It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n roll.
In Jay Jay French's case, ten years.
Dee Snider? From the time he joined it took six plus years to get a deal, and then the record company went bankrupt.
I don't care about Twisted Sister, I occasionally get e-mail from Jay Jay French, who doesn't like "We're Not Gonna Take It," but watch a documentary on the band? It'd be a seventy five minute lovefest with no perspective, fuggedaboutit.
But I kept getting e-mail about it.
That it was on Netflix, and I had to see it, to the point I fired it up, that's how everything works in this world, now, more than ever, it's word of mouth. And if you're on the selling side…you're knocking on every door, you're in stasis, not getting ahead, and then the right person crosses paths and…
So I'm waiting for Jason Flom. A great storyteller, I heard Jason tell the tale at a UJA function, about singing the act, jumpstarting his career.
Atlantic didn't care. Doug Morris told him to stop mentioning the band or he'd be fired.
But Jason never appeared!
I'm watching the flick, I can see it's longer than two hours, do I really want to make the commitment? And it's getting boring, they're going into such minutiae, but I'm gonna wait for Jason…
And then it becomes a joke.
THEY DON'T GET SIGNED UNTIL THE LAST FIFTEEN MINUTES!
In 1972. When your only options were the movies or a band. That's it, There wasn't a soul alive who hadn't been to a club to hear a band. Manny's and Sam Ash were kept alive by the wannabes, never mind the local shop in the middle of nowhere.
But Jay Jay, et al, were in New York. Where the Manhattan clubs were small and didn't pay.
So they went to the island, as in Long, as in put down even more than New Jersey if you live on the east coast. And yes, the band ended up playing in NJ too!
Jay Jay went to see the Dolls and they sucked. They did! It was a hype, a scene, Jay Jay thought he could do better than that.
And there begins our adventure.
Some go to college. Some become professionals.
And everybody else scrounges for a living.
Rock and roll is played without a net. Those who survive…give them props, they've been through the war, endured unheralded battles that kill most comers. But still, getting everybody else to care? Damn near impossible.
They're selling 2,000 tickets. 3,000. Today, labels would be all over them, because today you prove your worth on the road and if you can put butts in the seats, everybody's interested. But back then it was all about recordings, did you have talent, could you write hit songs?
Twisted Sister was a performance band. Their goal was to destroy all others. They had to be the best, they had to conquer.
And the fans testify.
The fans will crack you up. With their dems and dose. These are New Yorkers, the rank and file. We hear so much about the richies that we forget the average outnumber them. Twisted Sister was a band for the average.
They played almost every night. They got laid, Jay Jay and Dee didn't drink, but the others did. They assaulted the audience, they needed to win.
But victory, the big time, always eluded their grasp.
They ruled the tri-state area, but beyond that…crickets. And it didn't pay to expand into new territories, they were making too much back home.
And it's so AMATEURISH! Outfits handmade. Posters and other tchotchkes done by those on hand. When you've got nothing, you lead with little, and you try to advance along the way.
In the professional world… You earn your degree and lord it over the rest of us.
I earned the degree.
But I was bitten by rock and roll.
It was nothing like today. Music is everywhere, but then it was a religion, the only thing that spoke to our generation. Sell out? The corporations wanted nothing to do with us, the Fortune 500 weren't lining up, they were staying away. And then the music built and built and took over the world.
And then it cratered, like everything too big for its britches.
Twisted Sister lost its record deal, half a decade after signing with Atlantic, cast into the dustbin, the professionals needing something new.
But the fans never forget. This music changed our lives.
Everyone interested in making it in music must watch this documentary. Because this is how it really is. The struggle, the dead ends, the loss of optimism, the jadedness as you soldier on. Only now do we think you can do it without paying your dues. And sure, the machine props up nobodies, but then those nobodies are replaced by other nobodies. Those who last… Worked hard at it. This was their only option. They could never give up. Twisted Sister persevered when no one cared, when they were losing audience because they were no longer the new thing.
After realizing the band wasn't gonna be signed until the end of the flick, when Flom finally showed up, it dawned on me that what I'd watched, however down the rabbit hole at times, was the journey of every successful act. It's boring, there are tons of details. So many blind alleys until you hit the big time and everybody pays attention.
I couldn't turn "We Are F***ing Twisted Sister" off.
And you won't be able to either.
Because in it you'll recognize yourself, your passion, your belief.
And that's me.
I wanna rock.
And as much as I waver, as much as I tell myself it's not the same and I've got to get out…
I watch something like this and I realize there's no choice.
I'm a lifer.