Updated: Feb 14, 2021
Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister. The band Twisted Sister had been around for ten years prior (which many people do not realize), but this song was definitely their breakthrough hit. The single was released in April of 1984 and it received a lot of attention for Dee Snider and the band's look as well as its memorable music video. "We're Not Gonna Take It" received heavy radio airplay not just on rock stations, but pop stations as well. The song actually reached #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the music video and MTV exposure was a driving force for the song's success and popularity. In addition to the band, the video also featured actor Mark Metcalf who most remember for his role as "Neidermeyer" in 1978's landmark comedy, Animal House (and maybe later for "The Maestro" on Seinfeld or "The Master" on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Metcalf delivers a Neidermeyer-like performance as an angry father who begins the video ranting at his child culminating in him screaming the question, "What do you want to do with your life?"
This was the first music video directed by Marty Callner who is also known for lots of other work including many other popular music videos for artists like Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Poison, Pat Benatar and Heart among others. It features some slapstick comedy that Dee Snider has said was simply meant to be like a cartoon with human actors playing variations on the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. He said, "Each stunt was selected from my extensive personal collection of cartoons. You will also note when you watch the entire video that after each catastrophe our villain suffers through, in the next sequence he reappears unharmed by any previous attack, no worse for the wear." Without further ado, here is the music video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister...
I had the pleasure of an interview with Mark Metcalf, who in addition to Animal House and the Twisted Sister videos also had a role in the first season of Hill Street Blues as well as the 1986 film One Crazy Summer in the '80s and many more since. Here is what he shared when I asked him about doing the "We're Not Gonna Take It" video: I lived in the East Village of New York, was a stage actor in off Broadway plays, regional theatre, and occasionally Broadway, didn't have a television, had no idea what MTV was, didn't listen to music unless it was classical, jazz or blues, and some guy called me up and asked me to fly to California to be in a "music video" for his band. I obviously had never heard of Dee Snider or Twisted Sister but the play I was doing afforded me two and a half days off and I said something like, "If you're paying American money and can get me to L.A., shoot the damn thing, and get me back for the Wednesday evening show, then, sure, I'll do it. Whatever IT is." I had some stuff at an old girlfriend's house and it's always nice to get a trip to L.A., so I went.
Dee picked me up at the airport and that was a little surprising. I had no idea what this band did, but I lived in the East Village and had seen worse, or better, depending on your point of view, so I went along. Dee was very excited that I was doing this thing because he was a big fan of Animal House and he drove me to Marty Callner's house which is where the couch was that I slept on. On the way from the airport, he outlined the dynamic of the video then said that he wanted me to write this long rant to open the story of the video. He had loved the movie and especially the character so he wanted some reference to Neidermeyer.
I didn't care and certainly thought that no one would ever see the thing so I spent the first night in L.A. with an old friend named Rex Weiner, a writer, and he and I cobbled together the rant. The part of it that Dee wanted to be sure we got in was the tag line, "What do you wanna do with your life?" I got letters from Universal after the thing had been on MTV every five minutes for a couple of months threatening me with law suits because, in their words, "They owned the character, I didn't. Therefore I had no right to use the character in any other medium and I better not do it again or they would really sue my ass." By the time they got around to sending that letter I had already done it a second time with "I Wanna Rock", so I just ignored them. So... yes it was fun making the video and having it play all the time for a year or so but it was one more way in which I kind of betrayed myself and made it difficult to have any more varied a career than "the guy who gets mad and spits when he yells." In addition to "What do you wanna do with your life?", Metcalf also used lines like "A Twisted Sister pin?! On your uniform?!" and "You're all worthless and weak!" which were variations of lines from Animal House. As he mentioned, it turns out the folks at Universal Studios took exception, but luckily they still made it into the videos. Lucky for us and lucky for Twisted Sister because the videos for "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" drove their Stay Hungry album to multi-platinum status and the band to international fame. Though they would never have another Top 40 hit, there wasn't any band hotter for at least a short portion of the '80s decade. Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!