Melody Maker

Originally Published: February 1975

Alice's Nightmare

Author: Steven Gaines

Alice Cooper was eating canned octopus, pulling the pieces out of the can and popping them into his mouth with his fingers. He stuck a livid chunk, complete with tiny suckers, under my nostrils, which flared with disgust. I tried to get him back to the subject at hand.

Alice has just announced a three-fold assault on the rock world: a 90 minute television special, a soundtrack album and a mammoth eight month worldwide tour that will bring his to England by August.

All three elements are entitled "Welcome To My Nightmare" and comprise Alice's first solo endeavour since he began with the Alice Cooper group a decade ago.

The soundtrack will be released simultaneously in Britain and the United States on March 1st. The Nightmare tour begins in Kalamazoo, Michigan on March 21 and will be followed by five warm-up venues before a formal gala opening in Chicago on April Fools Day.

Alice was explaining some of this in a corner of a small rehearsal studio just of Sunset Boulevard where he was waiting for the members of his new group to return from lunch. Cooper has already been in rehearsals for two weeks on what he contends is "the largest, most extravagant touring show ever assembled."

Had the Cooper group broken up?

"Of course not," Alice said. "We've just temporarily gone off in our own directions."

The new Alice Cooper back-up band is filled with familiar names: Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter on dual lead guitar, Prakash John on bass, Joey Chirowsky on the keyboards and Penti Glen on drums. Except for Joey all the musicians either recorded and/or toured with Lou Reed for the past two years. The group was assembled by Cooper's producer, Bob Ezrin.

The same line-up also played on the soundtrack album, which took some eight months and $200,000 to record in the studios, including Ezrin's Nimbus Nine studios in Toronto, Canada. "The album was so expensive I had to cut down on my beer in take by a case a day to pay back the money," Alice said.

Alice Cooper's legendary Billion Dollar Babies tour he was literally beat. The ensuing holiday gave alice plenty of rest, but it didn't stop his dreams.

"About two years ago I had a dream that I was lying naked in the middle of a large blue plate and I kept slipping on the porcelain when I tried to crawl off. Suddenly a giant, rusty fork loomed over me and every time I tried to get out of the plate I slipped again. It was terrifying."

How did it end? "A giant blob of ketchup fell on me and I began to drown. I remember thinking, 'But I like ketchup.' Anyway, I woke up screaming."

That dream, followed shortly by one where Alice and Groucho Marx were lawyers who roller-skated into court inspired him to keep note of his dreams. Sometimes he had several in one evening. "I figured, gee, if I have this many nightmares, think of all the billions of nightmares that people are having all around the world. So I decided to share some of mine with them."

Alice kept a cassette recorder under a can of Budweiser beer at the side of his bed and every time a dream woke him he'd repeat it on tape. At the end of three months he had enough dreams to sink Sigmund Freud, and Alice turned the tapes over to a screenwriter and made plans for a movie.

After two months' work on the idea the project was aborted and a nightmarish TV special replaced the initial idea. When the script was complete Cooper joined guitarist Dick Wagner, and composer Alan Gordon to work on a soundtrack.

"I knew Dick for a couple years, since he was in Ursa Major and opened the 1971 Killer tour for us. I was also a bridesmaid at his wedding. Alan Gordon wrote 'Happy Together' for the Turtles along with a million other hits. I figured they'd be a great pair to work with. We started writing last March and then went into the studio with Bob Ezrin."

Ezrin is the 25-year-old wonder-boy who produced all of Alice's smash albums since "I'm Eighteen" hurtled Alice into rock prominence five years ago. Under Ezrin's direction the first two songs they recorded were called " Department Of Youth" and "Only Women Bleed".

"For some reason we couldn't get into the really bad nightmare songs first. 'Only Women Bleed' sound like it could be scary, but it's not. I always wanted to write a love ballad and 'Only Women Bleed' turned out to be it. 'Department of Youth' is for me and the kids. It's our song."

After recording the two cuts Cooper and Wagner resumed composing. "We went to different cities to see it the quality of my nightmares would change. 'Years Ago' was written in Nassau, Bahamas. 'Some Folks' happened in Rio De Janeiro, and 'Cold Ethyl' happened in Paris. I guess I ate too many garlic snails in Paris."

By September of last year Cooper returned to the studio to finish the LP, and this time they got into the heavy stuff. "The nightmare songs, like 'Years Ago' and 'Steven' are heavier than 'The Ballad OF Dwight Fry.'

"I don't want to try and explain what they mean because everyone can give them their own meaning. That was the point. It's everybody's nightmare."

Cooper and his manager Shep Gordon poured over $250,000 into the new road show. The set was designed by Joe Gannon, who did Alice's last tour.

This time there's a producer-director-choreographer, David Winters, who designed televisions specials for sex goddess Raquel Welch and Ann Margret, which might give you an idea of what the Cooper stage production will actually look like.

Alice is joined on stage by four professional dancers who were alledgly "thrown out of Las Vegas for indulging in lewd activities." Giant props are also included in the extravaganza. There's a 20-foot Cyclops with laser beam eyes, giant high chairs and flying objects all over the stage. Over ten costume changes are expected, including rodent suits for Alice and band.

"I might wake up screaming in the morning. Now I'm going to try to make people spend their whole days like that."