TWISTED SISTER's JAY JAY FRENCH Defends Producer TOM WERMAN's Work On 'Stay Hungry': 'I Don't Wanna Smear' Him
January 22, 2022
In a new interview with "Heritage Musicians In Conversation With Joe Matera", TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French was asked how important veteran hard rock producer Tom Werman was to the commercial success of the band's triple-platinum "Stay Hungry" album. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Boy, that's a complicated answer. Because Tom Werman, as a symbol, represented success, because he had enormous, multi-platinum successful records and artists — Ted Nugent and MÖTLEY CRÜE and CHEAP TRICK; I mean, he had a track record. So when the record label said, 'We'll get you Werman,' that was basically like telling Jimmy Stewart in 1940, 'We're getting you Frank Capra to direct your movie,' or someone telling you 'We're getting Francis Ford Coppola to direct a movie.' I mean, if you're getting those kinds of names, you're going, 'Oh, wow. That's heavyweight.' Werman was a heavyweight. Regardless of what anyone thinks of his records, how they sounded, 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 the songs. Putting that aside, he knew how to make a record sound good on the radio. 'We're Not Gonna Take It' just exploded on the radio. So regardless of whatever personal issues we had with Werman, the fact is that you can't deny that he produced a record that has now 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. So it's unfair to just smear him. I don't wanna smear Werman. He did what he did, and life moves on.
"You ask a lot of bands if they like the way their records sound, a lot of 'em will say they don't," French reasoned. "It didn't matter what producer produced it. They'll go, 'It can always be better. Somebody else could have done it.' So we did our own version of it called 'Still Hungry'; we re-recorded everything. Are we the first artist to do that? No."
Two years ago, Snider slammed Werman over the producer's work on "Stay Hungry", saying that he had "begged" Tom to put the songs "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" on the LP. "[Tom] 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 going on… And he's going, 'Eh, 'We're Not Gonna Take It', it's a little [hums melody mockingly]' I go, 'Trust me. It's gonna be edgier when we do it. That's the thing. It's catchy.' And his answer was, 'All right, if you really want it.' Okay, that was 'We're Not Gonna Take It'. And 'I Wanna Rock', he goes, 'Eh, I've done that thing already with MOLLY HATCHET. [hums galloping rhythm]' He was mocking my song. He actually presented me with SAXON songs to put on the 'Stay Hungry' album from [SAXON's] 'Strong Arm of The Law'. He goes, 'Check this out.' I go, 'Yeah, it's SAXON.' He goes, 'It's really good.' I said, 'Yeah, it's SAXON.' He goes, 'Nobody really knows them.' I said, 'We've toured with them. It's SAXON.' … He wanted us to cover SAXON songs. And I love SAXON, but in my community, it was current. It was their album that came out last. And he had this attitude, like, they were European, they weren't really big."
Werman later fired back at Snider over his comments, accusing the singer of "embellishing" the facts and denying that he had the power to singlehandedly pick the songs that were going to be include on the album.
"When an independent producer is hired by a label or a band, he is not given the authority to decide which songs are recorded," he told Full In Bloom. "It's a cooperative venture, Now, there's probably a very good chance that when they played me the demos of 'We're Not Gonna Take It', I said, 'Well, it sounds a little bit like a nursery rhyme.' Definitely catchy. But I probably needed a little bit of convincing. Getting down on his knees and begging? No. No. Dee Snider was there for the mixes. Dee Snider approved every single mix. So, really, if he doesn't like the album, it's just as much his fault as it might be fine. So, he blames somebody else…
"There's no question that my approach to recording music was more pop, but that's what worked," Werman explained. "That's what got people on the radio. That's why [CHEAP TRICK's] 'Surrender' was a hit. That's why [Ted Nugent's] 'Cat Scratch Fever' was a hit. That's why I made hit singles. That was the only way to sell millions of albums, which would have been confined or restricted to FM play only. He's got one of the most licensed songs in the history of recorded music probably, and he's bitching and bitching and bitching… It is mysterious to me."
Tom also addressed Dee's claim that Werman suggested having 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,'" Tom said. "[Dee] said, 'Woah, it's SAXON.' 'That's right. That's right. It's SAXON. I really like this.' And I think it was 'Strong Arm Of The Law' or something like that. SAXON was a good band. He said, 'We've toured with them. We know them.' But the way he put it, it was, like, 'What, in God's name, is a producer doing, suggesting to me, Dee Snider, who writes songs, that I should do a song that somebody else wrote?' We do it all the time. I've done cover songs with everybody. MÖTLEY CRÜE did 'Smokin' In The Boys Room'. POISON did 'Your Mama Don't Dance' — a Top 10 single. So I said it, I recommended it. And he goes nuts: 'He wanted me to do a SAXON song, for God's sake.' That's right, Dee. I wanted you to do that. And he said no. Did I force you to do it? No. Because I can't.
"If I had the power to keep one of Dee's songs off the album, then I would have had the power — the same power — to force him to put another song on the album," Werman explained. "Obviously, I don't have that power as a producer, and I never did, nor do many other producers. The producer is a hired gun; you fire him if you don't like him. In their case, [Dee] was pissed because he was forced to work with me by Doug Morris, who was a fairly successful record guy, songwriter, number two or three guy in the recorded music history, behind Clive [Davis] and Ahmet [Ertegun]. And he called me up and he said, 'Tom, you are the only producer I can think of who I think can make a hit with this band. And I really want this band to break a million in the United States.' So, of course, I said yes, and, of course, I knew that my job was to make them a commercial success.
"I really don't know what I could have done different to satisfy this guy," he added, referring to Dee. "I mean, the record that he made with the band, the re-record [of 'Stay Hungry'], that he said, 'That's the way we should have sounded,' I don't know who marketed it, but I understood that in the beginning, after it was released, it sold about 25 thousand records. CHEAP TRICK did the same thing.
"Years later, you're not so good. But at the time, you're great. They're selling millions of records — we love you. We love you, Tom. You're the best. And then, 20 years later, nah, he didn't get our sound right. He wasn't focused. He barely gave a damn about us. He tried to keep our best songs off the record. Whatever you like. It's just, like, I think I'll revise history here a little bit."
In a 2004 press release announcing the release of the re-recorded and expanded version of the classic 1984 album — under the aforementioned title "Still Hungry" — French said, "'Still Hungry' is 'Stay Hungry - The Way It Ought to Be'. It has an ultra-heavy sound, which is the way we wanted 'Stay Hungry' in the first place. But at that time rock records had a thin, very midrange kind of sound and so 'Stay Hungry' was recorded very lightly. We battled 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."