Their profanity-laced rock shows in the 1970s and ’80s drew the ire of the U.S. Senate, where Al and Tipper Gore accused them of endangering the morals of America’s youth and undermining parental authority.
Two decades later, Twisted Sister is playing New Jersey’s two most family friendly venues – the Meadowlands State Fair, and Six Flags Great Adventure – and the “F” word is strictly off limits, by mutual agreement.
Lead singer Dee Snider, who uses it dozens of times in a 90-minute concert, said the costumed, mascara-wearing band best known for hits like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” initially balked at playing the G-rated parks.
“The minute we heard those offers, we said no,” Snider said. “They said, ‘What do you mean, ‘no?’ We said, ‘We want to play for our fans! We don’t want to play to people in an amusement park! And they said, ‘Dee, your fans are in their 30s; where do you think they are on the 4th of July weekend? They’re out with their families at the amusement parks or the Jersey Shore. And that was like a real rude awakening.”
Despite taking a well-publicized stand against censorship during a 1985 Senate hearing in which the Gores were pushing for a system of record warning labels, Twisted Sister will tone it down for the kiddies this week in New Jersey.
“You assume you have to play to your audience and deal with the restrictions,” guitarist Jay Jay French said.
The band had to follow similar speech curbs during a May tour of U.S. military bases in Korea. The raunchiest line Snider got off was a semi-obscene reference to the Dixie Chicks, which was met with uproarious applause by the soldiers.
Promoters for the two New Jersey shows included stipulations in the concert contracts that profanity not be used, French said.
“I’ve curbed my mouth in certain outdoor facilities,” Snider said. “My objective was never to subject innocent bystanders to my acid tongue. I sang in the church choir; I can not curse, although people find that hard to believe. I can find plenty of words to say in place of (the F-word.)”
This week’s shows are a homecoming of sorts for Twisted Sister, a fixture on the Jersey bar band circuit in the 1980s in places like the long-gone Fountain Casino in Aberdeen, Emmit’s Inn in Jamesburg, The Final Exam in Randolph, The Royal Manor in North Brunswick, and The Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
The core of the Long Island band’s fans has always been centered on the New York tri-state area, and many longtime fans are expected to turn out for the two New Jersey shows, Thursday at the fair next to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, and Saturday at Great Adventure in Jackson. The only other U.S. dates are scheduled for July 18-19 in Wisconsin, although a fall headlining tour is possible.
“There are older fans who want to see it one more time, and there’s younger fans who want to see it once, what it was like,” Snider said. “We won’t disappoint. There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is we look like aging transvestites. The good news is we’ve always looked like aging transvestites.”
Aside from a Nov. 2001 benefit concert for World Trade Center victims, Twisted Sister – Snider, French, guitarist Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda, bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza and drummer A.J. Pero – hadn’t performed together since Oct. 1987. They way they went out – with a whimper rather than a bang – still rankles the guys.
In the meantime, Snider got a job as a morning radio DJ, French managed up-and-coming bands, Mendoza took a law enforcement job, and Pero and Ojeda got office jobs.
“It was like, ‘Twisted Sister… what happened? Where are they?'” Snider said. “We were so ferocious, so intense it would have been far more appropriate for us to spontaneously combust in our platform shoes, five pools of green goo on the stage. But it didn’t end that way, and that has always nagged me. We’re trying to put the exclamation point at the end of our name rather than the ampersand that we sort of left.”