dee snider

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Live at the Marquee (2011)

“Ladies and gentlemen…Twisted mother fuckin’ Sister!”  – Lemmy Kilmister

 

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino Handmade)

First of all, this thing is huge.  There’s a CD in there somewhere.

You already know some of these recordings from the Big Hits and Nasty Cuts CD.  In 2011, finally, after numerous B-sides and compilations, the entire legendary Marquee club show was made available on CD from the fine folks at Rhino Handmade. Coming in this beautiful (but fragile) cardboard die-cut cover, this was so long overdue.  For a long long time people sank many dollars into collecting as many of these live versions as possible.  Few collected all the released tracks, but now the entire show is available.  That means you get all those B-sides plus a bunch of unreleased songs from the gig, including all the talking.

From Lemmy’s now legendary introduction to the final notes of “Feel So Fine”, this is Twisted Sister at their absolute heaviest. When I first heard five of these recordings as the “Nasty Cuts” on the Big Hits (1992) CD, they turned me off a bit. They were too heavy. Too fast. Too ragged. Too punk rock. Not what I was expecting from what I considered to be a pop rock band, back then. However, Dee’s rants made this so difficult to turn off! You never know what was going to come out of Dee’s mouth next.

Eventually I realized, this stuff is actually Twisted Sister at their absolute best! They are in their element and in their glory, playing these songs for the fans and also the haters in the crowd that night, whom Dee addresses frequently.

I’m sure the band won the haters over that night.

The recording is crisp, clear, and powerful. It is in your face.  It feels like you are right there on that stage with the band.  The mix is perfect.  The guitars have good separation and the drums are recorded perfectly.  The vocals are also clear and only slightly overpowered by the stampeding band.

Personal fave: “You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll”. The crowd had never heard this one before, being brand new and unreleased.  Finally I am hearing a version of “You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll” that lives up to the song’s potential. The album version, as great as it is, isn’t as heavy as it was live. This, my friends, is Sister at their absolute best. I’m saying that without a trace of hyperbole. For me, this is it. This is Twisted Sister at their tightest, fastest, heaviest and inspired. The crowd eats it up.

Honorable Mention: “I Am (I’m Me)”, which comes close to the end of the set. Dee’s voice is off on a few notes, but this is rock and roll baby! I’d pay my life savings to be able to sing as well as Dee did that night!  (note: my life savings are not much, but I’d pay ’em anyway.)

Dud: “Leader Of The Pack”. It’s just weird to hear it at a show this insane. It kinda slows things down a bit much (even though it’s so much heavier than the Ruff Cuts version).

5/5 fuckin’ stars!


     

 

#846: The United Federation of Planets

GETTING MORE TALE #846: The United Federation of Planets

I used to be an optimist.  In my younger, more impressionable 20s, I felt like humankind had the universe by the balls.  The things we could achieve when united were remarkable but only the tip of what we could do collectively.  Where did I think we’d be by 2020?

Not here, that’s for damn sure!  I didn’t think we’d have the flying car, or free energy.  I thought we’d be on a better road than this.

At that younger age, I immersed myself seriously in science fiction.  Clarke in particular, but Roddenberry was also crucial to my mindset.  The optimistic future of Star Trek was the one I chose to believe in.  Gene Roddenberry was not wrong about what humanity could do when united.  I believed unity was our ultimate destiny, as we left behind our tribal pasts and prejudices.  I thought it was inevitable that eventually we would have something like the United Federation of Planets.  Prosperity through technology and collective wisdom.

It makes me sad and broken to see that we have not made many strides towards Roddenberry’s future, but have taken many steps backwards.  What would Gene think?  While I think he would be delighted to see that technology has leaped faster in some regards than he predicted, he would also be crushed by our continued divisions.

It’s in the news every day.  People are angry.  Some have forgotten the basic manners that their mothers taught them while others are behaving like, frankly, assholes.  Covid has us all stressed, and it has brought some of us together more closely while dividing others even more sharply.  I try to consume as little news as possible but it’s all but unavoidable to see this bullshit.  Even if one only reads music news, it is everywhere.  Ratt and Bobby Blotzer’s son feuding with Sebastian Bach and Dee Snider over the wearing of masks during this pandemic.  This cultural tension has pervaded every aspect of society.  At least you can buy some sweet Kiss-branded masks now.  Yet the amount of hate in the air over this issue is actually quite scary.

Incidentally as a side note, as our economy continues to be devastated by this disease, every brand in the world should start making masks.  Metallica, Maple Leafs, Kiss, Kellogg’s Froot Loops.  People are going to buy them and it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.  Only by adapting to this pandemic are we going to save businesses.  But back to where we were.

I used to believe good would always triumph over evil.  That is what all my favourite stories taught me.  Good is stronger.  Show humanity some adversity and we will unite and overcome.

Roddenberry did predict we’d need a Third World War before we get there.  I hope he was wrong about that too.

Star Trek was popular because people wanted to live in that world.  Star Trek fans exist in every part of the political spectrum.  Millions dreamed of being the helmsman on a starship, and to live in that world.  A world where the Earth knows no war, no poverty and no starvation.  Some of Arthur C. Clarke’s fiction was equally optimistic.  I figured guys as smart as Clarke, who conceived the communication satellite, were smart enough that they were probably right about the future.  Yet here we are, stuck in the mire like it’s still the 1950s.

Of course it’s not too late.  We can still turn around and say “I don’t care if you are this or that, and believe in A, B or C.”  We’re going to have to.  Why can’t everybody see this?  Humanity has no hope of survival if we can’t rise above our tribal differences.

 

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

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Big Hits and Nasty Cuts (1992)

TWISTED SISTER – Big Hits and Nasty Cuts (1992 Atlantic – Canadian CD)

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.

5/5 stars

VHS Archives #39: Dee Snider says “Don’t drink and drive!” (1984)

This public service announcement from Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider mostly likely aired on an episode of Toronto Rocks’ Midweek Metal Mania show, the prototype for the Power Hour. It’s probably from 1984 or 85. I don’t know its exact origin because this comes from one of the “Balasz Tapes” — stuff originally recorded by next door neighbour George and then taped by me in one of our childhood recording sessions.

It’s lower quality because it’s a tape of a tape, but I think it’s still pretty cool.

 

#669: Censor This!

GETTING MORE TALE #669: Censor This!

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 219: Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics

Grade 13, otherwise known as our “OAC” (Ontario Academic Credit) year, was critical.  They don’t have grade 13 anymore, which is a real shame.  Some of the best courses were in that year.  I worked my tail off, and got accepted into Wilfrid Laurier University’s History program.  That’s why today, I try and mix music and history together in many of my articles.  You’ve read about Billy the Kid and the real wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald here, all within the context of songs.  It’s what I enjoy; it’s what I do.

Some of my friends were taking some serious math courses, to enter Computer Science at the University of Waterloo.  Those guys worked diligently and I barely saw them all year.  I worked hard too, but my courses weren’t like theirs.  I had two maths (Algebra and Finite) and three courses in the arts:  American/Canadian History, Sociology, and English.  All three courses required a major project called an “independent study”.  And me being me, I worked music into each.

These were massive projects.  An entire term was spent working on them.  Because I had so many arts credits, I had more than the average independent study to complete.  By sheer bad luck, all three of them were due in the same week.  All three also involved a full one-hour presentation.  I busted my ass and delivered the goods, in my own unique way.

First was American and Canadian history, which was easily the most intense of the independent studies.  I chose to do the War of 1812, which I thought I’d never get because everybody would want to do it.  Wrong!  Nobody else picked it; it was all mine.  My goal was to research books by Canadian and American authors, and compare and contrast their perspectives on the war.  It was a very enlightening experience.  Do you know how hard it is to find a book written by an American author on the War of 1812?  Back then, virtually impossible.  I had to resort to American history books on broader subjects.  Meanwhile, Canadian books were numerous.  For example I used one by noted historian Pierre Burton.

This disparity made it clear how differently the two nations viewed the war.  Americans didn’t spend much time thinking about it, while Canadians were eager to boast that it was us who beat the Yankees (more accurately, the British empire beat them) and burned down the White House (that was pretty much us Canucks*).  American authors barely mention the war, but don’t consider it a loss.  They tended to focus instead of the Battle of New Orleans.  This battle took place after the war had officially ended, but because it was an American victory, it was celebrated.

I illustrated this in song.  Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” was enjoyed by the classroom, but the point was, it demonstrates how important this one battle was to America, in context of their conflicts with the Brits.  Canadians would rather talk about our fiery misadventures at the White House.

I prepared intensely for the presentation.  The essay portion was done, so I rehearsed the spoken part several times to get the timing just right.  You had to leave time at the end for questions.  That was another challenge:  you couldn’t prepare for the class questions at the end!  You had to know your stuff and be able to answer things off the cuff, which I did.  A+!  Thanks, Johnny Horton, for all your help and inspiration!

Admittedly, I didn’t put as much effort into the English independent study. I rolled with what I knew best, which was music. For my project I did “Lyrics and Poems on War”. The Gulf War was on, and it was topical. For the presentation portion, I wore a shirt with a picture of Elvis Presley on a tank. It said “Iran, Iraq, I roll”. I hated that shirt; it was a gift from my dad, but it was actually perfect for that day. Some of the lyrics I used were Guns N’ Roses (“Civil War”), Sammy Hagar (“V.O.A.”), Queensryche (“Surgical Strike”) and Iron Maiden (several including “Tailgunner”). I got an OK grade on that one. Considering my work load, I was glad just to have completed it.

For Sociology, I chose censorship as my subject. I knew this would be easy for me to do. Finding books and articles on the subject was easy, but I had an ace in the hole. I had amassed a huge collection of video interviews with rock stars, and many were on the subject of censorship. I didn’t take the easy route; I worked very hard. The only advantage I had was access to my own library, which was extensive, and I knew where every single quote was that I needed.

I put together a video tape with all the censorship related interviews: Blackie Lawless, Bruce Dickinson, Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, and Gene Simmons among many.  I also used the words of Frank Zappa and George Bernard Shaw. My stance was clearly anti-censorship.

By coincidence, the Sociology teacher was also my History teacher from the prior presentation. In a way that made things easier. She was an amazing teacher and part of the project involved sitting down with her every step of the way. I had to do a proposal for each of the projects, and check-ins as things progressed. This is all normal at the University level, but for highschool, it was all new to me. It enabled her to get to know me a bit better and guide me to better results.

One of the things I wanted to do in the presentation was show the class some album covers that had been banned.  I learned from one of the interviews that Scorpions covers were routinely banned.  In one of our consultations, I showed the teacher the two banned covers.  I figured there was no way she would let me use Lovedrive.  A woman’s breast is partly exposed with a man’s bubble gum all over it.  Love at First Sting is a rather sexy shot of a woman getting a thigh tattoo.  You can see some sideboob,  but to me it seemed less dirty.

To my surprise, she chose Lovedrive and said “no” to Love at First Sting.  I don’t know if it was the tattoo or the sideboob, but she was clear that I couldn’t use it.

I can’t explain what came over me next.  As I rehearsed the presentation the night before, I decided to use both anyway.  I didn’t have any other banned album covers that I could use.  I didn’t want to present Appetite for Destruction to the class because it’s just a little rape-y.  I just didn’t think Love at First Sting was that bad, and I didn’t have anything else to replace it with.  I wanted to have more than just one example of a banned cover.

So, I defied my own censor, and used both.  As I handed out the album covers for the class to look at, I caught my teacher’s glance.  Not pleased!  But she said nothing.

I nailed that presentation.  It was another “A”, but she did speak to me afterwards.  “You used it anyway!” she said, but I had already won.  She knew I did a great job so she didn’t penalize me.

Was I ever glad when that week was over.  I worked so hard; I had a little schedule in my locker to make sure I kept on top of everything.  I remember walking out of the final presentation, tired but feeling so good.  There was only one girl who was in all three of those classes.  She came up afterwards and asked, “Didn’t you do two other presentations this week?”  I sure did!  I admitted that I chose subjects that I was knowledgeable about, but that didn’t mean I didn’t sink many many hours into it.

One of my friends didn’t have it so easy.  Danesh was concentrating on his math courses, but English was compulsory for everyone.  He chose to do his independent study on Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He studied it meticulously and wrote an essay so professional that he was pulled out of class one day and accused of plagiarism.  He had to defend his essay, for hours, in front of the entire sceptical English department.  All of his friends knew he wasn’t a cheat.  He was just gifted.  The constant meetings with the English department absolutely tapped him out.  What they did to him was unfair and we all knew it.  There were some pretty scathing things said about the English department in the underground school newspaper, which I may or may not have had anything to do with.**  In the end they declined to give him an F, but instead gave him a “no report”.  And they were 100% in the wrong.***

It wasn’t a pleasant note on which to end highschool for us.  At least I was able to give myself a little bit of a rock and roll ending!

 

* My biased Canadian opinion.

** I co-wrote a new version of MacBeth, in Shakespearean English, with Danesh as the hero, all the teachers as villains, and myself as his hotshot pilot sidekick Guitar Solo.  I still have it.  

*** I don’t know if race was a factor or not, but Danesh was a quiet, dark-skinned Guyanese kid.  The teachers were all white, and our teacher that year was actually a fill-in.  He didn’t know Danesh at all.

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)

TWISTED SISTERA Twisted Christmas (2006 Razor & Tie)

One thing I love about Christmas time is the ability to knock out all these Christmas album reviews.  I can only listen to this stuff seasonally, and I wouldn’t subject you to it otherwise.  In my quest to Review Everything I Own and Then Some, we must occasionally delve into Christmas music.

Rock bands doing Christmas tunes is…well, I mean it worked out OK for Elvis, and then later on Twisted Sister and the guys from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Each of those artists had success with Christmas music for good reasons, but I think Twisted Sister’s was purely the novelty value of it.  The humour.  The nudge-nudge-jokey-ness of it.  It wasn’t that they made a Christmas album laden with integrity.  It’s a joke album as the intro implies.

The album commences with Dee & company singing a traditional acoustic version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  They are then interrupted by someone saying “This isn’t Twisted Sister!”  It then goes metal with a dash a punk.  “Ho ho ho!  Let’s go!”

The biggest joke is that, apparently, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was always just “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in disguise.  This was the big Christmas hit that put Twisted back in the spotlight, and it’s certainly the most enjoyable track on the CD.

Songs follow vague heavy metal blueprints.  “White Christmas” is imbued with an Iron Maiden gallop and a couple chords from “SMF”.  One thing is clear, and that is Dee Snider’s voice still has it.  The guy is a hell of a singer, period.  He’s joined by Lita Ford on “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, in the style of Twisted’s original epic ballad “The Price”.  Unfortunately this one stinks like Christmas cheese that should have been thrown out last year.  A shouty “Silver Bells” is done with a splash of AC/DC, but ends up sounding more like Poison.  Bassist/producer Mark “The Animal” Mendoza has a pretty kickass bass solo, though.

Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the foundation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and it is at this point that you realise a whole album of this stuff is a bit too much.  “Let It Snow” is given the doomy treatment, as an amalgam with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.  I suppose the doomy direction does go better with lines like “The weather outside is frightful”.  Maybe Dee & company are on to something here, but I’m not too sure about the Sabbathy version of “Deck the Halls” with echoes of “War Pigs” and “Never Say Die”.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is a little dull, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is too long, as it often is.  The only version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone needs for a novelty is Bob & Doug McKenzie’s classic.  That’ll make your party pop a lot better than Twisted’s version.

Let’s check some boxes.  Is this album:

  • Fun?  (sometimes)
  • Heavy?  
  • Twisted?  
  • Creative?  

All well and good.  But will you:

  • Listen to it more than once a year?  
  • Enjoy as much as something else you could have played instead?  
  • Be able to use more than one or two songs for your Christmas party?  
  • Ever really look forward to hearing it again?

It is good that A Twisted Christmas brought the band the kind of success they deserved, but it is truly a shame that it is the final Twisted studio album.  They were always considered a joke to the critics, they shouldn’t have gone out on vinyl as a joke.

2/5 stars

 

 

#508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

GETTING MORE TALE #508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

The size of my personal CD collection now has exceeded my ability to store it properly.  I count it not in the hundreds but the thousands, my best guess right now being about 3500 titles on CD.  As one would expect, with that many titles here, you’re going to find some odd ones.  In fact, for the second-last chapter of the original Record Store Tales, Mrs. LeBrain brought out 10 of her favourite weird finds in my collection.  She missed the strangest one of all.

Scan_20160731 (2)Promos Volume 6 – Don Buchwald & Associates Inc.

This CD was given to me by a short-lived employee named Damien.  Damien will forever be scorned in the annals of Record Store History, for he quit (to become a roadie for the summer) with zero days notice, on the day before my vacation.  And boy, did I get in shit for going on vacation anyway.  This was one more incident that caused my direct supervisor, the one I call the “office bully”, to stop speaking to me for three weeks straight.*  The punishment far outweighed (and outlasted) the crime.  Cut that shit out, act like a damned professional.

So I will always have memories surrounding this strange 2 CD set, Promos Volume 6 put out by a New York talent agency in the late 1990’s.  It’s a free promo that has 87 samples of various performers such as Joy Behar and Stockard Channing showing off their voice talents.  “Chevy Chase stars in Modern Problems, tonight on HBO!” says Behar.  “Jack Lemmon starring in five movies, all day on Cinemax.”  She has a bit for Comedy Central, and so on.  Each voice talent name on these discs (the majority of which you’ve never heard of) has roughly a minute of samples to show off their skills.

None, not even Joy Behar, have anything on Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

“From a frenzy of emotion, to a frenzy of violence.  What happens when fans become fanatics?  It’s an athlete’s worst nightmare:  Being stalked by a fan whose devotion becomes obsession.  [gunshot sounds]  CNN presents:  Fans who turn the field of sports, into a field of screams.”

Wow.  Who writes this stuff?  I can all but guarantee that any one of my readers can come up with a better tagline than that paid CNN employee!  Snider delivers his lines with the sobriety necessary.  But that’s nothing.  Nothing at all, compared to Sexy Snider.

The scene is set with sweltering sax, to go with the velvet voice of Snider’s sultry seduction.

“Lifetime has what you’ve been waiting for.  Spend every night of the week with a different man.  We’re not talking boys here.  We’re talking men, who leave you breathless.  Richard Gere.  Tom Cruise.  Kevin Costner.  Sean Penn.  All this week, only on Lifetime.”

It’s great stuff and I’ve used it for filler at the end of mix CDs before, when I needed something less than a minute long to max it out.  What I really love is how Snider’s New York accent really comes out when he says “Sean Penn”.  Damien may have been a dick, but this one track 51 second in length has given me…many minutes…of enjoyment over the years.

The 2 CD set comes in a “fat style” case, taking up far too much room for its 51 seconds of dubious value.  I wouldn’t trade it away for all the specials on HBO and Lifetime combined…but I also don’t need Volumes 1-5!

What’s the weirdest CD that you own?

* Three weeks was the standard waiting period for her to get around to speaking to me again.  Pretty awkward when you work together every almost single day.  This happened on multiple occasions.  

 

REVIEW: Dee Snider’s S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997)

Scan_20160602DEE SNIDER’S S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997 Pulse)

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.

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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.

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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!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Club Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

TSCD_0001 TWISTED SISTERClub Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

Everybody knows that Twisted Sister has been around a long time; since 1973 in fact, just as long as Kiss. However not too many people have heard Twisted’s early material outside of their first single “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” which was on their “best of” CD. Club Daze, Volume I fills in the gaps.

This CD is for fans only. It will have absolutely no appeal at all to casual listeners who only want songs they recognize. In fact, some of these songs are painfully bad. “High Steppin'”, “Big Gun”, and “T.V. Wife” for example are all examples of some very poor early songwriting. These tunes are in a more traditional rock and roll vibe, and are lyrically quite awful. Take “T.V. Wife” for example, written and sung by JJ French, a song about a woman who sits around all day watching soaps. Really bad song.

On the flipside there are rough and ready versions of some really decent songs, such as “Come Back” which had Dee Snider writing in a heavy metal mode. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Saviours” is a personal favourite, a 1978 attack upon disco music. “We’re gonna fight until disco is dead!” sings Snider.  And they did!

To make collectors salivate just a little more, the best tracks on the CD are the three songs originally from the (then) impossible-to-find EP Ruff Cutts (now since made available on the Under the Blade reissue). This includes an early version of “Leader of the Pack” and more familiar songs: “Shoot ‘Em Down” and “Under The Blade”. It is only these last two songs that really show what Twisted Sister was capable of and where they would go in the future.

There’s one Ruff Cutt missing (“What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”), and a few other miscellaneous early tracks as well, but Club Daze is a compilation of these years.  Club Daze is also loaded with ample pictures and liner notes (from Jay Jay and Dee).

As an album purchase, this CD is not the greatest release. Twisted Sister were never virtuoso musicians, and it shows. Most of these songs don’t have Mark “The Animal” Mendoza on bass, who really helped make their songs heavier. Most tracks feature Kenny Neill on bass and Tony Petri on drums. This is for collectors only, and anybody who wants to know what this band sounded like in the 70’s before they did their first serious recordings, and found the sound that would make them famous.

3/5 stars