Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider issues album of Broadway standards
- Last Updated: 12:13 AM, May 14, 2012
- Posted: 9:26 PM, May 12, 2012
If a psychic had seen into Dee Snider’s future during his face-painted Twisted Sister heyday and informed him of his 2012 endeavors, Snider’s response would not have been kind.
“If you had said, ‘Twenty-five years from now you’re gonna do an album of musicals,’ I would have punched you in the face,” says Snider, the band’s longtime frontman, who releases an album of metalized versions of Broadway classics, “Dee Does Broadway,” on Tuesday. “Those would have been fighting words back then.”
The album, featuring former KISS guitarist Bob Kulick and noted Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo, will either delight or stun fans of Broadway and heavy metal in equal measure. The album dances along the edge of both styles, as when Snider’s swingin’ big-band take on “Mack the Knife” suddenly erupts into a barrage of distorted power chords — which are then augmented by horns.
“Dee Does Broadway” came to life via Snider’s friendship with another unlikely crooner of show tunes: Alice Cooper.
Snider, best known for storming the stage in outrageous glam-rock get-ups while belting out hard rock anthems like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock,” then serenades The Post with a re-creation of a phone message he left for Cooper, to the tune of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
“Hey Alice, please call me,” he sings, “please pick up, the phone.”
Based on these exchanges, Snider and Cooper decided to record a duet album of Broadway songs which got as far as the demo stage. (Cooper ultimately didn’t pursue the project.)
Snider says that while heavy metal is in his veins, Broadway is in his DNA.
“My parents were big fans of musicals,” says Snider, who releases a memoir, “Shut Up and Give Me the Mic,” on the same day as the album. “They would take us to local productions on Long Island of ‘South Pacific,’ ‘Brigadoon,’ all these shows. They would play ‘West Side Story’ on a loop in our house.”
Snider recruited Kulick and drummer Brett Chassen to play on, and co-produce, the album. Eliminating songs from obviously rock-inflected musicals like “Grease” or “Hair,” they sought out more traditional songs that resonated with Snider in a deep but heavy way.
“Certain songs, like ‘Mack the Knife,’ I just always wanted to sing,” he says. “For others, like ‘Razzle Dazzle’ [from ‘Chicago’], I connected with the lyrics. The message of ‘Razzle Dazzle’ is, when you’re on tour and you got nothing left, just go up there and start jumping around a little more, so hopefully no one will notice that you can’t sing a note.”
Snider also sought guest stars who would give the project a solid Broadway stamp of approval. Cyndi Lauper, who appeared on Broadway in “The Threepenny Opera,” joins him on the “Sweet Charity” classic “Big Spender.”
“I thought Cyndi would be perfect for that song because she’s got that great Betty Boop voice,” he says.
More surprising is Clay Aiken, Snider’s recent “Celebrity Apprentice” castmate, who joins him on “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” from “Guys and Dolls.”
“We both admitted trepidations and thought, ‘Is this gonna work?’ You could do a new ‘Odd Couple’ TV series around us,” says Snider. “But Clay’s got sack. He got in the ring and he sang the s- -t out of that. He was wailing.”
While Snider appeared on Broadway briefly, in the hit jukebox musical “Rock of Ages,” his collaboration with Tony Award-winner Bebe Neuwirth showed how far this project took him from familiar territory.
“I had an idea that she would do ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ [from ‘Damn Yankees’],” says Snider. “So Bebe came into the studio, cool as could be, and I was blown away. When she was done, I said, ‘Man, you sang the hell out of that. You could have done this on Broadway.’ And Bebe goes, ‘I did do this on Broadway. You had no idea?’ I said, ‘No. I just thought it was good casting on my part.’”
After also persuading Patti LuPone to join him on a mash-up of “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” — causing him to wonder, “Does she know who I am? Did anybody tell her?” — Snider realized something important about why this project might succeed.
“I’m boldly going where nobody’s even thinking of going,” he says. “By doing this, I’m accepting the fact that I may be abandoning my core. [Combining] Broadway and heavy metal is not metal, no matter how heavy you do it.”
Indeed, he’s got his share of skeptical naysayers.
“Someone tweeted me and said, ‘Hey, Dee. “Dee Does Broadway.” Sellout.’ But this isn’t selling out. People are saying, ‘You could be putting the last nails in the coffin of your career.’ And I’m saying, ‘What career?’ ” says Snider. “I don’t put out records, you don’t hear [my music] on the radio, I’m not on MTV, I don’t tour. I don’t have a musical career. What exactly am I destroying?”