In a new interview with “Heritage Musicians in Conversation with Joe Matera”, TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French we asked how important a veteran hard rock producer was Tom Werman was to the commercial success of the group’s triple platinum disc “Stay Hungry” album. He replied (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Boy, that’s a complicated answer. Because Tom Werman, as a symbol, stood for success, as it had huge records and multi-platinum hit artists – Ted Nugent and MOTLEY CRUE and CHEAP TIP; I mean, he had a track record. So when the record company said, ‘We’ll get you Werman‘, it was basically like saying Jimmy Stewart in 1940, ‘We get you Frank Capra to make your movie,” or someone telling you, “We get Francis Ford Coppola to make a movie.’ I mean, if you get those kind of names, you go, ‘Oh, wow. It’s a heavyweight. Werman was a heavyweight. Regardless of what one thinks of his records, of their sound, he was a heavyweight. So he came on board. And it was controversial because Dee [Snider, TWISTED SISTER singer] didn’t get along with him and he didn’t like a lot of songs. Other than that, he knew how to make a record sound good on the radio. ‘We’re not going to take it’ just exploded on the radio. So whatever personal issues we had with Werman, the thing is, you can’t deny he produced a record that sold six million copies. It’s like AC DC saying, “Well, [‘Back In Black’ producer] Mutt Lange is bad’ or ‘terrible.’ Well, I’m sorry – he sold you 18 million copies of a record. It is therefore unfair to smear it. I don’t want to dirty Werman. He did what he did and life goes on.
“You ask a lot of bands if they like the sound of their records, a lot of them will say no” French reasoned. “It doesn’t matter which producer produced it. They’ll be like, ‘It can always be better. Someone else could have done it. So we made our own version of it called ‘Always hungry’; we re-recorded everything. Are we the first artist to do this? No.”
Two years ago, Sniper slammed Werman on the work of the producer on “Stay Hungry”, saying he had “begged” To M put the songs “We’re not going to take it” and “I wanna Rock” on the LP. “[Tom] I didn’t want those two tracks on the record.” Dee said during an appearance on “The Jasta Show”. “I was on my knees in front of him…I wasn’t begging on my knees, but because he was sitting and there was noise…And he said, ‘Hey, ‘We’re not going to take it’, it’s a little [hums melody mockingly]’ I will, ‘Trust me. It’s going to be more nervous when we do. That’s the thing. It’s catchy. And his response was, ‘Fine, if you really want to.’ Alright that was ‘We’re not going to take it’. And ‘I wanna Rock’, he goes, ‘Hey, I already did this thing with MOLLY HATCHET. [hums galloping rhythm]’ He was making fun of my song. He actually introduced me SAXON songs to put on ‘Stay Hungry’ album of [SAXON‘s] “The strong arm of the law”. He goes, ‘Check that out.’ I go, ‘Yeah, it is SAXON.’ He goes, ‘That’s really good.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s SAXON.’ He said, ‘No one really knows them.’ I said, ‘We toured with them. It is SAXON.’ … He wanted us to cover SAXON Songs. And I like SAXON, but in my community it was common. It was their album that was released last. And he had this attitude, like, they were European, they weren’t really fat.”
Werman then responded to Sniper on his comments, accusing the singer of “embellishing” the facts and denying that he alone had the power to choose the songs that were to appear on the album.
“When an independent producer is hired by a label or a band, they don’t have the power to decide which songs get recorded,” he said. In full bloom. “It’s a co-op business, now there’s probably a very good chance that when they played me the demos of ‘We’re not going to take it’, I said, ‘Well, that sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme.’ Certainly eye-catching. But I probably needed a little convincing. Get on your knees and beg? No no. Dee Snider was there for the mixes. Dee Snider approved each mixture. So really, if he doesn’t like the album, it’s as much his fault as it could be. So he blames someone else…
“There’s no doubt that my approach to recording music was more pop, but that’s what worked,” Werman Explain. “That’s what drew people to the radio. That’s why [CHEAP TRICK‘s] ‘Abandonment’ was a success. that’s why [Ted Nugent‘s] “Cat scratch fever” was a success. That’s why I made hit singles. It was the only way to sell millions of albums, which would have been confined or restricted to FM playback only. It has probably one of the most sacked songs in the history of recorded music, and it groans and groans and groans… It’s mysterious to me.
To M also discussed Deeclaims that Werman suggested to have TWISTED SISTER cover a SAXON song on the LP.
“I committed the terrible crime of saying, ‘Hey, I like this song. Maybe you could do it'” To M noted. “[Dee] say, ‘Woah, that’s SAXON.’ ‘It’s true. It’s true. It is SAXON. I really like that. And I think it was “The strong arm of the law” or something like that. SAXON was a good group. He said: ‘We toured with them. We know them. But the way he said it was, ‘What in the name of God is a producer doing, suggesting to me, Dee Snider, who writes songs, that I should do a song that someone else wrote?’ We do it all the time. I did covers with everyone. MOTLEY CRUE do “Smoking in the Boys’ Room”. POISON do “Your mom doesn’t dance” – a Top 10 single. So I said it, I recommended it. And he goes crazy: ‘He wanted me to make a SAXON song, for god’s sake. It’s true, Dee. I wanted you to do this. And he said no. Did I force you to do it? No. Because I can not.
“If I had the power to keep one of Deeof the album, then I would have had the power – the same power – to force him to put another song on the album”, Werman Explain. “Obviously I don’t have that power as a producer, and I never have, nor have many other producers. The producer is a mercenary; you fire him if you don’t like him. In their case, [Dee] was upset because he was forced to work with me by Doug Morris, who was a fairly successful record holder, songwriter, number two or three in the history of recorded music, behind Clive [Davis] and Ahmet [Ertegun]. And he called me and he said: ‘To M, you’re the only producer I can think of who could make a hit with this band. And I really want this band to break the million in the United States. So, of course, I said yes, and, of course, I knew my job was to make it a commercial success.
“I really don’t know what I could have done differently to satisfy this guy,” he added, referring to Dee. “I mean, the record he did with the band, the re-recording [of ‘Stay Hungry’], that he said, “That’s how we should have sounded”, I don’t know who released it, but I understood that at the beginning, after its release, it sold out to about 25,000 discs. CHEAP TIP did the same.
“Years later, you’re not that good. But back then, you’re great. They’re selling millions of records – we love you. We love you, To M. You are the best. And then, 20 years later, no, he didn’t quite understand our sound. He wasn’t focused. He barely cared about us. He tried to keep our best songs private. Everything you like. It’s just, like, I think I’m going to revise the story a bit here.”
In a 2004 press release announcing the release of the re-recorded and expanded version of the classic 1984 album – under the aforementioned title “Always hungry” — French noted, “‘Always hungry’ is ‘Stay Hungry – The Way It Should Be’. It has ultra-heavy sound, just like we wanted ‘Stay Hungry’ in the first place. But at that time, rock records had a thin, very midrange sound, and therefore ‘Stay Hungry’ was recorded very lightly. We had a fight Atlantic Records and producer Tom Werman about it, but we lost. These re-recordings are faithful to the original arrangements, but they sound much heavier.”