We’re Not Gonna Take It

#391.5: Mail from Cataraqui

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#391.5: Mail from Cataraqui

I got mail!

The only thing sweeter than the arrival of an Amazon order, or that of imported Transformers toys from China, is surprise mail from a fellow music lover. This time that music lover is Geoff over at the 1001 Albums in 10 Years blog. Geoff sent me a cryptic email a few weeks ago about some things he found that I might be interested in having for my collection:

“Mike,
I picked up a couple practically-free musical treasures at our local Value Village this week.
I’m not sure if they’ll actually play, but when I saw them I thought they’d be neat assets in the LeBrain collection!”

What a guy! I love surprises!

There are a few major audio formats that have no representation in my music collection. If I can’t play it, as a collector I generally don’t seek it out. As a music geek however, I love odd formats and releases. There are certain bands that I would collect just about anything from, and the big one is Kiss. Geoff knew this. Now I can add 8-track to the formats I own of Kiss Alive! This is definitely getting a place of honour in LeBrain’s displays of treasure. Probably right next to that weird Def Leppard Pyromania cassette that Aaron found for me at Sonic Boom.

Also in the package, and presumed worthless by Geoff, are two 45’s. According to Geoff’s accompanying letter, the records “you would be able to play, but are too damaged to do so!”

Fooey. My USB turntable only cost $50. Let’s give it a shot.

Both singles are records I didn’t have before. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” / “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” has a different B-side from the 12″ single that I do have. The 7″ has the studio version of “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” instead of the live. And it played fine! It was dusty but cleaned up fine.  Score!

The Kiss single, for “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” / “Hard Times”, was not as fortunate.  It is massively warped.  I measured the warp at 1/4 inch at its largest point.  But get this…it played!  It didn’t sound the greatest, but it played!

In his letter, Geoff says “Thought they still work as collectibles or conversation starting coasters.”  Well, Twisted Sister and Kiss Alive! are officially entering the LeBrain Library.  As for “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”?  Though it plays, I don’t think I will play it again.  I think this might make an excellent wall decoration, however!

Thanks Geoff!  I’ll find something funky and cool to send in return.

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Part 219: Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics

Thanks to 80smetalman for the inspiration.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 219:  

Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics

Remember the PMRC? If you were around in the 1980’s you might. The Parents’ Music Resource Center was an organization cofounded by Tipper Gore. They caused a lot of grief for musicians and fans alike. The PMRC wanted albums to have ratings, much like a movie, and to restrict certain albums to certain age groups.

PARENTALBoth Dee Snider and Frank Zappa raked them over the coals in a Senate hearing, but much damage was done. The PARENTAL ADVISORY – EXPLICIT CONTENT logo has defaced many rock albums. Sometimes it’s just a sticker, but almost as often, it’s printed over the cover art.  Frank Zappa’s instrumental album Jazz From Hell was even stickered “explicit content” – an album that has no words at all!  Huge chains such as Walmart refused to carry many albums such as this, and this eventually led to the rise of “clean” and “dirty” versions of albums.  It was one way to get the records in the stores.  This way, grandma can buy little Johnny the “clean” version of Eminem for Christmas.

This had an impact on us, an independent chain, as well. In the senate hearing, Dee Snider advised that if a parent is concerned about the music their kids are listening to, “I think a parent could take it home, listen to it. And I do not think there are too many retail stores that would deny them the ability to return the album for something different.”

Dee was 100% right. That was the policy that we had. If a parent wasn’t happy with the lyrical content of their kid’s purchase, we had no problem returning it.  Even though there were times that I’d been yelled at for doing a refund instead of an exchange, we made exceptions when it came to explicit lyrical content.  In those cases we often offered a full refund, and normally getting a refund out of us was about as easy as Steve-O removing this snapping turtle from his ass.

Some parents used to get upset that I would knowingly sell an album with swearing on it to their kid. Now, to be clear, we wouldn’t sell 2 Pac to a 10 year old. We didn’t do that. We would tell the 10 year to come back with a parent, and they’d whine and leave. However when a kid is in their mid-teens, and it’s harder to tell their age (or if their parents have a pickle up their behinds), we’d sell them the disc. And that’s when some parents would get mad. “Isn’t it illegal to sell this to a kid?”

No, it wasn’t illegal, thankfully. I would have hated to live in a world where I couldn’t hear Twisted Sister until my 18th birthday. But I was smart enough to know fantasy from reality, and my parents were trusting enough to give me that much credit.

Once you give the parents a refund, they were always happy. You never know what a parent would be offended by. One guy refused to buy Nirvana for his son, because Kurt committed suicide. One parent refused to allow her kid to listen to “black music” such as Backstreet Boys. No shit.

WU

Very hard to tell just from this if it’s “clean” or “dirty”

For us, selling used CDs, I think the biggest problem was the “clean” and “dirty versions”. On some discs, it was nearly impossible to tell by the cover if it was censored or not, because often those kinds of stickers would be on the plastic shrinkwrap. Once the shrinkwrap was off, and the CD made it into a used shop like ours, the only way to tell would be to listen.

I spent a lot of time sampling Wu-Tang Clan albums to see if they were clean or dirty. Thankfully I knew where on the disc to check easily without spending too much time on it. We had to sell clean versions for less, because the majority didn’t want them. We had to exchange a lot of clean versions for something else too, when it wasn’t obvious by the packaging.

Looking back at the kind of music people used to get upset about, it seems hilariously blown out of proportion. I’ll end today’s tale with a quote from Dee Snider’s testimonial at the senate hearing:

“The PMRC has made public a list of 15, of what they feel are some of the most blatant songs lyrically. On this list is our song “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” upon which has been bestowed a “V” rating, indicating violent lyrical content.

”You will note from the lyrics before you that there is absolutely no violence of any type either sung about or implied anywhere in the song. Now, it strikes me that the PMRC may have confused our video presentation for this song with the song with the lyrics, with the meaning of the lyrics.

”It is no secret that the videos often depict story lines completely unrelated to the lyrics of the song they accompany. The video “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was simply meant to be a cartoon with human actors playing variations on the Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote theme, Each stunt was selected from my extensive personal collection of cartoons.

”You will note when you watch the entire video that after each catastrophe our villain suffers through, in the next sequence he reappears unharmed by any previous attack, no worse for the wear.

”By the way, I am very pleased to note that the United Way of America has been granted a request to use portions of our “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video in a program they are producing on the subject of the changing American family. They asked for it because of its “light-hearted way of talking about communicating with teenagers.

“It is gratifying that an organization as respected as the United Way of America appreciates where we are coming from. I have included a copy of the United Way’s request as part of my written testimony. Thank you, United Way.”

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

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (12″ single)

This is the third review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale!  Wes bought me this 12″ single, which was real nice of him.  So for Wes, here’s the review!

For the last review in this series, click here.

TWISTED SISTER  – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)

I’ll skip the formalities, and I won’t be discussing the single A-side.  What is understood need not be discussed.  On the off chance that you spent your youth in Antarctica, here’s the very clever and original music video (later ripped off by Michael Jackson for his own “Black or White”).

The B-sides are three of Twisted’s all time best, recorded live, and unreleased on CD to date.  All three are classics from You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll:  “The Kids are Back”, “We’re Gonna Make It”, and the album’s title track.  These were recorded live in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Although it seems odd, Dee’s usual spoken opening, “We are Twisted fuckin’ Sister” skipped the expletive.  I’m not sure if it’s edited out or not, for the release of this single.

As far as a single side of Twisted onslaught goes, I don’t know if you could have selected three better songs.  The performances are typical live Sister; fast and reckless.  In other words, perfect.  The live tracks were co-produced by bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza so you know that the band at least had their hands in the mix, too.

Another cool fact:  neither “The Kids are Back” nor “We’re Gonna Make It” are on the Live at the Marquee CD, minimizing overlap with that later release.  They were recorded within the same time frame, so the band is in similar ferocious shape to that great live album.

4/5 stars