If you found yourself watching Clive Palmer’s political campaign ads recently and wondering how the United Australia Party leader secured the rights to use a weirdly appropriated version of Twisted Sister’s hit single “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, you’re not alone. The members of Twisted Sister were also caught a little off guard. Last week, the 80s rock band threatened to sue Palmer on the basis that they never gave him authorisation to use the song—kickstarting a petty blow-for-blow stoush between the politician and the rockstars. Things have only escalated from there.
Here’s a quick timeline to get you up to speed. Towards the end of last year, Clive Palmer and his United Australia Party started rolling out a series of campaign ads soundtracked by a song that bore a striking resemblance to the Twisted Sister track—as reported by Fairfax. The only difference, it seemed, was that the lyrics had been changed from “We ain’t gonna take it” to “Australia ain’t gonna cop it”. So someone tweeted Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider to gauge how he felt about it all.
“No we do not endorse @PalmerUtdParty!” Snider tweeted back. “We are contacting our legal team to address this and if that doesn't work...I'LL BE DOWN UNDER IN THREE WEEKS TO DEAL WITH IT MYSELF!” The frontman is set to appear in Sydney and Melbourne for a series of spoken word gigs from January 31. Band manager and guitarist John “Jay Jay” French also weighed in, adding: "We have no idea who this guy is. This use is unauthorised, and we will do our best to stop it."
Audaciously, Palmer kicked back, claiming that he wrote the lyrics to the campaign ad himself and would therefore be prepared to counter-sue if the band launched any legal action against him—or if, for some reason, they chose to sing his version. "I wrote the words personally that appear on our promotion and hold the copyright for those words," he said. "If [Twisted Sister] attempt to use my lyrics in any of their songs, I'll not hesitate to take legal proceedings against them. As foreigners, they should stay out of Australian domestic politics and stay where they are. Aussies are not going to cop it at all!"
Days later, Snider retaliated: taking to Twitter to declare that Palmer and the United Australia Party “contacted my publishing company [Universal] about licensing the song (which means they were aware that they had to) were told the licensing fee … THEN WENT OFF AND RECORDED IT WITHOUT A LICENSE! They can’t even claim ignorance!”
Palmer launched another counter-attack, claiming in a post uploaded to the United Australia Party’s Facebook on Tuesday that Twisted Sister themselves swindled their track from an 18th century Christmas carol "O Come, All Ye Faithful".
“The song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ as an alleged musical work was not written by Dee Snider,” Palmer alleged. “The music was originally arranged as a cappella piece from the hymn ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ first composed in the mid 1700s. Others may have documented the instrumentation, but the melody was already present.
“As Twisted Sister never remunerated the original arranger, we do not understand how they have ever had any claim to its copyright… Maybe Universal should consider commencement of proceedings against Dee Snider or seek a refund of any money they have paid to him.”
Then, in a move that saw him taking the pettiness of the whole affair to newfound heights, Palmer called on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to refuse Snider’s visa ahead of his upcoming tour.
“We are concerned about defamation and threats made by Dee Snider and as such believe the minister for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton should reject his visa, given the current crackdown,’’ he said.
In the likely event that Snider isn’t refused entry to Australia, however, the United Australia leader still has one more ace up his sleeve. Taking to his own Facebook yesterday afternoon, Palmer threw down the gauntlet and challenged Snider to an onstage sing-off—the original song versus the Palmer redub—so that Australian fans can decide which version they prefer.
“I would love to join Dee Snider on stage for a sing-off of my ‘Australia’s Not Gonna Cop It’ and his version so fans can decide which one they like best,” Palmer said. “I’d be happy to be part of the tour when he visits Down Under.”