Dee Snider insists it was at least a decade before he realized We’re Not Gonna Take It - the band’s signature hit - had a tune that might have been lifted from the Christmas carol O Come All Ye Faithful.
“A friend of mine, we were talking about songs that borrowed from other songs, like George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and He’s So Fine,” Snider told us in an interview promoting his musical Dee Snider’s Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Tale, which begins a run at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre Tuesday.
“And he brought it to my attention - (sings) We’re-no-go-nna-take-it!.. O-come-all-ye-faithful! - and I was like, ‘What?’ I sang in the church choir until I was, like, 19 years old. So it wouldn’t surprise me if I’d borrowed something over the years.”
Anything else in the Twisted Sister catalogue with a yuletide pedigree? Frosty the Snowman, perhaps?
“Believe me, I went through it pretty thoroughly after that. There’s nothing there.”
But the synchronicity between the two songs sounded like an opportunity for Snider, who’s kept his eyes open for opportunities ever since hair metal died.
“We fit those two songs together, and it evolved into Twisted Christmas,” Snider says of the 2006 Christmas album the band put out. “It turned into our biggest seller. Everybody was telling us, ‘You’ll ruin your career.’ And I’m like, ‘What career? We’re in our 50s doing oldies shows!’ And that eventually evolved into Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale.”
For a blustery, larger-than-life metal frontman, Snider is amiably self-effacing about what seem like smart business choices. Twisted Sister - which plans to call it a career after 40 years next year – is now a hobby. Snider’s been, among other things, a reality TV star (Celebrity Apprentice, Celebrity Wife Swap) and a Broadway performer in Rock of Ages. He also wrote a hit Christmas song for Celine Dion, The Magic of Christmas Day, recorded in 1998.
“I’d like to say I had a plan,” Snider says. “But what happened was, I woke up one day and they found a cure for what I did. It was called grunge. So I discovered reality TV and Broadway and musicals and things, really out of necessity. I had bills to pay and Twisted Sister wasn’t going to pay them.”
That cruel twist of musical fate plays a key part in Dee Snider’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale – the story of a metal band with a 25 year history of failure, whose members sell their soul to the Devil in exchange for success. That is, until they are saved by the spirit of Christmas.
“Twisted Sister was around for 10 years before you ever heard about us, but at least you heard about us. This band, Daisy Cutter, formed the year (Nirvana’s) Nevermind came out. They formed a hair band the year grunge hit. Worst possible timing. They’ve been together 25 years and they’re still playing to empty bars, still with the spandex and the hair.”
Snider does double duty in Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale as both narrator and exorcist.
Snider originally envisioned the plot as a Christmas theme album with staging. But Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale director Adam John Hunter read it and said, “This isn’t a theme album. It’s a musical and I want to direct it.” Its first yuletide run was last year in Chicago. Toronto, where Snider recalls some of Twisted Sister’s most enthusiastic shows, was an easy call.
Snider ended up writing a full slate of Christmas-y material for the show – incorporating both the We’re Not Gonna Take It/O Come All Ye Faithful mash-up, but the Celine tune as well. “It’s not a rock song, but in this show, we rock it out.”
He calls his home, “the house that Celine Dion built,” following the success of The Magic of Christmas Day. He’d written the song as a Christmas present for his wife.
“Years later I get a call from a Grammy-winning producer and he says, ‘Are you sitting down?’ – ‘Yeah, Why?’ – ‘Celine Dion wants to record your Christmas song.’
“I said, ‘Does she know who wrote it?’ And he said, ‘We haven’t told her yet.’ I said, ‘Don’t. She doesn’t need to know Satan wrote her Christmas song.’
“It’s the only song I never wrote for commercial purposes and it’ll end up making more money than any song I’ve ever written.”
Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Tale is on at the Winter Garden Theatre from Nov. 17 - Jan. 3. For tickets and info, vist rocknrollxmas.com.
Courtesy of Toronto Sun