Twisted Sister, to a five-year-old in rural Wisconsin, was a bit of an eye-opening spectacle. Back before the (ridiculously) small town in which I grew up (1200 open air loving residents) collectively banned MTV from the township limits, the roots of my rebellious nature were beginning to seep into the ground of my shielded childhood. Twisted Sister’s classic video to We’re Not Gonna Take It was always a personal favorite, for many adolescent reasons, and it acts as a significant, early-adulthood bridge to the burgeoning days of my foolish innocence.
So, I’m an early 20-something attending the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and working at Hollywood Video. Remember brick and mortar video stores? Neither do I. Anyway, I was closing up the store one hot, summer evening and a guy approached the check-out with a movie I’ve long since forgotten. I greeted this man with both a courteous smile, and curious stare. The man was Mark Metcalf, the legendary barking father from the We’re Not Gonna Take It video. I didn’t call him out, as you can possibly imagine, celebrities of any caliber, NEVER walk into a Hollywood Video on Milwaukee’s north side. I worked there for another year or so, and never saw Mr. Metcalf again, but I’ll never forget that immediate wave of childhood warmth felt only for those 30-odd seconds.
Look, I’m just gonna go on the record and say that Stay Hungry still holds up! I don’t care who mocks, scorns, maligns, or even shin-kicks. My favoritism towards Dee Snider, Mark Metcalf, Twisted Sister, and this striking album is not unlike a bonfire that’s been burning for nearly 30 years, and every delicate spin of this angst-ridden album adds more fuel to that never-ending flame.
Bar/None, one of the best singles to emerge from 1987, They Might Be Giants’ Don’t Let’s Start is a mindnumbingly-catchy little diddy that, when coupled with its amazing video that frequented the vid-screens of MTV, saw TMBG shooting harmonized-lighting into the ear-holes of everyone outside the confined NYC arena.
The Don’t Let’s Start single/EP/whatever-you-call-it contains the genre-bending favorite, The Famous Polka. If ever there was a fast-paced, accordion heavy, punk-polka anthem, it would be The Famous Polka (a personal favorite of The Prudent Groove).
Before the Band of Dans, before the TMBG-ified big-band-sound, there were two Johns, Linnell & Flansburgh. Stripped down compared to their more recent work (anything past 1994), Don’t Let’s Start showcases the clever wit of these two mad-genius John boys. The following lyric captures the whimsically-savvy, yet devotedly-bleak outlook of TMBG, and is arguably the best line the band has ever written:
No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful
I’m contemplating having the above phrase inscribed onto my epitaph. It’s a phrase that needs to be chanted from the mouths of babes for a solid 15 minutes at least once a day. That’ll learn ’em to see beauty!