We got some interesting insights from guitarist, manager and producer Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister. Jay Jay talked about his first love The Beatles, multi band rock revue by The Young Rascals, the Schaffer festival in Central Park, the Fillmore East, Jimi Hendrix and seeing Bowie & the Spiders in the 70s.
What are your earliest memories of heavy metal – was it love at first sight/hearing?
As I was born in 1952, the music that I grew up with was first, folk then pop and then rock. The Beatles were my first love followed by Stones, Who, Floyd, Grateful dead, Led Zep, Beach Boys and David Bowie. Blue Cheer may have been the first purely metal band. It was 1969. I had already seen Led Zep and Iron Butterfly. Blue Cheer was the extreme however at that time. They were American and they were LOUD!! I did like them.
What was the first metal album you bought with your own cash?
Perhaps Vincibus Eruptum by Blue Cheer.
Are there any bands you loved as a youngster that cause you to wince now and ask ‘what was I thinking?
The music that made me love this industry was purely pop music from the early 60’s. I will never apologize for it.
Who were the first band you saw live – please feel free to include no-name local bands if that was your first interaction with live metal.
The first band I saw was a legendary folk group called The Weavers in Carnegie Hall in 1963. The first rock group was The Animals in 1966. The first multi band rock revue (that’s how it was done in the 60’s) had The Young Rascals, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels and Wilson Pickett as co- headliners. That was Easter Sunday 1967 at the RKO theater in Manhattan. Oh, I forgot to mention that the opening bands that day were The Who and Cream! Each artist played 2 songs a piece. I became a big Who and Cream fan from that but, it should be noted, the Young Rascals blew everyone off the stage that day.
How hard was it growing up to get info on the bands you loved – was there much mainstream media coverage where you lived?
Never an issue. I grew up in Manhattan. It seemed like you could see anyone at anytime, anywhere. Hendrix, Zep, Floyd, the Who, Stones etc. Ticket prices ranged from $1.00 (you are reading this correctly) at the Schaffer festival in Central Park, to $3.00 at the Fillmore all the way up to $6.00 to see the Stones at MSG! Magazines and media coverage was everywhere as were free concerts in the park in case you were totally broke. I saw The Dead, Traffic, The Airplane, BB King, Spooky Tooth to name a few, at free concerts at the 72nd Street bandshell in Central Park.
Do you think the internet has taken away the mystique of being in a big band for young people today? Do we know too much about our heroes in 2016?
The answer would be yes. But that is because I have context. New music fans digest things very differently and wouldn’t know any other way.
Were you a big festival goer as a junior headbanger?
I passed on Woodstock because of the weather report and never regretted it. Most of my friends went and I heard that it was a nightmare, at least from what they could remember as they were all on acid at the time! Every weekend, in New York City, you could see your favorite artists at the Fillmore East so there was really no need to have to travel to anywhere.
What five albums have stayed with you since your formative metal years?
I came to metal as an evolution. It is not the genre music that inspires me although I have come to deeply respect certain artists like Priest, Motorhead and of course, AC/DC over time. If one was to trace Metal’s musical evolution through the blues then I could rattle off dozens of albums.
Did you have a metal crush? I had lifesize posters of Lita Ford and Lee Aaron on my ceiling in 1985…
Well, in a weird way, I had artistic crushes on Mick Ronson, who was the epitome of a metal/glam guitar hero to me (saw many times) and Jimi Hendrix (who I saw many times) was also one. I had posters of them on my wall. As far as female metal artists, No. But Lita is an old and dear friend!
Anything else you’d like to reveal about your metal upbringing?
Seeing Bowie and the Spiders in 1972 and 1973 and Opening for Priest in 1980 taught me some very valuable lessons about the kind of music we were making and how it should sound and be performed. It had a profound effect on me as it relates to the evolution of Twisted Sister.
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