Hunger Pains: Rock Photographer Mark Weiss & Dee Snider On The Famous Photo Shoot For Twisted Sister’s Classic Album Cover

June 22, 2009
by Jeb Wright  

Mark Weiss and Twisted Sister

Both Mark Weiss and Dee Snider have come a long way over the last quarter century. Yet neither man knew that their first time working together would lead to more success than they could have ever imagined.

Snider’s fame with Twisted Sister is obvious. His snarl and MTV personality took TS from being a rock band with a cult following to being a platinum selling, superstar rock band. To learn about Mark Weiss’ success, one has to read the credits on album and magazine covers. After Stay Hungry, Weiss did more album covers, most notably Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi. Weiss clientele reads like a Who’s Who of rock and pop music royalty.

Weiss’ first brush with Twisted Sister, however, was not one that would seem to foster a future working relationship. In fact, Weiss was so shaken up by the experience, he actually walked out of the gig. Mark explains, "Twisted Sister used to play at a local casino. I went to see them but I didn’t photograph them because I was a little intimidated by them. I just hung out in the back and watched. I was never the type of guy to throw his hands in the air and go crazy. I would go in the back and just lean into the doorway. Dee Snider would always pick someone out during the show that was not participating. I was one of the guys that was in the back. Dee singled me out and asked me if I thought I was too cool. They put the lights on me and everything. I wasn’t trying to be cool, I was just an insecure kid. I left the show after that happened to me. When they would come back, I would go see them but I used to hide to make sure they couldn’t pick me out."

Perhaps it was fate that Dee called out Mark at the show. It was undeniably the seed that inadvertently blossomed into life long friendship between the two men. Over the years, both have had iconic careers in their field of expertise. Back when they were still hungry, however, they were brought together to accidently create an iconic image that is instantly recognizable by fans of hard rock.

The simple image of Dee Snider, screaming and crouching with a rotting bone, was, in reality, not the shot meant for the album cover. A series of mistakes, miscues and mischief led to the shot being the only possible choice for the album cover. Snider even believes the shot was ultimately responsible, unbeknownst to Weiss, for the breakup of the band.


Jeb: It has been 25 years since Stay Hungry was released. In addition to being a great album, it has a classic album cover shot by photographer Mark Weiss. How did you come to use Mark?

Dee: I don’t quite remember. Mark remembers it as me insisting on using him. I don’t recall. My recollection is of the shoot and showing up painfully early in the morning in Mark’s studio in New York City.

Mark: Dee called me up and told me that he had been checking out my credits and asked me if I wanted to shoot their album cover. The record company wanted them to use a famous photographer but Dee wanted a rock photographer. By this time I was shooting covers for Circus Magazine of Ozzy Osbourne, Ritchie Blackmore and Van Halen. I was not just a live photographer, by this point; I was well established. male enhancement pills, visit page, buy steroids online, testosteronepillsnorx, produce more sperm

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Jeb: I understand this was much more than just a show and shoot type thing.

Dee: We were told there would be a whole series of shoots, with makeup and without makeup. The photo shoot was going to be for the album cover, promotional photographs and a whole variety of purposes. We were getting set to release Stay Hungry and hit the road. Once we hit the road, we knew doing a studio session was going to be virtually impossible.

We started the day doing a great variety of no makeup shots, as we were always big on being photographed both ways; we didn’t take the Kiss approach. After hours of doing those—Mark definitely likes to cover his ass by taking a lot of photos. He was taking so many photos that he was driving us pretty crazy. We showed up about 11am on Day 1 and we didn’t get out of there until 9am on Day 2. It was twenty-two hours of shooting; makeup on and makeup off.

Mark: I think it is just me that does these kind of shoots. Whenever I shoot a rock star, I am thrilled. I want to shoot them as long as I can, until they say, "That’s enough." I keep going. I change backgrounds and lighting and whatever it takes. You have to keep them going when they get tired. After a while, it does get a little crazy.

Jeb: Was the cover with you holding the bone Mark’s idea or was it the record companies?

Dee: The cover requires a whole different explanation because it became the cover purely by accident. The original vision for the album cover was quite different. We spend the first part of the first day shooting no makeup, cover shots of the bands with a variety of different backdrops. Once we were done with that, we went in and put our makeup and costumes on. We came out and did a whole range of photos with the makeup on. We did all the promotional shots and we did the cover shot, with makeup, for the original album cover concept. We wrapped and the sun was coming up the next day and we got out of there about 9am.

Jeb: Tell me about the original album cover idea.

Dee: The album cover was originally envisioned by our bass player, Mark Mendoza. This was at a point where the band was feeling like I was controlling and doing everything. I had, actually, always done that, but now that we were starting to get a little fame and fortune, they wanted to get involved. I told them, "Come up with great ideas and we will use them." Mark said, "What about a shot of the band sitting in a squatters rooms, around an electrical spool for a table. On the table is nothing but a bone with no meat on it. The album will be called Stay Hungry." He wanted it to show that we were struggling, and starving musicians, which we were in many ways. Super imposed behind us, was us in makeup and costumes with glasses of champagne. It was The Dream. We were staying hungry and we were dreaming of rock stardom. I told Mark, "That is a good fucking idea, man. Go with it."

Mark: I put together a team of people to build the set. The reason I made the set small is because I wanted the band to be close to each other. I didn’t want them spread out all over the room. We never really talked about how big the room was going to be. When they walked in, it was like one of those Spinal Tap moments. They were expecting this big room. Meanwhile, I had a budget to work with. To make the room three times as big, like they would have wanted, would have taken a week longer and cost a lot more money. I would not have made any money as it would have all gone to the set.

Dee: When we arrived at the studio, they had literally built this tenement room, with a spool for a table, a bare light bulb hanging down in the middle and a boarded up window in the background. When we came back in the room, with our makeup on, we realized that the room was too small for the superimposed idea that we had. If it was going to work at all, then we had to be plastered against the wall. We were standing, shoulders back, against the wall, so we could all fit into the room with us in the room without our makeup on. We thought, for the first time, that there might be a problem with that shot. Problem one was that the room wasn’t really big enough. When we took the picture of the band sitting around the electric spool with the bone—the bone should be mentioned.

Jeb: The bone is a big player in that cover.

Dee: The bone was a cow’s femur, or something like that. Mark had got it several days before and he had not thought to refrigerate it. It was funk. It was rotting meat. It was vile. You could barely get near the damn thing without your eyes watering.

Mark: Part of the original concept was to have a bone. One day I went to get lunch and, sure enough, there was this bone. I said, "How much is that bone?" They told me and I said, "I will have a corned beef sandwich and that bone."

Jeb: Was Mark prodding the band at that time?

Dee: We did every picture that Mark could think of. Mark is going, "Just one more . . . just one more." He was making people nuts. I finally said, "That’s it. We are calling it. We’re done." It was about 8am the following morning. As I’m leaving, Mark says, "Just one more roll with you in the room." I was the most cooperative one of the bunch because I understood that Mark’s intention was not to bust our chops; he was just trying to get a good shot.

I go into the room and Mark is taking pictures, and I am looking at this bone, which has been sitting on the table now for another twenty-four hours. No one wanted to go near it because it was so vile. I said, "Oh, fuck it." I decided that I could just burn the gloves that I was wearing. I grabbed the bone and I start posing with the bone. Mark ends up doing a roll of shots with me and the bone. I was screaming and waving the bone and doing the whole thing. I was crouched down in the corner of the room.

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Mark: I felt like the band sitting around the table was kind of boring. I wanted to see them the way they are on stage. You can’t have one guy doing it and the other guys not doing it. Some of the guys would not give me good enough poses. It looked contrived; it looked like they were just doing it for the photograph. We did the concept that they wanted. It was a lot tedious work to do Mendoza’s idea. You had to do the shots with the makeup and without the makeup. I think the reason I kept it going as long as I did was because I didn’t feel we had the shot. I knew we had something, and that I was not going to get reamed out by the record company, but it was not what I envisioned. I felt like I had to come through because the record company didn’t want to use me.

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I was tired and everyone in the band was tired. The rest of the band had left and Dee was the last one there as he was still packing up his stuff. I said, "Dee, get back in the room." I threw him the bone and said, "Just go for it."

When the band was there, he did his thing but he didn’t let loose. At the time, they were angry with him because he was starting to take over the band. They were waiting for him to be hogging the shots and I think that is why he didn’t really cut loose when the entire band was there. When he was alone, and I got him back into the room, I just told him to let loose. He was knocking the walls down and screaming. We got calls from downstairs and they said they were calling the police. It probably only lasted five minutes but at the end of it I said, "I think we got it, Dee."

Jeb: How did that end up the cover over the first idea?

Mark: I turned the photographs into the record company. I was not involved in the process of what was going to be on the cover.

Dee: The pictures come in and the head of the art department for Atlantic Records comes in and says, "We’ve got a problem." The light bulb that was hanging down in the middle of the room, hung right in my face. No matter what they did, it blocked the lead singer of the band; it blocked me. We couldn’t use it. This pre-dated Photoshop, so they couldn’t get rid of it.

The pictures of the band had us plastered up against the wall so none of them looked right. The pictures without makeup were not how we wanted to represent the band because we felt it sent, absolutely, the wrong message about what we were doing. The way of thinking started coming around that said, "If you can’t have a picture of the band that represents the band, then you could just have a picture of the front man that represents what the band is all about. You can’t have the drummer, or the guitar player, or the bass player all alone on the cover. The only way you can get away with that is if you use the front man; especially if the front man is outrageous like I am.

We start going through the pictures to find a picture of me that says Stay Hungry. Lo and behold, the last roll had me crouching in the corner, holding the bone and screaming like a trapped animal fighting for food. Everybody said, "That’s it." Well, not everybody said that; it was just the record company, the management company and myself. The band was besides themselves because they knew there was no other choice. The last thing they wanted was just me on the album cover. Remember, they thought this whole thing was becoming more and more about me with every passing day. They realized there was no choice.

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Jeb: That must have enticed some feelings.

Dee: The picture of just me on the cover just cemented the whole ‘Dee is Twisted Sister’ thing. It further strained our relationships and further put more nails in the coffin of the band’s personal relationship. Ultimately, it caused the band to break up, I’m sure.

Mark: I had just met everyone that day. I really didn’t know there was any turmoil within the band. If I had known there was something going on then I wouldn’t have done it. I always try to be politically correct.

Jeb: Mendoza went in with a concept and came out with just you on the cover. I can’t imagine his reaction.

Dee: He was the one with the biggest problem with my control of things. He was the most vocal about it, too. I said to him, "Come up with an idea" and he came up with an idea, but since he didn’t think it through, it ultimately wound up shooting him in the foot. Ain’t it a bitch!

Jeb: Twenty-five years later, that cover is THE photo people think of.

Dee: It happened purely by accident.

Jeb: How was Mark Weiss to work with on a shoot?

Dee: I have always found Mark great to work with. He has taken a lot of shit from other band members because his photos wound up, inadvertently, further distancing me from the band, as far as celebrity and recognition go. It was not Mark’s intention; it was just Mark doing his job and doing it well.

Mark was easy to work with and was positive at all times. He kept his own ego in check. Mark Mendoza can be incredibly difficult to work with and he carries it offstage as well. As a matter of fact, I think half of our group shots were throwaways because Mark or AJ were deliberately fucking the shots up. They were complaining about the amount of shots but most of the time they were giving the camera the finger, or picking their nose. If they weren’t doing that, then they would just not do what Mark was saying. Mark had to keep shooting and shooting to try and capture band shots worth something. I have a great relationship with Mark; we are still friends. I have always had an ongoing relationship with him. The band, on the other hand, have always had mixed feelings with Mark.

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Mark: They didn’t really like having their picture taken. I don’t think it was me personally, it could have been. They would flip me off and I would try to put them in their place by saying, "Come on guys, how old are we here? This is for an album cover." Every time I see Mark Mendoza he slaps me on the back and throws me around the room like a rag doll. One time he did it in front of my girlfriend. He grabs me and throws me against the wall and she thought I was getting beat up. He looks like he means it but then he gives you a big smile and a hug.

Jeb: Mark came through in the end.

Dee: It comes down to subjugating your own ego, because everyone has one. He takes a lot of abuse from bands, at least he did with Mark. He is an easy going, sweet guy. He is self-serving in that he always tries to get the best shot. I will tell you something that speaks volumes on Mark..During a photo shoot, he will say, "Move your head up. There is a shadow that is giving you a double chin." He is always watching what is going on and he really wants you to look good. Sometimes, with me, he goes, "Your getting a double chin" and I go, "Your polishing a turd, man." Thank God, I don’t have a double chin on top of everything else. Mark wants you to come off looking your best and he wants you to like the product. Someone who was more self-serving wouldn’t care about those things. That is probably how he has lasted as long as he has with Ozzy, myself and everyone else. We know he has our back and he cares about how we come off.

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Mark: I went to all the video shoots and I went with Dee to the PMRC hearing. Whenever Dee made a public appearance, I was there. I was like, "Wow, this guy really likes me. I must have really came through." It was my first album cover and it sold a million copies. I started feeling like I was a part of the band.

Jeb: Last one: Whatever happened to the bone?

Dee: I know exactly what became of the bone. My son, Jesse, was filming a rock video. He was getting ready to leave to do Rock the Cradle on MTV. Mark has been very supportive of my family. He has worked for me, The Snider Family . . . he always works for us. Mark said that he wanted to come down and shoot the video shoot. Mark comes down and he goes, "I have a present for Jesse that I want to give to him." Jesse comes down and opens the bag and pulls out the bone. I said, "You kept it?" The meat is now petrified and is brown. Mark says, "I don’t get rid of anything." I said, "Holy shit." He has me handing the bone to Jesse, like I am passing the torch to him. We are doing a video for a song called "Thirty" from the reissue, and I am going to bring the bone, so it will be in there in some capacity. If you had asked me a year ago what happened to that bone I would have said that I had no idea and that it was decaying in some grave. Now, it is in my son’s office.