Originally Published: October 1974
Author: Steven Gaines
While the troopers known as the Coopers split for the distant shores of the world, the celebration of a decade of hard work was being prepared for their fans.
Up in the Hollywood Hills, where show business mansions pepper the steep slopes like million dollar mushrooms, a long-haired, familiar looking construction worker was busy tearing apart and rebuilding a house. Far across the country, on a flat, luxurious backroads of Connecticut, another long-haired, familiar seeming figure was fascinated by a video tape system, spending hours taking apart the tiny transistorized mechanism and repiecing it just for fun. A few miles away, a shy young man with braces on his teeth with alternately lying in the healthy sun of hiding in an expensive darkroom, indulging himself gloriously in his latest hobby - photography. Meanwhile, on Lake Tahoe, in a studio built into a private home, another familiar looking longhair figure was busy composing and recording bits and pieces of music.
The group? An unlikely description of the Alice Cooper Band, but that's what America's ghoulish vaudevillians have been up to for the last four months - enjoying themselves with the wealth accumulated through ten years of hard work. As a kind of glorious celebration of this decade of recording, touring, and going through the rock and roll mill, Alice Cooper is presenting his Greatest Hits, on Warner Brothers Records.
The group's first respite from hard work began when they found themselves in Brazil, after the first major rock and roll tour to hit that country. It was decided around that time that everybody needed a few months to themselves; they had just finished a feature length film, and the Brazilian tour, though fun, had reminded the Coopers what life on the road was like. Anyway, some of the members of the band had a few surprises in store.
Stranded in the jungle: Glenn Buxton, with his remarkable putty nose, winning grin, and jewellery dripping from every finger, disappeared into the Brazilian jungle with a leggy brunette on his arm - Buxton's constant companion, Susan. Although everyone in the Coopers had taken off for their own vacation spots, the main office of Alice Cooper productions, Alive, tried to keep tabs on the whereabouts of their superstars. When Glenn didn't emerge for two weeks after entering the Brazilian jungle, a few people involved with the Coops began wondering where he was. After a month had passed, everybody started to get worried, until publicist Ashley Pandel came up with a few soothing words: "Glenn's a snake expert. He's probably right at home in the jungle." Sure enough, after nearly six weeks hidden in the underbrush, Glenn returned to New York, and settled into his Connecticut estate to watch TV, enjoy the summer, and tinker with his video equipment.
Dennis, not far away in Connecticut, spent his time with his girlfriend, Neal Smith's sister Cindy, splashing in a pool, going on nature hikes and taking pictures inbetween retakes on the Cooper movie, "Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper." A gentle, quiet person, Dennis emotionally watches over his zoo of pet snakes, mice, rabbits, dogs and cats while waiting for vacation to pass.
Mike Bruce, after Brazil, was immediately the most industrious. When he arrived in New York, he sold his Connecticut house and moved to the place he always wanted to settle - a magnificent home on the edge of Lake Tahoe, where he could water ski, fish, and most importantly, build his own studio in his house. The studio for Mike is not just a practice area. Along with former Cooper back-up guitarist Mick Mashbir, Mike is busily at work preparing what looks like the first solo album to come out of the Cooper group. It was Mike, after all, who wrote most of the original smash hit melodies that made Alice Cooper famous. His solo opus should be a magical treat from the master of fascinating music.
Neal remains in his own home in Connecticut, putting the finishing touches on a surprise album he's been working on secretly for awhile. Tentatively titled The Platinum God, Neal's album is not only an amazing exercise in drum expertise, but points out Neal as a first rate songwriter on his own. The work on Neal's solo album is only interrupted by trips to the garage to keep his Roll Royce in perfect condition, much like a fine timepiece.
The best star on the horizon at the moment is Alice's own solo album. Now in the planning stages, the album promises a superstar lineup of songwriters and composers. Heading the list are The Beatles and Harry Nilsson. If things work out well, it's possible that Marvin Hamlisch, the winner of the Academy Award for the soundtrack to the motion picture "The Sting," will do the arranging for Alice's solo journey. There are even more surprises in store for that album, and whispers can be heard that there's room for Groucho Marx (one of Alice's biggest fans) along with George Burns on the LP.
Pontiac platters: Being prolific for the supergroup has never been any problem. In the past decade, the group has individually and collectively written hundreds of songs. The most creative period of songwriting took place during the years 1969-1970, when the band live on a farm outside of Pontiac, Michigan. The Cooper band had left L.A. to get away from the blinding tinsel scene and into a more musical trip. Getting a call from curious people in New York, the band was asked to play a gig at the haven for New York hipsters, Max's Kansas City. This was still way before Max's became a rock and roll watering hole, and the night Alice Cooper played his eerie act out before the crowds at Max's, the audience was filled not with rock and rollers, but artists, writers, and other members of the avant garde and underground elite. There was, however, a solitary music person out front - fledging producer Bob Ezrin. When Ezrin first heard the Coop, he was hooked.
As soon as Alice signed with Warner Brothers Records, Ezrin was assigned to work with the group and come up with some tunes for a hit single. The results were five numbers, and the one they loved the most was called "I'm Eighteen." Thus Bob Ezrin produced the first successful Alice LP, Love It To Death, and the group proudly watched as "I'm Eighteen" became a national hit.
"I'm Eighteen" opens the package of Alice's greatest hits, and it's an easy reminder of why Alice was so greatly hailed to begin with. A devastating ode to the confusion of growing up, and not the last ode on growing up to come from Cooper-the-Sage, "I'm Eighteen" cried out:
I'm a boy and a man
I don't know who I am
and I like it...
Threatening concept LP: Love It To Death became the first million selling Cooper LP. In fall, 1971, the album Killer was released to a breathlessly waiting audience and quickly soared up the charts. The outstanding changes on the album were full, rich addition of strings and horns. Killer became the first Cooper concept LP, a chorus of songs dedicated to a message, and in this case a very strange message indeed. "Is It My Body," for instance, was the first Cooper song that Alice used his snake to dance with. "Be My Lover," one of the best and first rock and roll groupie songs, also comes from the Killer LP, as does another terrific rocking song that has long been a favourite with Cooper fans - "Under My Wheels." Side One of the Greatest Hits LP ends with the biggest selling single Alice ever released, "School's Out."
School's Out, Alice third and most widely recognized album, came during a transitional stage for the Coopers. They had left Pontiac, Michigan, and moved eastward to the Gillesie estate in Connecticut. It was the first LP that was written in the lavish confines of their estate, without the constant pressure of touring and hassles the group had to put up with to "just get by." It was the most diverse, musically, of all the Cooper albums, and the title track, immortalized on the Greatest Hits LP, became an anthem for students as their declaration of freedom.
During the winter of 1972, Alice went off to Europe to tour and begin work on a fourth Warner Brothers album. It was while he was touring Europe that the Billion Dollar Babies theme developed. The album points up Cooper decadence in every manner, including the garish packaging and slick showmanship work that went into the album. The LP was recorded in many different places, including their 40 room Greenwich, Connecticut mansion, London, Paris, France, the Canary Islands, Munich and New York.
Side Two of the Greatest Hits album is filled with much of this superb material. It begins with "Hello, Hurray," which quickly became the byword for Alice's greeting audiences.
Hello! Hurray! Let the show begin
I've been ready
Hello! Hurray! Let the lights grow dim
I've been ready
Ready as this audience that's coming here to dream
Loving every second, every moment, every scream
This is followed by another Cooper classic, "Elected," which besides being a great tune, show Alice's amazing ability with lyrics and words:
I'm your top prime cut of meat, I'm your choice
I wanna be elected
I'm your Yankee Doodle Dandy in a gold Rolls Royce
I wanna be elected
Ironing out the press: Also from the Billion Dollar Babies album is Alice's first song of real complaint about the treatment the press has been giving him. Although Alice will not admit this is what the song is about, (Alice never complains - just makes mischief), the press noted Alice' warning and the fans lapped up the rock song.
I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing
Til they got ahold of me
I opened doors for little old ladies
I helped the blind man see
I got no friends 'cause they read the papers
They can't be seen with me and I'm getting shot down
And I'm feelin' mean
No more Mister Nice Guy...
The album closes with two of the best cuts of Alice's last LP, "Teenage Lament '74," an updated version of the trials and tribulations of growing up in an ambisexual, highly pressurized rock and roll society. The other cut is the title tune, "Muscle of Love," which is Alice's first dirty joke on an album, pulled off with such aplomb and musical taste that it's a brilliant rock song.
Best of all, the Greatest Hits album contains songs the Cooper experts still consider one of the best things the group has ever done. Complete with heady strings complements of Bob Ezrin's producing genius, "Desperado" from Love It To Death is definately the highlight of this new selection. It was composed by Alice as a testimony to his friend Jim Morrison's compelling sound on record, but in the end it comes through all Alice, both musically and lyrically. The words speak best for themselves, the summation of the thoughts of one of the greatest rock stars the music industry has ever produced, a man lauded and loved throughout the world by teenagers he represented so well. "Desperado" welcomes you into this world, and warns you as well:
I'm a gambler...
And I'm a runner...
But you knew that when - you laid down
I'm a picture of ugly stories...
I'm a killer...
and I'm a clown
When Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies touring company hit road last year, it was immediately marked with the distinction of having been banned in Binghamton, N.Y. In a seductively planned twist of fate, Alice new film, "Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper," recently premiered in Binghamton. The film, which consists of onstage footage and offstage antics, was given front-page treatment in the Binghamton papers. The city fathers were, according to a Cooper spokeswoman, "suitably outraged." The film is now being reedited for national release.
On the other side of the silver screen, Alice went to see "The Exorcist" with raving dirty-mouthed star Linda Blair. Alice held Linda's hand because he was scared. Then the Coop split to Hawaii for a combination of business and pleasure. Joining the star of TV's "Hawaii Five-O," Alice puttered his way through James MacArthur's Hawaiian Adventure Celebrity Golf and Tennis Tournament.
The best coup of the year for Alice, though is the groundwork being laid for his projected solo album, to be released late this fall of in early winter. According to latest plans, songs for the album will be written by The Beatles, all numbers will be arranged by Marvin ("The Sting") Hamlisch, and produced by ace console commander Bob Ezrin. Anybody who can't score playing with that kind of teamwork deserves the guillotine.