Fact: Every time Mighty High guitarist/vocalist Chris “Woody High” MacDermott turns in a new Spine of Overkill column, it makes my damn day. It’s the last remnant in an experiment a couple years back with having outside contributors turn in specialized columns based on things they’re passionate about — in Woody‘s case, classic rock and metal — and it never fails to entertain. This time around, Woody makes the most of the season and recounts celebrating 4/20 30 years ago in Brooklyn by watching Twisted Sister at the renowned L’Amours club while on mescaline because, as he puts it, “We wanted to make it extra special.”
Spine of Overkill – 4/20/84
This is gonna be a hazy one. 30 years ago on 4/20/84 I got my face melted at close range by Twisted Sister at L’Amour in Brooklyn. Back then 4/20 wasn’t an official day to celebrate marijuana, but I’ve always been ahead of the pack. On this particular 4/20, however, I got a lot more than I bargained for.
I made my first pilgrimage to L’Amour in July of 1983 to see Motörhead and returned in November with my friend Wayne to see Twisted Sister. The show was on a Friday and we went space truckin’ to Brooklyn from Pelham right after school let out. We got to the club around 4:30 in the afternoon. For some reason we felt it was important to be the very first on line so we could grab primo spots right in front of the stage. As we were sitting on the wall smoking a joint this dude that looked just like Damon, the ticket scalper from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, magically appeared and helped himself to our supply. He informed us the club wouldn’t be opening their doors for about five hours and that Twisted Sister would be going on around 1:30 or 2 in the morning. Not knowing what to do in a desolate, industrial wasteland we went searching for food but found only a Carvel.
After chowing down on some flying saucers we just went back to L’Amour and sat on the wall for a few hours. We did get to see Jay Jay French show up and go through the backstage door. I think we might have seen Mark “The Animal” Mendoza’s arrival, too. Eventually the club opened up, we got in with our fake ID’s (we were 16 at the time) and ordered some Jack & Cokes from a hot waitress named Dizzy. Being inside L’Amour was so awesome. Killer metal was blasting over the P.A. and the place was filling up with rowdy headbangers. We were easily the youngest there but no one bothered us. The show itself was incredible. Twisted Sister in 1983 was completely ferocious and really, really loud. The Animal’s bass was so loud it felt like I was going to puke. Dee would get right in our faces and scream the lyrics at us. It was close to 4AM when we finally left the club and had to figure out what to do next. I had told my mother I was sleeping over at someone’s house so she wasn’t expecting me home for hours. We took a slow ride on the B train back into Manhattan and killed time in a hotel lobby before Grand Central opened up. Arriving back in Pelham around 6AM we snoozed for a bit in the laundry room of an apartment building before heading home. The trip was such a success we couldn’t wait to do it all over again.
It wasn’t until Good Friday April 20, 1984, that we were able to repeat the process. We took a later train into the city but knew we would still get to the club really early. Sitting on a wall in Brooklyn was better than doing anything in Pelham. We also came up with the brilliant idea of taking mescaline for the show. Weed, Bud talls and Jack Daniels were standard issue party supplies but we wanted to make it extra special. Mesc was loaded with speed back then so we figured it would help keep us jacked up all night for maximum headbanging.
Here’s where things get a little hazy. I really have no recollection of what we did before getting inside the club. We probably went to the same Carvel for dinner. I’m not sure if we took the mescaline outside or inside the club. Either way I’m sure it was washed down with Jack & Coke. Once inside we saw Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda hanging out at one of the bars. We couldn’t believe it! Wayne had made a Twisted Sister vest and he went up and got him to sign it. The whole band was hanging out, except for Dee. Jay Jay was preoccupied with playing Pac Man but everyone signed the vest and either Eddie or AJ brought it backstage for Dee to sign. We were fuckin’ stoked.
The only snag in my plan was that my mother said I could go out but I couldn’t stay overnight at my friend’s. She was expecting me home around midnight. At some point I went out to a pay phone in the lobby and had the unpleasant task of calling her to tell her I wasn’t going to be home anytime soon. She freaked. It probably helped that I was tripping because I just kept repeating slowly and calmly that I was fine and I would see her around 6AM. It didn’t go over well but I had come too far and retreat was not an option.
At some point during the long wait for Twisted’s set I realized that I wasn’t really enjoying my trip. I felt super uneasy and paranoid. They were showing this horror film called Mother’s Day on the screen while they were blasting Mercyful Fate, Accept and Iron Maiden over the P.A. I was getting pretty freaked. Later on I calmed down when they were playing “Symptom of the Universe” by Black Sabbath. Right when the acoustic part of the song kicked in the video screen started showing a clip of a Tom & Jerry cartoon with them playing acoustic guitars. I laughed about that for a very long time that night.
The opening act was a band called Takashi. I had bought their debut EP, Kamikaze Killers, at the New Rochelle mall. They never carried much heavy stuff so I would buy anything remotely metal that they had in stock. Takashi also got a lot of airplay on Long Island college radio station WCWP during their “Rock ‘N’ Roll Weekend” programming. I wasn’t that impressed with the EP but was hoping they’d be heavier in concert. At one point early in the evening Wayne and I went into the mens room to find lead singer Danny Stanton blow-drying his hair. Never a good sign. Takashi’s set was pretty lame, very Ratt/Crüe. For their big finale they played their song “Kamikaze” and had a big Japanese guy come out and wave around a Japanese flag. A bunch of headbangers in the front row ripped it out of his hands and wouldn’t give it back. Even if I wasn’t tripping, the entire situation would have been totally bizarre.
As always, AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top” signaled that Twisted was about to take it to the stage. Immediately there was a surge of people towards the front. We had a big joint and a little joint left. We debated which one to light up and some huge biker guy ordered us to go for the big one. We respected our metal elders and did as told. When Twisted hit the stage with their usual opener “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” we noticed they had on brand new costumes. After the first few songs Dee told us they were about to release a new album and wanted to try out some of the new songs in front of a raunchy club crowd. It was very cool hearing songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “I Wanna Rock” and “Burn in Hell” for the first time blasting through triple stacks and with Dee in full force. Towards the end of the set Dee said that he had a special song for us called “S.M.F.” Back then S.M.F. was a phrase known only amongst rabid metal maniacs. The place went nuts singing “sick mother fucker” on the chorus. The rest of the show was typical Twisted insanity — “Under the Blade,” “Shoot ‘tm Down,” “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll,” their frenzied version of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and many more. As it turns out this was a really important show in Twisted history. Not long after, they would become a huge band via MTV and leave the Tri-State bar scene. Also not long after, the drinking age was raised to 21 and the entire nightclub landscape changed.
I kept my word and got home promptly at 6AM to face the wrath of my wide-awake mother. She was beyond pissed. My poor grandmother was already up and toiling in the kitchen, preparing the Easter feast for the following day, and had to sit through all that screaming while trying to fry meatballs. I was still tripping. I went up to my room and tried to sleep for an hour before leaving for work. It was a long day. I’ve had a lot of fun playing shows on 4/20 the past decade but nothing will come close to topping that night from 30 years ago.