The legendary 1982 performance from the New York glam rockers, with added Lemmy.
1982 was a year of mixed emotions for Twisted Sister. After almost a decade of grinding away touring the US and building a reputation as one of the hardest working bands in the world, they’d finally scored a record deal, only to have it snatched away. Secret Records, more used to punk and oi bands, had signed them in the UK and released a well-received four-track EP of mid-Seventies demos followed by the band’s first album, where things started to go wrong – for reasons unknown, producer Pete Way decided to record the band live and then overdub, with the results sounding dull and decidedly under-produced – the album, Under the Blade, was not the success that everyone had hoped. Then Secret went out of business, leaving the band back at square one. With a lacklustre album and poor sales, no one was lining up to sign them.
Yet the band were building a reputation in the UK. A blistering Reading Festival performance with guest appearances from Way, Lemmy and Fast Eddie Clarke – the latter two appearing together for the first time since the acrimonious Motorhead split – had won over many doubters, and later in 1982, the band was offered the closing slot on The Tube‘s Christmas heavy metal special.
The Tube was Channel 4’s hipper than hip flagship music show, broadcast live in the Friday tea-time slot. Hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates, it tended to follow fashion slavishly, and this episode seemed like a bone thrown to the metal fans who had complained about a lack of representation. The show featured NWOBHM second fiddlers Tygers of Pan Tang and Iggy Pop (who perhaps stretched the definition of ‘metal’ but probably appeased the NME reading viewers) playing live, and – despite having no label – Twisted Sister closed the show. This was possibly because frontman Dee Snider‘s reputation preceded him, and if he turned potty-mouthed, the broadcast could be cut off early.
It’s fair to say that Twisted Sister was not universally well-received by metal fans. Their glam style and make-up was anathema to the more neanderthal metalhead, and even though the band had been out there since 1973, as far as some British fans were concerned, they hadn’t paid their dues. So the Tube performance was important in many ways – a calling card for the band but also a national platform to win over doubters. And it’s fair to say that the mission was more than accomplished. The opening songs are solid (though Destroyer is a lacklustre plodder, to be fair), but it’s the cover of the Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll that blew the doors open – the motormouthed Snider essentially browbeats the suspicious audience into loosening up and enjoying themselves in one of the most extraordinary live performances ever seen on television. Lemmy turns up again (if Lemmy supported your band, he did everything he could for you) and the performance is a theatrical, confrontational experience – had Snider jumped into the crowd to fight the remaining doubters, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
After this show, no one could doubt Twisted Sister’s rock ‘n’ roll credentials. It was seeing this show that caused Atlantic Records to sign the band, and the rest is history. Of course, the band would quickly lose that raw, punk rock mojo; as great as their glam anthems like I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Gonna Take It are, they are – at least in recorded form – bland affairs in comparison to the glory days. And essentially, Twisted Sister is one of those bands who will always be at their best live – studio recordings were never going to match the experience of the band on stage.
Here are the first two songs, complete with an intro from some gormless Tube presenter, in shocking quality:
Here is the essential performance of It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, in much better quality:
And an after-broadcast performance of Shoot ‘Em Down:
And as a bonus, here’s the band’s blistering show at the Reading Festival from the same year.