ALICE COOPER-THE WARNER BROS YEARS 1969-1983.
ALICE COOPER-THE WARNER BROS YEARS 1969-1983.
It was in Detroit, Michigan, on February 4th 1948, Vincent Damon Furnier was born. He would go on to become one of the biggest names in music, after changing his name to Alice Cooper in 1968. After that, Alice Cooper’s career has spanned five decades and twenty-six studio albums. This includes the fifteen albums released on Warner Bros. between 1969 and 1983. During the first fourteen years of Alice Cooper’s sometimes controversial career, he released some of the best music of his long and eventful career. However, when Vincent Damon Furnier was growing up, very few people could’ve foreseen that he would forge a career as a rock star.
Growing up as Vincent Damon Furnier life was very different. Vincent Damon Furnier grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where his father was a minister in the Church of Jesus Christ. When Vincent was eleven, he was already participating in church life. This was short-lived, and only lasted until Vincent was twelve.
By then, he was attending Nankin Mills Jr. High School, and was suffering from a variety of illnesses. This resulted in the Vincent’s father moving the family to Phoenix, Arizona.
Having moved from Detroit to Phoenix, Vincent attended Cortez High School in North Phoenix. After leaving high school, Vincent attended Glendale Community College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. By then, Vincent’s musical career was well underway. It began in 1964, when Vincent and the members of the school’s cross-country team, formed a group The Earwigs.
They entered the annual high school talent show. The Earwigs performance saw the mime to various Beatles’ songs. Somehow, this was enough for The Earwigs to win the first prize. This was enough to whet Vincent’s musical appetite. Soon, The Earwigs were renamed as The Spiders. The newly formed group’s lineup featured Vincent on vocals; lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitar John Tatum, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer John Speer. Mostly, The Spiders played cover versions of songs by British Invasion bands. This included The Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Soon, though, The Spiders’ thoughts turned to recording their debut single.
Why Don’t You Love Me was recorded in 1965, and became The Spiders’ debut single. For the recording of Why Don’t You Love Me, Vincent had to learn the harmonica. On the flip side was a cover of Hitch Hike, which had given Marvin Gaye a hit. The single was then released on Mascot Records, which was owned by local music impresario Jack Curtis. He was a concert promoter, owned the Stage 7 club, where The Spiders had a residency. Things were going well for The Spiders, who were set to graduate high school in 1966. Having all graduated in 1966, change was on the horizon.
Michael Bruce replaced rhythm guitarist John Tatum. The new recruit played on The Spiders’ sophomore single Don’t Blow Your Mind. Although this was one of the first songs The Spiders had penned themselves, it went on to reach number one locally. By 1967, The Spiders’ star was in the ascendancy.
They were travelling as far afield as Los Angeles, to play live. It was around this time that The Spiders changed their name to Nazz, and released Wonder Who’s Lovin’ Her Now? On the B-Side was a song that would reappear later, Lay Down and Die, Goodbye. It would become an Alice Cooper favourite. Before that, drummer John Speer was replaced by Michael Speer, and Nazz relocated.
Like many bands before them, Nazz decided to move to L.A. From he birth of rock ’n’ roll, bands always moved to where the record companies, recording studios and prestigious clubs were. Nazz were no different, and decided moved to L.A. where they hoped they could attract the attention of a record company. However, there was a problem. Word got back to the members of Nazz, that Todd Rundgren had a also a band called Nazz. It had been around longer, so the members of Nazz had to come up with a new name. This was when Alice Cooper was born.
Many myths surround the naming of Alice Cooper. However, the most plausible was, that Alice Cooper was the name of a character in an American television series Mayberry R.F.D. It was shown on CBS, one of the biggest television networks. So in homage to Mayberry R.F.D., Nazz became Alice Cooper. So did Vincent Damon Furnier. The twenty-one year old singer, songwriter and musician saw the potential in adopting a persona. That persona, allowed him to portray various “characters.” This varied from album to album. However, with Vincent’s sense of theatre, drama, flamboyance and showmanship, this would prove crucial not just to the success of the band Alice Cooper, but later, his solo career. Before that, Alice Cooper the band, attracted the attention of Frank Zappa.
Ironically, this came after a particularly disappointing gig. Alice Cooper only played ten minutes at the Cheetah club in Venice, California. That was enough for Alice Cooper to clear the room. That was a disaster. However, for Alice Cooper, every cloud had a silver lining. Shep Gordon, who managed various bands, approached Alice Cooper. He realised that Alice Cooper had potential, and it was just a matter of guiding them, and pointing them in the right direction. This included arranging an audition with Frank Zappa, who had just founded a new record label, Straight Records.
Being a new label, Frank Zappa’s Straight Records were looking to build up a roster of artists. So Shep Gordon arranged for Alice Cooper to audition at Straight Records. The time of the audition was seven o’clock. What the members of Alice Cooper didn’t realise, was that they were meant to arrive at Frank Zappa’s house at 7pm. Instead, they arrived at 7am. This could’ve proved disastrous, but didn’t. After hearing Alice Cooper’s brand of psychedelic rock, Frank Zappa offered the band a three album deal, which they accepted. Now Alice Cooper could begin work on their debut album, Pretties For You.
Pretties For You.
Now signed to Straight Records, the five members of Alice Cooper began recording what became Pretties For You. Producing the album, were producers Ian Underwood and Herb Cohen. They oversaw the recording of thirteen tracks, penned by the five members of Alice Cooper.
This included the rhythm section of drummer Neal Smith, bassist Dennis Dunaway and rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce. They were augmented by lead guitarist Glen Buxton and Alice Cooper on lead vocals. That’s apart from on Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio, which features Michael Bruce on lead vocal. Throughout the album, effects are used extensively. They add to what Alice Cooper saw as an ambitious and innovative album of psychedelia. Guiding Alice Cooper through the musical maze that was their debut album were producers Ian Underwood and Herb Cohen. However, it was more than an psychedelic album.
Pretties For You was an album that had obviously been influenced by Pink Floyd. Especially, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. However, psychedelia wasn’t the only influence on Pretties For You. There’s also a jazz influence, on Pretties For You, as Alice Cooper experiment with various time signatures. Avant garde and experimental music influenced Alice Cooper as they worked on their debut album.
These eclectic influences lead to criticism of Pretties For You. For some critics, Pretties For You was just too left-field an album. They didn’t understand the eclectic influences that had shaped the album. Nor did they understand the constant changes in tempo and time signatures. Reviews ranged from unfavourable to mixed. This didn’t augur well for the release of Pretties For You. June 1969 saw the release of Pretties For You. The album stalled at 193 in the US Billboard 200. This was disappointing for Alice Cooper, who were about to receive some unwelcome publicity.
On September 13th 1969, Alice Cooper were playing at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. Mid-set, a chicken flew onto the stage. Alice Cooper thinking the chicken could fly, threw it off the stage. What happened next is unclear. Allegations were made that when the chicken was thrown off the stage, it was ripped to pieces. By the next day, newspapers were reporting that Alice Cooper had bitten the head off the chicken.
The next day, Frank Zappa phoned Alice Cooper to establish what exactly happened. Alice Cooper denied the story. Frank Zappa thinking that all publicity is good publicity, told him to admit to biting the head off the chicken and drinking its blood. This was the worst advice he could’ve given Alice Cooper. The story has haunted him, and has harmed his career. For many people, his name is synonymous with that story. Once the controversy had started to die down in 1969, Alice Cooper began work on their sophomore album Easy Action.
Despite Alice Cooper’s newly acquired hell raising image, he was in fact, a very different person. The title to Alice Cooper’s sophomore album, Easy Action, came from a line in West Side Story. It featured nine new tracks, penned by the five members of Alice Cooper. No longer were all the tracks credited to the five members of the band. Now, it was every man for himself, as work began on Easy Action.
The nine tracks tracks that became Easy Action were recorded between late-1969 and early 1970. Producing Easy Action was David Briggs. The change of producer was meant to bring a change in fortune for Alice Cooper. That wasn’t to be. When critics heard Easy Action, they weren’t impressed. Reviews were far from flattering of what was a commercial type of psychedelia. Later, even members of the band weren’t impressed with Easy Action. Drummer Neal Smith felt it resembled the music was more like a: “TV or radio commercial.” Part of the blame lay at producer David Briggs’ door. Neal Smith remembers “he did not help with song arrangement or positive input in any way.” It’s not surprising that when Easy Action was released, it wasn’t a commercial success.
Easy Action was released in March 1970, and disappeared without trace. Alice Cooper’s sophomore album sunk faster than the Titanic. With just one album left on their contract with Frank Zappa’s Straight Records, Alice Cooper needed a break.
Love It to Death.
Even Frank Zappa seemed to be having his doubts about Alice Cooper. He decided that Alice Cooper released a single before releasing what became Love It to Death. The song chosen, was I’m Eighteen, which showcased Alice Cooper’s new, hard-rocking sound.
This was the third single Alice Cooper had released, but the first to chart. I’m Eighteen reached number twenty-one on the US Billboard 100. Alice Cooper got the green light to record their third album, Love It to Death.
For the recording of Love It To Death, a new production team of Jack Richardson and Bob Erzin were brought onboard. Bob Erzin had earned his stripes producing the hit single I’m Eighteen. Now he and Jack Richardson had to hone Alice Cooper’s new sound. The one-time freak psychedelic band had reinvented themselves as a swaggering, hard-rocking band. Elements of hard rock and heavy metal melted into one, on Love It To Death. Every member of Alice Cooper had played a part in writing the nine songs. Alice Cooper wrote Second Coming, and cowrote I’m Eighteen and Is It My Body with the rest of the band. These tracks, and the rest of the album were recorded at RCA Mid-American Recording Center, Chicago and scheduled for release on March 8th, 1971.
Before that, critics had their say on Love It To Death. They were won over by Alice Coopers, swaggering, aggressive and ballsy hard-rocking sound. They were a group reborn sonically and stylistically. Om Love It To Death’s album cover, Alice Cooper wore dresses and makeup. This would prove controversial in the conservative parts of America. That didn’t seem to affect album sales. When Love It To Death was released, it reached thirty-five in the US Billboard 200. Having sold one million copies, Love It To Death was certified platinum. Elsewhere, Love It To Death proved popular in Canada and Britain. Alice Cooper’s career was well underway.
Having released Love It To Death on Straight Records in conjunction with Warner Bros., Alice Cooper’s three album deal with Frank Zappa was up. The members of Alice Cooper knew that to move to the next level, they needed the major label machine behind them. So they signed to Warner Bros. and began work on their fourth album, Killer.
Alice Cooper didn’t waste time before returning to the recording studio. They were keen to build on the success of Love It To Death. So Alice Cooper headed to RCA Studios, in Chicago to record eight new tracks with producer Bob Erzin.
Again, various members of Alice Cooper wrote or cowrote tracks. This included Alice Cooper, who cowrote five tracks. Among them, were ou Drive Me Nervous which Alice cowrote with Michael Bruce and producer Bob Erzin. He cowrote two tracks, and was quickly, becoming an important part of the Alice Cooper success story.
That success, if the critics were correct, would’ve ground to a halt. Many reviews of Killer were far from positive. Killer was seen as licking the cohesion of Love It To Death, and revisited the erratic sound of Alice Cooper’s first two albums. Robert Christgau had some strong words; referring the album as “surreal,” “theatrical,” and let us not forget “transvestite” trappings”. Adding to irony of Robert Christgau’s comments, are his comments about the weakness of Under My Wheels and Be My Love.
When the singles were chosen from Killer, Under My Wheels reached fifty-nine, before Be My Love surpassed this, reaching number forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. While neither single matched the success of I’m Eighteen, it was obvious that Alice Cooper were on the right road. Especially when Killer was released in November 1971, and reached twenty-one on the US Billboard 200. This was enough for Alice Cooper to receive their second platinum album. Could they make it three in a row?
Alice Cooper arrived at The Record Plant, New York early in 1972. They were about to begin work on their fifth album in three years. By then, Alice Cooper and the rest of the band were just twenty-four. Success had come quickly, and they were living the rock ’n’ roll dream. The Record Plant was one of New York’s premier studios. However, Alice Cooper were well on their way to becoming one of America’s biggest bands. A lot depended on their fifth album, School’s Out.
For School’s Out, Alice Cooper played a bigger part in the songwriting process. He cowrote seven of the nine tracks. This included cowriting the anthemic School’s Out with the rest of the band; and My Stars with Bob Erzin. Again, Bob Erzin cowrote two tracks on what’s loosely described as Alice Cooper’s first concept album.
School’s Out dealt with school, and coming of age. The album opener was the future Alice Cooper classic, School’s Out. It would reach number two in the US Billboard 100, number three in Canada and number one in Britain. Since then, it’s been a staple of Alice Cooper’s live shows. However, when School’s Out was released in June 1972, nobody realised how popular the single and album would become.
When critics heard School’s Out, they realised that it wasn’t just an album hard rocking music. There was a hint of glam rock, like on Killer, and a nod to art rock. Essentially, Alice Cooper were spreading their wings stylistically. That didn’t seem to matter. Reviews of School’s Out ranged from mixed to favourable. Partly, that was because some critics looked down on the theatre, drama and showmanship of Alice Cooper, and their live shows. It was only later that critics would rethink their opinions on Alice Cooper. So with disappointing reviews preceding the release of School’s Out, there was no hint that Alice Cooper were about to release the most successful album of their career.
When School’s Out was released, the record vinyl was wrapped in a pair of paper pants. This must have seemed like a good idea at the time. However, it later transpired that the material the paper pants were made out of, were flammable. By then, School’s Out was racing up the charts.
June 1972 saw the release of School’s Out, which reached number two in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in the third platinum album of Alice Cooper’s career. Elsewhere, from Canada to Australia, Europe and Britain, School’s Out found its way into the top ten. Alice Cooper were now one of the biggest bands on planet rock.
Billion Dollar Babies.
Just two months after the release of School’s Out, Alice Cooper began work on their sixth album, Billion Dollar Babies. By then, Alice Cooper were touring School’s Out. So the album was recorded in studios on both sides of the Atlantic with Bob Erzin.
Three studios were used to record Billion Dollar Babies. Sessions took place at The Galecie Estate, Greenwich and The Record Plant, New York were the two American studios Billion Dollar Babies was recorded at. Other sessions took place at Morgan Studios, London. A total of ten songs were scheduled to be recorded for Billion Dollar Babies. Of these ten tracks, nine were cowritten by Alice Cooper. Again, Bob Erzin collaborated on two tracks and added keyboards as Alice Cooper celebrated their good fortune.
The album title, Billion Dollar Babies, was a result of the money coming Alice Cooper’s way. After four years releasing records, the members of Alice Cooper were very rich young men, and able to buy whatever they wanted. Suddenly, people who previously, wouldn’t have looked their way, wanted to know them. This included women who wanted to date them; and men wanted to befriend them, hoping some of their good fortune would come their way. However, there was also a darkness to Billion Dollar Babies.
During Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper explored the sick perversions that some people have. The album titles hint at the darkness within Raped and Freezin’, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Sick Thing and I Love The Dead. Other themes included fear of dentists, horror and sexual harassment. This was all part and parcel of Alice Cooper’s most controversial album. How would critics respond to Billion Dollar Babies?
Ironically, Billion Dollar Babies received some of the best reviews of any Alice Cooper. Critically acclaimed described the reviews. The only criticism was that Billion Dollar Babies lacked an obvious single. That proved not to be the case.
Four singles were reeled from Billion Dollar Babies. Elected was the lead single in 1972, and reached number twenty-six on the US Billboard 100. Hello Hooray then reached thirty-five on the US Billboard 100 1973. No More Mr. Nice Guy reached number twenty-five on the US Billboard 100. The final single was Billion Dollar Babies, which reached number fifty-seven on the US Billboard 100. That didn’t matter though.
When Billion Dollar Babies was released on February 25th 1973, it reached number one in Britain and America. Billion Dollar Babies was certified platinum in America, and gold in Canada. Elsewhere, Billion Dollar Babies reached the top ten everywhere from Australia to Austria, Germany and Norway. In the Netherlands, Billion Dollar Babies reached number one. Alice Cooper had just enjoyed the most successful album of their career. Now they set about touring Billion Dollar Babies.
Following the release of Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper embarked upon an ambitious tour of America. Alice Cooper were all set to play sixty-four dates in fifty-nine cities in ninety days. This tour was meant to gross over $20 million.
Alice Cooper played each night against a set that would put many Hollywood theatres to shame. Each night, between forty and fifty road crew arranged 26,000 pounds of equipment. The list of equipment ran to page after page. Despite this, the concert which veered towards theatre and horror show, grossed only $4 million. This was disappointing for Alice Cooper. Worse was to come. The followup, Muscle Of Love, would prove to be Alice Cooper’s swan-song.
Muscle Of Love.
Following the success of Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper began work on the followup, Muscle Of Love. It marked a change of style and sound. Gone was the theatre of Billion Dollar Babies, to be replaced by a much more back to basics rock ’n’ roll sound of Muscle Of Love.
Recording of Muscle Of Love took place at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, The Record Plant, New York and The Cooper Mansion, Greenwich. That’s where the nine tracks were recorded. They were all cowritten by Alice Cooper. He was forming a successful songwriting partnership with Michael Bruce. They cowrote four songs, and cowrote another four with various songwriting partners. However,one man was missing, producer Bob Erzin.
For the first time since Easy Action, Bob Erzin was missing. The official line was, that he was recovering from an illness. However, later, Dennis Dunaway alleged that Michael Bruce had an argument with Bob Erzin when the producer refused to change the arrangement of Woman Machine. This argument lead to Bob Erzin splitting with Alice Cooper, and Jack Richardson and Jack Douglas replacing him. The result was a concept album, which was far from Alice Cooper’s finest hour.
Just like School’s Out, Muscle Of Love can be loosely described as a concept album. This time, the subject matter Alice Cooper claimed was ”urban sex habits”. Alice Cooper seemed to like to walk on the wild side, and shock conservative middle America. Critics were also shocked. Not at the subject matter, but the quality of the album.
Critics weren’t impressed by The Jack Richardson and Jack Douglas produced Muscle Of Love. Reviews ranged from the good, bad and indifferent. Only Creem gave Muscle Of Love a positive review. They seemed to see something nobody else did.
Muscle Of Love as a mixed bag was, and still is, one of the worst albums in Alice Cooper’s career. It’s down there with Alice Cooper’s sophomore album Easy Action. Neither Jack Richardson nor Jack Douglas were able to replace Bob Erzin. That became clear when Muscle Of Love was released on November 20th 1973.
On its release Muscle Of Love reached number ten on the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. Elsewhere, Muscle Of Love reached number four in Canada, and was a minor hit in Australia and Britain. It was a disappointing way for the Alice Cooper story to end.
Members of Alice Cooper decided to put the band on hold. This allowed Alice Cooper to forge a career on television. Meanwhile, Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits was released in August 1974, and reached number eight on the US Billboard 200. This stopped people forgetting about Alice Cooper. So did the release of the feature film Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper, which featured footage of the band live. However, by then Alice Cooper were history.
Alice Cooper said farewell during a South American tour, which took place during March and April 1974. One of the highlights of the tour was playing un front of 158,000 fans in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This wasn’t the end of the Alice Cooper story. Far from it.
Alice Cooper returned in 1975, having changed his name officially to Alice Cooper. This meant there were no legal problems for him using his former band’s name. He was now touring as a solo artist, using what was now regarded as his real name, Alice Cooper.
Alice Cooper-The Solo Years.
Welcome To My Nightmare.
Having now embarked upon a solo career, Alice Cooper brought back Bob Erzin. He had been badly missed on Muscle Of Love. He wasn’t just a producer, but a songwriter, keyboardist and confident.
On Welcome To My Nightmare, Bob Erzin cowrote six of the ten tracks with Alice Cooper. He worked with various songwriting partners, including singer, songwriter, musician and ‘musical impresario’ Kim Fowley. Another songwriting partner was Dick Wagner, of Lou Reed’s band.
Many members of Lou Reed’s band accompanied Alice Cooper on Welcome To My Nightmare. It was recorded at the Soundstage, Toronto and the Record Plant, Electric Lady and A&R Studios, New York during the second half of 1974 and early 1975. Once Welcome To My Nightmare was complete, Alice Cooper’s debut solo album was scheduled for release in March 1975.
Prior to the release of Welcome To My Nightmare, critics received a copy of Alice Cooper’s debut album. Just like some of Alice Cooper’s previous albums, it was a concept album. This time, it was a musical journey through the nightmares of a child called Steven. Critics however, weren’t over impressed, and reviews were mixed. One mistake was the horns that punctuated what was a fusion of heavy metal, art rock and classic rock. They were in the wrong movie. However, rescuing the album were Devil’s Food, The Black Widow, Department of Youth and Cold Ethyl. Maybe, this quartet of tracks could kick-start Alice Cooper’s solo career.
Only Woman Bleed was chosen as the lead single from Welcome To My Nightmare, and reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100. Then Department of Youth reached a lowly sixty-seven and Welcome to My Nightmare stalled at forty-five in the US Billboard 100. By then, Welcome to My Nightmare had reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in the album being certified platinum. Across the border, Welcome To My Nightmare was certified double platinum. Meanwhile, Welcome to My Nightmare was certified platinum in Britain. It looked like Alice Cooper was about to enjoy a long and successful solo career.
Alice Cooper Goes To Hell.
For his sophomore album, Alice Cooper returned to the story of Steven, which began on Welcome To My Nightmare. The next part of the story unfolded on Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.
For Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, eleven tracks were penned. Nine were written by Alice Cooper, Bob Erzin and guitarist Dick Wagner. I Never Cry was penned by Alice Cooper and Dick Wagner; while You Chasing Rainbows was a standard penned by Harry Carroll, Joseph McCarthy. These eleven tracks would be recorded in three studios.
Just like Welcome To My Nightmare, some of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell was recorded at Soundstage, Toronto and at Record Plant, New York. Other sessions took place on the West Coast, at RCA Recording Studios, Los Angeles. Accompanied by a tight, talented band of top session players, and Bob Orzin producing, Alice Cooper recorded his second solo album, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell. It was scheduled for release on June 25th 1976, with an ambitious tour following.
All wasn’t well in Alice Cooper’s personal life. He had been enjoying the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle too much. Now, Alice Cooper was a borderline alcoholic. He revealed this on I Never Cry, which was tantamount to a confession via a rock ballad. This was something Alice Cooper had some success with.
Only Women Bleed, the most successful single from his debut solo album, Welcome To My Nightmare, had been a ballad. He was hoping that lightning would strike twice, when I Never Cry was released as a single. Just like Only Women Bleed, it reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100. This augured well for the release of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell.
Much however, would depend on the critical reception to Alice Cooper Goes To Hell. Just like Welcome To My Nightmare, the reviews of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell were mixed. It seemed that Alice Cooper had struggled to release a cohesive album. Only Billion Dollar Babies was seen as a cohesive album from Alice Cooper. That had been when Alice was with the band. Three years had passed since the release of Billion Dollar Babies. The portents were there.
On the release of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell on June 25th 1976, the album stalled at twenty-seven on the US Billboard 200. It was certified gold. However, these were worrying times.
Especially when Alice Cooper was forced to cancel his 1976 Alice Cooper Goes To Hell tour. He was suffering from Anaemia. Was his lifestyle catching up on Alice Cooper?
Lace and Whiskey.
There was more than a hint that this was the case, in the title of Alice Cooper’s third solo album, Lace and Whiskey. It was a concept album with a difference. Gone was the darkness of previous albums. To replace it, Alice Cooper adopted the persona of heavy drinking, hard living, comedic P.I. Maurice Escargot. Alice Cooper even dresses as P.I. Maurice Escargot on the back of Lace and Whiskey’s album cover.
On the back of Lace and Whiskey was the track listing. There were ten tracks, including eight written by Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner and Bob Ezrin. You and Me was penned by Alice Cooper and Dick Wagner; while Charles Underwood wrote Ubangi Stomp. These ten tracks would be recorded in four studios.
Lace and Whiskey was recorded at Soundstage, Toronto, Record Plant, New York and at RCA Recording Studios, Los Angeles. Other sessions took place a the Producer’s Workshop in L.A. With many of the same top session players that played on Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, Bob Orzin got to work producing, Alice Cooper’s third solo album, Lace and Whiskey.
April 29, 1977 was when Lace and Whiskey would be released. However, by then, critics had quite rightly, torn Lace and Whiskey to shreds. Essentially, Lace and Whiskey was a rock album. However, sometimes, Alice Cooper seemed to flit between genres. This included on the easy listening ballad You and Me, and the disco tinged No More) Love at Your Convenience. Neither could be described as Alice Cooper’s finest moment. Indeed, Lace and Whiskey was the worst album of Alice Cooper’s solo career…so far.
The lead single from Lace and Whiskey was You and Me, which somehow, reached number nine in the US Billboard 100. Then Lace and Whiskey reached just forty-two in the US Billboard 200. There neither a platinum nor gold disc this time round. Despite this, Alice Cooper embarked on his King of the Silver Screen tour.
It started off in the summer of 1977, and saw Alice Cooper return to the theatre of previous tours. There were even commercials between some of the songs. So popular was the tour, that it returned in the summer of 1978, when it was renamed the School’s Out For Summer tour. By then, Alice Cooper had climbed into, and out a bottle.
From The Inside.
In 1978, Alice Cooper celebrated his thirtieth birthday. Over the last couple of years, he had been to hell and back. He spent time in a psychiatric hospital, in an attempt to cure his alcoholism. This experience he revisited on what would become his fourth solo album, From The Inside.
For From The Inside, there was a change in songwriting partnership. The lyrics to six songs were penned by Alice Cooper and Bernie Taupin; while Dick Wagner and Alice wrote the music. Alice cowrote the other four tracks with various songwriting partners, including Dick Wagner and David Foster who cowrote the title-track. One name missing, was Bob Erzin.
The man who had been at Alice Cooper’s side for the best years of his career was missing. The last time Bob was absent, had proved disastrous, when 1973s Muscle Of Love proved to be the Alice Cooper band’s swan-song. Bob Erzin’s replacement was David Foster. Could he fill the void left by Bob Erzin?
David Foster and Bernie Taupin weren’t the only new names. Guitarist Davey Johnstone and bassist Dee Murray had previously been members of Elton John’s band. They joined Alice Cooper’s band to record an album that veered between classic rock to heavy rock and a much more poppy sound. Then there was the power ballad How You Gonna See Me Now? It was later chosen would as the lead single, and reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100. Before that, critics had their say on From The Inside.
Reviews of From The Inside ranged from mixed to favourable. This was an improvement on the disastrous Lace and Whiskey. However, still, Alice Cooper hadn’t released an album that was cohesive. From The Inside was still a mixed bag of songs.
This became apparent when From The Inside was released in November 1978. It stalled at number sixty in the US Billboard 200. Then when From The Inside was released as a single, it failed to chart. For Alice Cooper, this was a disaster. Those within the music industry wondered if Alice Cooper’s career was at a crossroads?
Despite the musings of critics and industry insiders, Alice Cooper headed out on the Madhouse Rocks Tour, which followed the release of From The Inside. From February to April 1979, Alice Cooper toured America, hoping that this would improve sales of From The Inside. That wasn’t to be, and Alice Cooper wouldn’t release another album until 1980.
Flush The Fashion.
After the Madhouse Rocks Tour finished in April 1979, Alice Cooper’s thoughts turned to recording his next album. It was a time of change for Alice Cooper.
Not only did Flush The Fashion sees a stylistic change from Alice Cooper. His music veered from classic rock to hard rock and even new wave. This was a first, but showed that Alice Cooper was determined to move with the times. To help him do that, he brought onboard new songwriting partners.
Six of the ten tracks on Flush The Fashion were credited to Alice Cooper, Davey Johnstone and Fred Mandel. Alice Cooper also cowrote Dance Yourself to Death with Frank Crandall. Along with a small, tight band, featuring just four musicians, Alice Cooper recorded his first album of the eighties, Flush The Fashion. It was released on April 28th 1980.
By then, it had been a long time since Alice Cooper had enjoyed a successful album. Gold and platinum discs were a thing of the past. According to critics, that would be the case for the foreseeable future. Flush The Fashion was a decidedly average album, featuring the good, the bad and the mediocre. That became apparent when Flush The Fashion was released.
Before that, Clones (We’re All) was released as the lead single, but reached just forty in the US Billboard 100. Then Talk Talk failed to chart. When Flush The Fashion was released, it stalled at forty-four in the US Billboard 200. This was disappointing. However, a small crumb of comfort came when Flush The Fashion was certified gold in Canada. Maybe Alice Cooper’s luck was changing?
By the time, Alice Cooper began recording Special Forces, he should’ve been buoyed by Flush The Fashion being certified gold in Canada. However, he was living a lie. Alice was in the throes of cocaine addiction. He was hopelessly addicted. So much so, that he recorded three albums, and can’t remember doing so. The first was Special Forces.
For the recording of Special Forces, Alice Cooper’s band had expanded to five. This included Duane Hitchings, who cowrote four songs with Alice. The pair also cowrote Vicious Rumours with two other members of the band, Erik Scott and Mike Pinera. In total, Alice Cooper cowrote nine of the ten tracks on Special Forces. The other track was a cover of Arthur Lee’s Love classic Seven and Seven Is. This track, and the rest Special Forces was produced by another new producer, Richard Podolor, who previously, had produced Three Dog Night and Stepponwolf. Could he rejuvenate Alice Cooper’s career.
The answer to that was no. Special Forces received mixed reviews. Stylistically, it was similar to Flush The Fashion, flitting between classic rock, hard rock and new wave. Just like Flush The Fashion, Special Forces was another decidedly average album. It was a long time since Alice Cooper had released an album that had critics reaching for superlatives. With each album, he seemed more like yesterday’s man. However, this wasn’t surprising.
Special Forces was the first of a trio of what Alice Cooper refers to as his “blackout albums.” So far in throes of addiction was Alice Cooper, that he can’t remember Special Forces. He probably can’t remember on The Tomorrow Show dressed in military fatigues. Alice Cooper looked gaunt, and a lot older than thirty-three. Viewers worried that this was a story without a happy ending.
When Special Forces was released in September 1981, it reached just 125 in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, Special Forces bombed. For Alice Cooper, and executives at Warner Bros., these were worrying times.
Despite that, Alice Cooper toured Special Forces. In Canada, Alice Cooper arrived onstage late. The Canadian audience, who had always been loyal to Alice Cooper, took umbrage. A riot ensued, and the show was cancelled. With sales slow and Alice Cooper’s asthma worsening, the tour finished in February 1982, and Alice Cooper didn’t tour again for four more years.
Zipper Catches Skin.
Following the end of his tour in February 1982, Alice Cooper began to think about what was his fourteenth album since 1969. Incredibly, he was only thirty-four. That was hard to believe. Alice Cooper looked ten years older. His lifestyle was catching up on him. It was also affecting his music. That had been apparent for a while. However, most of the time, Alice Cooper could remember recording an album. Special Forces was the first time that Alice Cooper recorded an album and can’t remember doing so. Zipper Catches Skin was the second in Alice Cooper’s “blackout” trilogy.
Stylistically, Zipper Catches Skin featured several changes in direction. Apart from the classic rock, hard rock and new wave of his last two albums, Alice Cooper added elements of pop punk and post punk. However, Alice Cooper had gotten to the post punk party late.
Other bands had pioneered the post punk sound from 1977 onwards. For Alice Cooper, however, post punk was new. He wanted to avoid the cliches that other post punk artists resorted to, on what would be lean, mean, stripped back songs.
Aiding and abetting Alice Cooper, were Billy Steele, Erik Scott and John Nazzinger. They penned Zorro’s Ascent. The Alice Cooper, John Nitzinger and Erik Scott songwriting team cowrote I Like Girls, Remarkably Insincere and Tag, You’re It. These songs were high on the sarcasm count. Make That Money (Scrooge’s Song and No Baloney Homosapiens was a track from the old songwriting partnership of Alice Cooper and Dick Wagner. They joined with Erik Scott to pen I Better Be Good and I’m Alive (That Was the Day My Dead Pet Returned to Save My Life). Along with a cover of Gary Osborn and Lalo Schifrin’s I Am The Future, these ten tracks became Zipper Catches Skin.
This time around, Alice Cooper’s band had expanded. Joining the rhythm section were four guitarists, a synth player, percussionist and backing vocalists. However, this was no ordinary band. They were tight, talented and determined to rejuvenate Alice Cooper’s career. That however, was easier said than done.
Midway through the recording of Zipper Catches Skin, Dick Wagner had enough. He didn’t like what he saw, and left. Dick described Zipper Catches Skin as an: “off to the races speedy album” and a “drug induced nightmare.” Many thought that he was exaggerating. However, he was later vindicated when the documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper was released and showed Alice Cooper smoking crack cocaine during the Zipper Catches Skin. No wonder Dick Wagner exited stage left. By then, Alice Cooper was coproducer of the second “blackout” album.
Zipper Catches Skin was being produced by Alice Cooper and Erik Scott; with Steve Tyrell producing I Am The Future. Despite this latest change in producer, still Alice Cooper wasn’t able to reach the heights of his debut album. Again, Zipper Catches Skin lacked cohesion, and was another mixed bag of songs. There were some good songs on the album. However, they were in the minority. This became apparent when Zipper Catches Skin released on August 25th 1982.
Despite Alice Cooper appearing on a television commercial for Zipper Catches Skin, it became the first album since Easy Action not to chart. Zipper Catches Skin was a long way from the days of million selling albums. Executives at Warner Bros. and critics wondered if these days were gone for good?
For Alice Cooper’s fifteenth album, Bob Erzin returned to try and reduce his old friend’s career. Six years had passed since the pair had worked together. Since then, Alice Cooper’s career had hit the buffers. Making a bad situation even worse, was that Alice Cooper had started drinking again. After several years sober, Alice Cooper had fallen off the wagon. He was showing no sign of climbing back onboard. This made the recording of DaDa hard work.
Despite seeing things that scared him away from the Zipper Catches Skin sessions, Dick Wagner returned. He collaborated with Alice Cooper and Bob Erzin on Former Lee Warmer, No Man’s Land, Scarlet and Sheba and Fresh Blood. The trio also cowrote Enough’s Enough, Dyslexia and I Love America with Graham Shaw. However, it was Bob Erzin who wrote the title track, which opened DaDa. Fittingly, Alice and Dick Wagner penned Pass The Gun Around, which closed DaDa. It was produced by Bob Erzin, who guided what was an experienced band through the recording of Alice Cooper’s fifteenth album, DaDa.
Just like many previous Alice Cooper album, DaDa is best described as a concept album of sorts. Thematically, DaDa is somewhat weak. It appears that the album’s central character Sonny, suffers from mental illness. This manifests itself in a personality disorder; and various personalities emerge through the album. Dada, which came complete with a Dadaist cover, was critics believed, a marginally better album than the two previous “blackout” albums. That was ironic.
Alice Cooper’s contract with Warner Bros. was almost at an end in 1983, when he released DaDa on September 28th 1983. It flitted between avant garde and experimental to classic rock, new wave and hard rock. However, Warner Bros., who had almost lost patience with Alice Cooper, didn’t seem to spend much promoting DaDa. This showed, when DaDa failed to chart. This was an ignominious end to Alice Cooper’s Warner Bros. years.
After fourteen years and fifteen albums, Alice Cooper’s Warner Bros. years were over. DaDa was the last album Alice Cooper released until 1986. During that three year sabbatical, Alice Cooper made every effort to get clean. This resulted in a brief resurgence in Alice Cooper’s career between 1986 and 1991. However, for many people, the best period of Alice Cooper’s career came between 1971s Love It To Death and 1973s Billion Dollar Babies. During that period, the four albums Alice Cooper released were all certified platinum in America. Even the Alice Cooper band’s swan-song, the rock ’n’ roll inspired Muscle Of Love was certified gold. Then when Alice Cooper embarked upon a solo career, things looked so promising.
1975s Welcome To My Nightmare was certified platinum, and Alice Cooper Goes To Hell was certified gold in America. These two albums were the finest albums of Alice Cooper’s Warner Bros. years. Other albums lack the quality of these albums. They’re mixed bags, ranging from the good, bad and indifferent. Even Alice Cooper’s trilogy of “blackout” albums feature some hidden gems. Even on his worst albums, there’s something worth hearing. It seems even in his darkest hour, Alice Cooper could produce something guaranteed to grab the listener’s attention. However, the best music of Alice Cooper’s career was released between 1971 and 1973 and includes a quartet of albums that includes Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies. They’re without doubt, the best of Alice Cooper’s Warner Bros. Years.
ALICE COOPER-THE WARNER BROS YEARS 1969-1983.
- Posted in: Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Alice Cooper, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, Billion Dollar Babies, DaDa, Easy Action, Flush The Fashion, From The Inside, Killer, Lace and Whiskey, Love It to Death, Muscle Of Love, Pretties For You, School’s Out, Special Forces, Warner Bros, Welcome To My Nightmare, Zipper Catches Skin