Review: "We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!" Documentary

by Kevin Quinn,

After years of plugging, gigging, slogging and epitomising Malcolm Gladwell’s ’10,000 hours’ outliers’ hypothesis’ the ‘break’ happens.

A chronological origin story based ostensibly around stoic founder and ‘pragmatist’ JJ. French and the extravagant banshee Dee Snider prodigious archive footage captures the essence of the early days, the film telling the story of a band full of belief yet bedevilled by misfortune. What doesn’t kill ya …

Snider’s writing chops (plus girlfriend Suzette’s eye for ‘style’) soon became an obsession-objective to ‘obliterate French’ (‘I was maniacal, malicious … and I did it!’) and be accepted on level terms. This pseudo-fratricide driving the band on.

Despite packing in up to 5000 fans a night they were still without a deal. A major gig at the Palladium embodied their chance at last. Tragedy #1: guitarist Ojeda suffered a seizure, gig postponed. A rearranged gig attracted scant interest apart from Epic Records who demanded a private show at 11.00 a.m. only for him to leave early without covering the costs leaving the band out of pocket.

Tragedy #2: In 1981 the US drinking age changed, shutting many fans out meaning less bookings. Tragedy #3: Hamburg’s X Records signed them only for the boss to have a heart attack on the plane back. No dice.

However, ‘Oi-boy’ Gary Bushell at Sounds championed the band seeing parallels between their angry, foul-mouthed working class attitude-laden anthems and the febrile societal tension in the UK. Joe Dolce they weren’t. Signing to Martin Hooker’s UK punk label Secret Records, they recorded debut Under The Blade (produced by UFO’s Pete Way) in Britain which saw Atlantic Records sniff round then … Tragedy #4: Hooker’s business partner ran off with the finances.

Despite ‘angel on Earth’ Lemmy introducing them at festivals the band still got pelted with human excrement and peaches, Snider offering to meet the haters personally. No one took him up on it.

The memorable appearance on The Tube, helped by bringing estranged Motorheaders Lemmy and Fast Eddie on stage, saw Atlantic relent with the band going on to shift more than a million copies of 1984's Stay Hungry album. Ten years to be an overnight success.

Andrew Horn’s film is expertly made, even if you’re not a fan of the band this is an exhilarating and entertaining story of resilience, sheer hard work, devout fandom, record-label greed and (finally) the break.

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