Originally Published: January 1997
"Excuse me, Mr Superstar Of Today, could I maybe interest you in a rock'n'roll pension fund? Monthly payments. Something for a rainy day. You never know, do you... Oh, alright."
Their mission, shock-rocking, frock-wearing beer-swillers Alice Cooper loved to claim, was "to drive a stake through the heart of the love generation." The name subsequently hogged by singer and ex-Earwig Vince Furnier, "Alice Cooper" became a one-man, guillotine toting, Poison-trilling "band". But what became of his one-time compadres, asks Kurt Catterson of Garsington?
Neal Smith (drums): After 1974's Muscle Of Love album and five years of escalating success, "We took a year off, to do our own music, and basically never got back together." Alice eventually reneged on an agreement to do a farewell tour after his Welcome To My Nightmare album: "We were like a family - you love each other but there's always tension. There was musical frustration, too, around Glen (Buxton). Maybe it was better that the band stopped at their peak." Smith, together with guitarist Michael Bruce and bassist Dennis Dunaway formed the short-lived Billion Dollar Babies. In 1976, they became the Tom Petty-style Flying Tigers, which lasted four years: "It was great but it was never the same," Contributed to albums by Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma and bassist Joe Bouchard and recorded with The Plasmatics - "I'd heard about this girl with a mohawk, a chainsaw and black tape over her nipples, and that I had to see. I played with them but I didn't want to tour." Neither did he want another band: "The chemistry of the Alice Cooper band was comfortable and powerful, and nobody had attitude offstage, but I kept meeting people who'd done nothing but had such attitude, so I stopped bothering." Is now a leading realtor in the prestigious New England area, Fairfield County. Were clients scared when his secret got out? "Just the opposite. One high-powered attorney was really hard to break the ice with - but when I told him about the band it turned out that he was a huge fan and he started talking like a little kid." As for Alice, there is no bad blood: "I helped do pre-production on his Constrictor album and we still play golf. I'd love to do some band stuff but the reality is probably a little bit distant... Maybe if we were ever inducted into the hall of fame."
Michael Bruce (guitar): Recorded solo album (My Own Way, for Polydor Germany) that got shelved. As did the Alice Cooper band : "Alice said he didn't want to go solo and the next thing, he had a million-dollar stage show and all our roadies. Call it greed. Don't misunderstand me - he's a polite, well-mannered guy, but he was under stress. Alice's mother told me Alice needed songs but he had his pride, so didn't ask us." Undeterred, he joined Smith and Dunaway in Billion Dollar Babies, signed to Polydor, recorded the Battleaxe album and devised a Spinal Tap-like stage show: "We had these 'axe' guitars, and a hydraulic boxing ring would rise up around us and we'd have chest-plates and helmets on, all choreographed to music, with a giant scoreboard. It was a comment on making money as a game. People loved it, but we couldn't get backing to tour. That was the beginning of the end." Sold apartments he owned and, when his wife got pregnant, went to work as student detention counsellor for the state of Arizona: "None of the kids could believe I was in the Alice Cooper band, but they could relate to me." Three kids of his own later, divorce set in ("she got the kids, the house and Cadillac"), followed by another marriage and a move to North Carolina. Formed the in no way repetitious Michael Bruce And The Billion Dollar Babies - "kinda Led Zeppelin meets Blues Traveler" - but, a year on, "a tornado blew me away, my motor home caught on fire, and my second wife ran off with a vacuum cleaner salesman. I decided to go back to Phoenix." Still writes and is looking for a deal, with plans to form a new band, "but everyone has other commitments. I might pursue writing for others." Has just published No More Mr Nice Guy, a book detailing the Alice Cooper band story: "There was some sloppy journalism and I wanted to correct it." Admits he still resents how "Alice took the success of the band away with him. If we wanted our royalties we were told to keep our heads low", but is keen to work with the old team. "Alice probably thinks it's too retro to tour. But we really should jam to see if there is any juice left."
Dennis Dunaway (bass): Worked with Smith in The Flying Tigers and on Bouchard and Dharma albums but settled into a job as general manager of three Captain Video stores in Stamford, Connecticut: "I thought a video store would be a fun place to work but I didn't realise how many people complain about paying late charges!" Is currently basking in the compliments garnered by the arts and crafts shop he and his wife purchased in 1985 - "It's actually not as dull as it sounds, mostly because of the artists' personalities." He still writes and makes demos with Smith, but insists that "playing clubs doesn't appeal - I've already too many nights of my life in smoky clubs."
Glen Buxton (guitar): After Billion Dollar Babies (Alice Cooper's 1973 album, not the band), drink and drug problems escalated. Formed the group Virgin in 1981 but band were swiftly curtailed when he attempted suicide. "I was taking this drug which puts you to sleep," he explains, "but changes your psyche. I took 150 of them, for no reason! I was in a coma for almost two weeks." In 1990, he left Phoenix for Iowa: "I came here to a friend's farm when I ran out of money, and liked it so much I stayed." Has survived by selling Alice Cooper memorabilia and working at Goodyear Aerospace, helping construct radar units. Joined local bar band Roadhouse, which changed its name to Buxton Flynn And D Band: "It stands for Big Fucking Deal. Some guy wants to book us so I'm optimistic." He may have cleaned up his act but his health has never recovered fully. "I've been in hospital six times in the last 18 months," he horrifyingly reveals. "Once I had less than a fourth of the blood in me than I should have had. Then I've had stomach acid shooting up into my lungs and sinuses, and on top of that there were the five ulcers. But people seem to like me and want to hear more from me, so at least life is on an upstroke."