Originally Published: October 16, 1986
He's back! Alice Cooper welcomes the world to the Nightmare of 'Constrictor'. Dave Dickson watches as AC flexes his new muscle of love...
All together now!!
'He's back...He's the man behind the mask....And he's out of control!!!!'
Yes, my beauties, he's back: Uncle Alice, and he's brought with him some of your worst nightmares, the kind that made you wake up sweating in the middle of the night screaming for your mummy! Ye s, he's back... and the fun has only just begun!
It was dark that night, I remember it well. But it was more than dark, it was that creepy, liquid dark when the night smears like oil, slow and viscous, around your room. And there's no noise, not a sound, only the beating of your heart as it pounds in your chest; beads of sweat break out on your forehead as colours dance in front of your eyes....only you know those colours aren't really there at all, there's nothing there.... except that somehow those colours seem to assume some kind of tangible shape, just a fleeting glimpse, there, over there in the corner of the room.
But you know there's nothing there, don't you, because there was nothing there when you turned out the light? But it seems so real, this moving shape in the blackness of your room, it seems to be breathing, and you want so desperately to turn on the light to see - but oh no you don't, because if you do turn on the light that's exactly what will happen! Oh God, you'll see the monster: oh Jesus, you know it's there now, you can feel the warm, sickly breath on your face, it's standing right over your bed!! It's there, it's there, won't somebody help me??!! (No - Ed)
'Welcome To My Nightmare...
I think you're gonna like it...'
And the voice slithers, like a cobra, through the darkness that separates your quivering body, your cold and clammy hands, your constricted throat from the speakers in the corner of the room. Yes I remember the night well...
When Alice Cooper welcomed me to his nightmare, maybe ten years ago, I knew I was never going to be the same again. I'd been into horror for a long time, I loved those old Roger Corman movie adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, especially the ones with Vincent Price in them - I even started reading Poe! Unhealthy stuff for a kid of ten! Maybe there was something wrong with me. I mean, no-one else I knew revelled in all this horror, no-one else my age was quite so rapt by all this gore! Was I sick?
But then Alice beckoned me in and everything was alright at last. Yeah, so I was sick, it didn't matter anymore because Alice had said it was OK.
But then something happened and the nightmare began to turn sour, it was no longer frightening. Alice started playing golf with Gerald Ford and George Burns and after he'd come out From The Inside, well, things just weren't right anymore. For four years I waited.... and then he came over with his Special Forces, which was great, succour to the needy, but it wasn't there somehow, the magic had gone... and Alice looked so ill, like Keef Richards warned over. So I waited some more but things didn't get any better. No, they got worse. We got nothing at all.
At least nothing worth mentioning, nothing that was really Alice Cooper, not the Alice Cooper I knew, or imagined I knew. But then it began to coalesce. I heard he was working on 'Welcome To My Nightmare Part II' in New York, that he was writing songs with Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Andy McCoy, ex of Hanoi Rocks. Then he appeared on the last Twisted Sister album, 'Come Out And Play'... And then they asked me to interview him!! Oh, sweet Mother Of God, an interview with Alice Cooper!!
And then the paranoia strikes: How do I know this is Alice Cooper? This could be some stooge, a plant, an imposter. But when that voice comes over and says: "Dave? Hi, this is Alice!" Then I knew 'twas him...
In a month or so's time, Alice Cooper will hit these shores for the first UK tour in over three years. Till then we'll just flesh out the bare bones of the new AC operation; there's a new record company, MCA, a new album 'Constrictor', and a new band featuring ex-WASP guitarist Randy Piper plus newcomer to the scene, and Cooper's songwriting partner on the LP, Kane Roberts - a man who looks like Rambo with a guitar!
"Kane's got his own band called Criminal Justice," Alice informs me, "and these guys are all like Stallone, they're big! Kane's a huge guy but he's also a great player, he can play rings around just about anybody I've ever been with! And he has Jerry Lewis' brain as well!"
And the rest of this band (at the time of writing still shrouded in mystery) has been put together in Los Angeles. The plan is for Cooper to open with some dates in America, including a massive Halloween show in his hometown of Detroit, before shipping the entire production to Britain, 'Welcome To My Nightmare' props an' all!!
"A lot of people have heard of Alice Cooper," explains Alice, elaborating on just why he's delved into his deepest, darkest closet for all those old stage-props, "but they've never really seen him. When I was doing the '...Nightmare' show I probably wasn't in as good a shape as I am now, physically, I can probably do that show twice as well now as I could then... but we won't do that whole show, we'll just do a couple of sections from it, a couple of sections from 'Billion Dollar Babies', and of course we'll add in some new things too..."
"But we'll definitely be using some of the bigger props, I'm pretty sure we'll be using the guillotine..."
And the electric chair?
"I don't know about the electric chair, that wasn't really as spectacular as what we're planning for the guillotine!"
I decided to move on because my mouth is starting to salivate unwholesomely... To 'Friday The 13th Part VI', for which Alice has written the theme song, 'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)'...
"I told the film people that the most Heavy Metal person I could think of was Jason! (the hockey-masked axe-merchant and star of all the '...13th' movies, in case you didn't know.) He's a total Heavy Metal hero!"
The album is a real grower. Produced by Beau Hill and Michael Wagener, it takes a few spins to start worming its way under your skin, but it's well worth the wait. And the shows will be a smash, I guarantee it, cos NOBODY delivers with quite the style, relish and gore of Alice Cooper.
(MCA MCF 3341) KKKK1/4
Let's consider a moment the Alice Cooper beast. The first guy to go out with a girlie name and wear a dress, back when dress-wearing by men was a lynchable offence. Make-up too - Kiss, Motley Crue, Poison, WASP, Alice is to blame. And Alice was hanging, whipping, torturing, chucking and mutilating back when Blackie's ego was no bigger than a pea. Alice took animals on tour before ZZ Top and Ozzy. Alice crawled on his belly before Iggy did. He was the metal spokesman long before Dee. And he was king of the subversive, hot-bloodied, hook-ridden anthem.
And the first to sellout. From taking Middle America - TV trash, Avon ladies and the National Inquirer - and stuffing it up his own ass, Alice rolled over on his back and played Middle America's pet dog, a little muzzled mongrel who'd do his tricks in Las Vegas, snarl for the camera on 'Celebrity Squares' and shmooze with the Hollywood fatcats as his ballads - ballads! - glided up the charts.
Last I heard he was playing golf with millionaires. But he hasn't lost his balls! 'Constrictor', his first album in around three years, takes all the old heavy rock cliches and twists them into a wonderfully diseased horror-show masterpiece. And I'd expected a load of old cobras!
Actually, what I - and most other people who still care - expected was the 'Welcome To My Nightmare Part II' project he'd promised these past couple of years (a Joe Perry and Dick Wagner collaboration where Alice wakes up over ten years later, in a world full of Ozzys and WASPs and Cinderellas), although I hear there's an element of that in the upcoming OTT stage show. Instead, we get a kind of trashy horror-show Greatest Hits collection - titles like 'Teenage Frankenstein', 'Thrill My Gorilla', 'The World Needs Guts', 'Life And Death Of The Party', you get the idea? Finishing off with 'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)', a song for Jason and the theme to 'Friday The 13th Part VI'.
The music? Fine. There's something about Alice's voice and his writing that gives him a consistently identifiable sound; even though the musicians keep changing, he manages to infect the new ones with his own particular musical disease. Chief amongst the latest recruits is Kane Roberts, body-builder and Criminal Justice boss, who will join Alice (playing alongside Randy Piper on rhythm guitar) on tour - and who co-wrote a lot of songs here. It wouldn't surprise if he's behind the couple of muscle-pumping New York dance-sound-type numbers. Otherwise, it's vicious, aggresive rock'n'roll Alice-style ('Hey you! Cryin' 'cause your best friends splattered against the wall/Hey you! Some maniac butcher tryin' to hack away your balls! Oh yeah, terminate the mutha, now!') with a razor-sharp production by Beau Hill.
Alice's best album since '...Nightmare I'. And there's no ballads!
Alice Cooper has announced UK dates for November/December. These are as follows: Wembley Arena November 23rd, Edinburgh Payhouse 25, Manchester Apollo 28/29, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne City Hall December 1, Birmingham Odeon 3/4.
Tickets are priced at £8.50/£7.50, except for Wembley where they are £9.50/£8. Wembley tickets can be obtained through the usual outlets plus by post from: Alice Cooper Box Office, PO Box 77, London, Sw4 9LH. An SAE must be enclosed as well as a 50p booking fee per ticket. All cheques should be made payable to 'Alice Cooper Box Office'.
In addition, a credit card hot-line is in operation on: 01 741 8989.
As yet, no support act has been confirmed, although there is a possibility that Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction will fill the role. Alice will be interrupting an American tour to visit the UK, with the demand for tickets for his Stateside gigs as great (if not greater) than during his mid-seventies heyday. Indeed, his Halloween show at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit sold out so quickly (within three hours) that another show has been added on October 30, the night before.
'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)'
Great news for snake lovers... Alice is back groping his python and glowering through his running mascara. Here is the man who pioneered outrage and excess, but does he still cut a rug in the eighties? Actually, I'm a bit disappointed by the electro-pop beat. If someone had put a charge of dynamite under the drum machine it might have stood a chance.