Sounds

Originally Published: March 31, 1973

On A Strange Trip With Alice Cooper

Author: Chuck Pulin

A monkey on roller skates? Sounds man in New York, Chuck Pulin, had the memory of a live monkey, dressed in formal clothes, roller skating past his very eyes from Alice Cooper's lavish arrangements to entertain the jaded gentlemen of the American Press last summer in New Jersey. Sure, Alice Cooper sets his PR stunts in style. Chuck joined the boozers' caravan again for the start of Alice's new tour in Philadelphia, and reports yet more extravagent hospitality - booze, a private 'plane with Alice logos and dollar signs painted on the fuselage, hostesses in jeans and Alice T-shirts, booze, buttons, passes, itineraries, parties, booze, misbehaving guests, backstage frolics, booze, a riverboat party that won't sail, booze, breakfast with Alice . . . oh yeah, and the concert.

Alice is living out his fantasies right there on the stage of America's rock halls - as we've said before it'll be a strange trip down the road, the strangest Alice and the band have come up with.

Billed as a Dance Concert, it was really a pushing match among the audience - with no security staff and no seats, the throng in the Philadelphia Spectrum went in one direction: forward. They created such a crush that many were hurt and some had to be lifted up and passed over the stage; others passed out in their tracks, and the packed crowd keeping them from falling over.

Classical music was playing, faded, and journalist Kal Rudman zaps into his Top 40 introduction as the band go into "Hello Hurray". Alice is in white, strutting around a multi-level stage what a staircase that glows colours. Revolving, mirrored globes pulse out flashes of light, up above the stage there are racks of lights with strobes sending out blinding flashes, and on the upper stage Mike Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith play behind giant birdcage bars.

Alice dances up close to the crowd, taunting, and as he sings his strange tale of the hitch-hiker and the woman driver in Mexico - "Raped And Freezing" - the crowd pushes up tight, all of us dripping with communal sweat. Alice screams "I Wanna Be Elected" and in the middle of a knot of the crowd I feel like I'm in a vice that's slowly getting turned tighter. All eyes are on Alice as the band punches out "Billion Dollar Babies", and the crowd is really responding to the excitement.

The stage grows dim as "Unfinished Sweet", a new Cooper tooth decay fantasy, begins to unwind. Alice lies on the operating table, writhing in pain, as fog begins to rise around him; a dentist appears with a giant drill buzzing loudly through the PA and lights blinking; Alice screams as it gets to his mouth, and the sound of the drill is whirling in terrifying waves around the auditorium as he kicks his feet. The drill moves all over his body, he gets to his feet, and - Ye Gods! There's a decaying tooth dancing on stage left. Alice goes off and returns with a four-foot toothbrush, he leaps madly at the tooth, gets it on the floor, it escapes, he goes after it; now he's got a five-foot tube of toothpaste between his legs, stroking it as he finishes the song.

It's an hour since the set started and the band has just finished "No More Mr. Nice Guy", a song about a rock star affected by unfriendly press; then it's "Sick Things", and Alice does his dead babies number, spearing dolls with a sword and calmly ripping off arms and legs and tossing them to the crowd. They go into the charming new tune "I Love The Dead" while Alice continues to dismember dolls - then suddenly black drape is lifted from a large frame on the right of the stage; a large guillotine with the blade glinting in the white light.

Alice is led to the machine, "I Love The Dead" still blaring from the speakers: he writhes himself against the frame, apes making love to it, strokes the blade, kneels, and has his head fitted into the slot by an executioner. The audience are tense, all eyes on Alice, mouths hanging open; the music blares, lights pin-point on Alice as he kneels with his head trapped in the guillotine, and for a split second the hall goes still. We hear Alice's scream as the blade comes flashing down, the noise makes cuts through the silent hall as it cuts through Alice's neck.

The excutioner plunges his arm into the basket, pulls it out, dripping blood and thrusts it into the faces at the front of the crowd. Next to me a girl says loudly "I'm going to be sick". The executioner reached into the basket again, fumbles, and lifts out Alice's head by the hair; the head is ugly, the lifeless face contorted with pain and horror, blood drips from the neck onto the audience and the stage.

The rest of the band re-appear carrying a headless corpse - they fling it to the ground and begin kicking, beating and tearing at it. Mike rips off a leg and beats the body with the blood-soaked limb. The girl next to me burps loudly and empties the contents of her stomach on the floor.

I retire to the safety of the press box, wait as the stage is cleared in darkness, and suddenly Alice and the band are back on stage prancing around to "Under My Wheels" and "I'm Eighteen", lively as ever. The show ends with Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" as Alice waves an American flag, the cast take a bow, and the audience roars approval. It's all over for "Billion Dollar Babies" - until the next town.

Let's hope they have stronger stomachs.