When they made Twisted Sister, they broke the mould. Like a bunch of marauding drag queens from the streets of New York, they were the bastard offspring of Kiss and British glam rock bovver boys Slade. Led from the front by the irrepressible Dee Snider, their rise to success took the best part of a decade but they ruled MTV throughout the mid-80s. Their star burned out towards the end of that decade, but they reunited in 2003 and reasserted their position as one of the world’s greatest live bands. With their current tour set to be their last, what better time for a look back at their 10 greatest songs?
10. The Kids Are Back (1983)
Beginning with the sound of marching feet, for all its seemingly comedic charm The Kids Are Back had a dark underbelly. As men who looked like women, spoke like men and played like motherfuckers (their own mission statement), Twisted Sister had long since learned how to handle themselves in a fight, but with its challenge of ‘We’re all ready if you wanna start’ here they were instigating a showdown, offering out the entire world.
9. Tear It Loose (1982)
Ex-UFO bassist Pete Way probably wasn’t the right man to produce the band’s debut, Under The Blade, though its songs were first rate. This turbo charged anthem to weekend living sees features guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, who had just departed Motörhead. Clarke arrived with two cases, one containing his guitar and the other full of Jack Daniel’s, forcing teetotal TS guitarist Jay Jay French to swig the whiskey as they jumped up and down recording in a barn at staggering volume, surrounded by bales of hay and Marshall stacks.
8. Run For Your Life (1982)
Run For Your Life stood out like a sore thumb on Under The Blade, courtesy of its slow, sludgy intro. Snider places the listener inside of the mindspace of a wronged guy who seeks revenge upon his departed girlfriend with some very powerful lyrics (‘And he wonders/If she wonders/That he wonders about her’), and though the story is left open-ended you can bet the outcome isn’t pretty.
7. Shoot ’Em Down (1982)
There was more than a touch (too much) of Twisted’s heroes AC/DC to Shoot ’Em Down, one of the fieriest, hookiest songs they ever recorded. That didn’t matter a damn. Three minutes and 46 seconds of rock ‘n’ roll in its purest, loudest form, it’s a withering, knowing ode to prick teasers of both the male and female variety, including the ‘master-baiter’ that preys upon women.
6. Ride To Live, Live To Ride (1983)
The world is way too full of love songs to the motorcycle, right? But unlike many of those responsible for clogging the up the market, Twisted Sister were actually users of two wheel travel instead of cynically using it as a cheap promotional tool. ‘Ride on and don’t look back/You can’t change what’s done,’ sang Snider here, making himself heard over a barrelling, chrome-plated, fist-pumping anthem.
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5. You Can’t Stop Rock ’N’ Roll (1983)
In the best tradition of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, the promo video for the title cut of Twisted Sister’s second album introduced an element of the self-mocking comedy that would eventually help turn them into superstars. The clip’s opening declaration said it all: ‘This film is dedicated to good taste.’ As if the car chase through grimy British streets wasn’t ludicrous enough, the moment when one of the so-called arbiters of what’s acceptable cowers behind a dustbin as the band performs the song represents pure comedy gold.
4. I Am (I’m Me) (1983)
It may have been at the poppier end of the Twisted Sister cannon, but this was the bubblegum stomper that finally put the band on the map. A celebration of unmitigated self-belief, it even landed the band onto the long running British TV show Top Of The Pops. “Getting a bunch of scumbags like us in front of a possible ten million people while they were eating their dinner was the ultimate goal,” Snider grinned at the time.
3. It’s Only Rock ’N’ Roll (But I Like It) (Live) (1983)
Dee Snider’s sheer charisma and ability as a frontman was as pivotal to Twisted Sister’s rise as their music. Snider’s expletive-charged rants – usually delivered during this 100mph remake of the Rolling Stones classic – could turn a hostile audience in grinning true believers. This definitive take of the song, recorded live at London’s legendary Marquee Club, originally appeared on the B-side of I Am (I’m Me).
2. I Wanna Rock (1984)
Any true TS fan – SMF, or Sick Mother Fucker, to give them their full and proper title – will be able to recite the introductory dialogue of this song’s cleverly-conceived promo by heart. It features Mark Metcalf, star of frat comedy Animal House, portraying a scary teacher, who leers at a student: “What do you wanna do with your life?” The kid’s response was the title of the song which would become an MTV staple and prove that videos were a format for which Twisted Sister were tailor made.
1. We’re Not Gonna Take It (1984)
I Wanna Rock was preceded by the even more memorable, slapstick-based mini-flick for We’re Not Gonna Take It, also starring Animal House’s Metcalf as a similarly hapless authority figure. The song itself is no less brilliant – a masterpiece of cartoonish hair metal with a chorus so insistent that even Donald Trump wheeled it out for one of his features. One of the greatest hard rock songs of the 1980s, no argument.
Twisted Sister play the Bloodstock Festival on Friday August 12. Guitarist Jay Jay French will host an exclusive screening of the new Twisted Sister documentary, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, in London on August 10.