THE MAN WHO ATE ALICE COOPER

FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, February 15, 1975:



The trouble with Alice Cooper is that he never really understood what tastelessness was all about.
Ostensibly, the raison d`etre of the Alice Cooper assault on public credulity, gullibility and excess income was founded on the assumption that the public enactment of the American Nightmare was a ritual of liberation and purification ? plus the entire logical belief that said assault would garner a whole lotta green ones for all concerned.
The method employed would consist of a show that was the ultimate in tastelessness.
The litany of furnishings in Cooper`s chamber of horrors is by now long since mutated into the stuff of legend: baby-killing, necrophilia, the use of powerfully emotive death-symbols such as electric chairs, gallows and guillotines, a couple of gallons of sour-mash sex-role ambiguity, a plague of pythons, several dozen dead chickens and a lot of enthusiastically aggressive rock-and-roll.
All of which merely proves how little Cooper knows about tastelessness. What he`s into is bad taste, which is a totally different ball game, and in an infinitely lower league. Tastelessness is an arrogant rejection of the obsolete and restrictive concepts of both good and bad taste; bad taste is an acknowledgment of the existence merely of good taste and a conscious attempt to defy it.
One would place the Stones and all other great pulp artists in the first category; Alice Cooper belongs firmly in the second.

The first mass public manifestation of the man/organism generally known as Alice Cooper was in 1969, when something answering to this description was announced as an early signing to Frank Zappa`s Straight label.
Straight, it will be recalled, was the companion to Bizarre in F.V.Z.`s Warner-Reprise-backed campaign to demolish the world with an exquisitely-orchestrated barrage of esoteric tastelessness (see above). The something turned out to be Alice Cooper; or to put it another way: Alice Cooper (vocal/harp), Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (guitar/piano), Dennis Dunaway (bass) and Neil Smith (drums).
Alice Cooper was a preacher`s son from Phoenix, Arizona.
His real name was Vincent Furnier, a fact which he successfully managed to keep a secret until he`d been a superstar for nearly two years. He also used to be in a group called the Spiders (not THE Spiders), and also in a group called the Nazz (not THE Nazz, either). After these blinding successes, he worked his way from Phoenix to Detroit to L.A., by which time he was conjoined with those other guys as Alice Cooper (moving fast tonight, folks).

As documented on their first album ?Pretties For You? (Straight), the Alice Cooper of that time were a vastly pretentious and laughably inept psychedelic punk garage band, distinguished from platoons of similar oafish combos by a kind of low- budget Theatre-Of-Cruelty presentation and a primitive gesture in the direction of sex-role ambiguity. The reason that they got signed is that most audiences found the band actively repulsive.
Legend hath it that their emergence on record was due to the fact that they had snuck into Frank Zappa`s Laurel Canyon basement in the small hours of the morning and commenced to churn out some absurdly ugly music, thereby provoking Uncle Frank to stumble in, clad in bedsocks and nightcap, mumbling something to the effect that if youse guys will kindly shut the hell up and get the hell out and let me get the hell to sleep I will sign you and your absurdly ugly music to my label (which is extremely heavy duty and is incorporated in my corporate logo). See my manager, Herbie Cohen.? Apochryphal though it may be, it seems as plausible and generally true-to-life as any other possible explanation for the appearance of ?Pretties For You.?

The cover of this particular product depicted a young girl lifting her skirt and revealing her panties to a less than fascinated older man in a lumpy overcoat, which was all part of the Cooper aesthetic of being as offensive as was humanly possible ? i.e. pretending to be a fag act, throwing chickens at the audience and like that. The album itself is a rather pitiful collection of tattered cliches disinterred from old Yardbirds, Beatles and Stones` LPs coupled with earnest attempts to mimic the more obvious effects handed down to posterity by Big Guys like Iron Butterfly, the Moody Blues and the Mothers.
1970 brought a second album on Straight, entitled ?easy Action,? which found the Coopers slightly more proficient and slightly less pretentious, but still by no means either impressive or interesting. Lester Bangs (at that time still two Deep Purple albums away from entering his punk phase) described the first Cooper album in Rolling Stone as being ?totally dispensable.? On the evidence of ?Pretties For You? and ?Easy Action? he was dead right.
Incidentally, they are both now available for your inspection, reincarnated as a Warners double album entitled ?School Days.? Central Quality Control recommends that they be investigated only for reasons of research.

Things commenced to get mildly interesting once the band split (or were split, as the case may be) from Zappa and Cohen, and eventually found themselves ensconced with a gent named Shep Gordon (who did the managing) and a Canadian geezer named Bob Ezrin (who did the producing).
The first album to come from this exciting combination of talents was ?Love It To Death? (Warner Bros.), and it was clear that Ezrin had earned every letter of his production credit. Why, the band sounded almost tight, they had magically learned the gentle art of pacing and dynamics and they had even managed to write A Classic.
Said Classic was a song called ?I`m Eighteen,? and coming from a zero-quality band like the Coopers, it was nothing less than phenomenal. Side one, track two on the album, it was a pleasant cross between punk introspection and teen ballad, all about how confused the narrator felt to have reached the age of eighteen.
?Lines form on my face and hands/lines form from the ups and downs/I`m in the middle without any plans/I`m a boy and I`m a man,? sings Cooper. ?I`m eighteen and I don`t know what to do,? before getting to his punch line, ?I`m eighteen and I like it.?
In many ways, it was the long-delayed answer to that popular musical question of the `50s: ?Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love??

Basically, it was a masterstroke of audience identification. Alternatively, it was a genuinely sensitive exploration of the eternal dilemma of the adolescent. Your choice will count for 3% of your total final mark.
The cover of ?Love It To Death? displayed the Coopers in pouts and make-up sleazing it up for all they were worth (which was comparatively little until ?I`m Eighteen? went monstrous) but looking rather too butch to carry it off with the total elan of a Bowie. The cover pictures established that they were a bunch of twerps trying to look like street punks trying to look like drag queens.
The music contained in this particular objet d`art in no way outshone ?I`m Eighteen,? but it was solid, competent and could even be suspected of having been in recent close contact with an idea. ?Is It My Body?? presented Cooper rather coyly posing that very question soulfully adding, ?Or do you want to find out who I really am?? which could put anybody of heavy petting.
An early significant homage to old movies was paid by ?The Ballad Of Dwight Frye.? As any fool knows, Dwight Frye is the name of the actor who played Henry Frankenstein`s hunchbacked assistant Fritz in Boris Karloff`s first ?Frankenstein? movie for Universal Pictures in 1931.

The album`s principal triumph of kitsch was the inclusion of Rolf Harris` ?Sun Arise,? which is performed with a touching degree of reverence for the original. There was also a slight but catchy little song called ?We Sure Got A Long Way To Go,? which Cooper was later to use at the climax of his concerts to rebuke audiences whose bloodlust got too ludicrous.
So the Ezrin-augmented Coopers came virtually out of nowhere with a good album and the first of their two all-time classic singles.
Until ?I`m Eighteen,? they had been a minor cult band (with what little reputation they possessed based almost entirely on their associations with Zappa and fancifully embellished gossip about some of their more ridiculous concerts), but suddenly they`d made it with a big hit single, thereby becoming public property.
Given the higher budget that comes with fame, they got seriously into the theatrics; and the next step was to take as razed such pettifogging social problem as adolescent traumas and sexual identity, and get into big stuff, like psychopathy, execution and baby-killing.
Having done their collective best to mess around with America`s sexuality, the next major section of its soul that they were going to go down on was America`s Massive Collective Death Wish.

The next album was ?Killer?, and the presentation of their next tour was built around it.
?Killer? merits some serious attention because it`s probably Alice Cooper`s best album, and though it contained nothing as epic as ?I`m Eighteen,? it consolidated Cooper`s claim to being an outstanding `70s act. Under Ezrin`s guidance, the band sounded like an excellent second division act with a first division singer and first division songs.
Cooper himself was indeed an excellent singer; his voice was light but rough and he`d clearly heard enough Jim Morrison to know how to exploit a lyric to its fullest. He didn`t play very good harp though.
The songs, mostly written by Cooper and Michael Bruce, were flash, arrogant, pointed and reasonably inventive, plus they showed an advanced awareness of the techniques of persona manipulation.
Cooper`s lifestyle included getting himself blurred around the edges on beer at grotesquely early hours of the morning, and staying that way all day while subjecting himself to a permanent barrage of the pernicious nonsense that serves America for daytime television. (In all fairness, American TV is not significantly more pernicious than British TV, but at least there are three times as many different kinds of perniciousness to choose from).

Anyway, anybody who watched non-stop daytime TV while mildly drunk for any significant period of time would probably turn into a psychopath ? or at least a good imitation of one, which latter fate overtook our Mr. Cooper.
Due to the added sensitivity lent him by his phenomenal intake of beer and his intensive study of the insights imparted him through his TV set, he was able to chart the major American phobias with unerring accuracy. He was living proof that a man who spends most of his life pissed in front of a TV set can still make a million dollars.
So at one moment he was the arrogant rock star of ?Under My Wheels? and ?Be My Lover,? next time you looked he was the phantom jetset poisoner of the truly surreal ?Halo Of Flies? (complete with oh-so-macabre quote of the melody of ?My Favourite Things?) and then the leather-clad gun-slinger of ?Desperado?, which (courtesy of Ezrin) was blessed with an orchestral arrangement worthy of Dimitri Tiomkin himself and (courtesy of Cooper and Bruce) a lyrical ambiguity which oscillates between the Old West and modern times. Cooper trotted out his most Morrisonian intonations for lines like ?I`m a killer and?I`m a clown,? which folded back out of the song into his own basic persona.

?Killer`s? most notorious piece of unpleasantness came on the second side with the justly celebrated ?Dead Babies?. The sheer calculatedness of the whole Cooper trip was more than a little apparent, but the tongue-in-cheek arrangement (complete with backing voice doing French horn impressions in a determinedly Beatlesque way that actually owed more to ?Little Soldier Boy?, a thoroughly horrendous song from the Yardbirds` ?Little Games? album) was extremely pretty, and that confused people considerably.
The ubiquitous Bangs, who`d been converted to the Cooper cause, allowed that he found the song pretty repulsive himself, but that was in the days when Cooper was still pretending to be a serious artist. Later, his overt opportunism and total cynicism was automatically to defuse the raw gut-reactions that his manipulation of the world`s subconscious produced, but in 1971 he hadn`t been sussed yet and so other otherwise rational people owned up to having been shaken and terrified by him.
The stage act that went with ?Killer? was certainly impressive, though.
Cooper cut a figure more tragic than glamorous: alternately puzzled, tormented kid confused by his own sexuality, demoniacal Jack the Ripper in semi-drag.

The band mooched around the stage like a herd of rather unintelligent bison under the influence of some amphetamine or other, bludgeoning out extremely loud Who and Yardbirds pastiches between the set-pieces, which included such Heavy Numbers as Cooper strait-jacketed by a uniformed nurse during ?Dwight Frye? and fried to death in a glowing electric chair after the baby-killing antics.
Plus the goddam snake, of course. The snake became a Cooper trade-mark, along with the torn black clothes, ratty hair and sloppy make-up.
As Cooper got further and further into Grand Guignol, he abandoned the remaining shreds of his original androgyny stance in favour of further explorations of the joys of sadism and necrophilia ? far more American topics.
Though the band were monstroso in their native land, it took ?School`s Out? to break them over here.
They`d done a gig at The Rainbow in late 1971, but their reputation rested mainly on reports filtering back from the colonies. Cooper liked trotting out raps about everybody-is-bisexual (though he himself had had the same girlfriend for nearly five years and would probably have been totally freaked out if any fags had actually tried anything on him) and how- his-violence-exorcised-the-violence-of-the-audience ? not to mention putting forward the theory that Alice was some kind of Mr. Hyde figure who possessed him on stage, whereas in reality he was just a good ol` boy who was nice to his mother and liked to drink a lot of beer and watch TV.

On top of that, he coyly revealed that he really enjoyed telling lies.
It was his latter admission that I found most endearing. Though many of the more serious and committed American critics started to regard Alice Cooper as ?a threat to our beloved rock-and-roll?, I found him far more palatable as an outrageous fake-out artist than I ever did as a theoretically genuine psycho.
The less integrity and credibility he had, the more I admired him, because all that high-flown garbage about sexuality and violence was irritatingly pretentious, the worst kind of sanctimonious inflated pap.
I began to observe Cooper`s antics with a perverse kind of admiration. Once in on the joke, it became a real pleasure to watch him putting everybody else on so brilliantly. Why, the guy should have been a politician.
So in the summer of 1972, unto us was delivered ?School`s Out.?
Hailed by many as the ?My Generation? of the `70`s, it had a manic bombast which lent a kind of spurious dignity, and even from Cooper it was epic.
It meant that the Coopers had produced no less than two classic singles (two more than most people), and even though it was later discovered that it had been none other than Li`l Rick Derringer who`d played that galvanic guitar part, it was still a rousing piece of pseudo-revolutionary rock, at least as good as either of Slade`s best singles and four solar systems ahead of cheap nonsense like ?Teenage Rampage?.

And of course it was safe as milk, because after all it was only good ol` Alice, who was about as revolutionary as Bob Hope. After all, Alice`s thing was showbiz first, rock second, and revolution a poor seventeenth on the priority list. You knew without having to be told that the Coop was one natural-born golfer.
The ?School`s Out? album is pretty much disposable.
A street-punk fantasia about gang-fights and high-school utilising massive borrowed chunks of ?West Side Story?, it was principally designed as a sound track for the band`s latest touring extravaganza, and Ezrin made the elementary mistake of assuming that it would work without the visuals.
Never having seen that particular show (it only played one British gig ? in Glasgow), I`m here to testify that it doesn`t. The Hammer Films horrorshow tactics were shelved completely, the Cooper persona underwent its first real degree of softening and in general, only the single is worth the vinyl it`s printed on.

Summer `73 brought ?Billion Dollar Babies?, which spawned no less than three hit singles.
?Hello Hooray? was written by a Canuck songwriter named Rolf Kempf, ?Elected? was a rewrite of ?Reflected?, a rather dire tune from their first album rejigged around the theme of Cooper running for President, and ?No More Mr Nice Guy? was an almost inspired piece of persona-juggling about how he and his folks were mistreated and ostracized because the Blue Meanies thought he was sick and obscene. Real poor-old-Alice stuff.
The visual motif of the album was money.
The band were depicted clad in white satin posing in front of a real billion dollars in real cash holding a baby with Cooper- esque eye make-up smeared across his chubby dial. The sleeve was designed to look like a giant wallet made of green snakeskin, and folded inside was ? you guessed ? a billion dollar bill.
The band and their entourage toured in a jet painted black and embossed with gold dollar signs; fake money was sprinkled over the audience at one point ? get it? After sex, death and street violence, the nearest remaining totem in the American pantheon was money. Christ, he`d sure made enough of it, and so had a sweet kind of logic.

The Coopers, y`see, were one of the first post-hippie superstar bands. Zeppelin, for example, can`t make it into that category as long as Robert Plant continues to ride his current lyrical obsessions.
Therefore, it was perfectly natural and not in the least bit incongruous for them to glorify violence, perversion (and I don`t care how liberated you are, bub, necrophilia is perversion unless you`re a vampire) and materialism ? and no more so for their audience (to whom ?hippies? meant being bored to death by their elder brothers` and sisters` Grateful Dead albums) to respond to these stimuli.
?Billion Dollar Babies? included a return to Grand Guignol with two of Cooper`s all-time nasties, ?I Love The Dead? (which is self-explanatory) and ?Sick Things? (ditto). It even featured Donovan mumbling along on the title track, sung either by or about an inflatable dolly (see ?Heartache, In Every Dream Home A?) ? and if that ain`t degenerate then I don`t know what is.
?I Love The Dead?, though, was really the outside edge in Cooperian grotesquerie. I crave your indulgence, therefore, for the entire lyric: ?I love the dead before they?re cold, Their bluing flesh for me to hold / Cadaver eyes upon me see nothing / I love the dead before they rise / No farewells, no goodbyes / I never even knew your rotting face / While friends and lovers mourn your silly grave / I have other uses for you, Darling??

Pervy, ain`t it? In actual fact, it`s just good, solid teenage entertainment, about as relevant as a platypus and based solidly on the ethos of the cheap thrill. Me, I wouldn`t have it any other way.
?Billion Dollar Babies? contained more than its fair share of utter crap, but it was definitely an improvement on the abysmal ?School`s Out.?
The show that went with it was a stunning presentation, the ultimate in exploitative pulp theatre, every single trash fantasy coming to life befo` yo` very eyes. Guillotines, whips, the band in cages, a beheading, the ritual beating-up of a Nixon lookalike, ?God Bless America? as an encore, no less than three reflector balls, dentistry?everything but a tactical nuclear missile aimed at the audience.
The audience were the stars, though. They came in Cooper make-up, they stomped and gouged each other to get at the fake money and cheap posters, they howled for fake blood. When Cooper told them that they were crazier than he was, he for once wasn`t lying. He isn`t Alice Cooper ? they are.
Cooper hasn`t played live since then.

Their last album, ?Muscle Of Love?, was a return to hard rock without trimmings, and showed the band playing better than they ever did before.
Trouble was, it was rather unmemorable, and sadly lacking in presence. On its release I reviewed it favourably and then stuck it on the shelf and forgot about it. It was only when I started to prepare this piece that I realised that I hadn`t listened to it for a year, and playing it found that I hadn`t missed much, which just about sums it up.
Cooper`s solo album, ?Welcome To My Nightmare? is set for release within the near future. It`ll be interesting to see where he goes with it.
Alice Cooper is the quintessential American artist of the `70s. In a decade when straight America has discovered that it can`t trust the cops, it can`t trust the FBI, it can`t trust the CIA and it can`t even trust its own goddam government, it is only fitting that the youth of America discover that they can`t trust rock-and-roll either.
You can`t even weasel out of it with that ?don`t-trust-the-artist-trust-the-art? spiel either, because Cooper`s art is so blatantly exploitative, opportunistic and cynical that it`s even less trustworthy than he is. After the way that Dylan and Bowie (to name but two) copped out on their audiences the lesson should have been obvious, but if it took Cooper to really drive it home, then it`s all been worthwhile.

Cooper is a master charlatan; indeed, he has elevated charlatanry to a higher artistic plane than anybody else in rock-and- roll had ever dreamed of. In fact, he`s such an outrageous phoney that he isn`t even genuinely tasteless.
Real tastelessness is intrinsically liberating because it throws off the shackles of conventional definitions of good or bad taste.
Cooper, on the other hand, has demonstrated the strength of his conditioning by his patent inability to cast aside these chains. By remorselessly and slavishly playing up to the existing definitions of ultimo bad taste (and committing the colossal tactical blunder of admitting that it`s bad taste), he has irrefutably demonstrated his allegiance to the old order, to the old standards. As a liberationist, he`s a bad joke.
What Alice Cooper represents, in the final analysis, is a more insidious form of conformity than the Osmonds ever dreamed of.




Charles Shaar Murray

 

Alice attacked by ice cream

From New Musical Express, January 25, 1975:



It would appear that Alice Cooper has taken out his putter for another swing at the green. His solo soundtrack elpee (the word soundtrack is legally significant here), "Welcome To My Nightmare", will be distributed in the US by Atlantic Records.

That`s the one that will be the soundtrack for an upcoming TV special, and will also most likely provide much of the material Alice will perform when he tours here in the spring.

This week, Alice guested on the Smothers Brothers TV Comedy (sic) Show in what I affectionately refer to as an I-cannot-believe-my-eyes episode. Get this: Alice, in a suit and tie, wearing glasses and with his hair pulled back, is in a dentist`s office.

Alice lip-synchs along to "Unfinished Suite", then gets into the dentist`s chair, has a little nitrous oxide, and has a dream. Or shall we say, a nightmare.

Suddenly he`s Alice Cooper - decked out in his black leather and mascara gear. And of course there are a lot of dancing, faggoty teeth behind him and then...out come The Enemies Of Teeth, Ziegfield Girl, lollipop, and something that looks like an ice cream cone...How hip, a drug dream on TV.

Anyway this, apparently, is the kind of stuff Alice has always watched, been influenced by, and wanted to do himself, and his friends couldn`t have been happier for him.

Remember Alice Cooper?

From New Musical Express, January 18, 1975:



When Alice Cooper starts his U.S. tour on April 1, he`ll have already filmed an NBC-TV special based on his forthcoming solo LP "Welcome To My Nightmare" - which will be used as the soundtrack. The plot of the programme will be loosely based on the plot of the album - all about a murderous psychotic named Steven.

Alice will perform in England late August or early September, and while Wembley has been mentioned as a possible venue there may be other dates as well.

"Welcome To My Nightmare" has no definite release date yet, and also it`s not known what label it`ll be on - although most rumours seem to indicate that Warners will still release Alice`s product - perhaps on his own label, however.

Titles on "Welcome To My Nightmare" are as follows: "Welcome To My Nightmare", "Years Ago", "Some Folks", "Cold Ethyl", "Only Women Bleed", "Department Of Youth", "Devil`s Food", "The Black Widow", "Steven", "The Awakening" and "The Escape".

Alice has writing credits for all the songs, some other people helped out on various cuts. Musicians on the album are Jozef Khirowsky (keyboards), Tony Levin (bass), Prakesh John (bass), John Badanjek (drums), Whitey Glan (drums), Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter (guitars).

Album Review: Alice Cooper - "Alice Cooper`s Greatest Hits"

From New Musical Express, September 7, 1974:

Music was never much more than a peripheral interest for this bunch of theatrical con-artists - after all, the early Seventies` audience was disillusioned to the extent that cynical opportunism had no need to masquerade as anything saleable. It was a viable commodity in itself.

All the more surprising then that - as well as managing to bring off a workable blend of the slick, the gross, and the witty in their general presentation - Alice Cooper also found the energy to churn out a handful of minor rock gems on the side.

They`re all here, making "Alice Cooper`s Greatest Hits" the first A.C. album actually worth buying (with the possible exception of "Billion Dollar Babies", although the best stuff from that record turns up on the present release anyway).

Side One features the stand-out tracks from "Love It To Death" ("I`m Eighteen", "Is It My Body") and "Killer" ("Desperado", "Under My Wheels", "Be My Lover"), plus "School`s Out", from the album of the same name. "Eighteen" and "Wheels" justify themselves as singles, but sound pretty rough now; the others are all stage-raves, and pretty drab on record - except for "School`s Out", the band`s first sizeable British hit, and a genuine classic.

"Love It To Death" and "Killer" are lousy albums, and the "best" of them is definitely a relative proposition - but "School`s Out", albeit the most sprawlingly self-indulgent LP the band cut, nevertheless contains some better songs ("Alma Mater", "Public Animal") which might have replaced, say, "Is It My Body" and "Be My Lover". Aesthetics, as usual, bow to nostalgia - but it`s a minor complaint and, anyway, the compilation as a whole is pretty intelligent.



Side Two is good all the way through (except for the turgid "Teenage Lament `74", featuring the most expensively inaudible girlie back-up chorus of all time - Liza Minelli, Labelle, Ronnie Spector and The Pointer Sisters): four tracks from "Billion Dollar Babies" - "Hello Hurray" (the best composition they ever used), "Elected", "No More Mr Nice Guy", and the title-cut - plus "Lament" and "Muscle Of Love".

The "Babies" tracks show the group "finding" themselves in their playing and writing by using The Who as a focus and forgetting most of that "West Side Story" schmear. "Muscle Of Love", from their last, rather flaccid, "success phase" LP, remains a great rocker and closes the album out in a haze of steam and sweat.

Pacific Eye And Ear have encased all this in Cooper`s usual grinning over-kill sleeve-art - except that this time around it`s actually reasonably tasteful. Seems we all have to grow old sometime.

Carefully and stylishly put together, this is one of the more worthwhile "Greatest Hits" compilations and rock chroniclers everywhere can safely clear a space for it on their shelves. Preferably by flogging all their other Alice Cooper albums down the market.

Ian MacDonald

"Alice Cooper`s Greatest Hits" - 1974

Album Review: Alice Cooper - "Muscle Of Love"

From New Musical Express, January 19, 1974:

WOWEE, that Alice Cooper is certainly a funny fellow an no mistake. Consider, if you will, the extraordinary range of poses that he and his partners in crime have effortlessly assumed since Bob Ezrin first rescued them from the mouldering vaults of Frank Zappa`s Straight label way back in prehistory.

Every album cover tells a story, and each cover demonstrates a different aspect of audience fantasies based on the infinitely adaptable persona of adorable Alice himself.

Ignoring their first two albums - by far the wisest choice anyway - we find the lads decked out in tasteful neodrag queen on Love It To Death, and psychotic horror B-movie neo drag for Killer before taking a swift dive into "West Side Story" switchblade punkism for School`s Out

Billion Dollar Babies, their last vinyl manifestation, showed them in the full flush of materialist triumph, flaunting their tawdy gladrags and happy moron grins amidst piles of folding green stuff. A veritable odyssey of image. Now, where do you think they`re gonna end up this time? Well, once you`ve liberated the album from its massively cumbersome cardboard dressing gown, you find an inner sleeve depicting the band approaching a building emblazoned "Institute Of Nude Wrestling", and they`re all dressed as sailors.

On the back of said inner sleeve, they`re leaving said building with their nice white navy uniforms ripped and smeared. They`re staggering around and collapsing and bandaged, and a military policeman is helping to get them back to barracks. On the insert our battered crew are paying their debt to society by peeling potatoes. What, as the Silver Surfer once asked, does it all mean?

Christ knows. Personally, I think it`s only appropriate that the one-time murderous faggot should now be content to take on the role of a drunken sailor out cruising for poozy, especially since Alice now has about as much menace-credibility as the Monkees.

When you`ve finally dumped the packaging under your chair and settled down to Get Into whatever is available to be Gotten Into, it speedily becomes apparent that Muscle Of Love is the most consistently enjoyable album that the Coopers have yet emitted. It doesn`t quite reach the peak of the first side of "Killer", but it has two good sides to that album`s one. Bob Ezrin has taken himself elsewhere (see REED, L) but his successors Jacks Richardson and Douglas have done an exemplary job.

As before, the Cooper instrumental ensemble is beefed up by the addition of various sidemen, but for the first time their existence has been made a matter of public record. So call their names with pride: Bob Dolin on keyboards (no, not that Bob Dolin), Mick Mashbir and Dick Wagner (guitars).

There aren`t any of the tediously grandiose production numbers that derailed the last couple of Alice numbers, apart from "The Man With The Golden Gun" (which is the theme tune from a James Bond movie that hasn`t been made yet), and even that is such a neatly observed hunk of pastiche that it would take a far meaner soul than I to resent its presence here. Most of the album is tough, chunky no-messin` rockanroll, potential hit single after potential hit single, with "Teenage Lament `74" and "Workin` Up A Sweat" standing out as Alice`s best bets for monopolising airtime.

"Hard Hearted Alice" begins with an organ intro so much like that of Cocker`s "With A Little Help From My Friends" that I did a quadruple-take and leapt over to the stereo to check the label, while "Crazy Little Child" (on which Dolin excels himself on the ivories) takes on Bette Midler at her own `30s swing game and beats the rhinestones out of her.

Then there`s that Muscle Of Love thing. Oh, wow. How risque. How exquisitely bawdy. How fa-a-abulous. How thoroughly tacky. Come on, this is clean, All-American Alice Cooper you`re dealing with, not Shel Silverstein or some other stoned rugby-song merchant. Alice`s love-muscle is his heart, not his - oh no, I can`t say it. Not here. Not to you.

Muscle Of Love stands out as an Alice album purely because of AC`s own unmistakeable croonings and the plastic-outrage lyrics. The band are excellent, but not noticeably individual.

One thing worries me, though. Now that AC has come up front and dumped all his Phantom-of-the-Opera stage props in favour of a baggy sailor suit, which is after all far more in character for cuddly, drunken Vince Furnier from Phoenix, what the hell are they gonna do on stage to play this one? I mean, I`ve always wanted to see Alice Cooper come on and do Gene Kelly`s tap dances from "An American In Paris", but some things just don`t bear thinking about - do they?

Charles Shaar Murray


"Muscle Of Love" - 1973


Single Review: Alice Cooper - "Teenage Lament `74"

From New Musical Express, January 19, 1974:

The man in the vomit-stained sailor suit strikes back! Alice and that miserable bunch of louse-ridden boilsuckers that he dares to refer to as a group, proudly enter `74 with a tasteful pastiche of `50s self-pity all about what a drag it is being a kid and being pushed around by your elders and not being allowed to play guitar as loudly as one would want, Sob.

I find it quite startlingly attractive, but how long are today`s kids going to be content to have their fantasies dictated to them by tired old men like Alice Cooper, Gary Glitter and Chinn and Chapman (or for that matter, Steve Harley?). I shall look forward to the opportunity to play this endlessly, but then I`ll never see fifteen again, either.

Charles Shaar Murray

Alice through the looking glass

From Melody Maker, January 12, 1974:

Shep Gordon worked for a firm making clothes for the dead... Now he manages the killer himself, Alice Cooper. Gordon talks to MM New York writer Chris Charlesworth in the first of an occasional series on The Managers...

Shep Gordon is here, there and everywhere. He`s never here very long, he`s always on his way there and he`s probably been just about everywhere.

He once visited seven American cities in one day on a series of connecting flights, and whenever he`s still for a while he`s never far from a telephone that`s ringing for him. Chances are the result of the call is that he has to go somewhere else.

Pinning him down for an hour is like catching up with the elusive hare on the dog track. The only opportunity I had of speaking to him uninterrupted was on a `plane flight. There was no telephone on board which meant Shep could relax for an hour or two.

Shep Gordon manages Alice Cooper and has done for the last six years. He took care of Alice when no-one wanted to know about the sadistic stage killer, and now he`s the king-pin in the multi-million dollar organisation that surrounds Alice. Gordon`s imagination and sense of theatre, his foresight in predicting what the public would like, has made him one of the most sought after and successful moguls in rock. He hasn`t had a holiday in ages and he revels in it.

He`s 28 years old, but looks older because his curly black hair is balding considerably at the front. With his horn-rimmed glasses and small stature, he looks more like a rather absent-minded college professor. Shep had a variety of colourful jobs before meeting up with Alice. He began life as a newspaper boy, followed that up with a stint in a beach club sweeping sand off the floor and graduated to the garment industry, pushing racks of clothes around a factory floor and packing dresses into cardboard boxes for delivery. Next he had a spell doing surveys before he worked at a firm called Divine Garments.

 Divine Garments manufactured clothes for the dead - inspiration for the future - and, apart from more sweeping duties, Shep would do a certain amount of delivery. "Usually it was wholesale sales, but every once in a while there`d be a death and they needed a fast dress, so the family would come round and pick one out. I`d have to show them around and make urgent deliveries to funeral homes. It was a delightful job." 

Next he was a probation officer for one day - "I decided I was definitely working on the wrong side" - and then he met Alice.

Before all these jobs Shep, who was born and raised in Long Island, New York, had graduated with a BA in sociology at the State University of New York in Buffalo. Social research didn`t agree with him, however, so he ended up a jack of all trades.

"As I was a sociology major it always fascinated me which groups made it and which didn`t - from an intellectual level - but apart from going to a few concerts now and then I didn`t know much about it at all. It was Cindy Smith, sister of Alice`s drummer Neal Smith, who introduced Shep to Alice. "I met her in a rock and roll motel in Los Angeles and she said she had a brother who was in a band and wanted a manager.

"I met Alice and we hit it off right from the start. At that time he`d just started calling himself Alice, maybe two weeks before I`d met him. It was 1967 and I was only 21 or 22 at the time."

"I just kept my eyes open and worked 14 hours a day and I tried to use ideas in the act that to me seemed obviously good ideas. I wanted the group to be comfortable for one thing, not to have to worry about anything when they were on stage, and I worked hard at just simply getting the name known by the people.

"I travelled with them for four years on the road and learned every different end of the game. In the first three years it was hard going and we just lost a lot of money and got thrown out of a lot of places. I can remember Alice walking 12 miles to borrow 45 cents from me to buy some ripple wine. It took him six or seven hours. Three and a half years ago we were all living in Detroit. There were twenty of us living in two rooms. It was a rough time. We were playing whenever we could get jobs, but nobody really wanted us all that badly. We`d play for fifty dollars, a hundred dollars, whatever we could get but the thing was we just never quit. We just carried on never letting anything get in our way. There were a lot of bounced cheques."

 The debts reached a peak about three years ago when Shep and group were in the red to the tune of about 150,000, all in bad cheques.

"Fortunately we made it all up. The turning point was `Eighteen.` The problem with Alice was not what he was doing, that wasn`t stopping him from making it. People were scared to admit they liked him. Four, five and six years ago there wasn`t the social behaviour there is now. Take David Bowie. Six years ago hall owners wouldn`t even allow him into the halls. The radio stations wouldn`t play the records, newspapers wouldn`t write about him and sheriffs wanted to throw him out of town. Everything was against him.

"The same was true with Alice. It took us three years to prove to people that Alice wasn`t about to chop their heads off, to build up to the point where his first record would be played on radio. That record was `Eighteen.` The culmination of three years working on the road and getting out to meet everybody was `Eighteen.` That broke it for people like Bowie who, like Alice, had something different to offer. It was three years of hard grind to loosen people up so they wouldn`t be scared of Alice. The stage act then was different in many ways; in some ways it was more theatrical and other ways less. We didn`t have any money available so our theatrics had to come totally from our environment.

"The first time we did a theatrical show in England was at the Rainbow when Alice had a pillow filled with feathers which he threw around and then squirted with a fire extinguisher. That kind of theatrics came from always staying in hotels: hotels always have pillows and fire extinguishers are in every hall. We just couldn`t afford to buy the kind of props we have now, so we grabbed what we could get for nothing. We used a great deal more movement and just put our heads together to come up with cheap but effective ideas. Now, of course, we can sit down and devise a piece of theatre without having to worry about the economics, like the guillotine. In the past it was street theatre, making do with whatever we had available to us."

 The original idea of the theatrics in the act, says Shep, came from everybody in the group and himself.

"I don`t think there was ever a time when we sat down and said now is the time to stop just playing and do theatre. It was a natural evolution. When I met them they were very theatrical, but not totally aware of their theatricality. We spent so much time together and decided gradually that that was what we wanted to do. Just because no-one else had ever done it, it didn`t mean we couldn`t do it.

"Three or four years ago a kid couldn`t tell his friend at school that he liked Alice Cooper or he`d get beaten up for being a fag. People thought Alice was a fag because he had a girl`s name and there were all the stories about him wearing dresses which he never did. But during the first three years we built up a small but staunch and loyal following, and when `Eighteen` came out, it became more legitimate to like Alice. It`s natural for people to enjoy using their eyes and that`s what they do when they go to see Alice. They probably like movies, and there`s no reason to assume you can`t use your eyes at a rock concert. Alice provided the opportunity to use both senses, hearing and sight."

Shep Gordon - Supermensch!

Arguments as to whether Alice`s act contributes in any way towards juvenile delinquency are strongly rebuffed by Shep who, by this time, has heard them all.

"I think if you hold that to be a valid thought, then you have to say that Bela Lugosi should be banned, Frankenstein should be banned, all cowboy movies should be banned, every detective movie should be banned. Alice is just playing a character as all actors are. If Bela Lugosi did an interview and said that everybody should suck blood, then I would say he`d be adding to violence. If Alice had to say in an interview that he wanted all his fans to pick up a hatchet and chop a baby`s head off, then it might aid violence.

"But he`s an entertainer doing a theatrical show and he gets executed for what he has done. The piece does go the full circle. And, of course, off stage Alice is the last person in the world to promote violence. Part of my job after each show is to sit down with the hall owner and check what kind of damage has been done to the hall, and I would say that Alices`s fans do less damage than 99 per cent of the acts that come into that hall. Alice is a release for them. Our damage generally runs around 30 per cent less than hockey and basketball do. That`s a clear indication of how much violence it causes, or doesn`t cause.

"The kids will walk out of an Alice show and all the violence is out of them. Rather than being at their peak as they are with some acts, they are past their peak. It`s one of the differences between Alice`s show and most rock and roll shows. Most rock and roll shows build to a high point of energy at the very end; Alice`s show doesn`t build that way. It reaches a peak two songs from the end, then the kids have a chance to come down. The last two songs are a time for relief."

The hardest part of being a successful manager, says Gordon, is having to deal with the amount of liars there are in the world of rock and roll.

"I have to talk with people day in and day out that I know are lying to me and I don`t particularly like dealing with people like that, although I have no alternative. The second hardest part of any manager`s job is security, to do things to make conditions safe for the bulk of the people and that is often distasteful to me. When a kid jumps on stage I have no desire to see him hurt, but for the safety of everybody else he must be eliminated rapidly and, if necessary, force must be used. It horrifies me, but unfortunately it has to be done to protect the group and to protect the majority of the audience."

 Working out a new Alice show is his favourite occupation, and he enjoys the promotional aspects of being a manager; working out advertising and marketing, thinking up sales gimmicks and ideas to put Alice`s name across. In this sphere the Cooper camp has always been one step ahead of most bands.

"Getting the truck that we used to promote Alice in London was exciting because it was a new idea. Getting Alice to meet Salvador Dali was exciting; one, because I could meet Dali, of whom I`ve always been a great fan, and secondly because that says more to the public about Alice than any advertisement I could ever buy. The same with Liza Minnelli. Being able to present Alice to the public in a genuine, real way is always exciting."

Gordon has little to do with the action in the studio when the band records a new album.

"The music is really the group and the producer. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Once an album is finished I usually come into the picture to involve myself in the stage level of the show. I`m involved with the packaging of the album. I take a great deal of pride in the sleeve. In areas where I don`t feel I`m an expert, I don`t like to tamper, and I`m no expert in the studio. I`d rather leave it to the people who know how to do it."

The basic talents for a successful rock group manager, he says, are levelheadedness and a willingness to work 14 hours a day or longer.

"I don`t think you can do the kind of job that`s needed to build a superstar unless you believe in him. The biggest fault I see in most managers is that when they reach the first plateau they find the success hard to deal with. You must never let your ego carry you away. That`s killed as many artists as it has managers and it`s a difficult thing not to do. It`s difficult when you`re economically stable to maintain that 14 hour day seven days a week thing. It`s very tempting to start taking time off for a month`s vacation in Hawaii or something, and that`s where the belief comes in.

"And you must also be always considering the future rather than the current success to stay on top. Every great artist, great lyricist and great performer must have an awareness of the times and of the social climate. When an artist says `This is what I`ve done and this is what I`m always going to keep doing,` then his audience outgrows him. You have to stay ahead of our audience.

"I don`t really know, and I don`t think anybody knows, what the next step will be for Alice. He`s now at a point where everyone has followed what he has done with the big stage, the big set and spending a lot of money on press parties and so on. That means it`s reaching saturation point and everybody`s getting used to it. For Alice Cooper to stay Alice Cooper, he must take one step ahead and then when everybody else gets there we`ll go one ahead again. When we don`t stay one jump ahead, that`s when we`re going to lose our audience."

Blog editors note: Shep Gordon must be one of the most talented, fascinating and genuinly fun people ever working in show-business. He is remarkably humble when speaking of his chosen profession, saying: "I make people famous. It`s what I do."His story will now be told in a new documentary made by Mike Myers; "Supermensch". I have only seen the trailer for it - but what I`ve seen makes me want to see more. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0VOkPOrV0 

Single Review: Alice Cooper - "Teenage Lament `74"

From Melody Maker, January 12, 1974:


Hard to believe this is the man who gave us "School`s Out." Alice slogs along the well-worn theme of the trials of being a `fifties rock idol, and it`s not really a single - just an edited cut from the album. Dullsville. Now, that`s a phrase you don`t hear used much today. P.S. After Alice, the Sweet`s teenagers sound positively revolutionary.

Chris Welch

Album Review: Alice Cooper - "Schooldays"

From New Musical Express, August 18, 1973:



Talk about a band with problems? When Alice Cooper and the boys finally came out of the closet to prove their all-American masculine teen appeal with a succession of excellent hard-rock trash product, they left behind a couple of skeletons so dire it`s hardly worth contemplating.

They were actually two albums - the first a messy, clumsily pretentious effort called "Pretties For You", the other an equally mushy musical travesty called "Easy Action".

They came out on Frank Zappa`s Straight label and were as valid a cause as any at that time for dismissing the band as totally obnoxious musical illiterates. John Peel called them "the world`s loudest drag act", "Rolling Stone" gave them the thumbs down - the band became temporarily the ultimate outcasts of rock stuck out on a particularly scuzzy tangent along with Iggy and the Stooges and San Francisco`s Cockettes while the masses weaned themselves on the likes of James Taylor.

These twilight beginnings are unfortunately dragged up once again in the reissuing of the two offending albums in one cheapo double-set called "Schooldays".

The Cooper organisation is supposed to be none too pleased at this re-appearance and one can hardly blame them.

Of course, the fact that both "Pretties" and "Easy Action", deleted in this country when British "Straight" ceased to function, were selling an impressive amount on import, has not a little to do with it but still I fail to see how one`s appreciation of Cooper will be further enhanced by new fans hearing this old stuff.

Y`see, vintage Cooper is almost a complete paradox of the sleek contemporary model - messy, tediously obscure, badly recorded, terribly played and performed. Of course, I should say that the "Pretties For You" half contains "Reflected" which was eventually ressurected as "Elected", while "Easy Action" contains some early allusions to Cooper`s "West Side Story" fixation which was to reach full fruition on the "School`s Out" album.

My main grouse about this reissue is that it fails to utilise the old album covers, both of which were in supreme bad taste and should be considered as absolute classics of their genre. They were certainly the best aspects of those rather squalid early days represented here in this unnecessary double-set.

Nick Kent

The Square and the Faggots

From an article about Bob Ezrin from New Musical Express, August 18, 1973:



"Detachment. Yes, that`s it exactly. We were both talking about that. Lou said last night: `This album is an exercise in detachment and apathy`. I mean, that sense of detachment is something most people would give their left nuts to attain - and it just oozes out of Louis so naturally."

Bob Ezrin`s getting excited now. He`s had maybe three hours sleep over the past 48 hours and he`s lounging around one of the control rooms in Morgan Studios, waiting for Lou Reed and the boys to appear. Outside in the restaurant, members of Black Sabbath wander around looking slightly redundant while the usual hordes of roadies sit around getting drunk. Just over the road, Yes are working on their current worldshattering epic masterwork. Here in Studio A, Ezrin and Reed are currently working within a deadline of maybe two weeks. That`s tolerable though, because Ezrin claims to have finally found the perfect medium for Reed`s seemingly-jaded brilliance to florish once more, and both he and Lou seem positively radiant at the immediate fruits of their relationship.

"Sure I`m acquainted with all that `Lou Reed - a shadow of his former self` stuff. I believed it myself, right up until now. But Louis has always been misunderstood, particularly by his producers. He`s not a rock`n`roller or really even a songwriter as much as he is a dramatic poet. "When I showed the lyrics of the new songs to my wife, she immediately drew a parallel with the writer Lawrence Durrell: the way in which Durrell in a sentence captures a whole landscape, an essence, y`know.... "In one line Lou Reed can convey a whole space, a flavour, an attitude. He`s almost a 70s street consciousness version of Jack Kerouac. You know the way the record company put him out as the Phantom of Rock? That was so ridiculous, because he`s so tangible, like a James Dean image - no, not so much James Dean, more Montgomery Clift."

Ezrin is explaining the motives surrounding his own approach to the task of producing Lou Reed. He agrees with the statement that Reed`s last two albums were badly conceived.
"I feel that both of the producers treated Lou Reed like a rock`n`roll performer, which is wrong. I mean if you put Louis in a studio with a rock`n`roll band he`ll automatically sing loud, which is disastrous because his voice isn`t suited for that.
"The one track that captured Lou Reed for me - and it was Bowie`s only real triumph during his production - was `Walk On The Wild Side`. Perfect. The backing track portrayed the street - it was perfect sub-scoring and very much subordinate to the voice, so when Louis says `the coloured girls`, they suddenly appear.
"But on `Transformer` I thought those gay consciousness songs were terribly overdone. I don`t even want to speculate on the amount of influence that was exerted on Lou in that direction, and you know what I mean by that. We weren`t there, so who`s to say what went down".

"Louis first came to see me up in Toronto. Dennis Katz, his manager, contacted me and asked me if I was interested - which I was, though I had certain reservations.
"Anyway we talked, discussed the tunes and storylines, threw ideas around and pretty much left with a good general understanding of how we were going to treat it, which is to incorporate this whole cinematic aspect and style. A total filmic approach.

"Lou claimed that the meeting turned him onto a whole new style of writing, which was bullshit. Lou Reed always writes in the same style and it`s great. Actually the first time he played me the songs - I`ll have to admit this and I don`t think he`ll mind me saying it - they sounded so terrible I felt like just giving up and telling him to find another producer.
"But then I took the lyrics home and it just all started to piece together. Right now, rather than being a shadow of his former self I think we`ve just discovered Louis` real identity and now it`s all down to channeling it out in the right way."

The above words probably sound incredibly glib until one becomes acquainted with the fact that Bob Ezrin currently packs a fair credibility among those-who-know (the presence of a striking array of musicians - Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood et al - now working on Reed`s album has not a little to do with Ezrin`s exceptional reputation as a producer within the business).
His list of actual production credits is small and includes as many commercial failures as successes - albums like Flo and Eddie`s second effort, a one-off record from a Michigan power trio called Ursa Major and Mitch Ryder`s Detroit (a disgracefully underrated work, more than worth the effort of searching out from the reject piles) sold an almost negligible amount.

But then that`s all more than counter-balanced by the fact that Ezrin has probably been more responsible than anyone else for transforming Alice Cooper from a band of musically dire dementoids whose appeal was more or less confined to peeping toms and such characters into some of the finest and most musically viable trash on the boards.
Now there MUST be a few neat stories to be gleaned from the aforementioned shift of stylistic emphasis. Mr. Ezrin, if you please:
"The Coopers were my first ever project. I was hired by Nimbus 9 (a production company formed in Canada) basically as a management consultant, not as a producer - I did stuff like Coke jingles, never anything like a group.
"Anyway I went up to the office one day and everyone was in hysterics. The cover of `Easy Action` (Alice Cooper`s second abortive attempt at making an album) was laying around - and we were all really straight guys y`know - I mean, I was never really that much into rock`n`roll. I had arrived at it more or less through things like Simon and Garfunkel.

"Anyway we put on the album and just broke up laughing. We didn`t know if Alice Cooper was a guy or a chick and eventually it became a standing joke around the office that if anyone messed up that week we`d be forced to go and work with Alice Cooper.
A persistent Alice Cooper road manager, commissioned by manager Shep Gordon to get Jack Richardson - another Nimbus producer - for Cooper`s future recordings put the heat on Ezrin in order to get him down to see the band.
"I wasn`t interested in the least. I hated the record, but this guy made my life such hell with his persistence that I reckoned that I`d go and see `em just so they`d get off my back.
"So I went to meet them at Toronto. I walked into their hotel and....these five guys - everyone of `em is a faggot, everyone of `em and they`re all after me. I can tell. The roadmanager is a faggot, the roadies are faggots.
"I`m sitting there in my bluejeans, with my short-hair, shaking inside, man, and here`s this guy Alice Cooper - his hair is stringy and down to his shoulders, his pants are so tight I can actually see his penis through the crotch - they`re slit at the side. He`s talking with a slight lisp....
"I just could not handle it. Anyway they said, `We`re great and we want a producer`. Finally we parted company and I was like so relieved. It was such a horrendous experience - I was such a straight guy before all this started - and I just forgot".

More harassment by the Cooper minions forced Ezrin to witness the band at Max`s Kansas City.
"After the gig I went backstage. I didn`t know why, but I just thought the show had been great, and I went up to the band and said, `I think you guys can make hit records`, and they said, `That`s good - we think you can too`. It was a nice punk start.
"Actually I was still pretty scared because I still believed they were all faggots. It was just a riff someone had decided on as an image, but I`d just had those album covers to go on before so I didn`t know better.
"Anyway I moved to Detroit into a shoddy motel - hated Detroit - and the guys just crowded into the bedroom in the morning. We started to talk and they played me tapes. THE TAPES WERE HORRIBLE. And I mean, horrible! They said, `We like this sound, can we get it in the studio`. I almost threw up.
"The first thing we ever did was `Eighteen`. Their original arrangement was eight minutes long and had a lot of excess bullshit. You see, my job was first to transform stage arrangements into record arrangements, which was something they`d never bothered to consider. Ultimately it was a great rush to hear the 2 min. 38 secs. version. I knew it would be a hit from then on."

"Eighteen" actually did become a hit, reaching No. 18 in the American charts, and is still arguably Cooper`s best single to date, sharing that accolade with "School`s Out".
"Love It To Death", the album that followed, was both their first critical and financial success. The Coopers` days as an esoteric, bizarro trash delight were over, and Ezrin was most definitely their mentor in this respect. From then on, his work in the studio became more complex and demanding. Even session guitarists were often added to beef up the Coopers` sound.
"Steve Hunter played on a lot of `Billion Dollar Babies`. He`s my favourite guitarist and if you listen, there`s just no one else who could have played lead on `Generation Landslide` or that solo in `Sick Things` but him.
"Rick Derringer played the stinging guitar solo that I buried so effectively on `Under My Wheels` and the rhythm guitar on `Yeah, Yeah, Yeah`. Derringer was the first outsider to be involved in the Coopers` recordings. Glenn (Buxton) had problems - it was a woman or something - and he was just not learning his guitar parts.
"Finally it came to an ultimatum and one day the band walked into the studios in Chicago and saw this guy tuning up. Now Derringer`s a pro - it took him 15 seconds to tune up, and it took the Coopers two hours on average to tune up in a studio. Literally.

"Anyway they all watched him just do it and they just said `Shit`. That experience gave them a far more realistic approach to music.
"Actually in the studio they`re very humble, much easier to get on with than you`d imagine, quite open to suggestions.
"Dick Wagner was another guitarist we brought in - for `My Stars` as it happens, which is pretty complex with all those chord changes. Actually Wagner and I wrote `I Love The Dead`. Alice threw some lyrics in. They bought him out so don`t print that - no, print it. He deserves it as much as anyone.
"But mostly it`s the Coopers themselves playing on the records. Alice is always there on lyrics and he can write good melodies. Mike Bruce comes up with a lot of riffs. Actually it was Glenn Buxton who worked out the chord sequence of `School`s Out`."
And how strong is the Coopers` singles consciousness in the studios?
"Alice has a strong sense of single consciousness. The rest of the band have a very strong sense of money....Perfectionists? No, they`re doing it to make money.
"Rock isn`t art. Yeah, it is trash - good trash entertainment and a good way to get rich. I`m reconciled to that belief to the point that I don`t even want to think about it.

"Technically, what I do isn`t trash. But I have no pretense about the rest of it. I mean, the Coopers aren`t really musicians or a rock`n`roll band. You can`t say that to `em now - they`ll be very upset but primarily they`re theatre. And the trick is - to make the music theatre.
"I don`t think it`s what Alice claims - which is to bring the music up to a point where audiences don`t think of us as purely theatrical. I`m just bringing the music up to the theatre level and injecting a little bit of myself into it, a lot of myself actually but it`s just my taste.
"I think that`s what a producer`s job is - to decide what should be done and what shouldn`t be used and if the group can`t cut it you should supply it for them.
"That`s the role I`ve always played for the Coopers and I`ve always been very careful to stick with that identity."

By now, the studio has started to fill out. Aynsley Dunbar has appeared with a dour-faced Trevor Boulder in tow while guitarist Steve `Decator Gator` Hunter stumbles in. Lou Reed himself is in attendance now, very subdued, having had no sleep the night before.
He says nothing, a Scotch in his hand, while the play-back of the previous night`s work which features a truly dynamic spontaneous jam between Mssrs. Dunbar, Hunter and Jack Bruce finishes on the track "Caroline Says".
The track "Lady Day" comes on next and Ezrin frantically goes through an impression of all the embellishments. The sound, with heavy, almost Procol Harum-styled keyboards and a powerful chorus, is reminiscent of Kurt Weil but in a cinematic as opposed to a theatrical mode.
This feeling follows through for "Men Of Good Fortune", a marvellous Reed song perfectly defining through the lyrics and studied vocal attitude that sense of cold detachment which has always been Lou Reed`s greatest attribute and calling-card for greatness.

The track "The Bed" may well be the stand-out achievement of `Berlin`: a tragic ballad in the epic tradition, it sounded, from the rough tape I heard, Reed`s finest individual work since he left the Velvets and a remarkable departure from anything he has been involved in before. (Throughout the playbacks, Ezrin is passionately explaining how an orchestra is going to appear at such-and-such a point while a children`s chorus will be added to certain tracks.(We`re going to use the Ronettes on the chorus of "Caroline Says").
Reed manages a slight smile. He looks healthier than since I last met him and the music I heard from the "Berlin" sessions leads me to believe that those of us who cast Reed off as a wasted talent will need to drastically re-think our policy.

Alice, Nixon and Batman at L.A. party... - now read on!

From New Musical Express, May 19, 1973:



Alice Cooper was introduced by a fake President of the United States at a reception at the Coconut Grove to mark the group`s appearance at the L.A. Forum. And Mr. Nixon didn`t seem too popular with the Cooper entourage, judging by vulgar comments muttered by one of the band.

It was a weird "do". A certain Ron Rubin and his band of renown, in lovely knee-length maroon jackets, played an Irving Berlin selection to absolutely no encouragement from the assembled rock music Press, while the Lone Ranger, Batman and Robin flitted amongst the luncheon tables. Mr. Batman actually refused the free food from an obsequious waiter on the splendid grounds, that "Fighting crime is a 24-hour day job m`friend.

"We were ordering our third tray of champagne when the band struck up "Hail To The Chief", and in hunched Watergate Willie, flashing peace signs in all directions and surrounded by what looked suspiciously like C.I.A. agents. He looked like Nixon, walked like Nixon, and spake like Nixon. "I just want you to know that Pat is a real fan," spake the Chief Executive, "and whereever American politics is going, Alice Cooper will get their first." The band struck up "God Bless America" and in walked Alice and ensemble, dressed in his best tartan suit and swigging the perpetual can of beer.

First question at the Press conference came from a table where an ill-informed gent wanted to know where Alice got the idea for the album "Million Dollar Baby".

"Did you buy the album?" enquired Alice. "It`s called `Billion Dollar Babies`. I just thought the idea of 14-year-old kids and Rolls Royces was pretty decadent, that`s all." 

What was Alice going to do with all his money? "Buy Linda Lovelace," said Alice happily, referring to the young actress currently making her name in America via the skin-movie "Deep Throat" (she`s now also employed advertising a throat gargle on American TV!).

Meanwhile back at the reception another profound question, about Cooper`s plans for the future: "At the moment we`re travelling in our own jet, and I just know we`ll crash into the Rocky Mountains, so I never make any plans from one day to another," says Alice.

Where was his snake? "I have a new snake now called `Eva Marie Snake`," informed Alice. "The old one died in my apartment, and although I can smell it - we can`t seem to find it."

A gent with a chicken leg wedge in his mouth asked: "How d`y`like it in LA", but before Alice could answer this probing one on came an elderly gent dressed as a "one man band" and treated us all to a rousing version of "Hold That Tiger". Alice carried straight on after the interruption and explained that the person was just someone he`d slept with last night, and no one should take any notice because it was just another of his sexual quirks. He was delighted to have `Richard Nixon` with them at the Press reception, and even more delighted to read in the paper that they got him on 26 counts in the Pentagon Papers case that morning.


Someone wanted to know how Alice managed to keep going on these arduous tours. "I`ve just got a great body," replied Alice sipping his beer. "You wanna see my appendix scar?" He stood up, unzipped his pants to a strategic point, and displayed the operation wound. Someone from "Playboy" said he should pose in the nude - Alice looked pleased with the idea, but before he could elaborate on came a belly dancer and he sat down - apparently playing with himself under the table, while the lady did the dance of the seven veils.

Had Alice found any new hobbies in Hollywood? "Sure, this morning I went along and exhumed Walt Disney`s body and amused myself with that for a few hours." A well-known writer rose to his feet and identified himself. "Hi," said Alice. "Good to see you Jay - ladies and gentlemen, the best rock writer in America - they still burning your piss, man?" Collapse of the best rock writer in America. But he did enquire about Alice`s relationship with surrealistic painter Salvador Dali, who has designed a special sculpture of what he envisages Alice`s brain to look like. It is the cover of the new album. "To be quite honest I haven`t ever understood one word he`s said to me. He is the master of chaos and confusion and I`ve always felt that those were two of the most valid ideas."

At that point, another side attraction: a man in a gorilla suit entered stage right and picked up a young lady from one table, carrying her off through a side exit, never to be seen again.

How did Alice enjoy having the radical political figure Barry Goldwater for his next door neighbour at his new house. "I`ve invited him over for A Guess The Neighbour Contest`. In fact, I don`t mind having him at all, because my house is bigger than his and he has a dirty back yard!" At which point Alice Cooper and group carried out `Richard Nixon` still flashing peace signs and left everyone wondering why they had come, which no doubt was the object of the exercise.

Keith Altham

This article was transcribed as it was written originally. No editing of obvious grammatical mistakes, but preserved as it once stood in this edition of the NME.

Album Review: Alice Cooper - "Billion Dollar Babies"

From New Musical Express, February 24, 1973:



GREAT ALICE! THEY DON`T COME ANY SICKER

By Nick Kent

You`ve got to hand it to Alice Cooper and the boys - they know just when to pump out another album for the kids to tether their fantasies on. It`s been almost nine months since "School`s Out" appeared, and just when teenage palates are beginning to thirst for more here comes a spanking new product. No depressing wait, the like of which one is forced to experience in anticipation of, say, the new Stones album or Zeppelin`s latest creation. Whatever one might think of them, Alice Cooper certainly deliver on time.

 All Cooper albums since (and including) "Love It To Death" have been eminently enjoyable. Loud, flashy, articulate hard rock harnessed around a superb production, they have constituted some of the most satisfying entertaining black vinyl to be released during the great 1970s. The last effort, "School`s Out", was actually Cooper`s most forgettable work to date: a lightweight affair featuring four good rockers and a bunch of aimless musical flirtations. Does Cooper really feel the need to mess around with old movie soundtrack music or Leonard Bernstein`s Greatest Hits. Well so it seems, for even on "Billion Dollar Babies", we`re treated to Alice Cooper`s own rendition of John Barry`s "Goldfinger" theme.

The track in question is called "Unfinished Sweet" and it`s possibly the longest thing the band has ever done. It`s the longest track on the album too, clocking in at six minutes 17 seconds, featuring a lot of feedback guitar orgasms and even a break using a couple of bars of Clockwork Orange "Beethoven" full intact. The song is all about going to the dentists (unfinished sweet, gettit?) complete with authentic drill sounds which shouldn`t be listened to on headphones. This horrendous bummer aside, "Billion Dollar Babies" has Alice Cooper walking a tightrope, balancing over valid music, image development and grim self parody, and coming out a winner most of the time.

I still can`t quite make up my mind about "Hello Hurray", the single and the opening track, but the arrangement and production is so powerful, and Cooper just about carries the song vocally. I`ll go along with its inclusion. Anyway, the next track is quite brilliant. Called "Rape Raped And Freezin`," it has a great Michael Bruce melody - easily as catchy as "Be My Lover" - and even better lyrics about being raped and caught naked in Chiwawa.

"Elected" appears next, a slightly sub-standard single effort after the classic "School`s Out", but sounding very good sandwiched in the middle of side one of "BDB". The title track follows and is one of the less successful efforts. It`s a rather limp rocker ruined by annoyingly affected vocals by some unidentifiable character seemingly bent on caricaturing David Bowie`s cockney whine.

If side one is slightly less than up to standard, then side two contains the sort of material Alice Cooper were born to record. Kicking off with "No More Mr. Nice Guy" - the title and idea taken from Sparks track of the same name - it somehow transcends this hindrance and stands out with another good melody complete with consciously lame Beach Boys harmonies.

Then we come to one of the two 24-carat classics of the album. "Generation Landslide" contains the most incisively witty lyrics Cooper has ever penned: a futuristic piece of whimsy sung by Cooper with acknowledgement to Bob Dylan`s "Ma I`m Only Bleeding" sneer and style of delivery, with imagery worthy of William Burroughs. "Sick Things" is more archetypal Alice Cooper: tortuous and morbid with bizarre Bob Ezrin arrangement. In "Mary Ann" the band try to do a burlesque Rogers and Hammerstein parody with piano flourishes and a lame pay-off line in the lyrics. It`s short enough not to jar the proceedings.

It is then that we reach the grand finale, the absolute piece de resistance. If Alice Cooper are to be remembered for any one track, during their career as outrage poseurs, it must be "I Love The Dead". It`s about necrophilia (you didn`t really think Alice Cooper would pay musical homage to the Grateful Dead, did you?) and is possibly the most exquisitely tasteless track ever to be placed on black vinyl. God, it`s so deliciously unpleasant that it immediately confirms my suspicions that Alice Cooper may well be the real pervert-genius of the 70s.

What can one say about a track the arrangement of which borrows equally from every turgid Hammer film soundtrack ever made, and "Herman`s Hermits Greatest Hits", except that it scores a bullseye 100 on my badtasteometer. Alistair Crowley would have been green with envy.

"Billion Dollar Babies" is Alice Cooper with panache. I can hardly wait for the next album.


"Billion Dollar Babies" - 1973

The development of the MINI-COOPER

From New Musical Express, February 24, 1973:




Roy Carr in New York hears the story of how Alice Cooper decided to give Britain that free `Limousine` single.

Alice Cooper calls a temporary halt to rehearsing his new stage show in the ballroom of the band`s Connecticut country mansion. Pausing just long enough to re-arm himself with cans of Budweiser, he hops into the backseat of his chrome speedwagon and makes the long haul through heavy traffic to his New York City H.Q.

...And now he`s reclining in his poster-decked office. Before him is an ever-ready can of beer, the centre-fold of the recent NME Readers Poll, and a box containing the returned master-tape of a brand new Alice Cooper single. Three words, "Slick Black Limousine" reveal the contents.

On the rock share index, the price for an Alice Cooper single is well over a million dollars. And sales of sheet music, copyright, etc., could quadruple the figure. However, the mogul of mascara and melodrama didn`t redeem that master-tape for such a lucrative sum. He gave it away for nothing - exclusively to NME readers via last week`s issue. It`s not that the pressures of being the 20th century schizoid man-woman have reached a critical point and damaged Cooper`s brain cells. On the contrary, it was his way of showing gratitude to his followers.

 "When we learned that we`d topped three sections in the NME Readers` Poll", he told me, "we wanted to give something in return - something positive and direct. Unfortunately, there wasn`t time for us to play a concert in Britain, because we`re up to our necks preparing the new stage show for our three-month American tour." (It opens up on March 5.)  So we got real drunk one night and said, `Hey let`s send them a record. But we didn`t want to send something already on an album, or due for release very shortly. It had to be something new and exclusive."

"We`d always thought that it would be a real goof to do an Elvis-type thing. Yer know, all grease `n` echo...a real boppin` rubber-legged knee-trembler. Well it so happened Dennis (Dunaway) had written `Slick Black Limousine`, which was that sort of song, but there was no room on the new album for it and we`d already fixed up the next single. So we laid down the backing track at the mansion and put the vocal on when we were in London."

Alice explains that "Slick Black Limousine" is more than a good natured send-up of the Hillbilly Wild Cat. "I don`t always wanna be known as Alice Cooper the snake charmer. I want to expand the whole Alice Cooper idea. I want Alice to be a lot of other things. On this particular record, it`s Alice Cooper - greasy rocker. `Slick Black Limousine` expands the whole concept of the Elvis thing, and at the same time it expands what Alice Cooper is really capable of doing. And this is just the beginning. `Limousine` is our idea of Elvis in a head-on collision with drummer Sandy Nelson.

 Though fidgety due to having been off the road for over two months, the Connecticut crooner is still in the best of spirits - something not wholly due to his fuel intake of Budweiser. It takes little probing to discover the deep-rooted satisfaction Cooper and the band have derived from the results of the NME poll. "The thing that`s really made us all happy", says Alice, "is that we`re now accepted on a musical level. Both this and the sale of our records have proved that beyond any doubt. We`ve passed through the period when most people thought of us as being nothing more than a hype-gimmick."




As it transpires, there`s another reason for Cooper`s jubilation this afternoon. Cachina, the band`s boppin` boa constrictor, which disappeared from Cooper`s hotel room some months ago, has been recovered safe and unhurt. Getting back to more serious matters, the band now have a new world-wide single release, "Hello Hurray", are putting the final touches to "Billion Dollar Babies" prior to shipping the album over here, and have a follow-up single ready for clearance. My immediate reaction to "Hello Hurray" is that it doesn`t sound like Alice Cooper. And this, apparently, is the response Cooper is aiming for.

"The obvious thing would have been to put out a wild rocker. `Well, we don`t do the obvious. `Hello Hurray` was written by a crippled songwriter from Toronto by the name of Rolf Kempf, and when I first heard it I know it`d be a great song to open our new stage act. `Hello Hurray` is what we`re saying to our audience...let the show begin. Also I liked the idea of doing a big Anthony Newley-type Broadway thing." Staying true to form, the follow-up will be, as Cooper explains, "a killer rocker". Before that materialises, the sixth Alice Cooper song collection, "Billion Dollar Babies", will have been premiered. "This one`s a killer too", claims Cooper, "because it`s a better production than all the others. And we`re singing and playing better than ever". Somewhat apologetically, Alice mumbles that "Billion Dollar Babies" is also a little more perverted...there`s a lot of sick things on it. Like what? "Like necrophilia".

 He tells me Donovan`s on the album. Surprise, surprise. What`s a nice young kid like the Sunshine Superman doing in this company? "Donovan is one of the sweetest guys in the world, and I take it as a big compliment that he wanted to sing on the album".

To date Cooper has committed many outrageous deeds. So what is he going to do when it comes around to warbling necrophiliac nursery rhymes. "I can`t tell you anything about the new stage act. It would spoil the whole impact." But he gives me a few clues. "What we`ve assembled is a glitzy touring Broadway-type production with plenty of dazzling lights and special effects. Yer know...Dah-De, Dah-De, De-Dah, De-Dah" and goes into the signature tune from the Bugs Bunny Show. Waving his hands and jumping all over the place, "dah-de-dah-de-de-dah-de dah," he exits through the open door, down the stone stairs and tumbles into the back of his Slick Black Limousine and disappears in a cloud of exhaust fumes.


If you had the money - and I guess £ 85 was a hefty sum in 1973 - you could have the trip of your life with Rent-A-Guide Ltd.!

Cooper Concert Trouble

From New Musical Express, January 20, 1973:



Alice Cooper`s scheduled week-long engagement at the Palace Theatre here has been filled with a few problems.

For a start, the theatre owners became very worried about the concerts. They`ve never had so many requests in the history of the theatre for tickets, and felt that the kids might cause destruction to the building once the tickets were sold out. So they decided Alice would do better at a larger hall.

Members of the group all took vacations before rehearsals were to begin, and expected to find another Broadway theatre venue even as they were rehearsing.

The last blow was when lead guitarist Glen Buxton went down with a serious pancreatic infection on New Year`s Eve while on holiday in Arizona, and had to be operated on. Glen will be bed-ridden for three weeks in Phoenix, where his family and old school pals can take care of him.

"The rest of the guys are going full-speed ahead," says Cooper`s public relations man Ashley Pandel, "and even though the venue will not now be on Broadway, the show is, at this point, going to be heavily Broadway-influenced - and in three acts. "Of course," he added, "things like that can change as the show progresses."

Prior to rehearsals, the group were in the Record Plant (N.Y) putting finishing touches on their album, "Billion Dollar Babies", set for a February 15 release from Warner Brothers. A single, "Hello Hurray", will be released here on Jan. 15, with a late January British release.

This is one of the few times that Alice Cooper have recorded a single not written by the group. "Hello Hurray" is from an old Judy Collins album, and written by Rolf Kemp. The group feel that it`s a perfect song to mark their return to the American market after their November European tour.


A letter from a reader of NME, January 6, 1973

I found this in the "Gasbag"-section of the paper, and I just couldn`t resist sharing it with you:

Could you please put my mind at ease? Has Alice Cooper been a woman and changed his sex to a man? Or has he been a man all his life? I am asking because all my friends claim they saw a picture of him in the NME `73 Hot Rock Guide with a bust. I don`t know whether to believe them or not, so I am writing to ask you to tell the truth as I am so confused.

- Elaine I. (rest of the name withheld to protect the innocent - Blog Editor), Middlesbrough


Alice - actually a woman - not only a woman`s name?

I really do hope that Elaine now knows the truth, and that she isn`t confused anymore. :-)

 

Candles in Connecticut

From New Musical Express, November 11, 1972:




On the eve of his jet-stop visit to Britain, Roy Carr called on Alice at his New England mansion. The lights were out.

The moon was low over the forest of trees surrounding Alice Cooper`s white mansion somewhere in Connecticut, and outside and outasight I could hear a million crickets making their presence heard as Alice lay prostrate on a king-size bed in the candle-lit apartment of one of the residence wings. He supped from an ever-present can of Budweiser and allowed his indisputedly-lurid imagination to run riot as he told me of a planned death scene in his forthcoming movie. It features his death on stage - a bullet-hole through his head - before he goes on to a Holiday Inn-type rock `n` roll heaven in the skies.

Apart from this, "when the movie`s completed it`ll be made up of live footage and some specially staged sequences," he told me. "There won`t be any theme, or any clear story line that you can follow. Neither will there be an explanation or any apology for what happens. Like our stage act, we`ll just present various things to the audience and leave them to worry about forming their own conclusions. We ain`t gonna help `em."

There were no sinister connotations for the bringing of the candles this night; a power failure had plunged the entire household into pitch darkness. This was creepy enough, but an air of the bizarre crept in when drummer Neal Smith burst in and cheerfully announced that the boa constrictor had escaped from its cage and was slithering about somewhere in the gloom. "So mind how you go", warned Smith with a smile, "and scream if she gets you".

"Never mind, she`ll turn up soon", said the unconcerned Cooper getting into another Budweiser. "Knowing her, she`ll probably crawl in bed with someone and curl up on their chest. She`s always doing that, bless her." It was a statement of fact which prompted me to tactfully decline an invitation to stay the night and finish the interview as quickly as possible. I motored back to Manhattan as speedily as four wheels would carry me. I had however, not been all that surprised when our conversation had got around to that of sex or what Alice, symbol of paranoid sexuality, had had to say on the subject.

"Off hand, I can`t think of any pop star who hasn`t had an ambiguous sex life," he told me. "If you saw Elvis wearing the kinda make-up he wears on stage in the street, you`d do a double take. It`s an ambiguous type of sex thing. When Elvis started out he wore bright pink jackets and had a greasy little curl of hair, with the result he was always getting into a fight every night he performed. It was unthinkable and intolerable to look like that in the South."




Cooper switched his mind to the future. `Y`know, it`s gonna get to the point where sex is going to finally break down the barriers between men and women. It`s just gonna be sex...sex without any categorisations. It`ll no longer be homosexual, bi-sexual, or heterosexual - just sex. And I`m sure that`s gonna be happening within the next ten years. "People should be free enough to realise that sex is fine. If a man wants a man...O.K. If a woman wants a woman...O.K. Who`se that hurting...is it hurting the norm? After a while the norm is going to be nothing but that. Sex is going to boil down to just one word. People will do just what they want." Cooper suggested the first signs were evident in the mass accepted acts of himself and David Bowie. "A lot of girls think bi-guys are real sexy. They see it as an odd type of sex. Not the kind that they`re used to, so immediately it`s mysterious and very sexy. So you can see people are already beginning to accept what was once unacceptable, and now they`re feeling free to indulge in whatever they choose, 27 gorillas and 10 girls all in one bed," he suggested. He laughed and spilled his beer.

Cindy, Cooper`s flame-haired lady, wandered into the room and enquired as to what we`re talking about. "Sex", confessed Alice. "Don`t answer questions like that," she replied, "they`re loaded." 

"So am I", quipped Cooper, reaching for another beer. I retired gracefully. I still have the feeling that something slithered over my feet as I walked, candle in hand, to the front door.

 

In the same edition of the newspaper, I found this small notice:

Prior to his Glasgow concert tomorrow (Friday), Alice Cooper has been trying out several recording studios in London, including the Morgan Studios in Willesden. The NME understands that this is in preparation for Alice returning to Britain early next year to cut an album here.

Alice Cooper - Death is beautiful, he tells ROY CARR in a bizarre interview in America.

From New Musical Express, November 4, 1972:




"D`YA HEAR ME, you swine? You`re just like Joni Mitchell!!! You`re a DRIP!!" screamed the tousle-haired youth at the staggering, blood-splattered monster violently being beaten-up right before his glazed eyes. "I hate you...I hate you...I HATE YOU!!" he continued to yell wildly above the noise as - with the strength of ten - he vigorously pushed his way through the tightly-packed crowd closing in for the final kill. Suddenly he spat at Alice, hit his target, and his full-lunged voice carried the venomous words: "If I get hold of you. I`ll rip your goddamn ugly head off you perverted faggot" across the twenty feet that lay between him and the battered object of his disgust.

The abuse came fast, free and unprintable, as the young lady unsuccessfully trying to restrain him pitifully cried: "Don`t, Oh God, please don`t let them hurt him...A-L-I-C-E I love you...I really do." Clambering over the wooden crash barrier, which was immediately reduced to matchwood under his heavily booted feet, this man possessed then sent three bullnecked police guards scattering like ten-pins followed by one last desperate gesture in which he attempted to scale the stage. He was totally oblivious to the sobbing girl still clinging to him for dear life.

Were the 25,000 spectators with whom I gathered in the chilled evening air on the green field of Toronto`s Varsity Stadium that night about to bare witness to a mindless assassination? Was this unknown assailant, below the footlights, about to grab the world`s headlines as being the rock generation`s Lee Oswald? - and turn the murder playacted on that stage into the real thing? The next few seconds were to be decisive.
Suddenly Alice fell to his knees; moaned, keeled over and writhed in agony as a result of being set about the head with a bottle. This caused the girl to hysterically scream: "My God, they`ve killed him"; the would-be assassin halted, momentarily, and in those few seconds the police pounced, secured him in a neck-lock, and dragged him away still threatening: "Let me go you pigs. I wanna kill him. I`ve gotta kill him."
It was a case of the insane attacking insanity, and Alice, the victim who had narrowly escaped with his life, hollered down the microphone: "You`re crazier than us. That`s what I like!" Another Alice Cooper concert had reached its finale of gore and decadence.
BANG-BANG-BANG: Any society capable of shooting Johnny, Bobby and Martin Luther down in cold blood; and nurturing psychopaths like Manson and the infamous Texas Campus sniper, could quite easily conspire to put forward a candidate demented enough to want to gun down a rock star in public.
By virtue of his ever-generated image that top prime cut or mortuary steak, Alice, could well be at the other end of the bullet. He knows it and he fears it.
Just twelve hours after this one unsuccessful attempt at his life I found Cooper slouched, unshaven in his hotel room, indulging himself in his favourite pursuit of watching television and drinking beer.
Aware that he may well be a marked man Cooper discussed the possibility with me with a smile as he said: "I wouldn`t want to die a violent death, and it frightens me to think there could be someone out there in the audience - maybe on some kind of drug - who could suddenly go berserk and shoot me."
He offered: "Can you imagine a drug-crazed kid killing a crazy alcoholic like me, right in the middle of a song?"
Cooper laughed. I didn`t. It could happen, it very nearly had, the night before, and it was scary.
Although he sings about wanting to be "Elected" Alice has no political aspirations. It is his opinion that being a politician is infinitely more risky than rockin` `n` rollin` to the break of dawn.
America having such a vile history of political killings, he told me: "I really hate the idea of death because I have so much fun living.
"It`s the one thing I really fear, because like everyone else, I know nothing at all about it. That`s the way I play with death and make fun of it on stage.
"Hitchcock is probably the most successful film producer who ever lived because he knows the psychology of the idea that people like blood.
"If a jet crashed in the middle of New York City it would draw more people than the Beatles ever did to Shea Stadium, because a lot more people would like to see that.
"As far as our act is concerned, it`s not that we`re prying on the idea that people like to see blood. We`re just as human as everybody else. It`s just that we like the idea of bloodlust as long as it`s us who are portraying it.
"We do it for the audience. We`re their outlet. We aren`t condoning violence. We`re relieving it. The Alice Cooper show is fantasy, of course, and just because we do it doesn`t mean they`ve got to do it."
Cooper has admitted to me on more than one occasion that, on stage, he`s his own Frankenstein Monster - a raving maniac, a schizophrenic degenerate free of censorship and not responsible for his actions. Neither does he feel a responsibility towards his audience, or his effect upon the more mentally unbalanced spectator.
"I never get repulsed by an audience`s behaviour," he confessed. "In fact, I think it`s real healthy. When I`m hacking the baby doll`s head off I imagine that the girls out there, screaming for the bits, would like to change places with me...only they`re not in the position to do so.
"For instance, that guy who tried to get on stage last night could have gone and seen `A Clockwork Orange` or `Straw Dogs`, and been triggered off in very much the same way.
"I honestly think I`m doing an artistic thing on stage, something that`s never been done in rock until I came along. Not only am I giving them music, but also an image for them to think about.
"When they see me they`re getting five things that no other act can offer them. Maybe one group will give them music and forget about the important visual image. I`m trying to give them as much as is humanly possible. That`s everything about me.
"Sometimes I think it`s almost obscene that I`m giving them so much. You see, through Alice I`m showing them what`s lurking deep down inside of them."
Sex, sadism and slaughter are Cooper`s shock tactics, so what has he left for his imitators? The ultimate finale? Self-destruction?
Cooper is adamant: he would never go to such extremity, although he says he would have no objection to watching suicide on a stage. "I`d like to be there," he says, "because that would really be something to see - the great experience. Death is such an abstract idea."
For the time being it may seem as if Alice Cooper has a preoccupation with death, but being the Son of a Preacherman he also holds strong views on life and the importance of religion to this generation.
His fantasies, don`t, however, stem from repression at home. "Except for having to attend church three times a week. I was never repressed as a child," Cooper recalled, "I believe in personal religion.
"For some reason money and religion don`t go hand-in-hand, and I can`t think of any religion that isn`t involved with money. To me organised religion is just like a social club. I know for a fact that the Catholic church has assets of 43 billion dollars, which is more money than certain countries have. When that amount of finance is involved how can it be a pure religion. It can`t be. It`s a business."
If that wasn`t enough to incite even more controversy Cooper - opening a fresh can of Budweiser - then offered me his mental conception of how he depicted Christ.
"In the same way I imagine the Devil would be outrageously theatrical if he were on Earth," he said, "I think of Jesus Christ charming as Fred Astaire, because he`s flawless as far as personalities go. Fred Astaire is the ultimate Jesus Christ. He doesn`t do anything unless it`s in four-four time.
"Astaire is perfect. Even when he gets up out of a chair, walks across the room, turns and lights a cigarette, he does it all with a perfect sense of timing.
"If Jesus Christ were around I don`t think he`d make a bad step, either. He`d be elegant, and make a splendid figure in a well-cut white suit. I wouldn`t want Him to have long hair and a beard. By chance - if he were a rock musician - He`d have to be better than Hendrix. That`s for sure."
Off-stage Alice Cooper automatically becomes the complete antithesis of public outrage.
"The trouble is," he says, "most people expect me to roam around carrying an axe. If I was Alice every time I went into a bar, turning over tables and scaring people, I`d probably be dead by now."
So what motivated The Nazz to change their name to Alice Cooper and apply lipstick, powder and paint to their teenage faces? "Frustration", was the replay. "We wanted to draw attention to ourselves because we just weren`t getting anywhere."
Breaking into a laugh - which caused his exposed beer gut to shimmy - Alice continued: "We had bruises all over our bodies from the foot poles...that`s how much people refused to touch us. So we decided we`d just go on stage and do anything we wanted.
"Some nights we used to go on stage so drunk, I`d pass out at least three times during the set. Surprisingly enough, people dug it, and quite often they used to come along just to see what would happen to us.  I`d just stand in the middle of the stage and pass right out and the crowd would yell, `Yeeeaaaaaaahhhhh`.
"The band would pick me up; I`d get back together again; take a swig of this gawdamnawful cheap wine, and crash out again."
Many rock stars either want to be all-round entertainers (snigger-snigger) or record and movie producers. Alice Cooper wants to own his own men`s cosmetic company - he thinks it`s the thing of the future.
"Everyone wants to look prettier, be he rock star, football player or truck driver, `cause every man has got vanity. Ten years ago male spray deodorants were looked upon as being nothing less than effeminate. Today they`re just part of the male cosmetic line.
"I think Alice Cooper Cosmetics would be real neat and classy. Just think: I could appear on TV in a bath; look into the camera, and advertise Alice Cooper Turtle Oil. Or maybe something of a more personal nature." 
Now, why didn`t I think of that.
Blog editors note: This interview is kind of special. I guess you, like me, noticed that the subject of rock star shootings were mentioned. That made me think that this became reality eight years later when John Lennon was shot. In this piece Alice also mentioned a scenario where a jet crashed in the middle of New York City - well, that happened in 2001.
And finally he mentions cosmetics for men - nowadays it is a big business with male celebrities advertising products for men. I hope Alice followed his own advice and invested in cosmetics!
Lots of scenarios mentioned here that became reality - is Alice Cooper an undiscovered psychic?

New Musical Express - September 16, 1972



In a fascinating interview from NEW YORK, MERIDEE MERZER looks closer at

ALICE COOPER,

just a nice boy at heart

The scene is the fashionable Upper East Side of Manhattan, and it`s after a premiere. The super-trendies are out, full-force, to see and be seen. At the edge of the crowd a thin young guy leans on a record mogul`s limousine swigging Budweiser beer from a flip-top can. Dressed quite simply, no make-up, his hair neatly tied back, nobody gives him a second glance. Even if he is Alice Cooper. Not three feet away from him one super-trendy says to another: "I thought Alice Cooper was supposed to be here" - swivelling to look blankly right past Alice - "but I don`t see him any place."

Next day Alice laughs about his total anonymity offstage. "To tell the truth most people don`t recognise me offstage," he smiles. "I`ve heard people talking about me when I was standing right next to them. They didn`t even know it was me. I don`t think people have a definite image of what I really am. All they know about is the personality of Alice Cooper onstage. That`s not me at all."

The offstage Alice looks very little like his infamous onstage persona - ultra-violet, crazy, bisexual, cruelly horrifying. The real-life Alice/Vince is in fact a Mr. Average except for deep-set, intense eyes and a personality that`s witty, thoroughly nice. He`s the kind of man American girls would call "pussycat". Very sweet, actually. Sitting there enveloped in a massive black leather chair in his management`s Greenwich Village townhouse Alice reflects as we talked on what he called his "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personalities. But first he has to write down the lyrics to the next Cooper single, "Elected", which they`ve finished recording the night before. Only trouble was, he can`t recall the words. Dennis Dunaway, the group`s bassist, peers in a door and offers a suggestion, but "No, Dennis, that`s the second verse. I need the third."




Dennis pops out again. Like Alice he`s curiously peaceful offstage, with gentle eyes. The band apparently has little need to be aggressive in real life. Its performances provide a psychodrama situation in which the members act out their own violence. "The whole idea of the onstage Alice and the real me is that they`re two opposites," Alice explains. "I`m not a really violent person at all offstage. I never fight with anybody. I don`t even like to argue with anybody. About anything. So if you don`t let out your hostility, you`re stifling it, and when I get onstage, it all explodes out of me. That`s how I get it all out - I take it out of everybody in the audience. But at the same time, the audience likes it. It`s theatrical. They`re seeing all these vehement things coming out of me."

Alice Cooper recognises that he`s creating an elaborate fantasy for his audiences, "but I don`t go out of my way to plan the fantasies. I really leave it up to that image, to the Alice image. When Alice gets up onstage I just sort of let him have complete control." You talk, I remark, as if Alice isn`t even you. He agrees that Alice is a split-off part of his personality. "Everybody`s got that split. It`s just that I have an opportunity to play with it, to experiment with it. You see, I have a release. I let Alice do anything he wants. Alice is just like a creature, some sort of creature that comes out of you. That`s my alternate personality. It doesn`t have to answer to anybody. When I get offstage, if I`m walking down the street, I`m not shy. But I`m really not very dynamic. Like, Alice would go into a restaurant and throw three tables over, just to get people`s attention. Offstage I don`t need that attention. I`m really quiet. Oh, I like to go out to bars and have fun and get drunk. But I`m not a very boisterous person. It`s really like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

And indeed, Alice Cooper is very quiet yet humourous that afternoon in New York City. He sits, sketching a convoluted frog in red ink on a yellow pad of legal paper, and admits how the emergence of the Alice personality scared him a bit when it first began about five years ago. "I went to a psychiatrist because I realised what was happening, the idea of assuming two personalities. I thought it was a little weird, `cos I was only 19 when I really started going like that. I went to the shrink and asked him: `Listen, is that normal?`" Alice still laughs thinking about the visit. "But the psychiatrist said yeah, it`s normal. In fact it`s really healthy to have two personalities, he said, as long as they don`t get out of hand. He said: `In your case you can get rid of all that hostility onstage. You`re not hurting anybody by getting rid of it. In fact, you`re entertaining people. If other people could do that you wouldn`t have as much crime or violence.` So that`s where we got the idea that if we`re doing it onstage, we`re relieving people of their violence. We`re doing it for them vicariously. When they get out of one of our concerts at least 90% of the audience should walk out exhausted. The other 10% are gonna fight if it was us or the Grateful Dead or anybody. That`s just what they`re gonna do."

Alice acknowledges that other members of the group also have different personalities onstage and off, while the violence and sheer, punky nastiness comes out onstage. "For instance, Dennis has a real sweet personality offstage. He`d never even harm a fly. Yet when he gets onstage he just loves to really fight. He gets right into it. The other day we got offstage just before doing our encore. The audience was applauding; they dug it. But I`d had what I thought was a really bad night. So I was yelling, and screaming damn it, just gritting my teeth I was so mad. And kicking things. Then I looked around, and Dennis was doing the same thing. And I stopped and thought: `Dennis isn`t like that`. He scared me. I thought he was really mad. We walked onstage and did a really good last song. We really did each other in. At the very end I threw a garbage can and it hit him in the ankle. He grimaced and I said: `Hey, are you okay?` He said: `Yeah great. Keep going.` And I looked at him thinking: `What?`, because I didn`t think he could be that far into it. You can imagine... That fight scene (a 20-minute version of "Gutter Cat") is just like a sensitivity course, because we really get off doing it. We don`t hold any punches. I`ve been knocked-out cold a couple of times onstage, and so`s Neal. I`ve got two ribs broken right now. The audience know when you`re faking it."




In NME`s weekly behind-the-counter column from a record dealer called SHOP, we could also read the following:

This week, let`s finish the Alice Cooper saga. I`m told by an official spokesman of WEA that the company will definitely NOT re-release the two albums "Pretties For You" and "Easy Action", because both Alice and his management feel the material on both albums "does not represent the type of music he now plays".

Consequently Alice wants neither of the sets released - even though the two were almost ready to be shipped to the dealers by WEA. However, the tale deepens for true Alice freaks in that a record dealer wrote to me saying he was still ordering "Pretties For You" from CBS...and getting it. Needless to say, he was selling it at the English price. I ordered this particular album also from CBS, but had no joy. But I did try three times, and finally I managed it. I`ve tried twice since, but each time the advice note has come back marked `out of stock, please re-order`. So, if you still want "Pretties", ask your dealer to try and order it for you. The number is STS 1051. But you may have to wait some time.

 

 

New Musical Express - August 19, 1972

Alice Cooper was No. 1 in the British singles chart this week with "School`s Out".



Shock `n roll

 

By Jim Smith

 

Dining with a man named Alice is still a weird experience.

The maitre d` blanched when he saw us coming, Alice resplendent in lightly-rouged cheeks, savagely-mascaraed eyes that were highlighted by an intriguing wagon-wheel spokes effect, and a half-opened multi-colour see-through blouse.

Complementing him perfectly was Alice`s drummer, Neil Smith. Neil`s dangling ear-ring in the right lobe was partially obscured by his flowing hair, but his patterned, basically-white, loose outfit was offset by a massive turquoise bracelet, a sizeable turquoise ring, and a huge chain necklace.

"The dining room is closed...uh...sir," the maitre d` hastily explained.

The diners did their best to look elsewhere, but inevitably all eyes returned to Alice and Neil.

"Man, this dining room better be closed when the next person comes," Alice informed the maitre d`.

The coffee shop clientele was similarly bemused but no effort was made to bar the doors there. Alice and Neil, probably because of lengthy exposure to such matters, appeared not to notice the furtive glances around them.

 

The waitress came, fighting valiantly to be nonchalant, and scurried out to the kitchen. Neil grinned.

"Rock and roll should be shocking," Alice theorised.

"Remember how great rock and roll used to be? The parents hated it, of course, and that`s one reason it was so much fun. But America has never really had a great rock and roll band with a wild image.

"Britain was able to produce hundreds of groups that had good (to Alice, that means outrageous) images but America has only produced the Doors. Even there, the only person in the group with an image was Jim Morrison."

 

Morrison had made his image quickly, remember the famous Miami concert when the late Doors leader casually opened his trousers and committed what was generally considered an indecent act.

That`s the kind of showmanship that Alice envies. The old hard-sell.

"It doesn`t matter what you do, so long as you get a reaction from the audience," is the Cooper motto.

 

Neil Smith, brushing his over-shoulder-length hair away from his face, agreed passionately: "When we first started, people used to walk out on us by the thousands.

"That was cool, too. You`ve got to get some kind of reaction and even if it`s completely negative, that`s great. Now we get just the opposite reaction.

It`s the old rock`n`roll star type of trip and we like that even better.

"Did you see those crazy kids rush us after the show tonight? It`s been like that wherever we go lately. All these kids seem to get a great kick out of showing their affection by taking everything we own off us.

"I can`t even wear a pouch-purse anymore because, tonight, some chick took everything out of it. Even my glasses. Of course, that`s a reaction, so it has to be cool."

 

Audience response to the Alice Cooper Band has changed markedly since the day three years ago when Alice threw his first chicken at the audience and methodically beat a watermelon to bits with a hammer. All in the name of art.

Of course, not everyone regarded the early Cooper performances as great art. There were indignant protests against the "chicken killers" when all that could be found of Alice`s chickens after the shows were battered carcasses.

"We never killed a chicken, you know," Alice mumbled with a hurt expression. "When I threw the first chicken, I thought it would fly away. I didn`t know chickens can`t fly. After all, they`ve got wings, right? I guess the crowd scared it to death. We never liked being called chicken killers. The act was supposed to be fun."



Beneath the brassy exterior, the mascara, rouge, and jewellery, is a clever but sensitive mind. Alice wants to be regarded as a rock and roll great, and correctly realises that theatrics is the only way to make it work. Ask Jerry Lee Lewis or Elvis.

"We have a better idea how to perform now," Alice noted. "When we first started at art school in Phoenix, we just knew that we wanted to shock the people and have fun.

"Today everything is carefully worked out. Whenever part of the act becomes too familiar and loses its shock value, we discard it and develop something else. I knew what the response to the straitjacket would be when I wore that onstage."

 

Neil Smith admits that he was nervous in the beginning: "It wasn`t easy to do the things we did - at least at first. The only way I could go on stage was to get completely stoned. The first few gigs I was so stoned I hardly knew what I was doing.

"Today it doesn`t take as much to get me off. Three or four beers are all that`s necessary."

He pulled up his shirt to reveal a bottle of beer stuck in his waist-band. "I always have a spare," he commented blithely.

 

You really wouldn`t expect this carrying on to be easy for a minister`s son like Alice.

Not all his father`s parishioners back home in Phoenix are ecstatic about Alice`s chosen profession.

"People ask him why he doesn`t do something about me. He tells them that he has no right to interfere with whatever I do. Anyway, he really likes what I`m doing. He flew up from Detroit to see us and thought it was great.

"Is there any reason why he shouldn`t like us?" Alice was still ignoring the curious stares from around us. "What we`re doing is putting fun into music. People who don`t like us are afraid to have any fun. There isn`t much fun in rock, you know.

"I don`t even listen to rock music. My favourite composer is Burt Bacharach. People think I`m kidding when I say that but I really mean it. Rock can be so unimaginative. It takes everything so seriously."

 

Virtually nothing about Alice Cooper and company is serious. Life is a continuing round of parties and displays to shock the people.

Earlier in the day I met a man who had attended the previous evening`s party without undergoing prior conditioning. He looked like a candidate for the morgue.

"When I left, it was just warming up," he confessed.

"We don`t know how to live any other way," said Neil, looking surprised that anyone could imagine living without nightly parties. "We thrive on the travel and parties. Sitting at home we just get bored." The entire entourage, including a cast of harlequins, is a travelling party.

The least conspicuous part of Alice Cooper`s act is the music. But Alice insists, "The theatrics are very important but the music is even more important."

 

To anyone who remembers the early Alice Cooper act, that remark seems ludicrous. For it was uncertain whether the repulsive stage antics or the equally repulsive music was responsible for driving the audiences away from the stage.

Since then Alice sat down and developed some very effective (which is to say, very suggestive) rock`n`roll numbers to go with the staging.

The last Alice Cooper album, "School`s Out", is now high in the British album charts, the single of the same name taken from it being a No. 1. Even the previous "Killer" set is picking up healthy sales. And that from a group that relies heavily on visual effects.

"We`re waiting for video cassettes," says Alice. "Can you imagine what we`ll be able to do with that?"

New Musical Express - March 18, 1972

Just a short notice from this number of the English music newspaper:

This notice is related to the headline "Death of the Rainbow", as the Rainbow Theatre suddenly closed down because of financial difficulties:

  • Alice Cooper, due to have played the Rainbow this weekend, are still coming to Britain as they are booked to record here. Said a spokesman: "We would like to fix another venue, but the notice is probably much too short."

Welcome to my nightmare!

In this blog I will slowly, but surely, build up a library of articles/interviews from the printed media regarding Alice Cooper. Most of the articles will be in English, but some may even be in the Scandinavian languages - mostly because I don`t have the time to translate them all. I hope you appreciate my effort in collecting and printing all of this. Credit will always be given to the original interviewer and/or magazine/newspaper.

All of the material is from my personal collection, but I will always consider offers to buy stuff from me. Safely through Paypal, in that case.

Have a nice read - looking forward to making this a GREAT place to be for all you guys and girls in Cooperville! :-)

Les mer i arkivet » August 2015 » Juli 2015 » Juni 2015
alicemedia

alicemedia

49, Trondheim

I am older than your average blogger, but I still like much of the same things as I did when I was young - rock music is one of those things.

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