You could never accuse former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider of being a shrinking violet. Violet, maybe (have you seen the colour of his eye shadow?!), but certainly not shrinking. He might be well past the half-century, but he still relishes his role as the world’s No.1 SMF (Sick Mother Fucker).
Snider is also that rare animal, an American rock star with a sense of humour. He laughs out loud when Classic Rock reminds him that he was once described as resembling Sex And The City actress Sarah Jessica Parker dipped in a vat of acid. As well as the solo albums, Snider acts, presents TV shows and hosts the syndicated radio show House Of Hair , featuring his slogan: ‘If it ain’t metal, it’s crap!’
Jimmy Page/Robert Plant
We recorded our second album, You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll, at Jimmy Page’s house [in Cookham, Berkshire]. Jimmy was the invisible man at the time – he would visit at night, things would be moved around, but nobody would ever see him. Jimmy wasn’t actually living there, he was at Michael Caine’s place nearby which had some enormous security system, to Jimmy’s liking.
Later I met Jimmy at a private party honouring [late Atlantic Records mogul] Ahmet Ertegun. I remember standing in the buffet line with Jimmy, Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger, thinking: “How the hell did I get here?”
I know Robert a little better than Jimmy. One time we went to a mutual friend’s wedding. We promised each other that under no circumstances would we sing at the reception. Well, we couldn’t have been there more than 20 minutes when Robert got up on stage. So I thought: “I’m getting even with you, Plant, I’m going to do Rock And Roll.”
People didn’t believe I had the sack – the bollocks, as you might say – to sing a Zeppelin track. Towards the end, Robert snaked his way through the crowd and sat on the side of the stage, tapping his feet. I wailed ‘lonely, lonely, lonely’ and Robert sang the final word, ‘time’. That was pretty funny.
I was surprised when I first met Manowar. Contrary to their oiled-up bodies, they are a tad slight. The Hanoi Rocks guys are actually quite tall, but reed-like. I got into a disagreement with both bands in the early 1980s. Manowar told the media they couldn’t understand what all the hoopla was about Twisted Sister. They said we were just a bar band who played wet-T-shirt contests. Hanoi Rocks had referred to us as “ugly”.
So I called them both out for a fight. We publicised the challenge in Sounds, whose offices were in London’s Covent Garden. I prowled the streets with a baseball bat while [Sounds writer] Garry Bushell followed me with a loud hailer. A couple of hundred punters showed up and we had fun with it. Neither band showed up.
In the next edition, Sounds renamed Manowar ‘Manowimp’. After Manowar’s no-show we decided to go to one of their concerts, pull them off stage and give them a beating in front of their fans. I was an angry young man back then, ha-ha!
Later, Hanoi Rocks sent a letter to the press: “Peace, we meant no offence, we apologise, we are the flower children and we don’t want a problem with Twisted Sister.” I also got a private letter from [then Manowar guitarist] Ross The Boss. I cannot divulge its contents. Let me just say we called off the fight. So that was the end of the war.
I host a radio show in America, and Simmons was my guest. He gave me his card and said: “Dee, here’s my phone number. Give me a call some time.” I’m not a Kiss fanatic but certainly I bought my fair share of their early records. I give Kiss massive respect. Gene, along with Ted Nugent and myself, is one of the few rock stars to go: “No drugs, no alcohol, ever.”
It’s surely no coincidence that we’re three of the most rational, intelligent people you’ll ever meet, and still with ongoing careers of some sort beyond music. A few months later, I decided to give Simmons a call. “Gene! Dee Snider!” Long pause. Then he said, angrily: “How the hell did you get this number?!” I replied: “You gave it to me. Do you want me to hang up?” That was when I got the idea that we weren’t going to be best buddies.
Frank Zappa/John Denver
Back in 1985 I was fiercely opposed to the idea of placing warning labels on records. I appeared before the US Senate – along with Frank Zappa and John Denver. Frank and me were both concerned about how Denver would handle it. He had a successful TV show and a movie career; he was the clean-cut and mom’s-apple-pie John Denver. They invited him assuming he would be on the side of truth, justice and the American way.
But Denver hadn’t forgotten how Rocky Mountain High had been banned for being a drugs song, which it wasn’t. And Oh, God!, the movie he did with George Burns [in 1977], was thought by many to be sacrilegious. So when Denver compared the idea of stickering records to Nazi book-burnings, the Senate was kind of surprised.
Zappa’s children – Moon Unit and Dweezil – turned out to be Twisted Sister fans. I was there with my father, Bob, who’s a police officer and an ex-Korean War veteran – a tough guy. Frank asked my dad to look after his kids while he testified. To this day it’s one of Bob’s fondest memories: “Hey, Dee, remember the time we were in Washington and Frank Zipper asked me to watch Dweezil Unit and Moon Zipper?” Bless him.
One of Metallica’s first major gigs was supporting Twisted Sister in a 3,000-seater hall in New York. This was when they had Dave Mustaine and Cliff Burton in the line-up, and they were living in [Megaforce Records boss] Johnny Z’s basement.
Later, Metallica supported us on our Stay Hungry tour. We got to a small town in Holland and were surprised to see a poster billing Metallica above us. I said to my tour manager: “Metallica are clearly the headliner. Go and tell them we’ll open for them tonight.” My tour manager came back and told me: “They said no. They seem somewhat suspicious.”
Eventually I convinced Metallica that it wasn’t a trick, and that night I got to watch their show. I remember saying to someone: “These guys have got a lot of heart but they’re never gonna go anywhere.” So much for what I know! I thought Metallica were too heavy and there was no way society would ever catch up with that.
So we’re in Canada and we’re at the height of Twisted Sister mania. We’re playing an arena in Saskatchewan. The road can be pretty boring, and you know how bands like to play pranks to alleviate the tedium? [Twisted Sister guitarist] Jay Jay French comes into my dressing room and says: “Johnny Cash is here.” I reply: “Oh, really? Johnny Cash is in Saskatchewan, Canada, backstage at a Twisted Sister show? Pull the other one.”
Then a few seconds later I hear the words: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Just like on TV. I look up and there he is, this big guy standing in the fucking doorway. Turns out Johnny’s kids are huge Twisted Sister fans and they want our autographs. Was Johnny upset that his children were growing up Twisted Sister fans rather than country & western fans? If he was he certainly didn’t show it.
Alice Cooper is a great hero of mine. Early on in my career I had been so vocal about being inspired by Alice, he actually came to see Twisted Sister in concert. First he sent me a dozen black roses and a personal note. Later I remember doing a photo shoot backstage, putting on my make-up, and Alice standing there and making fun of me. I said: “Are you fucking kidding me? I’m doing this because of you! You’re busting my balls because I’m putting on make-up? C’mon, man!”
To be honest, I don’t approve of Alice playing golf. Golf, to me, is not metal. Once I told him: “Can’t you at least get some studded-leather golf club covers?” But Alice just piddled off to do his golf game, because the guy is serious about golf.
I’m a huge Arnold fan, going right back to his bodybuilding days. Throughout his career he’s always aimed for the stars. When Arnold announced his candidacy for Governor of California, people asked me if I was surprised. I wasn’t. The big surprise was when I got a call from his campaign manger, saying they wanted to use We’re Not Gonna Take It as their theme song – a song Arnold inspired me to write. They also asked me if I would like to perform the night before the election, at a big rally in Sacramento.
So I’m up there, singing to a sea of Republicans, at the epicentre of this huge press deluge. Arnold walks down the red carpet towards me and, in the most surreal moment of my life, comes up and shakes my hand. This is insane. Then Arnold says: “Ein zpecial zanks to Herr Dee Znider.” I’m thinking: “Holy shit! Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mangling my name!”
I got to meet Robert when I did my movie, Strangeland. We pitched him as being one of my victims, and I was delighted when he took the role. For me, as a horror fan, to be the one brutalising and tormenting the actor who plays Freddy Krueger was amazing. In real life he’s very slight, very genuine; an incredibly positive and open kind of guy, not at all like his character.
We were recording our Stay Hungry album in a studio in LA where Michael’s producer, Quincy Jones, worked. Michael came in to hear some remixes and do some singing on his Thriller album. I went to get a cup of coffee and bumped into Michael in the little kitchenette. He was still black. Well, relatively black. Sans glove, sans military jacket. Just like a normal guy.
I said: “How’re you doing? I’m Dee Snider. Congratulations on all your success.” Michael said: “Thank you very much.” He shook my hand. I didn’t see him break out the hand-wipes or anything. I was stunned by how casual it was. We just went about our business and that was that.
We recorded the earliest Twisted Sister demo with [producer] Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady. The Rolling Stones were recording Some Girls in another studio. We were working on a track, and suddenly the door opened and Mick Jagger came flouncing in, doing his chicken-wing dance. He jumped around the room and exited out of the door. Again, it was a moment of immense surrealism.
To this day I’m not even sure it actually happened. I finally got to meet Jagger properly in the studio’s communal area. Eddie introduced me to him: “Mick, I’d like you to meet Dee Snider from Twisted Sister.” For some fucking reason I reached over to shake Jagger’s hand and said: “Hey, man, I’ve seen you around.” He just smiled and walked away. I’m still kicking myself. “I’ve seen you around?!” Jesus Christ almighty.
The original version of this feature appeared in Classic Rock 135, in August 2009.