It’s probably safe to assume that when Dee Snider and his pals formed their band – a glam metal outfit they called Twisted Sister – back in the early 70s, that, despite their name and their gimmicky image which drew from drag culture and low budget horror in equal measure, they were really thinking about premenstrual dysphoric disorder. And certainly, their genre-defining 1983 anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was more about defying parental (and, as it turned out, governmental) authority than defying a certain female-specific monthly tyranny.
But there the song is these days: 25 years after Twisted Sister’s hostile (but playful) take-over of MTV’s airwaves with a video featuring Mark Metcalf (sending up his role as Niedermeyer in Animal House) playing the Wile E. Coyote to the band’s Roadrunner in a series of escalating slapstick hijinks, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is back on the airwaves this summer as a chirpy, synthesized call to women’s liberation… from their periods. The song, along with a similarly re-recorded version of Scandal’s spunky new wave classic “Goodbye To You”, is currently being used by Bayer Pharmaceuticals to tout a birth-control-with-benefits pill called (oh it just gets worse, doesn’t it?) Yaz.
Yaz (or Yazoo as they were known outside the U.S.), you may or may not recall, was the brilliant, if short-lived synth pop duo of husky-voiced singer Alison Moyet and synth-wizard songwriter Vince Clarke, formed in the wake of Clarke’s resignation from his post as Depeche Mode’s (then) sole obvious talent, shortly after that group’s debut. Together Clarke and Moyet recorded a pair of excellent records in the early 80s – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982) and You and Me Both (1983) – contributing a good handful of singles to the classic alternative canon before they too split, with Moyet launching a successful solo career and the openly straight Clarke forming Erasure with the wildly flamboyant singer Andy Bell and establishing his own little niche in gay iconography as Bell’s silent enabler. Despite generally minor chart performances (in the U.S.) at the time of their release, Yaz songs like “Situation”, “Don’t Go” and “Only You” have become just-left-of-center pop standards for a generation of almost-forty-somethings weaned on John Hughes movies. These are songs you might now hear piped in at your local grocery store while you’re trudging through the salad bar line. Tom Jones has covered Yaz. Seriously.
It used to be (and still generally is) that established brands practiced a military vigilance against any unsolicited associations, no matter how innocuous, with pop and rock music groups. Chicago used to be Chicago Transit Authority until the Chicago Transit Authority threatened legal action. In the 90s, Green Jello promptly became Green Jelly when it started to look like they might sell a few records. So pardon me if I’m feeling a little galled (I’m not gonna take it! No! I’m not gonna take it!) that Bayer has appropriated the name Yaz for its latest birth control wonderdrug, especially since it’s my personal belief (admittedly, not backed up by any medical training) that three minutes of “Only You” can provide instant, albeit temporary, relief for just about any ailment with none of the side effects – cardiovascular problems, upper respiratory infections, and a few others I couldn’t possibly mention here without puking in my mouth a little – indicated for the drug Yaz.
Bayer’s Yaz ads come at a particularly inopportune moment for fans of the band Yaz. The reunited (after 25 years) duo are currently on tour behind In Your Room, a new four-disc box set collecting remastered versions of their two albums, a disc of b-sides and remixes, and a DVD featuring the duo’s original music videos, live BBC performances, and a short documentary with new interviews with both Clarke and Moyet set for release July 8th, just in time for the group’s American tour dates. The box set (with can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com for about $60) and tour, which were announced back in January, are so hotly anticipated that I’m getting cramps just thinking about it.