As of today, I’ve been doing this blog for six years. I started doing it at the Mad Dog’s suggestion, and as a means of distracting myself from the horrors of my parents’ murders almost a year earlier. It became a habit — for years I would post on a daily basis. I’m less obsessive about it now, but I’m still glad it’s here, and I’m grateful to all of you who come by and check out what I have to say. I hope it continues to merit your attention.
I took a break from grading this afternoon — I’ll get back to it tomorrow. In the meantime, I watched We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, a documentary of the band’s pre-fame years, from its birth in the early 70s to the release of Stay Hungry. I liked the band when they blew up, both for their sense of humor and their take-no-prisoners live aggression. Having watched the documentary, I think it should be required viewing for creative people.
The guys in Twisted are an amazing example of the intersection of effort and pure bloodymindedness. Their attempts to break out of their Long Island home turf were blunted repeatedly — a career-making gig was postponed by a medical problem and ignored when the makeup date rolled around. A German record deal collapsed when the label’s president collapsed on board a flight back to Germany. Their English label folded just as the band was set to break in Europe. All the while, they maintained a brutal schedule of gigs (more than 300 a year) in the New York area, where they ruled the clubs outside Manhattan and built a fanbase of Kill-for-Kali intensity. However, American labels didn’t want to know until a British A&R man decided to sign them to Atlantic, unaware that the label’s president had threatened to sack anyone else who even mentioned the band to him. In a way, it was like the Beatles’ Hamburg apprenticeship spread over a decade, and it turned the band into something absolutely ferocious.
But very few bands — very few artists of any sort, I think — would be willing to slam their heads against the wall of limited success that Twisted Sister eventually battered down. The band’s work ethic was absolutely terrifying, and the movie is a testimony to that. I’m fond of quoting a saying that Harlan Ellison says is a Spanish proverb: “Take what you want, and pay for it.” This documentary demonstrates what that can mean, and how hard one might have to work to make those payments. It’s cautionary — and inspirational. Check it out.
I also have a personal reason for liking Twisted Sister, and Dee Snider in particular. In the years after I wrote Broken Glass Waltzes, I was searching for agents, and I thought it might be useful to collect some blurbs from recognizable names. Although Twisted had packed it in by then, I happened to see Dee’s next band, Widowmaker, at the Cincinnati club that provided the model for “Andrew’s” in BGW. I reviewed the show for the local alternapaper, and somehow ran across Dee’s e-mail address. I sent him a copy of my review, told him about my book, and asked him if he’d like to read it. I was thrilled (and quite startled) when he told me he’d be happy to give it a look, but it might take some time before he could get to it — he was trying to get his horror movie made, and he’d be busy. Still, this was the most interest anyone had shown in the book, so I sent it off and assumed he’d probably never have time to get around to it.
I heard back from him six months later, with a note saying he liked the book, and that it showed a real understanding of that level of the rock and roll lifestyle (though fortunately, not his, he added.) I clung to that encouragement for years — I think it was one of the reasons I was willing to keep shopping it around when life wasn’t getting in the way. So I’m grateful to Dee for taking time to support a guy he had never met. I try to keep that in mind.
Speaking of writing, the Spawn placed one of her quirky horror stories in Mondoville’s literary mag, which came out yesterday. She’s as busy with finals as I am right now, but I hope this gives her some of the encouragement she needs as she begins to pursue her own writing career.
And to wrap this one up, here’s one from Dee and the boys in the pre-Stay Hungry era. It’s a teen anthem, of course, but it also embodies the determination that seems to have a been a theme of this post, and it both makes me smile and reminds me to keep pushing. Enjoy!
Thanks for six years of reading, and I hope to see you soon!