album.) The album itself remains one of Sister’s best, although my preference is to You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll.  The bonus disc sheds light on what else the band was writing at the time.

IMG_00000189_editThe remastering and liner notes are excellent. The album sounds like it should, the way a pristine vinyl copy would sound back then. Still Hungry was mastered way too loud; this is much better.  The liner notes reveal friction between the band and producer Tom Werman. Werman rejected a lot of what the band had written, which makes up disc two. However, he was also a big supporter of their heavier songs such as “Burn In Hell” and “Horror-Teria: The Beginning”, while disliking “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  Dee Snider, in fact, wanted to save “Horror-Teria” for a rock opera he was composing, but Tom Werman wisely insisted it go on this album.

The special thing about the original Stay Hungry album was that there was not one bad song on it. From all three smash hit singles (“I Wanna Rock” and “The Price”), to album cuts like “Don’t Let Me Down” and “S.M.F.”, every song here is a classic. And only one ballad!

Twisted Sister appeared in the 1985 comedy, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Highlights include the opener “Stay Hungry”, which smokes the speakers immediately.  “Burn In Hell” (seen performed by Twisted Sister in the 1985 film Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) turns up the scare factor with some unholy Snider vocals.  Snider’s epic “Horror Terria” is split into two parts.  “Captain Howdy” (later to become Snider’s character the film Strangeland) is a warning to stay away from the title character.  It’s ominous, Snider obviously hamming it up as Captain Howdy.  As a kid I never fully appreciated exactly what the song is depicting, unfortunately this kind of thing is now in the news on a weekly basis.  Part two is “Street Justice”, an angry song that inspired scenes in the film.

The man was caught, and brought before a judge,
who had just returned from a three-drink lunch.
His lawyer screamed, “You must set him free!”
And off he went, on a technicality.

Side two commenced with two of the big singles, “I Wanna Rock” and “The Price”, but equally good was “Don’t Let Me Down”.  This would have been another single as far as I’m concerned.  “The Beast” is evil and Sabbathy, but the album ends with the TNT blast of “S.M.F.”  At this point you are blown back into your seats.

TS SH R_0006The sound quality on the bonus disc varies from track to track, as is bound to happen with demos this old. Don’t let that spoil your enjoyment. These are some of the heavier songs that Twisted were writing, that Werman simply did not feel were strong enough. Perhaps with some fleshing out and proper studio time, tracks like “Death From Above” or “We’re Coming On” could have stood proud on the album as well. Clearly these demos are unfinished, most are very brief and unadorned. Some are a bit too similar to stronger songs that did make the album. Listening to the whole disc makes you wish that they had been fleshed out and released on B-sides or albums, as some are pretty good.

The highlight of this disc is the brand new Twisted Sister song, “30”. Finally, somebody has written an anthem for older rockers! It’s about time! And it’s a great tune, as well! “30 came and went a long long time ago,” sings Dee, with absolutely no shame, and rightfully so!

If you’re a new fan, or an old fan who has heard Stay Hungry a million times, this is a compulsory purchase. It renders the original release obselete. Still Hungry pales to this reissue. Well done, if only all reissues were put together with this much care and effort.

5/5 stars

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29 comments

  1. Awesome, adding it to the list now. Ashamed to admit I never actually owned a copy of this album, in any format. Everyone else I knew had one, so I didn’t need to buy it, we’d just play theirs!

    Have you got to Snider’s book yet? He talks a lot about this period, might explain a few things (from his side, anyway).

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    1. No I haven’t actually. I keep buying new books! Also because we are packing up belongings right now, I may have packed Dee in a box without realizing.

      I found a used copy of Vince Neil’s book yesterday, hardcover.

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  2. You’re packing up your stuff? I feel sorry for you, then. You’ll be without some of your music as you move. My family and I made a move about five years ago, and it was terrible. I never got into MP3s (the sound quality is not good enough for me), and I was without my CDs for a whole two days. *shudders*

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    1. Oh man, I hear you. We just moved houses a couple of weeks ago and I know exactly what you mean. The vinyls were easy to get back on hand, but all my CDs are still in boxes, awaiting construction of dedicated CD shelving (I have the boards, just need to get at it). So I’m making do with my MP3s on the hard drive and iPod. Better than nothing!

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    2. The music will be the last thing that gets packed up. When I first moved here 11 years ago, I unpacked the music first – before I painted! I painted around it all. Also, only I am allowed to move the music…

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  3. If I was a bigger fan your review would have me buying it immediately, but I’m still happy with my vinyl version. I wasn’t into TS when this was released, although I did work in a record store when it was flying off the shelves (and their videos were on MTV constantly). Perhaps it was the fact that they were a local band (I grew up on Staten Island, so I wasn’t far from Long Island, and I would always hear their concerts at small local venues advertised on radio) that made them seem less legit at the time. Of course that opinion is wrong, but I was still a teenager so I can forgive my younger self.

    My favorite TS anecdote was from their episode of Behind The Music, if I remember correctly. Dee was telling the story of playing at some festival and having sh*t thrown at them. His reaction was priceless, something like: “How mad do you have to be to take a dump…then pick it up…steaming hot…and throw it at someone?” I’m sure he didn’t feel that way at the time, but in hindsight he found it pretty funny. He’s such a great character and seems like a genuinely good guy (same for his bandmates).

    Anyway, once again you wrote a fantastic review. Perhaps if I ever stumble on this version for a right price I’ll pick it up…and give you credit, of course.

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    1. Swell! I think for the average fan like yourself, original vinyl will do fine. I love the fact that they recorded a new song just for this reissue though.

      I agree, from everything I have seen, Dee is a very intelligent character. And loyal to the same wife for over 30 years too…that’s not so common in rock.

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      1. In some ways, Dee is very similar to Alice Cooper. They’re both in long term marriages in an industry where that’s pretty rare, and they’re much smarter and more business savvy than the average person would give them credit for based on their public personae.

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        1. And I believe the two are buddies as well — after all Alice sang and appeared in the music video for Be Cruel to your School! Although Alice doesn’t look too well in the video. I don’t think he was quite as healthy as he was by the time he was doing Constrictor.

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  4. Great review. I remember well when I bought this album. I had been a fan since the release of You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll. I was the only one at school who had any idea of who Twisted Sister were at the time and I actually spread that album around school, forcing my friends and all the rockers to dig this lot.
    I really loved this album from day one and I can only agree – there aren’t any bad tracks on this album. But, I actually liked Still Hungry. I have always thought that Twisted Sister’s weakest link is the production – on all their albums and Stay Hungry really have some heavy shit on it – but it doesn’t show as Werman’s production is too lame and thin. I believe Still Hungry really shows just how heavy TS could be. They were always a metal band, but most people think they’re a pop / hard rock band because of the thin sounding records. But I have noticed that I’m pretty much alone liking that album… ;-)

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    1. Unlike a certain Queensryche fan friend of ours, I won’t try to convince you that you are somehow wrong for liking Still Hungry! I loved the bonus/new tracks on it for sure. Sometimes when it’s someone like yourself who has had an album for almost 30 years, something like Still Crazy can sound fresh. I know that I feel that way about the 1997 remixed version of Machine Head. It feels fresher to me somehow.

      Anyway I own both, but this one tends to get played the most.

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  5. I feel the same way about TS as i feel about WASP, i like the theatre and the singles more than the LPs, but I’m a big fan of Dee Snider and his battles against the PMRC.

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    1. W.A.S.P. to me made only two good solid albums: the first one, and Headless Children. The rest were patchy. Even Crimson Idol gets a little dull after 15 or 30 minutes.

      Dee and Frank Zappa were brilliant in their dealings with the PMRC. They helped make me aware of a lot of political issues at an early age.

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      1. I know I’ve read some really interesting articles on that, was it John Denver who also testified then?

        I’d like to have seen WASP in their prime – Mrs 1537 saw them at Donnington; she’s way cooler than me.

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        1. John Denver may have, I truthfully don’t know. But I do have Zappa’s testimony, transcribed. It’s in his book, The Real Frank Zappa Book. Which is one of the best books I ever bought. You can practically use it as a manual for living.

          Zappa of course found his all-instrumental Jazz From Hell records stickered for “explicit lyrical content”. Somebody saw the title and stickered it without even listening to the record.

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  6. Bought this album like the rest of the 5 million people that bought it in 84. I remember at the time Twisted was calling out Hanoi Rocks for a fight in England I laughed at that shit man esp when u had Hanoi all glammed up and Twisted all glammed up man that would have been sumthin to see if it actually happened..!
    Mind u Hanoi put out the fantastic Two Steps From The Move later that yr…
    But yeah,Stay Hungry was a good album ..Stay Hungry (the song)set the pace for sure….
    It’s funny how they were so huge and than Come On Out And Play just reversed all that they had slugged out in the bars for yrs in the Long Island area…..

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    1. I listen to Come Out and Play often, and I personally like it, but I get why it tanked. It’s dark and sonically not as bright, and has a lot of ballads. But it’s also an emotional album, but like the previous ones.

      Also notable is the live Dee Snider’s SMF’s album where they cover a lot of this stuff in tight fashion!

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  7. I’ve got this (a rare instance of me buying the mp3 rather than the album though) but I think I’ve only listened to the 1st disc once! Haha another one I need to catch up on. I’m a pretty late convert to TS, my go to album of theirs is usually Under the Blade or the live ones I have. They always struck me as being more convincing live than on record. If I hadn’t actually seen them live I probably would never have got into them at all!

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      1. Not heard that one. I’ve got the Astoria CD/DVD and the Live at Hammersmith one. I was really excited about getting into TS after seeing them live but I can’t say they’ve ever made a huge dent in my listening time!

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        1. Cool. They seem to have brought plenty of live stuff out since reuniting but I’m think most of the releases have been DVDs so at least you get a live album with this one. I quite fancied getting the Wacken show too.

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        2. Wacken, which I will be reviewing, does not come with the full show on CD. But it’s a good CD none the less. I’ve wrote a review years ago but my standards have raised since then so it needs a good solid edit.

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  8. When it comes to WASP, I think that everything they did from the debut up to Still Not Black Enough in the mid-90’s, are brilliant. After that one, not so much, even though their two altes albums, Dominator and Babylon are brilliant.
    Twisted Sister weren’t a very good band as musicians. Dee Snider was always great, but the rest of them were really bad, especially Eddie Ojeda. And the production on their albums were below all criticism. But they had the songs and I believe they never made one bad album, song wise.

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