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Music Review: Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry 25th Anniversary Edition

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I’ll never forget that night in 1984. Halloween. And there I was, the only non-Spanish speaking Mexican kid in the whole of the ultra-conservative land I grew up in dressed as Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. It wasn’t an easy sell, believe me. For starters, my hair color was all wrong. So was the length. And my “outfit” (a white t-shirt hand painted with watercolors) led many to speculate what I was supposed to be. Nevertheless, I threw all caution to the wind, figuring that my expert make-up job would wipe any doubt from one’s mind. But instead of people exclaiming “Ah, he’s supposed to be Dee Snider, the lead singer from Twisted Sister,” I was greeted with “What are you supposed to be, Adam — a girl?

Twisted Sister definitely made an impact on society. Why, I doubt my cross-dressing tendencies would be there today if it weren’t for them. And when Stay Hungry, their fourth full-length album, hit the charts in May of 1984, everybody began to notice them. This was partially due to their freaky glam-rock/S&M image — which only helped them to gain notoriety amongst conservative parents who would boycott them, thus ensuring it would be popular with their kids.

But, in all probability, Twisted Sister became hugely popular in 1984 mostly thanks to MTV and their repeated airings of videos for “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (I think the contractions of “want to” and “going to” became commonplace in English dictionaries following the success of such songs). We saw the videos at least twice daily. Their rebellious nature inspired us to avoid chores and play ColecoVision instead (or the Atari 2600 or 5400, depending). We sang along with them. We quoted them every time our elders asked what we wanted to do with our lives. Yes, we all loved Stay Hungry and were certain that Twisted Sister was here to stay. And then that bitch Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center ruined all the fun. Subsequently, the band broke up. A pity.

Throughout the years, the New York City-bred group has reemerged a number of times. A few new albums came and went, but I, for one, did not notice any of them. I may have heard about the new releases, but never went out of my way to hear them. I wanted to remember Twisted Sister for their glory days and albums like Stay Hungry. Fortunately for people like me who prefer their T.S.O.L. punk and their Twisted Sister famished, Rhino Records has released the 25th Anniversary Edition of Stay Hungry in a 2-CD set. The original multiplatinum-selling album is on Disc 1, and features the aforementioned hits “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as well as “Burn In Hell” and my personal favorite, title song “Stay Hungry.” All of these songs have been remastered (there was an issue in the initial pressing, but it’s curable if you contact Rhino) and sound better than ever.

But the real gold is to be found on Disc 2 of the 25th Anniversary Edition with 17 previously unissued tracks. Among these lost gems are early demo recordings of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “S.M.F.,” “Burn In Hell,” “The Price,” and “Stay Hungry.” Comparing these to their final cuts is a blast, as the keen listener will notice many changes in the lyrics, drums, guitars, and even length (“Stay Hungry” for example, has no third verse and simply fades out). Other tracks to be found on Disc 2 include of note include “Death From Above,” “We’re Coming On,” and a retro radio spot promoting the band’s Los Angeles appearance for station KMET, which parodies the band’s “S.M.F.” song (“We want M-E-T!”). The double-disc album concludes with a recent recording of an all-new song entitled “30.” In addition to being a fine song, “30” may also finally prove to our now-aged parents (and maybe even Tipper Gore) that Twisted Sister can in fact play a tune. For the historical enthusiast, the CD insert contains an article by journalist Bryan Reesman as well as some classic classy photo of the group.

Although I find it hard to believe it’s been 25 years since "Captain Howdy" first crept into my dark little world, the years have done no damage to the sounds of Stay Hungry whatsoever. In fact, some of these songs may be more relevant now than ever. I predict it’s only a matter of time before some anti-government group somewhere adopts “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as their theme song.

Oh, wait — I think that has already happened. On second thought, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” would make a much better national anthem.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • Janet Henderson

    I know no one really cares, but in the early 80’s I was on an airplane from Tampa to New York (can’t remember which way we were going), but sitting next to me was this guy with a big silver briefcase. We made the usual small talk and then, mid-flight, he opened the case and began to put on make-up and there was a blonde wig under the make-up tray. I finally asked the obvious question and he told me he was the singer in Twisted Sister. I, a conservative telephone company manager, watched in amazement at his transformation. So it was Dee Snider! He was so very nice in letting me watch his process. Of course I became a fan and now my 18 year old daughter loves them too. She told me not to post this comment, but I just wanted to share that experience. Very nice guy!

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Hi Janet.

    Frankly, I see nothing wrong whatsoever with your comment — in fact, it’s a very nice read. Thanks for sharing it with us!