Record Collector

Record Collector - February 1997

Record Collector
(February 1997)

Originally Published: February 1997

Book Review

Michael Bruce with Billy James
"No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Inside Story Of The Alice Cooper Group"
(9.95, S.A.F. Publishing)

Unlike many of his British contemporaries, Alice Cooper always insisted that his idea of rock theatre had no hidden agendas - it was simply rock music given an extravagant, and sometimes shocking, twist with the addition of a few props. Offstage, far from incorporating his "Killer" concept into his daily routine, he was a beer-swilling, television addict who enjoyed a few games of golf with the odd (aren't they all?) American President.

Michael Bruce, who'd been guitarist with the Spiders in the mid-60s, and remained by Alice's side throughout the glory, gory years until the bubble burst in 1974, offers few surprises in the Alice department. Yes, Alice was something of a straight man (so was Bruce - it's lead guitarist Glen Buxton who turns out to be the real rock 'n' roll animal) pushed into the limelight by virtue of being the singer; he got too big for his boots and basically told the rest of the band to hop it when he started believing his own hype. As is usual with this kind of sidesman-wants-a-slice-of-the-action-thing, Bruce also makes regular noise about not receiving due credit for his musical ideas.

Yet none of this unduly interferes with a book that's breezy and unputdownable from start to finish. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is a well-paced tale of the making, and the breaking, of a rock 'n' roll group; of the business pressures that forced the band into corners it would rather not be in; and of the intra-band tesions which eventually prompted Alice to quit.

Bruce is also good on the development of the band's theatrical side, insisting that it was originated from the late 60s when Alice - then renowned (misguidedly, I'd say) for their abject awfulness - learned to deal with insults by inciting crowds into hating him further. On the receiving end of a pie at the Cincinnati Pop Festival, in 1970, Cooper silenced the audience by smearing it all over his body. Months later, he was wrapping snakes around his naked torso, chopping up baby dolls and getting himself 'executed' on stage.

Bruce doesn't shirk from the music, either; he's prepared to comment on every track the band recorded, and explain the group's transition from its deviant take on the Beatles (Frank Zappa got them their first deal) through to Bob Ezrin-enhanced youth anthems, and ultimately, to the barely recognisable Alice Cooper sound of the final album, "Muscle Of Love".

Despite the downward spiral of his career since then, Bruce still retains considerable affection for the man they once knew as Vincent Furnier. One suspects that he's still hoping for a vintage-era Alice Cooper band strutting around to the tune of "School's Out" is frankly a preposterous one. Better to remember the good days via those magnificent early records, those mid-period hits, and this likeable volume of memoirs.