This is the mighty anthem for anyone lashing out at an authority figure and ready to put up a fight. The song is short on specifics, so it can apply to just about any situation where "we" are battling "the powers that be." This all-purpose approach was intentional and gave the song a timeless quality.
In our interview with Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, he explained: "With 'We're Not Gonna Take It,' whether I was singing about my parents, my teachers, my bosses, my peers, people around me, I felt it was important not to define it by actually naming names and singing, 'Dad, you're so trite and jaded, I hate my teachers, too.' And thus, the song has had a life in sporting events, at political rallies, at protests, pretty much anybody who's not taking something from somebody else, they're going to break into 'We're Not Gonna Take It' all over the world."
Twisted Sister wrote this song to the basic tune of "O Come All Ye Faithful." On their 2006 album A Twisted Christmas, they did a version of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" with using the traditional lyrics but set to the music of "We're Not Gonna Take It."
Dee Snider started writing this song in 1980, two years before Twisted Sister released their first album, Under the Blade. He had the hook, but couldn't come up with a verse melody. After Def Leppard released their Pyromania album in 1983, Snider came up with a plan. "In studying some of Mutt Lange's work with Def Leppard, I saw that a number of their songs were using variations on the chorus as a verse," he told us. "That gave me the information I needed to come up with the rest of 'We're Not Gonna Take It.'"
The song was finished in time for Twisted Sister's third album, Stay Hungry, which was their breakthrough, taking them out of the clubs and into arenas. "We're Not Gonna Take It," released as the first single, led the charge thanks to the innovative video with cartoonish violence featuring a young kid that turns into Snider, telling his father he's "Not gonna take it!"
With frequent airplay on the emerging MTV, Twisted Sister was exposed to a large and more youthful audience, and soon they were all over the media. What many didn't realize was that band had been around for over a decade by this time, and had already built a loyal following in the New York area. On the Stay Hungry tour, Snider would often commend the fans that were there when you couldn't catch them on MTV.
The video features Mark Metcalf, who played Neidermeyer in the 1978 movie Animal House. Before the song starts, Metcalf comes into the kid's room and berates him, ending his tirade by asking the now-famous phrase, "what are you want do with your life"? (answer: "I wanna rock!").
The dialogue was written by the video's director Marty Callner, who had directed several HBO specials but never a music video. He said in the book I Want My MTV: "Atlantic Records had signed a Long Island band they didn't know what to do with, Twisted Sister. They had a song, 'We're Not Gonna Take It,' and because of my comedy and music background, they seemed like the perfect hybrid for me."
Mark Metcalf ended by starring in the next Twisted Sister video as well: "I Wanna Rock." He was living in Pittsburgh and only took the gig because he got a free flight to LA where he had a girlfriend. Snider, a huge Animal House fan, picked him up at the airport and they instantly bonded.
In this song, not only are we not gonna take it, but we're going to turn the tables and let our oppressor know that his life is not only "trite and jaded" but also "boring and confiscated." Going on the attack was a Twisted Sister specialty: At their concerts, Dee Snider would go on tirades about various people and institutions, and would sometimes berate audience members who were killing the vibe.
Eddie Ojeda and Jay Jay French shared guitar duties with Twisted Sister. Ojeda played the solo on this one.
In 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a group led by Tipper Gore and the wives of other political insiders (Gore was married to Senator Al Gore), pushed to get warning labels attached to albums with explicit lyrics. They included this song in their list of 15 they deemed most offensive, citing it for violence.
On September 19 of that year, Tipper Gore and other members of the group testified at a Senate hearing on the matter. Dee Snider testified in opposition alongside John Denver and Frank Zappa. At the hearing, Snider said: "You will note from the lyrics before you that there is absolutely no violence of any type either sung about or implied anywhere in the song. Now, it strikes me that the PMRC may have confused our video presentation for this song with the song with the lyrics, with the meaning of the lyrics.
It is no secret that the videos often depict story lines completely unrelated to the lyrics of the song they accompany. The video 'We're Not Gonna Take It' was simply meant to be a cartoon with human actors playing variations on the Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote theme, Each stunt was selected from my extensive personal collection of cartoons.
You will note when you watch the entire video that after each catastrophe our villain suffers through, in the next sequence he reappears unharmed by any previous attack, no worse for the wear.
By the way, I am very pleased to note that the United Way of America has been granted a request to use portions of our 'We're Not Gonna Take It' video in a program they are producing on the subject of the changing American family. They asked for it because of its 'light-hearted way of talking about communicating with teenagers.' It is gratifying that an organization as respected as the United Way of America appreciates where we are coming from."
Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan used the song during the 2012 Republican Party's presidential campaign, causing Dee Snider to air his disapproval. "I emphatically denounce Paul Ryan's use of my band Twisted Sister's song 'We're Not Gonna Take It' in any capacity," said the Twisted Sister frontman in a statement. "There is almost nothing he stands for that I agree with except the use of the [workout program] P90X."
Snider, however, had no problem with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump using the the tune as the "exit song" during the politician's 2015 campaign stops. "Donald Trump is a good friend and a great guy, and I support him turning the political system on its head," he told TMZ.com. "The song 'We're Not Gonna Take It' is a song about rebellion, and there's nothing more rebellious than what Donald Trump is doing right now. Although [Democratic presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders can use it as well; he's turning things upside down too."
Dee Snider recorded an acoustic version of this song with piano backing in 2016 to help out Criss Angel's Heal Every Life Possible (HELP) organization, which fights childhood cancer. Angel directed the video, which was shot in the desert outside of Las Vegas. In the clip, real cancer patients are shown shaving their heads.
Angel and Snider are both from Long Island and have known each other since the '90s. Snider and his record company made the song available to HELP at no cost.
This song has been used in a number of movies. Among them:
Iron Eagle (1986) Corky Romano (2001) On the Line (2001) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015) The Emoji Movie (2017) Ready Player One (2018)
In a strange twist, teachers in Oklahoma appropriated this song when they went on strike in 2018 over poor salaries and a lack of school funding. Teachers are commonly the target of the song, but when they marched on the state capitol, music teachers organized a performance that led to the song becoming their anthem. Many of those teachers were students when the song was released.
Heath from Kincumber South, AustraliaNot only did Mark Metcalf star in the film clip, but at the end you hear the classic Neidermeyer Animal House lines 'A pledge pin, on your uniform!' and 'Now drop and give me twenty!'
Stephen from Boston, MaThis song was a memeber of the PMRC's Filthy Fifteen.The PMRC wanted this song banned due to what the saw as violent lyrics. Quite laughable.
Stephen from Melbourne, AustraliaHi, just a slight correction to the lyrics In the first verse, you have: We've got the right to choose it There ain't no way we'll lost it this should be: We've got the right to choose it There ain't no way we'll lose it Chears
Craig from Manitowoc, WiAwesome song. Brings you back to the 80's again and again.
Rick from Indianapolis, InReg, the movie was called "Strangeland". Had a pretty cool soundtrack from it too. Dee from Indy....you are on every single song I look up...you have great taste in music. lol Keep rockin' !!!
Reg from Melbourne, Australiait was such a fun song...suited to the times..who cares that it was simple or copied from another song...almost all today's so called musicians just rip off old songs anyway and call it 'sampling'm i call it offensive when they use the exact original riffs, at least put your own spin on it!
Also, can anyone remember the name of the movie Dee Snyder wrote, directed and stared in? I remember bits about it, but not the name.
Sam from Eagle, Mi"Imagine this being a hit in the days before music videos? Would never happen - take away their silly clown/drag queen outfits and there's literally nothing left..." I disagree Liquid Len. This song was in my favorites before way before i saw the music video. Its fun, funny, and a perfect symbol of 80's Hair Metal. Its rebellion! They don't care!Cheese it up; its the 80's!
Brian from Vancouver, CanadaThere was a day when all of gernys children actually lined up in a row and starting playing this full blast protesting the beatings. when gerny saw this another fight started. the children didnt win.
Ozzy from Fresno, Calol my life story
Django from Chucktown, IlLamest. Guitar. Solo... EVER!!!!!!
Jim from Rossville, Ilthis song is great.Our school is going to change people's schedules so this is our chant.Also if Dee snyder happens to read this please go to hoopeston area high school
Boris from Sofia, Bulgaria[quote]What a wretchedly unoriginal song to be such a hit. Imagine this being a hit in the days before music videos? Would never happen - take away their silly clown/drag queen outfits and there's literally nothing left, just music that 13 year olds (or punk rockers) could play on first try. These guys make cheesy big hair rockers like Poison and Whitesnake actually look talented! And it is so patently phony in its themes of rebellion - it's about as heartfelt as pro wrestling. Ooh! You're the big rebel! Mom and Dad better shape up or else! - Liquid Len, Ottawa, Canada[/quote] Oh dear god people like you kill me..if you dislike it so much don't listen to it anyway talking bad against WhiteSnake i mean come on who cares about how they look they have more talent and skills than any other of those stupid rap/pop/chaos etc. musician ever dreamed of having
Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaWhat a wretchedly unoriginal song to be such a hit. Imagine this being a hit in the days before music videos? Would never happen - take away their silly clown/drag queen outfits and there's literally nothing left, just music that 13 year olds (or punk rockers) could play on first try. These guys make cheesy big hair rockers like Poison and Whitesnake actually look talented! And it is so patently phony in its themes of rebellion - it's about as heartfelt as pro wrestling. Ooh! You're the big rebel! Mom and Dad better shape up or else!
Tj from Chicago, IlI have a question - is it Dee at the end repeating the lines from animail house ("You're all worthless and weak now drop & gimme 20") or is it actually recorded right from the movie. I could never figure it out!
Joe from Bellingham, Wathis song dosen't really pump me up and get me ready to beat up a thug,its not that hard core. but it is still an outstanding song.
Lacie from Whitefish, MtAwesome song!!! Makes you just want to Stand up to people, Fight for what you believe in! YAY
Spencer from Mcbride, Canadagreat song, will always pump you up whenever you need it
Al from Clancy, MtA great song to pump tou up. Just makes you want to rebell agianst figures you dont like, such as the government or the stupid, greedy, evil Left-wingers.
Paul from Cincinnati, OhI don't understand what's so bad about this song that would merit it being on the "filthy 15."
Dylan from Perth, AustraliaIt, according to a 1987 Mtv surveys, this was part of the filthy 15 songs of the era, along with AC/DC and Madonna, just to name a few.
Fred from New York, NyI belive it was "Your all worthless little freaks! Oh, Crinch Pin!"
Mike from Winnipeg, CanadaI was watching a show called Listed that listed the top 20 songs parents hate. This was number one. They were interviewing people throught the show and one guy who was a commedian said They don't look like guys, They don't look like girls, They don't look like a cross in-between.
He also said this should be number 1 because it taught him how to throw his dad out the window by playing his guitar.
But great song.
Ken from Ridgecrest, CaMost don't notice (even the lyrics here don't list it correctly), but the dialog at the end of the song that can be heard between Dee Snider's lyrics are from Mark Metcalf's character in Animal House. The last two lines, I believe, are "You're all worthless and weak" and "A pledge pin; on your uniform".
Jeff from Cedar Falls, IaFeatured in one of the greatest cheesy 80's movies of all time, Iron Eagle.
Emil from Sofia, BulgariaMy favorite song. So many years i have a great time with it. Emil, Bulgaria
Danny from Sydney, AustraliaThe dad in this song is also the teacher who gets knocked around in the filmclip for 'I Wanna Rock'. TS had so many great songs, but they failed to become as famous as other hair metal bands such as Motley Crue
Nathan from L-burg, Kythe song is awsome it is on the game 'activision anthology'
Joseph from Manteca, CaYeah...the song is basically "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", Chris from Canada is right...still a good song though.
Nathan from L-burg, Kylove this song its my third favourite song from the 80's
Dee from Indianapolis, InWhat a classic song by a group of guys that looked more like clowns then muscians. This whole album rocks and should be in any metal heads collection. They also put out another killer album called "Love is for Suckers" years down the road. I don't think it ever got radio or MTV play, but I really enjoy it.
Zenyth from Kamloops, CanadaBif Naked did a cover of this song for the movie Ready To Rumble.
Angelica from La Puente, CaI can't remember who covered this a few years ago. It was a band with a girl singer. Any help?
Chris from Port Hawkesbury, CanadaJust a rip off of 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful'.
Nick from Denver, CoNedermeyer (spelling?) from Animal House is the Dad character in this video.
Brett from Anchorage, AkI saw a movie on VH1 that took place in the eighties about a lawyer played by Jason Preisley, Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Mr. Dee Snider himself going toe to toe with congress over the content in the lyrics of music. I believe the congressman that headed up this issue against this group of rockers was none other than Al Gore (a notable LEFT-WINGER, Ed) along with his wife, Tipper.
Paulo from New York, NyThere was a progam on VH-1 where Dee Snider said he wanted to find somebody like Metcalf to play the dad for the video, then considered and realized that Metcalf wasn't doing anything at the time, so why not get him.
Ed from Chicago, IlAn awesome, kick-butt anthem for anyone who's ever wanted to fight the powers that be and revolt against bullies, authority figures, or evil right-wingers
Mike from Mountlake Terrace, WaMark Metcalf who plays the dad in the music video also played Doug Neidermeyer in Animal House (1978) he acted in other films (less notable)
Pete from Nowra, Australiaactually did a tour of Australia, on the strength of this song,