When Twisted Sister split at the end of 1987, they went rather quietly into that goodnight. No big magazine articles, no solo projects incoming, not until 1992 when Dee Snider finally re-emerged with his new band Widowmaker. It was a quiet five years, broken only by the low key release of Twisted Sister’s first “greatest hits” compilation in March of that year.
Big Hits and Nasty Cuts was a compilation that both fans and band deserved. No careless cash grabs here. In 1992 it’s doubtful that Atlantic thought they’d be making much money off “I Wanna Rock”, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the obsolete generation. While Kurt Cobain cashed his biggest royalty cheque yet, J.J. French was writing the liner notes for this CD. (Mark “The Animal” Mendoza did the remastering with Ted Jensen.)
For the era, Big Hits and Nasty Cuts was one of the most fan-friendly, value-intensive CDs on the market. Even better for American fans, this time they got the bonus track! The album was split into two sides — the hits and the “nasty cuts”, all rare B-sides recorded at the Marquee club in England. Fortunately the entire show has since been issued by Rhino, but in 1992, very few fans had the original 12″ singles these songs were sourced from. Another rarity included was Twisted’s first single, “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” These were first releases for the CD format! Good thing too, because “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” is indelible as any of the hits.
The hits portion of the album isn’t quite predictable. Would you have expected the heavy metal uppercut “Under the Blade”? Or the raw “Shoot ‘Em Down”? Here they are, and thanks to the liner notes, you can find out why. (Oh fine, we’ll spoil one. “Under the Blade” was included because it’s been played at every Twisted show since it was written.) The three biggest hits are present and accounted for. “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” would be the two hits that everyone knows, and “The Price” is runner-up.
Also present: “I Am, I’m Me” and “The Kids Are Back” demonstrate Dee’s early knack for melodic songwriting, very punk-like in its simplicity especially when coupled with Twisted’s 4/4 rock. “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” also had to be here. Perhaps it’s Twisted’s best metal anthem. Finally “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” featuring Alice Cooper ends the hits side with the last one chronologically. (“Bad Boys of Rock and Roll” on the US version.) There’s no “Leader of the Pack” and no “Hot Love”. All hail the classic lineup: Dee Snider – lead vocals. J.J. French – guitar. Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda – guitar. Mark “The Animal” Mendoza – bass. The late, underappreciated A.J. Pero – drums. The lineup that set MTV on fire relied on catchy videos, yes, but the songs have survived equally well.
The nasty cuts may just be too heavy for the average listener. Recorded to 2-track tape, there’s no fixing the mixes here. The lengthy start to “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” includes Lemmy’s intro and plenty of noise. There is no overlap with any other songs on the CD. “Destroyer” grinds so hard it’s almost a parody of itself. “Tear It Loose” is out-of-control fast, blowing away the album version. The US got “Run For Your Life” right after “Tear It Loose”, another fast rendition once it kicks in. (In Canada, “Run For Your Life” was only on cassette.) The cover tunes “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Let the Good Times Roll/Feel So Fine” include plenty of crowd interplay. Just the thing to turn off Joe Average Listener, but amazing to hear the energy of the band and audience that night.
The live cuts really highlight, with 20/20 hindsight anyway, the power of A.J. Pero. The guy could really kill a drum kit, and his timekeeping is the cornerstone of what made Twisted Sister heavy.
Don’t buy this CD if you’re looking for a party CD. Buy it because you’re intrigued and want to learn more about a band who doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the world’s most dangerous. Buy it to check out the rarities and get a taste of what those in the know had in their collections back in 1983. Buy it because you’re going to get liner notes and photos of band members you never even heard of before. Buy it because this is a great compilation, done with loving care and value.