Circus Raves

Originally Published: 1974

Alice Cooper

Although most fans never know it, Alice's albums have consistently caused more trouble than a swarm of angry Hell's Angel's. On his first LP cover, Warner Brothers had to castrate his thumb!

Author: Steven Gaines

Album covers have always been a sticky and expensive thorn in the side of record companies, and lately costs and competition for better covers have hurtled upwards faster than a pole vaulter on the end of a fiberglass pole. In the late 1960's, when the major companies realized that a good cover began to make as much news as the albums themselves. John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Two Virgins cover, which sported a revolting nude front and back photo of the couple, first made teh subject an international issue with the record buying public. Jesse Colin Young, whose last LP cover was a photograph of Jesse standing in front of a brick wall emblazoned with obscene graffiti, was recalled by Columbia Records' West Coast office. Jess promptly arrived at the office of the executive responsible for the recall, punched his hand through the wall, and broke all his fingers. And even more recently, officals turned dayglo purple when they saw the cover the Rolling Stones' newest LP; a photo of a goat's head swimming in a bloody pot of soup. The cover was nixed, and replaced with a picture of Mick and Keith, but the original photo can still be found packed inside the record sleeve of every album.

The real King, or Queen, or notorious album covers is still Alice Cooper. Alice's albums have consistently caused more trouble than an angry swarm of Hell's Angels. Perhaps the cover of Alice's new album, Muscle Of Love (on Warner Brothers), is going to put an end to that. But until the LP is sitting in the racks of record stores all over the world, one can only guess what wil happen from Alice's past experiences.

An offending member: Alice's first trial-by-cover began with the original Love It To Death album picture. The black and white photograph depicted the fivesome in the glow of an eerie spotlight, fringed, sequined and limp-wristed. Alice stood alluringly between his band members, wrapped in a polka-dot cape, his left arm uncovered. His right hand, however, held the cape closed, and his thumb extended out between the folds, looking very much like Alice was flashing a long, skinny private member at his fans. Warner Brothers Records knew it was only a thumb, and trying not to let dirty minds interfere with album sales, they released the LP on schedule. Enter the "rack-jobbers" - the thousand of distributors who see to it that LP's arrive at your local record store from the record company. The rack-jobbers took one look at Alice's thumb and refused to ship the album. Emergency measure were taken and rounded stickers labeled "Including their hit 'I'm Eighteen'" were placed over Alice's protruding digit to satisfy the rack-jobbers. Later albums were retouched and the Alice thumb has been castrated.

Down on snakes: Yet Love It To Death was only the beginning. Next came the Killer hassles. Killer had a glaring red and green cover wiht a photo of the famous boa, Kochina, on the front. Nobody objected to the gory calender of ALice, bloodied and hanging, on the inside, but when Kochina's picture reached the sunny country of Mexico, the album was promptly banned. It turned out that a snake is a religious image to some Mexicans, and it was against the law to display a photo of Kochina so irreverently on the LP cover. The albums were returned from south of the border and a new cover was designed so Mexican fans could purchase it.

School's Out was next on the ALice hit parade of troublesome LP's. This one almost looked like it would sneak by without any hassles until the United States government found out that Alice was including a pair of panties with every album. The news made national headlines: "Paper Panties Are Too Hot To Handle." Customs officials had seized 500,000 pairs of the underpants because they did not meet the guidelines of the Flammable Fabrics Act. The Act regulates the degree to which clothes must resist catching fire, and the government pretended to know just how hot Cooper fans really were. Warner Brothers Records claimed that the panties weren't panties at all, but merely packing material. The government wouldn't buy it. They know that few Cooper freaks would be able to resist slipping the panties on, either privately or in public. Edward B. Finch of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Information said there were two options - either treat the panties with chemeicals that would make them fire resistant, or enclose them in a plastic wrapper marked "Flammable."

The knight-in-white-panties who came to the rescue turned out to be William Levy, an Israeli manufacturer of disposable panties. Levy made his flame-resistant underwear available to the group, which the Cooper gang readily accepted. "I know we're hot right now, but I never thought our panties would catch on fire," Alice commmented.

Alice vs. the G-men: Everyone took a breather when the panty incident was over, only to have the U.S. government intercede again. The Billion Dollar Babies LP was about to be released, a mammoth soon-to-be best-selling album that was designed in the shape of a snakeskin wallet. There were no objections to snakes or wallets this time. Now the trouble was cash - the hundreds of photos of the million dollars Alice had arranged for the cover photograph. There's another government law that states anytime a photo of money is made the negative must be sent to CIA to prevent counterfeiting.

Government officals couldn't understand why the money was necessary for the ablum cover, and Alice went flying off to Washington for a meeting with the CIA. In a face to face confrontation, Mr. Nive Guy did some fancy talking, flashing his snake, and walked away with full permission form the CIA to use the album photos of the dollars on the album cover.

What's next? The new Alice LP, Muscle Of Love. No thumbs, panties or snakes this time. Instead the outer cover will be a plain brown corrugated cardboard box with "Alice Cooper - Muslce of Love" inscribed on it. "My music is going back to rock and roll," Alice said. "No more frills." If it's so, you can't tell from the titles of the cuts, which include "Big Apple Dreamin',"Teenage Lament," "Woman Machine," "Working Up A Sweat," "Never Been Sold Before," "Hard Hearted Alice," and "Crazy Little Child." A spokesman for Alice said teh LP is "not your basic album design." And if Alice continues to run true to form, the inside of Muscle of Love will have plenty of punch.