Director: Andrew Horn
Perhaps it best to start with what this documentary about the rock / glam / hair metal band Twisted Sister isn’t/ It’s not ‘Anvil’ – some goofy loveable oldsters getting another crack at the big time in Tap-alike situations. It’s also not a tale of superstardom as despite running 135 minutes the film stops as the band finally sign a major US record deal and get the platinum records they have been dreaming of. That, as the closing captions note, is for another movie.
This is the story of an American bar band formed in the early 70s who spend 10 years playing shithole clubs in Long Island and New Jersey, getting an enormous devoted fanbase who would pack out 3,000 seaters week upon week with zero interest from the music business because they thought they were a joke. And for a while you could see their point – covering Bowie, Slade, Mott and Lou Reed night after night can only get you so far and many of their ilk would be satisfied with the beer money it raised.
Led by the charismatic Dee Snider, the clichéd small town outsider who wanted to be a star, the band used gimmicks – playing Sweet Jane all night, getting people up to sing it until they passed out from drinking or that old 70’s favourite ‘Disco Sucks’ where they hang an effigy of Barry White – to great effect. They developed into a band who could take over and kill in any room they played it through sheer force or energy and personality. Despite all this, record companies shunned them with the American CEO of Atlantic threatening to fire anyone who mentioned the band to him. This come back later to bite him beautifully but there is a long road of almost deals, sheer bad luck and cast iron pig-headedness before that day.
An entertainingly told tale of what it’s like to be a local band close to New York at it’s most fertile punk / new wave era but so remote from that scene that they might as well be on another planet. Yet they had that scenes ethic of DIY with them making their own T shirts, pressing up their own records to sell at gigs and their own “fan club” – S.M.F (Sick Mother Fuckers). It’s that fanbase that manages to get them known in England via Sounds magazine and later enables them a career changing appearance on ‘The Tube’ which is treated here like Dylan going electric.
There’s hyperbole, strutting, preening and rock n roll dreams but most importantly it doesn’t matter what you think of the music. This isn’t a film about what its like when you’re at the top but the long way it is to get there if you wanna rock n roll.
available on Netflix
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Loud Quiet Loud – a film about the Pixies, Dig or just love a good music tale old well