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Originally Published: December 1994
Author: Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper has only one real interest in his life. He may play around at golf, or fool around with acting, but when he gets right down to it, his hobby, his music and his life are all virtually one and the same. So when we approached Mr. Cooper about appearing in this month's Hobby Shop, he naturally agreed - but only if he could write it, and it could be about his new album The Last Temptation
The Concept And The Comic: The Last Temptation is the first album I've done in a long time that's a true concept album. Trash has a theme; Hey Stoopid has a theme; but this is the first album that has such a definate storyline that I really didn't think I could do justice by only putting it out on record.
Which is why the comic book accompanying the album is so important: it provides a vital link between the songs and the narrative, as opposed to writing an opera, where every single aspect of the story is told in the lyric - and then the songs don't stand up on their own.
This time the story was written first, and then we wrote the songs to the story line, rather than writing the songs and then saying, "OK, now we're going to invent the story from the songs."
So in order for the listener to really get the narrative, instead of doing a series of videos, we decided to do a comic book instead.
The Story And The Songs: The Last Temptation takes place in an average middle American town just about anywhere, where the kids have done everything, seen everything. That's where the first song (Sideshow) comes in. The kids are talking about how bored they are - until they stumble across this old vaudeville theater that they've never noticed before in an old part of town.
The Showman, who is the classic Alice character, is the head of the whole thing. He's the carnival barker, and he steps out of the shadows to invite them all into this theater, telling them if they do, they'll see things they've never seen before in their lives.
Because he's pretty frightening, none of the kids want any part of it, except for this one kid, Steven. He's always been called a chicken all his life, so he decides to finally prove them all wrong and go ahead and go in - and he's the only one who does.
As they look around the theater, the Showman lets Steven know that he can come in anytime, that the tickets don't cost anything, and that the show's all for him - except that Nothing's Free. Sort of like the fine print on a contract.
Then the rest of the show begins, with all the acts portraying all of the bad things going on in the world today, and how great they are! About the glories of drugs and being in a gang (Bad Place Alone). The glories of money (Lost In America). The glories of sex (You're My Temptation).
But there's something wrong: although they're having a great time, all of the characters portraying the supposed joys of life are all dead.
And then Steven realizes what the theater is really selling because, in one way or another, all of these things he's been shown lead to death.
As he leaves the theater, the Showman says to Steven, "Well, you can always come back tomorrow. Everybody always comes back because this is what it's all about!"
The Showman is tempting Steven on every level, causing him to have a mental battle with himself on the way home (Stolen Prayer). And although he thinks that, "Yeah, this is pretty cool; it's a lot more fun that what's going on in this town," he doesn't sucumb to it. He realizes that, as much fun as it looks, it's all wrong.
So Steven goes home that night deciding that he has to go back to face the Showman and actually go up against him in an Unholy War. But, in reality, it's really a war between Steven and his own passions.
As he goes to bed, Steven realizes that something's under his bed - and in the closet as well! Of course, it's the spirit of the Showman, come to torment him (Lullaby). When he finally does manage to fall asleep, Steven has a reaffirming dream (It's Me) that he is, in fact, doing the right thing.
The next day he awakes knowing that not only does he have to go back and battle the Showman, he also has to destroy the whole theater by burning it down to the ground (Cleansed By Fire).
Afterwards, Steven feels that he's done the world a great service by his actions and returns home - only to find the Showman waiting for him in the bathroom mirror! He tells Steven that he'll always be around to tempt him because, even though he's been hunted down for the last 6,000 years - as long as civilization itself has been around - he can't be gotten rid of that easily.
The Moral And The Message: The Last Temptation can be accepted on face value, or you can dig a little deeper.
It's all based on the question of whether or not Steven gives in to modern day temptation. In the 90s, there are certain words we avoid or think we've outgrown - words like Temptation, Sin, Redemption. These words are old world, but they're not dead. They're still very much apparent in our everyday life.