Come Out and Play

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Come Out and Play (1985)

“Twisted Sister…come out and play!”  Happy anniversary to Come Out and Play released on this day 34 years ago.

TWISTED SISTER – Come Out and Play (1985 Atlantic LP & Spitfire CD remaster)

What was a band at the proverbial crossroads to do? Continue along the commercial path of the 3 million copy selling Stay Hungry?  Or revert to the tried and true heavy-as-an-SMF sound of yore?

There was only one dissenting vote.  Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza felt that putting “Leader of the Pack” on the new album was a mistake.  The other four voted “yes” but some grew to regret it.  Both Dee Snider and J.J. French have since realized the error of their ways.  Today, Come Out and Play is acknowledged as the beginning of the end, though it has its fans and some sturdy tracks to support it.

Twisted Sister recruited Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and enlisted high profile guest stars like Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons.  They were top-loaded onto a old-time rock and roller called “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”, and the gamble backfired immediately when MTV banned the music video for its zombies and ghouls.  It’s an interesting track at least.  You don’t hear a sax solo on a Twisted Sister song every day, nor the kind of plucking that Brian Setzer deals in.

“Leader of the Pack” was a failure as well, actually a re-recording of a track that debuted on the Ruff Cuts EP.  The video (starring the then-hot Bobcat Goldthwaite) further painted Twisted Sister as a novelty band.

Tensions, especially between Mendoza and Snider, were amplified.  The songs that sound like they were meant to be “hits” fall far short.  The impression you get from “You Want What We Got” is that it was intended to be a specific kind of hit.  Unfortunately it’s just a repetitive anthem.  “Lookin’ Out for #1” is similarly filler, a song that never quite clicks.

Some tracks maintained a heavy rock presence. They include the anthem “I Believe In Rock and Roll”.  It’s a manifesto for the PMRC generation; a decent attempt that just misses the mark.  “Come Out and Play” features A.J. Pero nailing down a speedy beat, but the production of Dierks neutered the powerful drummer.  Dierks introduced keyboards to some of the tracks, watering them down needlessly.  “The Fire Still Burns” works better than some of the other songs, and despite the production you can hear A.J. is just crushing the kit.  If the backing vocals sound unusually lush, that’s Don Dokken and Gary Holland.  “Out on the Streets” trades the speed in for plaintive melodies, and is the better for it.  Finally “Kill or Be Killed” does what it promises.  Unbelievable that A.J. could play at such a relentless velocity, but he was an absolute beast.

Strangely, some of the best tracks are the ballads.  Dark ballads.  Ballads of depression, of loneliness, of alienation.  “I Believe in You” is the first of two, bolstered by strong melodies and Dee Snider’s enviable pipes.  The one that impresses the most is the CD and cassette bonus track “King of the Fools”.  Although “Kill or Be Killed” ends the album just fine, this coda adds some substance.  Sounding like a man destroyed, Dee sings the melancholy lyrics.

What kind of kingdom has no throne?
No crown or castle do I own,
I don’t have silver gold or jewels,
Yet I’m the king, king of the fools.

It’s surprisingly thoughtful songwriting, complimenting the mournful melodies.  Yet there is a defiant, powerful streak in the choruses.

King of the fools,
Who are these people to cast stones?
King of the fools,
Better a fool than just a clone.

Dee Snider has always resonated with the underdogs, the bullied, the downtrodden.  “King of the Fools” might be the most honest of all those songs.  Some regal guitar melodies by J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda show that they were picking up what Dee was laying down.

Here’s the catch though.  If you’re buying this album, you need “King of the Fools”.  To get it, you’ll want the CD.  But Come Out and Play might be most notable for the album cover you can only get on vinyl.  Open up that manhole cover and out pops Dee Snider in all his…all his…rags.

Heeere’s Dee!

Do what I did.  Get CD and LP, just for the cover.  Everybody needs a pop-up Dee Snider.

2.5/5 stars

#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

Summers in Kincardine, Ontario in the late 1980s and early 90s were beautiful, but to a teenage me they felt isolated.  No phone at the cottage, no cable TV, and nothing that cityfolk would call a record store.  We did have a few options.  There were places that you could buy music, including one crummy music store that popped up for a brief while.  Summertime is made for music, and one of my favourite childhood experiences was listening to brand new tunes in the summer.

We’d be at the cottage for two weeks straight every August, and I would usually pack my entire my tape collection to come with me (oh how my dad loved that).   Having all my favourite songs with me meant I’d always have music for whatever mood I was in.  Still, nothing could beat the rush of new music!  New didn’t have to mean “new” per se; I was collecting the back catalogues of many metal masters too.  There was always something to buy that would be brand new to me.

In the very early days, you could buy tapes at the local Stedmans store downtown.  Stedmans sold everything from clothes to musical instruments to toys.  Like many of these places, they are now closed.  It was one store to buy new cassettes, and that is where I picked up Priest…Live! back in July of 1987.  The other place to buy tapes at that time was an electronics store called Don’s Hi Fi.  White Lion’s Big Game and W.A.S.P.’s Headless Children came from Don’s Hi Fi during the summer of 1989.  I couldn’t wait until I got home and played them.  We’d rip open the plastic and check out the pictures in the car, waiting to get back and hit play.  The following summer, I bought Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory at the same store.  We would also be able to find tapes in the cheapie bin at places like drug stores, and I picked up The Earthquake Album from such a bin.

Around 1988, an actual music store opened up in Kincardine.  It was there that I purchased Painkiller by Judas Priest, and Exposed by Vince Neil.  It was a small store and they didn’t have many catalogue items, but you could pick up new releases there and some key older releases such as greatest hits.

Beyond these few stores, you had to get out of town.  Kincardine is a small place, but Port Elgin to the north offered a few more options.  There was a Radio Shack there with a different selection of tapes.  They also had 7” singles, of which we bought a couple on clearance.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck.  He always was the best dresser.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck. He always was the best dresser. Also note my official Starfleet sideburns.  Summer 1992

In the summer of ’92 we made several day trips to Port Elgin.  My sister and I were headed to a “cards & comics” store that we discovered.  One afternoon my sister phoned them up to ask if they had any promotional Star Wars cards?  They did – road trip!  The first of many happy and successful trips to Port Elgin looking for goodies.  (Yes, promo cards are collectible just like some promo CDs.)

On the same trip, we found this grungy record store on the corner of the main drag.  Really scummy, really dirty.  They bought and sold used tapes and records.  My sister brought in a whole bunch of her cassettes for store credit, and walked out with Rod Stewart’s Out of Order and one or two others.  My first purchase there was Black Sabbath’s Live at Last.  I bought my original copy of Helix’s Wild in the Streets on cassette at that store.  The tape glowed in the dark.  I’ve never seen another glow-in-the-dark tape before or since!  I also picked up Kiss’ Creatures of the Night (original cover) on vinyl, as well as Twister Sister’s Come Out and Play.  You might remember that Come Out and Play had that awesome cover with the opening manhole?  That was the reason I bought it.

Those stores in Port Elgin are both gone.  Don’s Hi Fi still exists in Kincardine, but they don’t sell music anymore.  I did buy a pair of earbuds there about five years ago, but things have changed so much.  There’s no such thing as “isolation” anymore, not like it felt back then.  Today I can sit on the front porch of the cottage, streaming live radio from home straight to the laptop.  I used to pack my entire tape collection for the cottage, but now anything I want to listen to, I can search for on Youtube.  It is simply amazing how much has changed in the last two decades, and I am sure that in another 20 years it will be just as startlingly different.

As long as I can still listen to my music there, I’ll be happy!