Originally Published: February 24, 1973
Author: Roy Carr
Alice Cooper calls a temporary halt to rehearing his new show in the ballroom of the band's Connecticut country mansion. Pausing just long enough to re-arm himself with cans of Budweiser, he hops into the backseat of is chrome speed-wagon and maked the long haul through heavy traffic to his new York H.Q.
...And now he's reclining in his poster-decked office. Before him is an ever-ready can of beer, the centre-fold of the recent NME Readers Poll, and a box containing the returned master-tape of a brand new Alice Cooper single. Three words, "Slick Black Limousine" reveal the contents.
On the rock share index, the price for an Alice Cooper is well over a million dollars. And sales of sheet music, copyright, etc., could quadruple the figure.
However, the mogul of mascara and melodrama didn't redeem that master-tape for such a lucrative sum. He gave it away for nothing - exclusively to NME readers via last week's issue.
It's not the pressures of being the 20th century schizoid man-woman have reached a critical point and damaged Cooper's brain cells. On the contary, it was his way of showing gratitude to his followers.
"When we learned that we'd topped three sections in the NME Readers' Poll", he told me, "we wanted to give something in return - something positive and direct.
"Unfortunately, there wasn't time for us to play a concert in Britain, because we're up to our necks preparing the new stage show for our three-month American tour." (It opens on March 5.)
"So we got real drunk one night and said, 'Hey let's send them a record'.
"But we didn't want to send something already on the album, or due for release very shortly. It had to be something new and exclusive."
"We'd always thought that it would be a real goof to do an Elvis-type thing. Yer know, all grease 'n' echo... a real boppin' rubber-legged knee-trembler.
"Well it so happened that Dennis (Dunaway) had written 'Slick Black Limousine', which was that sort of song, but there was no room on the new album for it and we'd already fixed up the next single.
"So we laid down the backing track at the mansion and put the vocal on when we were in London."
Alice explains that "Slick Black Limousine" is more than a good natured send-up of the Hillbilly Wild Cats.
"I don't always wanna be known as Alice Cooper the snake charmer. I want to expand the whole Alice Cooper idea. I want Alice to be a lot of other things. On this particular record, it's Alice Cooper - greasy rocker.
" 'Slick Black Limousine' expands the whole concept of the Elvis thing, and at the same time it expands what Alice Cooper is really capable of doing. And this is just the beginning. 'Limousine' is our idea of Elvis in a head-on collision with drummer Sandy Nelson."
Though fidgety due to having been off the road for over two months, the Connecticut crooner is still in the best of spirits - something not wholly due to his fuel intake of Budweiser.
It takes little probing to discover the deep-rooted satisfaction Cooper and the band have derived from the results of the NME poll.
"The thing that's really made us all happy", says Alice, "is that we're now accepted on a musical level. Both this and the sale of our records have proved that beyond any doubt.
"We've passed through the period when most people thought of us as being nothing more than a hype-gimmick."
As it transpired, there's another reason for Cooper's jubilation this afternoon. Cachina, the band's boppin' boa constrictor, which disappeared from Cooper's hotel room some months ago, has been recovered safe and unhurt.
Getting back to more serious matters, the band now have a new world-wide single release, "Hello Hurray", are putting the finishing touches to "Billion Dollar Babies" prior to shipping the album over here, and have a follow-up single ready for clearance.
My immediate reaction to "Hello Hurray" is that it doesn't sound like Alice Cooper. And this, apperantly, is the response Cooper is aiming for.
"The obvious thing would have been to put out a wild rocker. Well, we don't do the obvious. 'Hello Hurray' was written by a crippled songwriter from Toronto by the name of Rolf Kempt, and when I first heard it I know it'd be a great song to open out new stage act.
" 'Hello Hurray' is what we're saying to our audience... let the show begin. Also I liked the idea of doing a big Anthony Newley-type Broadway thing."
Staying true to form, the follow-up will be, as Cooper explains, "a killer rocker".
Before that materialises, the sixth Alice Cooper song collection, "Billion Dollar Babies", will have premiered.
"This one's a killer too", claims Cooper, "because it's a better production than all the others. And we're singing and playing better than ever".
Somewhat apologetically, Alice mumbles that " 'Billion Dollar Babies' is also a little more perverted... there's a lot of sick things on it".
He tells me Donovan's on the album. Surprise, surprise. What's a nice young kid like the Sunshine Superman doing in this company?
"Donovan is one of the sweetist guys in the world, and I take it as a big compliment that he wanted to sing on the album".
To date Cooper has commited many outrageous deeds. So what is he going to do when it comes around to warbling necrophilia nursery rhymes.
"I can't tell you anything about the new stage act. It would spoil the whole impact".
But he gives me a few clues.
"What we've assembled is a glitzy touring Broadway-type production with plenty of dazzling lights and special effects. Yer know . . . Dah-De, Dah-De, De-Dah, De-Dah" and goes into the signature tune from the Bugs Bunny Show.
Waving his hands and jumping all over the place, "dah-de-ddah-de-de-dah-da dah," he exits through the open door, down the stone stairs and tumbles into the back of his Slick Black Limousine and disappears in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
"Billion Dollar Babies" (Warner).
You've got to hand it to Alice Cooper and the boys - they know just when to pump out another album for the kids to tether their fantasies on.
It's been almost nine months since "School's Out" appeared, and just when teenage palates are beginning to thirst for more here comes a spanking new product. No depressing wait, the like of which one is forced to experience in anticipation of, say, the new Stones album or Zeppelin's latest creation.
Whatever one might think of them, Alice Cooper certainly deliver on time.
All Cooper albums since (and including) "Love It To Death" have been eminently enjoyable. Loud, flashy, articulate hard rock harnessed around a superb production, they have constituted some of the most satisfying entertaining black vinyl to be released during the great 1970s.
The last effort, "School's Out", was actually Cooper's most forgettable work to date: a lightweight affair featuring four good rockers and a bunch of aimless musical flirtations.
Does Cooper really feel the need to mess around with old movie soundtrack music or Leonard Bernstein's Greatest Hits. Well so it seems, for even on "Billion Dollar Babies", we're treated to Alice Cooper's own rendition of John Barry's "Goldfinger" theme.
The track in question is called "Unfinished Sweet" and it's possibly the longest thing the band has ever done.
It's the longest track on the album too, clocking in at six minutes 17 seconds, featuring a lot of feedback guitar orgasms and even a break using a couple of bars of Clockwork Orange "Beethoven" full intact.
The song is about going to the dentists (unfinished sweet, gettit?) complete with authentic drill sounds which shouldn't be listened to on headphones.
This horrendous bummer aside, "Billion Dollar Babies" has Alice Cooper walking tightrope, balancing over valid music, image development and grim self parody, and coming out a winner most of the time.
I still can't quite make up my mind about "Hello Hurray", the single and opening track, but the arrangement and production is so powerful, and Cooper just about carries the song vocally. I'll go along with it's inclusion.
Anyway, the next track is quite brilliant. Called "Raped And Freezin'," it has a great Michael Bruce melody - easily as catchy as "Be My Lover" - and even better lyrics about being raped and caught naked in Chiwawa.
"Elected" appears next, a slightly sub-standard single effort after the classic "School's Out", but sounding very good sandwiched in the middle of side one of "BDB".
The title track follows and is one of the less successful efforts. It's a rather limp rocker ruined by annoyingly affected vocals by some unidentifiable character seemingly bent on caricaturing David Bowie's cockney whine.
If side one is slightly less than up to standard, then side two contains the sort of material Alice Cooper were born to record. Kicking off with "No More Mr. Nice Guy" - the title and idea taken from Sparks track of the same name - it somehow transcends this hindrance and stands out with another good melody complete with consciously lame Beach Boys harmonies.
Then we come to one of the two 24-carat classics of the album. "Generation Landslide" contains the most incisively witty lyrics Cooper has ever penned: a futuristic piece of whimsy sung by Cooper with acknowledgement to Bob Dylan's "Ma I'm Only Bleeding" sneer and style of delivery, with imagery worthy of William Burroughs.
"Sick Things" is more archetypal Alice Cooper: tortuous and morbid and bizarre Bob Ezrin arrangement.
In "Mary Ann" the band try to do a burlesque Rogers and Hammersmith parody with piano flourishes and a lame pay-off line in the lyrics. It's short enough not to jar the proceedings.
It is then that we reach the grand finale, the absolute piece de resistance. If Alice Cooper are to be remembered for any one track, during their career as outrage poseurs, it must be "I Love The Dead". It's about necrophilia (you didn't really think Alice Cooper would pay musical homage to the Grateful Dead, did you?) and i s possibly the most exquisitely tasteless track ever to be placed on black vinyl.
God, it's so deliciously unpleasant that it immediately confirms my suspicions that Alice Cooper may well be the real pervert-genius of the 70s.
What can one say about a track and arrangement of which borrows equally from every turgid Hammer film soundtrack ever made, and "Herman Hermit's Greatest Hits", except that it scores a bullseye 100 on my badtasteometer. Alister Crowley would have been green with envy.
"Billion Dollar Babies" is Alice Cooper with panache. I can hardly wait for the next album.