This past week, I jumped ahead on my spring cleaning and went through more of my closet. Not only did I find the Phil Collins Greatest hits that I had been looking for, and some other gems (Emelie Sande, Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits, and Erasure’s Pop: The First 20 Hits), but I found this! My vinyl of Stay Hungry by Twisted Sister! No blog post is a blog post without my incessant rambling on the subject, so let’s go to the tape and give some background.
I wasn’t always a Twisted Sister or Dee Snider fan. In fact, thanks to Jen, for many years, I detested them. That’s right. Detested. Sometimes you’re so enamored of one band or movement (in my case, Duran Duran and New Wave) that you overlook or under appreciate fantastic other genres or bands that are right in front of you. That was the case with Twisted Sister. My brother and I used to cackle madly anything we saw the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” on MV50. My brother loved Twisted Sister from the start, I thought it was a great video, and I liked the song, but nothing (I repeat, nothing) could take me away from that sunny beach with those five Birmingham lads singing that catchy “Her name is Rio, and she dances on the sand.” That included Dee’s righteous anthem and the rest of Stay Hungry. I realize, many years later, that I can love more than one type of music, and thankfully, I found out how fucking awesome Twisted Sister was before it was too late. My other best friend Jennie was obsessed with Dee and Twisted Sister (she may have been a bit more obsessed over Jay Jay French, to be honest) but it all ended back at The Temple of Twisted Sister. She overplayed the crap out of this vinyl and that helped contribute to my being so against the album for many years. As I said, thankfully, I saw reason, and got ahold of a copy. I have never looked back.
The cliche goes “The third time’s the charm”, and in this case, correct. Stay Hungry is Twisted Sister’s 3rd album, and the one that broke them. No doubt a lot of that goes hand in hand with the wild popularity of the birth of music video and the rolling out of the medium that embraced it, a little old cable channel known as MTV. And, as previously mentioned, the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The video for “I Wanna Rock” got wide airplay as well, and was equally entertaining. I had never, until those videos, seen anyone who looked or sounded like Dee. Friends of mine are quick to nitpick and say that I said that about Boy George, which is true, but he was an altogether different form of music than what Twisted Sister had coming out of stereo speakers. I really think that as much diversity as there was with music in the early 80’s, that Twisted Sister was a huge precursor to that genre known as heavy metal, except it went (shudder ahead of time. I hate this word) mainstream. Those songs helped blaze a welcome path to bring Twisted Sister into the homes of many a young kid listening to radio in those days, not to mention MTV’s influence on the pop culture populace.
The album, overall, an enjoyable and solid listen start to finish. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be “Burn In Hell” (and that was BEFORE Pee- Wee’s Big Adventure). Only one song doesn’t stick in my ribs as satisfying as a three bean burrito, and that song is “The Price”. I am not altogether certain why it doesn’t stick with me as much as the rest of the album. Maybe because I used to (still do) view Stay Hungry as a call to arms, and a “power ballad”(I hate that term as well, but it’s the only one that I can cull from the killing floor this morning) really didn’t fit well with the rest of that album’s feel. Overall, though, an awesome sonic experience that I will recommend to all. Vinyl? I have the nice version of it still unopened, and then I have the rat-tatted vinyl edition which is NOT in good shape, but still plays on the old Victrola. I love the mono quality of the songs when playing the vinyl, as opposed to the remastered edition that came out in 2009. Something so magical about the vinyl recordings that can’t be duplicated in any other delivery. Addendum to this paragraph: If you want to make a pronouncement on the quality of recordings on vinyl vs. compact discs, make sure you have an actual record player that you play vinyl on, so you can honestly compare the two without seeming like a puffed up Google bot. (Apologies for that last sentence, but I’ve had my fill of people speaking of some sort of authority when they don’t even own said record player.)
Overall, it’s a fine album that stands the test of time and highly worth the purchase price. Since I’m here, I’d also like to recommend you further your Twisted Sister adventure and pick up and read Dee’s entertaining memoir, Shut Up And Give Me The Mic.
It’s as outrageous as you would hope, but also intelligent, funny, and in parts, heartwarming. His story of upbringing, his love of music and Twisted Sister’s often tumultous ride into and out of the metal music scene, as well as his love for his wife of many years and time as a devoted father, makes this anything but the ordinary biography. Completely worth the read.