Heavy Metal And Booze conducted an interview with TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French at this year’s “Days Of The Dead” convention, which was held November 16 in Chicago, Illinois.
On how TWISTED SISTER adopted their look in the 1970s:
French: “It was glam; it was all glam. I was in an ALLMAN BROTHERS cover band a month before I transitioned into a ‘glam artist’ by the virtue of receiving couple of albums with a subscription to a magazine. And I looked at the cover, and [David] Bowie was on the cover. It was about ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and I looked at a picture of Mick Ronson and I went, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ That magazine came with three albums: it came with Lou Reed‘s ‘Transformer’, Bowie‘s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and MOTT THE HOOPLE‘s ‘Mott’. I listened to these records. Up until this point, I was a GRATEFUL DEAD, ALLMAN BROTHERS guy — a hippie, an über-hippie. And all of a sudden, I saw this new thing. I was 20 years old — I just turned 20 — and I went, ‘Whoa! This is amazing.’ I cut my hair off into a shag hairstyle and dyed it blonde and said I wanted to be in a glitter band. So I put feelers out, and so I got a phone call from this group who were looking for a guitar player for their glitter band. So it wasn’t like a transformation in the band; it was already a band that wanted to be that. They were a Jersey band.
They wanted to be the New Jersey version of the NEW YORK DOLLS. For the people who don’t know, the DOLLS were legendary, but they were terrible. I’d seen them a lot. In September of ’72, I saw them every Sunday, and they were great. I mean, they looked great; they just couldn’t play. And I thought if you could look that good and play, that would be great. So when I got a phone call to join this band called SILVER STAR, they said, ‘Yeah, we look like the NEW YORK DOLLS, but we really play.’ I mean, they were players. The bass player was phenomenal; the drummer was a jazz drummer; the singer was a great singer. David Johansen is not a singer; I mean, he’s okay, I guess. The DOLLS were all attitude and looks and image and not much else. They really couldn’t play. And coming from the ALLMAN BROTHERS, DEAD world, you actually learned how to play your instruments. So when I joined this band, all these guys had been in bands, like YES cover bands — they were players, real players. They were not guys who just could play three chords; they were actual players. The bass player was a studied classical bass player. I mean, he was an amazing musician. His hearing, he could just pick stuff up and play on key in perfect pitch. So, I joined a band of real players, and that was the beginning.”
On the 1985 PMRC congressional hearings in which vocalist Dee Snider defended the band’s lyrics:
French: “I don’t think the band ever processed it. But that’s just the band. We were too busy doing something else. There was too much other stuff happening at the time. But he certainly, I think, was stunned [by] the misrepresentation of what our music was. It was fun stuff, and the videos were very cartoony. It wasn’t a threat to the moral fabric of America [like] we were accused of being. I think he was stunned by it, and I was stunned by it, because the band was the straightest rock band in the world. We didn’t allow drugs and alcohol in the band; we fired anybody who did it. That’s not the story of MÖTLEY CRÜE or anybody else; it’s our story, though, so that’s our thing. We were so straight and we were so hard-working, and the fact that we were being accused of stuff when we were probably straighter than half those congressmen who were questioning us who probably had alcohol and drug problems and we didn’t. So it was kind of ironic that we were probably more morally upstanding [than they were]. We didn’t gamble. We were married. We had families. We didn’t do drugs. We didn’t drink. We were just in that crazy heavy metal band portraying this crazy lifestyle. I don’t mean to say it was an act, meaning we were trying to fool people, but, in fact, we portrayed a crazy band.
We were going out there and having fun and just looking as crazy as we could and acting as crazy as we could, but when we went home, we went home to our families and our kids. And we didn’t gamble and we didn’t drink. And not for reasons other than the fact that we thought drinking was dumb and gambling was stupid. If you do those things and you get in the way of us being successful, because you’re too stoned to show up on time and you’re too drunk to be in rehearsal, it affects my livelihood. So that’s why we became so anti-drug and alcohol. It makes sense, but there are not that many bands who adhere to that. So it worked for us. The point is that Dee shared that philosophy with me when he joined. I said, ‘You don’t drink or do drugs?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Great. It’s so hard to find people who don’t do those things.’ People join bands to do those things. So when you say to someone, ‘It’s a requirement.’ And he went, ‘No, man. I don’t. I never did.’ And I went, ‘You’re the guy.’ Then, of course, he became a great songwriter and frontman.”