Dee Snider: my stories of Jimmy Page, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Metallica and more
You could never accuse former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider of being a shrinking violet. Purple, maybe (have you seen the color of her eye shadow ?!), but certainly not shrinking. He may be well past half a century, but he’s still relishing his role as the world’s number one SMF (Sick Mother Fucker).
Snider is also this rare animal, an American rock star full of humor. He bursts out laughing when Classic rock reminds him that he has already been described as looking like Sex and the city actress Sarah Jessica Parker dived into a vat of acid. In addition to solo albums, Snider acts, presents TV shows, and hosts the syndicated radio show. Hair House , with its slogan: “If it’s not metal, it’s shit!”
Jimmy Page / Robert Plant
We recorded our second album, You can’t stop rock’n’roll, at Jimmy Page [in Cookham, Berkshire]. Jimmy was the invisible man back then – he visited him at night, things moved, but no one would ever see him. Jimmy didn’t really live there, he was with Michael Caine nearby who had a huge security system, to Jimmy’s liking.
I later met Jimmy at a private party in honor [late Atlantic Records mogul] Ahmet Ertegun. I remember standing in the buffet line with Jimmy, Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger, thinking, “How the hell did I get here? ”
I know Robert a little better than Jimmy. We once went to a mutual friend’s wedding. We promised ourselves that we would never sing at the reception. Well, we couldn’t be there for more than 20 minutes when Robert came on stage. So I thought, “I’ll take revenge on you, Plant, I’ll do Rock and roll. ”
People didn’t believe I had the bag – the bullshit, as you might say – to sing a Zeppelin song. Towards the end, Robert made his way through the crowd and sat down to the side of the stage, stamping his foot. I cried ‘lonely, lonely, lonely‘and Robert sang the last word,’time‘. It was quite funny.
Manowar Rocks / Hanoi
I was surprised when I first met Manowar. Unlike their oiled bodies, they are a bit light. The guys at Hanoi Rocks are actually quite tall, but like reeds. I had a disagreement with the two groups in the early 1980s. Manowar told the media they couldn’t understand all the hype around Twisted Sister. They said we were just a bar band playing wet t-shirt contests. Hanoi Rocks called us “ugly”.
So I called them both for a fight. We made the challenge public in Sounds, whose offices were in Covent Garden in London. I prowled the streets with a baseball bat while [Sounds writer] Garry Bushell followed me with a megaphone. A few hundred punters showed up and we had fun with it. Neither group showed up.
In the next edition, Sounds renamed Manowar ‘Manowimp’. After the Manowar no-show, we decided to go to one of their shows, take them off the stage and beat them in front of their fans. I was an angry young man back then, ha-ha!
Hanoi Rocks later sent a letter to the press: “Peace, we didn’t want to offend, we apologize, we are the flower children and we don’t want any problem with Twisted Sister. »I also received a private letter from [then Manowar guitarist] Ross the boss. I cannot disclose its content. Let me just say we called off the fight. So it was the end of the war.
I host a radio show in America, and Simmons was my guest. He gave me his card and said, “Dee, this is my phone number. Call me some time. I’m not a Kiss fanatic but I certainly bought my fair share of their early records. I give Kiss immense respect. Gene, along with Ted Nugent and myself, is one of the few rock stars to have performed: “No drugs, no alcohol, never.”
Surely it is no coincidence that we are three of the most rational and intelligent people you will ever meet, and still with ongoing careers beyond music. A few months later, I decided to call Simmons. “Gene! Dee Snider! Long pause. Then he said angrily,” How the hell did you get that number ?! “I replied,” You gave it to me. Would you like me to hang up? ” That’s when I got the idea that we weren’t going to be the best friends.
Frank Zappa / John Denver
In 1985, I was fiercely opposed to the idea of placing warning labels on records. I appeared before the US Senate – with Frank Zappa and John Denver. Frank and I were both concerned about how Denver would handle this. He had a successful television show and film career; it was John Denver, a John Denver outright. They invited him on the assumption that he would be on the side of truth, justice, and the American way.
But Denver hadn’t forgotten how High Rocky Mountain had been banned for being a drug song, which it was not. And Oh my God!, the movie he made with George Burns [in 1977], was considered by many to be a sacrilege. So when Denver compared the idea of sticker disks to Nazi fireworks, the Senate was rather surprised.
Zappa’s children – Moon Unit and Dweezil – turned out to be Twisted Sister fans. I was there with my dad, Bob, who is a police officer and former Korean War veteran – a tough guy. Frank asked my father to look after his children while he testified. This is one of Bob’s fondest memories to date: “Hey, Dee, remember the time we were in Washington and Frank Zipper asked me to watch Dweezil Unit and Moon Zipper?” Bless him.
One of Metallica’s first major concerts was in support of Twisted Sister in a 3,000-seat venue in New York City. That was when they had Dave Mustaine and Cliff Burton in training, and they lived in [Megaforce Records boss] Johnny Z’s basement.
Later, Metallica supported us in our Stay hungry to visit. We arrived in a small town in the Netherlands and were surprised to see a poster of Metallica above us. I said in my turn to manager: “Metallica is clearly the headliner. Go tell them we’ll open for them tonight. My tour manager came back and said, “They said no. They seem somewhat suspicious.
Eventually I convinced Metallica it wasn’t a trick, and that night I got to watch their show. I remember saying to someone, ‘These guys have a lot of hearts but they’re never going to get anywhere. Too bad for what I know! I thought Metallica was too heavy and there was no way the company would catch up with that.
So we are in Canada and we are at the height of Twisted Sister madness. We play in an arena in Saskatchewan. The road can be pretty boring, and you know how much bands like to play pranks to alleviate boredom? [Twisted Sister guitarist] Jay Jay French walks into my dressing room and says, “Johnny Cash is here. I answer: “Ah, really? Johnny Cash is in Saskatchewan, Canada, behind the scenes of a Twisted Sister show? Pull the other.
Then a few seconds later I hear the words, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. ” Like on TV. I look up and there he is, that tall guy standing in the doorway of the fucking door. Turns out Johnny’s kids are huge Twisted Sister fans and they want our autographs. Was Johnny upset that his kids were growing up as Twisted Sister fans rather than country and western fans? If he was, he certainly wasn’t showing it.
Alice Cooper is a great hero of mine. At the start of my career, I had talked so much about being inspired by Alice, he actually came to see Twisted Sister in concert. He first sent me a dozen black roses and a personal note. Later I remember doing a backstage photoshoot, putting on makeup and Alice standing there and laughing at me. I said, “Are you kidding me? I’m doing this because of you! Are you breaking my balls because I wear makeup? Come on, man!
To be honest, I don’t approve of Alice playing golf. Golf, for me, is not metal. I once told him, “Can’t you at least get some studded leather golf club covers?” But Alice started playing golf, because the guy is serious about golf.
I’m a huge fan of Arnold, going back to his bodybuilding days. Throughout his career, he has always aimed for the stars. When Arnold announced his candidacy for governor of California, people asked me if I was surprised. I wasn’t. The big surprise was when I got a call from their campaign manager, saying they wanted to use We are not going to take it as a theme song – a song Arnold inspired me to write. They also asked me if I wanted to perform the day before the election, at a large rally in Sacramento.
So I’m up there, singing for a sea of Republicans, at the epicenter of this huge press deluge. Arnold walks down the red carpet towards me and, in the most surreal moment of my life, comes up and shakes my hand. This is insane. Then Arnold says, “Ein zpecial zanks to Herr Dee Znider.” I think, “Holy shit! Arnold Schwarzenegger mutilates my name!
I met Robert when I made my film, Foreign land. We introduced him as one of my victims, and I was delighted when he took on the role. For me, as a horror fan, being the one to brutalize and torment the actor who plays Freddy Krueger was amazing. In real life, it is very light, very authentic; an incredibly positive and open type, not at all like his character.
We were recording our Stay hungry album in an LA studio where Michael’s producer Quincy Jones worked. Michael came to listen to remixes and sing on his Polar album. I went for a cup of coffee and bumped into Michael in the little kitchenette. He was still black. Well, relatively black. Without glove, without military jacket. Like a normal guy.
I said, “How are you? I am Dee Snider. Congratulations on all your success. ”Michael said,“ Thank you very much. ”He shook my hand. I didn’t see him take out the wipes or anything. I was amazed at how it was laid back, we were just minding our own business and that was it.
We recorded the first demo of Twisted Sister with [producer] Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady. The rolling stones were recording Certain girls in another workshop. We were working on a track, and suddenly the door opened and Mick Jagger stormed in doing his chicken wing dance. He jumped into the room and walked out the door. Once again, it was a moment of immense surrealism.
To this day, I’m not even sure this has actually happened. I was finally able to meet Jagger properly in the common area of the studio. Eddie introduced me, “Mick, I would like you to meet Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. For some fucking reason I reached out to shake Jagger’s hand and said, “Hey, man, I saw you around the corner.” He just smiled and walked away. I’m still kicking myself. “Did I see you around?” Almighty Jesus Christ.
The original version of this feature appeared in Classic Rock 135, in August 2009.