9 Great Deep Cuts by Twisted Sister

Known to the American mainstream mainly for the rowdy anthems “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” (and their accompanying slapstick videos), New York rock icons Twisted Sister have not always been appreciated for the depth of their catalog. True disciples of the thunderous quintet—frontman/songwriter Dee Snider, guitarists Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda and Jay Jay French, bassist Mark Mendoza, and the late drummer A.J. Pero—know the group, in its different incarnations, spent a decade building up a loyal following in the New York/New Jersey area before landing an indie deal for their debut Under The Blade. And don’t let their use of the color pink fool you—they also have a lot of music that’s darker and more aggressive than the commercial singles that made them big. 

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Although major labels shunned them for their outrageous appearance, aggressive music, and staged demeanor, they eventually signed with Atlantic Records, which led to four studio releases. Stay Hungry is the album that the masses remember—it was one of the biggest rock albums of 1984 and produced two major hits. But they did way more than that. There’s always a dark side to Twisted Sister, and their music and rambunctious performances were cathartic exorcisms for them and their audience. They walked that line between hard rock and metal that lured in a bigger audience. After they reunited in the 2000s they headlined major European rock and metal festivals for years.

For all the SMFs out there—and if you’re one, you know what that means—here are 9 Twisted Sister deep cuts to dive into.

“Sin After Sin,” from Under the Blade (1982)

It’s easy to hear Snider’s love for horror in this dark, high-energy track from their debut album. During the rollicking choruses, Snider delivers the title words in a deep, ominous voice, which befits a song about coming face-to-face with your bad behavior and poor judgment. There’s still time to repent before you burn in hell!

“Like a Knife in the Back,” from You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll (1983)

Mendoza was known for having a punishing, thick bass sound that would pummel fans into submission, and his potent and agile rumble drives this song more than the snarling riffs from Ojeda and French, who add some raucous soloing in the middle. The song also features some characteristically colorful Snider lyrics.

Come inside, take a seat or a ride
We’re so glad that you’re here, now come on
Have a drink of some coke, gasoline or some rope
A guillotine, are you gone?

Don’t turn around
Ignore that sound
Just lie on this rack
Are you starting to crack?

I need this like a knife in the back

“Horror-Teria (The Beginning): A) Captain Howdy B) Street Justice,” from Stay Hungry (1984)

This two-part, nearly eight-minute epic is among the deepest cuts on their triple-Platinum breakthrough album Stay Hungry. The first half takes the point-of-view of a demented child killer and moves along with an ominous lurch, whereas the adrenalized second half chronicles the fury of residents when the sadistic Captain Howdy is released on a legal technicality by a drunk judge. They decide to take matters of justice into their own hands. If the sound is reminiscent of Freddy Krueger, it’s interesting to note how this album arrived six months before A Nightmare On Elm Street hit theaters. “Horror-Teria” also inspired Strangeland, the 1998 horror movie that Snider co-wrote and co-starred in with a menacing performance as Captain Howdy, now reborn as an internet predator of young adults in his basement torture dungeon. Flipping his script, actor Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger himself) appeared as one of the angry townspeople. The film predated the torture-porn horror craze by half a decade, and some fans still want a sequel.

“Out on the Streets,” from Come Out and Play (1985)

Here’s a Twisted song that some disenfranchised young fans might have related to as it deals with homelessness and being out on your own. It’s a moody, mid-tempo song with an emotive Snider performance. Twisted was a band of underdogs who roughed it in the clubs for years and knew what it was like to scrape by, giving this song more legitimacy than some other bands attempting the same subject matter. Incidentally, Snider and his family won $25,000 for homeless veterans during their appearance on a 2021 episode of Celebrity Family Feud.

The mind it wanders through shattered dreams
Hours pass in seconds and my heart, it screams
I can’t fight the past, I force back all of my tears
‘Cause there ain’t no turnin’ back, minutes, minutes turn to years
Someone listen to my prayers
Can’t help feelin’ no one cares, no one dares

You’re out on the streets, livin’ on your own
You’re out on the streets, so far from home

“Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant),” from Love Is for Suckers (1987)

Sadly, Twisted Sister’s fifth album was the one that originally ended things. After the disappointing performance of Come Out and Play, which was still certified Gold, Snider sought to do a solo album. However, the powers that be at Atlantic Records felt another Twisted record would have more commercial viability, so Love Is for Suckers begrudgingly became a group effort (with some guitar input from then-Winger axeman Reb Beach). While Snider was the sole songwriter for Twisted, this collection was much more in the pop metal vein practiced by the hair bands of the time. Ironically, the band ditched the makeup for this release, which disappointed many longtime Twisted fans because it catered to the hit-driven sounds of the time. But there were some that stood out, notably this pounding, bombastic manifesto about empowerment through solidarity. The lyrics also reflect a singer not ready to accept defeat after working so hard to achieve commercial success. It is actually one of Twisted’s greatest anthems.

“I Will Win,” Love Is for Suckers outtake (1987)

One of four outtakes from their final album, “I Will Win” is in the vein of the previous track, except it’s brighter in sound all the way through. Snider frequently wrote about overcoming obstacles, both within oneself and out in the world, as well as facing down people and, in this case, delivering their comeuppance. When he was really inspired he came up with a potent track like this that would have made a great single but was inexplicably cut from the album.

“Heroes Are Hard to Find,” from Strangeland Soundtrack (1998)

A little over a decade after Twisted Sister broke up, they reunited to record the end-credits theme song to Snider’s horror movie. Unlike the bleak tone set by the film, this was an upbeat, life-affirming song done in classic Twisted style. It was is if the band had never broken up. One of the verses also made a point contrasting what had been shown on screen:

In the movies, in the news or on TV
All the heroes seem so different but you see
They’re the same as you and me
It don’t matter who you are or what you’ve done
You don’t need to have a badge or knife or gun
You can be the chosen one

In other words, there were many ways to be a hero.

“Never Say Never,” from Club Daze Volume II: Live in the Bars (2002)

This originally unfinished song was recorded in 2001 for a live compilation featuring unreleased songs from the band’s club heyday. Originally meant for Stay Hungry—and also included on the rerecording Still Hungry in 2006—this bombastic track is short and sweet, clocking in at under two and a half minutes. Part of Twisted’s musical appeal was their ability to vary the tempos, styles, and dynamics of their songs. Plus they had that vibe of controlled chaos which made their performances stand out, especially here.

“30,” from Stay Hungry (Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition) (2009)

This bluesy, old-school jam has a country-ish vibe that makes sense considering that Snider wrote the song while appearing on CMT’s Gone Country music competition show in late 2008 and early 2009. The singer has proven himself adapt at other styles including musical theater—he appeared on Broadway in Rock of Ages and recorded and toured with his orchestral rock project Van Helsing’s Curse. “30” is a manifesto for middle-aged rockers who can still kick ass. While Twisted retired from performing in 2016, recent reunion offerings have reportedly been so good that they may return. And why not – Snider’s 50th anniversary with the band comes up in two years.

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Photo by J. Quinton/WireImage

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