JOHN FRENCH AND STEVE FARBER
Rosetta Books (Hardcover)
If cats have nine lives, Jay Jay French has had 20. The founding guitarist of Twisted Sister (and regular Goldmine contributor) has gone from young radical to teen drug dealer to rock star to motivational speaker. This extraordinary life (lives?) is recounted in his new book, Twisted Business, which successfully combines rock-star autobiography with self-help business manifesto.
Like any good autobiography, Twisted Business starts at childhood, with French recounting his New York upbringing as John Segall, the son of politically active parents who inspired his activism in high school. Then, like many of his generation, he caught the rock and roll bug when he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
To pay for guitars and records, he dealt (and used) drugs — and French doesn’t pull punches in describing this life’s dark side. His matter-of-fact writing style makes this just as compelling as any other element here, and when he wises up and leaves that trajectory behind, it’s easy to cheer on the triumphs to come.
Of course, no one goes straight from rags to riches. French entertainingly recalls the early days of Twisted Sister (with a totally different lineup), and how the 11th version of the band achieved fame with anthems such as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.” Again, French is frank about the band’s highs and lows. Sex/drugs/egos — Twisted Sister had all of the successes, and lived all of the excesses, typical of this era. His honesty and humor in recounting these tales is one of the strong appeals of this book.
Twisted Business, as the title implies, also focuses on French’s business life. “TWISTED” is actually an acronym (tenacity/wisdom/inspiration/stability/trust/excellence/discipline) he uses in his speaking engagements. French skillfully weaves his rock stories around each theme, passing on the lessons learned from these experiences. For example, he recounts how he kept ownership of the Twisted Sister name in a court case by arguing that it had no value at the time — a good move, as the band’s songs have since been heavily licensed for film and TV.
These days, French focuses on business and writing, having retired from music following Twisted Sister’s final show in 2016. But he still has plenty of rock and roll mojo, and he brings that energy to every page of this very entertaining — and very educational (in a good way) — book.
— Howard Whitman