Formed in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey back in 1972, Twisted Sister became one of the most famous and successful Glam Rock groups in the following decade. But their journey to success was really long, with many different band members until the classic line-up was reunited.
With hits like “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, they were on MTV all the time all over the world and sold an estimated amount of more than 12 million records worldwide. The name of the band was really perfect for the way they looked, since they wore a lot of makeup and used women’s clothes.
But what’s the story of the origin of their band name? Who gave the idea for the name Twisted Sister?
The origin of the name Twisted Sister
It all started when the guitarist Jay Jay French joined a group called Silver Star in 1972 but didn’t like the name. He told his new bandmates about that and all of them agreed but the drummer, who had come up with Silver Star. French suggested they should call themselves The Max Factor, which would be something like the name of a cartoon. But after six weeks into rehearsal they felt like the name still wasn’t the right one.
The original singer Michael “Valentine” O’Neill had a fight with French and went to a local bar to drink. He got drunk and some time later the vocalist called the house where the band was staying to say he had the perfect name: Twisted Sister.
Jay Jay French recalled that in an interview with Steve Farber in 2021. “I came up with my idea of a glitter band and that name was The Max Factor. That’s creative. That solves a lot of problems, makeup, and you can’t get sued, The Max Factor. What a concept. That went over like a lead balloon, like a cartoon, like a Wile E. Coyote off a cliff coming. We knew something was wrong. The name was wrong. We’re six weeks into rehearsal. We started early January of ‘73. Michael, we have a fight and Michael goes out and gets drunk at some local bar where we were living. He calls the house and I pick up the phone. He goes, ‘John, it’s Michael.'”
“Michael goes, ‘I’ve got a good name, Twisted Sister.’ I was like, ‘That’s a great name.’ I ran downstairs and I said, ‘Michael called with the greatest name, Twisted Sister.’ Everyone liked it except Mel because he wanted to somehow preserve Silver Star, which was going to be voted off. That wasn’t happening. Michael comes back drunk from the bar. Sadly, Michael was hit by a car many years ago. Although physically he’s okay, mentally, he has completely lost his memory.”
“When I tried to get him to be in our documentary, he couldn’t because he didn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember this. He comes back and he’s drunk, I go, ‘Michael, that was a great name.’ He goes, ‘What name?’ I said, ‘The name, Twisted Sister. You thought of the name, you called us.’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears, it doesn’t make a sound.’ What would happen if no one picked up the phone call? We wouldn’t be talking about Twisted Sister, would we? That’s it,” Jay Jay French said.
The classic line-up was formed only in 1982
From the classic line-up, Jay Jay French was the only one who was in the band since their name was changed in 1972. Then in 1975 the guitarist Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda joined the group, followed by the singer Dee Snider in 1976, the bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza in 1978 and the drummer A. J. Pero in 1982.
Their debut album “Under The Blade” was released in 1982, followed by “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” in 1983. But it was with their best-selling album “Stay Hungry” (1984) that the band really got famous, since it had the hits ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”.
During the promotion for that particular record, Dee Snider was interviewed by David Letterman. During the conversation he was asked about the origin of the name Twisted Sister and said that the person who came up with the name was in a coma at the time.
(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) “The name came from the way we looked. We had the way we looked, the makeup and the costumes first. Then we tried to find names, a lot of people throw names: “microphone”, “leprosy”. (…) Twisted Sister was a name given to us by an alcoholic.”
“He called up, his name was Michael, I won’t give his last name because I think he’s in a coma. I’m serious, he’s got problems. Anyway, he called Jay Jay (French) four o’clock in the morning with this helpful name,” Dee Snider said.
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