The Producers: Twisted Twitters

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Ts-color[1]The previous installment provided some curious tales of Twisted Sister. An Australian musician/journalist friend of mine named Joe Matera frequently sends me items from the Web that he thinks may be of interest to me. Since I don’t get around the Internet as thoroughly as Joe does, this proves to be a service of great value, as I’d otherwise be unaware of what people may be writing and/or saying about me and my work. Just after I had forwarded the last installment to Jeff here at Popdose, I received an email from Joe, informing me of a recent interview with Dee Snider, who some 25 years later, still feels the need to bag on me in any way he can. [Note: Said interview was conducted by our own David Medsker, and can be read in full here.]

I include some excerpts from this interview, and my responses to these excerpts – truthfully, it may take the form of a rant, but I promise we’ll get back to more colorful history next week. The accumulation of two decades of bogus complaints from Dee Snider has prompted me to answer back:

DEE SNIDER: I mean the biggest hat-tilt towards commercialization was assigning Tom Werman, who was this pop producer, who was cleaning up people like TED NUGENT and MÖTLEY CRÃœE, and they figured, ‘Hey, we can clean these guys up too.’ And during the recording I was really having a lot of problems with our producer, Tom Werman, and we just didn’t agree and I really felt like he was compromising the record, and it was a real struggle for me to try to keep the band’s integrity…. He wanted to clean us up even more, you know, and I was really frustrated and the engineer, Geoff Workman, who really is responsible for all of the positive things on that record as far as sound and everything. And he said, ‘What’s the matter, man?’ And I said, ‘Fricking Tom is killing my record, he’s pissing me off!’ He goes, ‘Relax dude, this record is guaranteed to go platinum.’ And I said, ‘You want to put that in writing?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll put that in writing.’ So what it says here on this laminated page — it’s written on an old note sheet, it says: ‘The record that I am currently working on with TWISTED SISTER [because we didn't have a name yet] is guaranteed to go at least platinum or I resign. Signed: Geoff Workman. So, he knew.

Once again, I’m stunned at my apparent inability to recollect one serious moment of disagreement between Mr. Snider and myself, beyond the normal, minor differences of opinion in any project. I wonder if Dee ever bothered to consider why I had selected Geoff Workman to do this album… after all, I hired the guy for the album based on my knowledge of his capability and approach to sound, even though I was well aware that he could an incredibly divisive influence on the project. This guy was an excellent sound engineer who was a functional alcoholic and a creative storyteller, who had already done his backstabbing – best to erode my credibility with one band through secret recording and tape editing, and who knows what else when my back was turned. Meanwhile, his engineering skills were, I thought, worth the pain. He would always latch onto the leading influence in the group, become his best buddy and then run me down to the guy. Mr. Snider was more than a willing participant in this escapade.

4043539[1]Beyond that, I really am amazed by his allegations that I was “ruining” his record, when it was clearly a hugely popular and successful recording that established Twisted Sister as a global musical force. I guess if he had made the record he personally wanted, it would have come out much like the re-recording of Stay Hungry by the band, which I believe sold about 30,000 copies.

SNIDER: – and I have to point out with as much bashing of Tom Werman, I don’t know if you saw the liner notes but I’m the one who wrote that Tom Werman should be able to speak his piece – I want to see what he says, I’m sure he mouths off. He buries himself because he told me straight out that he would never have signed Twisted Sister when he was an A&R man. And I asked him to be honest, he was honest. He also did not want ‘We’re not Gonna Take It’ or ‘I Wanna Rock’ on the record and it’s a hard sell among those. With ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ he said, ‘Eh, it’s kind of sing-song, kind of childish, isn’t it?’ He totally mocked it, and I said dude, trust me. As a matter of fact they interviewed him on Behind The Music or something and he actually said, ‘You know Dee says this stuff about me and I wasn’t against ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It,’ but it is kind of childish, don’t you think?’…… “But he really didn’t do that much. They said they were going to bring in a producer who was going to clean us up, but we’re really not as dirty as you think.

Excuse me, but how does someone “bury himself” by speaking the truth? I told him straight up I wouldn’t sign his band if I had still been in A&R. And where is the venom when it comes to the guy who “forced” me on the band? I guess Dee thought it was in his best interest not to dump on Doug Morris.

Naturally, his paraphrasing of what I actually said in that interview is inaccurate and self-serving, but the important thing here is that I had written to Mr. Snider about a year ago, requesting in writing that he give me an opportunity to come on his show and presen t my side of the story. I never got a response. So when he says “I want to see what he says”, he clearly does not want to see what I say. I sent two emails to him ten days ago on July 6th (the day I received this interview from Joe in Australia), and I still haven’t received a response. Nada. Zilch. Not a peep.

mrsnider[1]My email of July 6th to Dee Snider:

This is an enquiry e-mail via http://deesnider.com/ from:

tom werman

“…with as much bashing of Tom Werman….I’m the one who wrote that Tom Werman should be able to speak his piece — I want to see what he says…” — Dee Snider.

I am accepting Mr. Snider’s offer. Please tell me the address to which I should send my “piece.” Thank you.

SNIDER: It’s amazing to see the significance of the record, you know the original and how many times I hear people saying, ‘This was my primer to heavy metal’ or ‘I was a disco boy or pop princess before I got my ‘Stay Hungry’ record and it changed my life.’ And then you’ve got ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ which sort of started – especially ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ – to transcend even the genre and become almost folk songs. And one thing a lot of people have said was, ‘Stay Hungry was Twisted Sister’s go-commercial, selling out.’ And I always laugh because it was anything but. ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ was added at 145 radio stations the first week it came out and that was two weeks before the video even hit. And just so you know that’s a lot of radio stations to play a heavy metal band in 1984.

So in the first breath, he lauds and exalts the record, and in the next breath he dumps on it because I was the producer. Generally, he seems really confused. Is he attacking me for being honest? It certainly reads that way, doesn’t it? I mean, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” can certainly be interpreted as sing-songy, or as a kids’ chant set to music. Even Mr. Snider goes along with that, while damning me for saying the same thing in another article:

So either Twisted Sister was about to release a great rock and roll album, or a great children’s album. “A great kid’s album,” Snider laughs, “Exactly! Play this in your nursery.”

So we have a guy here with some major issues, who seems to feel a need to continually insult me and to revise the history of that recording project, a full two generations after the fact. Maybe some day he’ll live up to the straight-talk image he promotes. Until then, I’ll need to continue to rely on people who help me out by advising me to read this and that, so I can do my best to defend myself against the relentless Dee Snider sniping machine. The guy simply can’t get past the fact that he has spent his life creating and shaping this band, and that I actually was involved in the one success that his creation has had.

poison_80s[1]Okay, we’ve probably had enough on that topic, right? Thanks for your patience. Let’s move on to another band for whom I produced only one album – Poison. In stark contrast to Mr. Snider, I’m not aware that any one of them has ever said anything negative about our recording experience, even though it certainly wasn’t the easiest project either of us ever did. Tom Whalley signed Poison while he was working in the Capitol Records A&R department in the mid ’80s. My friend Tom Mohler, who managed the band through the first half of the recording, has told me that they really wanted Paul Stanley to produce their follow-up to Look What the Cat Dragged In, but that both he and Tom Whalley held out for me. I can certainly understand why a band like Poison would want a member of Kiss to produce the record, but I appreciate that the manager and A&R man stood their ground.

A lunch meeting was arranged in Hollywood, in order for me to meet the band. I was seated next to CC Deville, and I remember that halfway through the meal, he looked at me and said “I hear you do drugs. Do you do drugs?” (Looking back on this, it’s fairly ironic, no?) I replied “Yes, I do recreational drugs from time to time, but I know their place, and I take care of business first” (or words to that effect), which was an honest response.

The combination seemed agreeable to the band, and we began rehearsing at a facility in the San Fernando Valley. Things went pretty well in rehearsal, though Rikki Rockett had some problems in changing the drum patterns to which he had become accustomed. There was one song that required a particularly complex drum fill coming out of one time signature and going into another, and Rikki was having trouble with it. Rather than making excuses or getting angry, he consulted with me, and together we came up with a good solution – call Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick and see if he would come in and walk Rikki through the changes. Being a gentleman and being in LA at the time, Bun E. did just that, and the problem was solved.

Poison-Every-Rose-Has-It-[1]I recall quite clearly the afternoon when Brett told me of a ballad he had written. I handed him my Guild acoustic guitar, and he sat down and played what sounded to me like a very good country song, titled “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I liked the way he played it, and after listening to both his and CC’s delivery, I asked CC if it would be OK for Brett to play rhythm guitar on the song. CC obliged, and Brett actually plays the rhythm part with my Guild acoustic guitar on the recording. I still don’t understand why some country star hasn’t covered the song.

This was a long and demanding project. We had decided to record digitally, and this turned out to be a fortunate choice, due to the inordinate number of punch-ins required. CC was delving into some substances at the time that were a little more than recreational, and it wasn’t unusual for us to spend four hours on a guitar solo. This wasn’t because of his playing – he would simply change his mind after an hour, and start from the beginning of the lead break with a different direction. They all did their best, and outside of a few harmonica solos, there were no guest musicians at all on the album.

I’ve been asked countless times who played drums on the album. Every member of Poison performed every note of drums, bass, guitar and lead vocals, except for “out of the car, longhair!” on “Yer Mama Don’t Dance.” That was my voice. We never intended to create four hit singles, but indeed we had four Top 10 singles from Open Up and Say Aah, and the record went on to sell five million copies in the first year of release. One of the most interesting things about the project was the endless stream of pretty young girls who came to hang out with the band – I remember suggesting to Brett that it would probably be more efficient and less disruptive if we simply installed a numbered ticket machine at the door, like the ones they have at delicatessens.

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  • EightE1

    I imagine no country artist has covered “Every Rose” on record because the original is so iconic, the acoustic-based arrangement so country-ish already. What would they add to it? A steel guitar, maybe; a mandolin. I could see a Kenny Chesney or someone like him covering it in concert, but almost as a novelty, a singalong everyone in the crowd would know.

    Tom, who do you think could cover it successfully? What would a Tom Werman country arrangement of the song sound like?

  • SansDirection

    There is a country version, done by Rex Hobart. Perhaps not a country “star”, but a country artist.

  • addictedtovinyl

    Fascinating stuff Tom. Never would have guessed that Bun E. Carlos was involved consulting Poison in any way! Very cool!

  • jamesballenger

    Wow, so informative. I am not a fan of Poison but I totally wore out Open up and Say Ahhh. It's like every band that you touch comes out with their best stuff, intentional or not. I think that someone that is alt-country would kill Every rose has it's thorn, Wilco or My Morning Jacket.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Bun E. Carlos is The Man. Ask him to help out a fellow drummer in need and he steps up.

    Wasn't Ross The Boss in Twisted Sister?

  • http://jackfear.blogspot.com Jack Feerick

    OF COURSE “We're Not Gonna Take It” is a childish song – it's essentially a playground chant with guitars. And whether Dee Snider cares to admit it or not, it was marketed as such, with the classroom video. The band's cartoony image and videos were aimed directly at middle-schoolers, who are – let's face the facts – children.

    And Dee was right – it was a smash. It sold shedloads of copies to an audience that happened to skew young; Dee understood what that audience wanted, and knew he could deliver it.

    And that's the funniest thing, here; Tom and Dee were both right, as far as it goes. You could call that a win-win. Too bad some people feel like they can't be right unless somebody else is wrong.

  • slappyfrog

    Question re: CC's guitar playing…I had always heard the rumors of CC's playing on the albums being someone else. After seeing Poison live a couple of times and thinking CC was literally the worst live guitar player I had ever seen, does any one have a comment on why he is so bad live? Is it the drugs or what?

  • Henry Holland

    So two of Twisted Sister's songs are “folk songs” now? That'd be news to anyone who even remembers who they were. At the time, they were a complete joke to everyone I knew who followed rock music, held in even lower esteem than Motley Crue or Ratt or Warrant or……. In fact, most people thought that “We're Not Gonna Take It” was a cover of the Who song until they heard it.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I'm not sure which interview those quotes of Dee are from, but it's not mine.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    The first two quotes are from your interview, aren't they?

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Shit, you're right, it isn't. Very similar, though. Close enough for horseshoes and link-sharing.

  • http://vivalaangeldust.wordpress.com/ JCC

    I'm not sure of the reason why, but I'll never forget the (I believe) MTV Video Awards where he played a totally different song than the rest of the band. For the whole song. Even Arsenio Hall had to laugh.

  • slappyfrog

    Oh man, that must've been hilarious!

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I remember Bret deliberately stepping on CC's cord and taking his guitar out of the mix during the chorus to Talk Dirty to Me. Not sure what awards show that was, but I remember thinking, “Wow, those guys don't like each other much.”

  • tom werman

    Definitely a steel guitar, and maybe a nice girls' backing vocal chorus. The song really begs for a fairly busy steel guitar, though….

  • tom werman

    I think Ross the Boss was in The Dictators, but you may be confusing him with Mark “The Animal” Mendoza.

  • tom werman

    CC was more indecisive than sloppy, actually, but we did spend some long hours on his solos. Punching in digitally is pretty seamless, and it made the job a lot easier from my perspective. I saw CC playin glast night on the VH1 Friday night concert show with Poison and Def Leppard, and he was pretty impressive. He actually did play every lead guitar note on “Open Up & Say Aah”, but as I said, it was a long journey to the finished guitar solo….

  • tom werman

    It was from something called “Metal City Review”, or a name quite similar, and it was a young female interviewer.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    He definitely was (that's at least where I knew him from) but for some reason I thought he did time with Twisted Sister in-between The Dictators and Manowar.

  • slappyfrog

    Thanks, Tom, Poison is one of those bands I've seen multiple times by accident as the opener for someone else and each time the guitars were just miserable. I swear one time there was like a 20 minute solo which was very poorly received to put it mildly.

    Thanks, also, for this series, I find the “inside view” of the industry to be fascinating.

  • Henry Holland

    Hahaha, the classic rock radio station that's on at work just played “We're Not Gonna Take It” and three things stood out for me:

    1. How annoying Dee Snider's voice is, bordering on fingernails-on-the-chalkboard
    2. How the song just LEAPT out of the radio, it was louder & punchier than the songs on either side of it
    3. Cowbell, baby! :-)

  • Mike Rowland

    Hello Tom,

    I truly enjoy your posts. I've been a lifelong fan and had seen your name on numerous (then) record jackets and cassette sleeves. To read your recollections of the sessions and unique perspective as an industry insider is incredibly interesting. Thanks for taking the time.

    Best regards,

  • Mike Rowland

    Hello Tom,

    I truly enjoy your posts. I've been a lifelong fan and had seen your name on numerous (then) record jackets and cassette sleeves. To read your recollections of the sessions and unique perspective as an industry insider is incredibly interesting. Thanks for taking the time.

    Best regards,

  • Mike Rowland

    Hello Tom,

    I truly enjoy your posts. I've been a lifelong fan and had seen your name on numerous (then) record jackets and cassette sleeves. To read your recollections of the sessions and unique perspective as an industry insider is incredibly interesting. Thanks for taking the time.

    Best regards,

  • Pingback: Top 20 Heavy Metal Vocalists #20 to #16 | Piano Learning - Online Music Course

  • Greg

    Tom, very fascinating info on Open up and Say Ahh. I love the sound that you and the band achieved on that album. I’ve always felt that the two songs that never made the record, ‘Livin for the Minute” and “face the hangman,” were excellent songs that easily could have been on the record. Any insight as to why they were left off? Also, if Poison were to record a new album, would you have any interest in working with them again?

  • Werm1000

    Sorry, don’t recall either of them. Remember, this was over 20 years ago. After 60 albums, I think my recording days are over. At this point, I’d work with the Foos or the Eagles — that’s about it.