Andrew Horn, Bad boys (of rock 'n' roll), Come out and play, Dee Snider, Eddie Ojeda, Fast Eddie, Gary Bushell, JJ French, Lemmy, Mark Mendoza, Martin Hooker, Mike Portnoy, Motorhead, Pete Way, Secret Records, Sounds, Stay Hungry, Twisted Sister, UFO, Under the Blade, We Are Twisted Fuckin' Sister, You can't stop rock 'n' roll
Intro: The Tube, 1982, after years of plugging, gigging, slogging and epitomising Malcolm Gladwell’s ’10,000 hours’ outliers’ hypothesis’ the ‘break’ happens.
A chronological origin story based ostensibly around stoic founder and ‘pragmatist’ JJ. French and the extravagant banshee Dee Snider prodigious archive footage captures the essence of the early days. The film tells the story of a band full of belief yet bedevilled by misfortune. What doesn’t kill ya …
Snider’s writing chops (plus girlfriend Suzette’s eye for ‘style’) soon became an obsession-objective to ‘obliterate French’ (‘I was maniacal, malicious … and I did it!’) and be accepted on level terms. This pseudo-fratricide driving the band on.
Raucous gigs (‘drop ‘til you vomit’) saw owners asking the band to play so their fans could destroy the venue, on one occasion even appropriating the urinals (literally taking the piss) which helped establish the notoriety of the band, but, threatened to give the band the wrong rep (considering Snider and French are tea-total and drug free).
The ‘Disco Sucks’ rock vs disco ‘war’ saw French ‘exploit the sociological break’ with one gig stringing up a Barry White effigy which was horribly misconstrued so next time they had Andrea ‘More, More, More’ True in an electric chair. Snider’s on-stage persona became more confrontational birthing the ‘non-fan club’ ‘The ‘Sick Mother Fuckers of Twisted Sister’.
Despite packing in up to 5000 fans a night they were still without a deal. A major gig at the Palladium embodied their chance at last. Tragedy #1: guitarist Ojeda suffered a seizure, gig postponed. A rearranged gig attracted scant interest apart from Epic Records whose head, Lenny Pizzi, wanted a private show at 11.00 a.m. only for him to leave early without covering the costs leaving the band out of pocket.
Tragedy #2: In 1981 the US drinking age changed, shutting many fans out meaning less bookings. Tragedy #3: Hamburg’s X Records signed them only for the boss to have a heart attack on the plane back. No dice.
However, ‘Oi-boy’ Gary Bushell at Sounds championed the band seeing parallels between their angry, foul-mouthed working class attitude-laden anthems and the febrile societal tension in the UK. Joe Dolce they weren’t. Signing to Martin Hooker’s UK punk label Secret Records, they recorded debut Under The Blade (produced by UFO’s Pete Way) in Britain which saw Atlantic Records sniff round then … Tragedy #4: Hooker’s business partner ran off with the finances.
Despite ‘angel on Earth’ Lemmy introducing them at festivals the band still got pelted with human excrement and peaches, Snider offering to meet the haters personally. No one took him up on it.
The memorable appearance on The Tube, helped by bringing estranged Motorheaders Lemmy and Fast Eddie on stage, saw Atlantic relent despite chief Doug Morris maintaining ‘they suck’ only to be told ‘Yes, but they will sell’. Sell they did, going on to shift more than a million copies of 1984’s Stay Hungry album. Ten years to be an overnight success.
Andrew Horn’s film is expertly made, even if you’re not a fan of the band this is an exhilarating and entertaining story of resilience, sheer hard work, devout fandom, record-label greed and (finally) the break.