When Twisted Sister split in 1987, I don’t think anybody ever really expected there to be enough demand for a reunion. How wrong we were! During the downtime when the band was acrimoniously separated, Dee Snider carried on with a low-key solo career. Widowmaker’s Blood & Bullets (featuring Al Pitrelli and Joey Franco) was heavy as fuck even compared to early Twisted Sister, but failed to make any sales impact.
A few years later (1995), Dee went on the road with the S.M.F.s (Sick Mutha Fuckers, of course) playing nothing but classic Twisted Sister. It went almost completely unnoticed, but a live album (recorded raw, straight to two track tape) was recorded and released as Twisted Forever. This hard to find disc is well worth having. Dee played a variety of Twisted material, some of which you’ll probably never hear live again. It was a surprisingly good album on some fly by night label, and an easy must-have for any Twisted fan that finds it in good shape.
Just like the good old days at the Marquee in England, Dee opened with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”, one of the fastest tunes in the Twisted catalogue. Only the true fan will realize by listening alone that the band is not Twisted Sister. I don’t know any of these guys, but they are more than up to the task. As for Dee, the year may as well be 1981 for all the ferocity he pours into every shriek and every scream. With a double shot of early Sister, “The Kids Are Back” lives up to its name, and the crowd are behind Dee 100 fucking percent. “Stay Hungry” only gets them going more and more. The audio quality is good enough for rock n’ roll. Think of it as a great bootleg, a desk mix. You can hear the bass clearly, not always true for bootlegs, and the vocals are clear as a bell. What is also clear is that this is 100% live.
Dee Snider never changes and there is plenty of time for lightning-fast stage rants! “Am I in your way? Oh that’s OK, now the fucking BEER comes through here! NO! This is my fucking stage, do me a favour, and get the fuckin’ beer off the stage!” Then, “Yes, but I’ve mellowed with fuckin’ age. No I haven’t!” It’s true, though his schtick is probably at least partly done because it’s expected of him. (Later, he does a Cornholio impression, and rips into Al Gore. Ah, the 1990’s!) Dee even does some of the same song intros, such as “Destroyer”. “You got hands! Use ’em!” screams Dee as the riff begins. Now you can bring that tough New York street vibe into your living room.
Hit after hit, and fan favourites galore, Twisted Forever is especially desirable for some more obscure songs. 1985’s Come Out and Play was the album that more or less did Sister in. Dee can’t seem to remember when he recorded it (1987 he says). The Come Out and Play medley is an eight minute stream of tunes includes parts of the title track, “Leader of the Pack”, “I Believe in Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”. A little bit later in the set is the awesome “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” from 1987’s controversial Love is For Suckers. Dee says they do those tunes due to relentless demand from the fans. I believe it: “Sleeping Giant” is one of those hard rock songs that should have been a classic. All these tunes are heavier than the somewhat limp album versions, and Dee could still hit all the notes.
I think Twisted Sister is a band that were always better than people assumed they were. Their new film, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, demonstrated just how driven they actually were, with care and craft put into their reckless music. These are songs that might not be known to the masses, but should be. I’d rather hear “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” on the radio than the oft-played “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. There is so much emotion on this album. At one point, Dee stops to tell the crowd, “I’d appreciate it, if everybody would stop smiling for the next 30 minutes or so. You’re making it very hard for me to act mean on stage.” This particular moment is from a home gig in Long Island, and it sounds like a family reunion of the twisted kind. The climax of the CD is Twisted’s signature ballad “The Price”, and Dee didn’t even need to sing, the crowd could have done it all for him. All that’s left after a song like that is “S.M.F.”, over and out!
For my money you can’t beat a good raw live album recorded in a small club. Twisted Forever delivers. It might not be Twisted Sister…but when I listen to it I honestly don’t care!