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(December 22, 1975)
Originally Published: December 22, 1975
Author: R. Meltzer
In the case of Alice, you can't help but not that even as his act gets slicker'n shit there's still plenty of counter-neatness involved, stuff thrown in for the sake of making it all somehow aesthetically tolerable by older R&R standards, occasionally surrenders to an honest grin or grimace totally out of dramatic context, songs from earlier LPS that he (and his audience) gotta know can't help but show up the vapidness of newer proceedings, stuff like that. Like will he include "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out" tonight tho they've got questionable relevance to the framework of "Welcome To My Nightmare" (this eve's scheduled theatre-piece) at the risk of sacrificing structure and mere cohesiveness? Lurks there still perhaps an at-least whimsical sense of continuing undiminished preference in the blatantly sold-out (like we all like to be) six-figure Alice, as evidenced by those possible intimations of artistic (or at least professional) integrity in the ban on drinks being served during the show? Don't want no waiters interfering with the enjoyment of all those tricky stage theatrics do we - or is it just a matter of the fiscal integrity involved in artist-audience lounge-act rapport? during which time it finally belatedly dawns on me ALICE IS THE HOUSE F'CHRISSAKE!!! Suddenly I have a plan: lose a total of $15 (more or less on the nose) before the showtime so I can feel as ripped-off-with-compositional-integrity-still-intact as any of the assholes in the paying audience per se. I lose it easy.
FINAL BEFORE-THE-FACT POLEMICS - What's the goddamn CODE for dealing with Alice anymore anyways, for appreciating a post-decadence no more radical than George Jessel's - even if it's one conscious of itself to the nth? How to did the intentionally post-diggable? And how intentional? Isn't this the REAL Dada either way? Isn't the man further down the trail that Duchamp, Dali, Zappa, any of em? Proof that even the most promising roads don't lead to Mecca? Well but ain't this absolutely the opaquest shit since early Warhol - post-interpretable mere presence and annihilation of (abstract-expressionist) self? Dekooning with Rauschenberg's eraser? Maybe even simultaneously the Goya who slowly but surely becomes the King of Spain and - in the realm of waking nightmares - realizes that grotesquerie-from-within is closer to what he's been after than anything attempted while a goddamn saint. Is he the real Peter Townsend? An enigma at all? Or are these just rhetorical questions entirely, inotherwords have art & thought merely been returned to given universe of limitless puzz from whence they came? ?????
Round about 6 p.m. the fanfolk start arriving en masse past the inflated Alicehead with the atrophied body out front. Becomes apparent after they've removed their outer winter garb that ultra-hepness is not the compositional grid most of em have placed upon their $15 gamble; by and large they're just (as expected) your standard early''20s contemporary ski and/or '60s-hip cowboy crowd dressed for comfort. Only one young cunny is facepaint (lightning bolt from "Aladdin Sane" cover). Pretty much your standard idle middle-class youthery steppin up a rung and to lookin any too excited about the cultural hot-digs soon to come. Suggesting that this is all just such mere bonafide SOPHISTICATED ADULT ENTERTAINMENT that their attendance is in the role of joyless yes-persons: PAUL WHITEMAN RIDES AGAIN!
Sophisticated-dumb rather then sophisticated-smart tho cause they're already lining up at 8 p.m. a good four hours before showtime totally oblivious to the inevitable fact that the maitre d's gonna be dumpin em in miserable seats way in the back even if they go there first in the whole wide world (poor babies!) By 10-11 they've roped off lineup space for the line-standers who by now're infringing upon the movement of casino regulars frantically at work going to a realer living hell than - parenthetically! - Alice has conjured up in a while as I - cause I'm there - join em in r.l.h., going down past my limit to 23. Darn.
Okay, so the show itself turns out to be (don't tell me you didn't guess it!) bland with a very small b. That stupid cyclops even on TV looked stupider than the cheaper incarnations of Godzilla. Dancing gargoyles with faces like James Brown, tophatted skeletons with canes for cocks, a stuffed fake broad who Alice drags across the stage by her fake-blond hair (same stage 's'matter of fact where Ali once kayoed a very "live" Bob Foster), coffins that don't like like coffins with hands coming out of em, Danny Kaye references galore wherever applicable, y'know, a world-of-the-theatre type shit. No more impressive of filled-with-miracles a something-or-other-on-a-stage than "Romero & Juliet" at Hofstra University. I mean like you'd at least hafta expect maybe a pint of blood or anything red a all during "Only Women Bleed." right? Not a goddam drop tho in Aunt Alice's nightmare, wonder what the heck Freud'd say about that.
One short encore (nobody's really demanding a second one) and as the doors open, the gamblers outside're milling about rather politely trying to figure out from the emerging faces if they missed anything or not (i.e. who lost more $$$ in the hour-and-a-half, them or the concertfolk). "Maybe but maybe not" sez a short blond to a tall redhead and a dark-haired chubbo, obvious dismay in her voice at the lack of enthusiasm on the part of her compatriots. "The hell they were, everybody was rowdy" muses a nearby liar. Main observable fact is these children of the Beatles don't know how to respond, even negatively, to an obvious burn. A truly self-conscious R&R faithful - almost a contradiction in terms: Alice has finally come to give even his goddamn followers a dose of discomfort!
Upstairs at the subsequent victory party a member of the Cooper band who I ain't gonna name cause he's a decent chap who I'd hate to see fired is really pissed off. "The sound was horrible, wasn't it? I mean like nobody could really even hear what I was playing, even the other people on stage. I know because in rehearsal I'd do all these different things, change the treble, play with the bass, and nobody noticed. Our music is meant to be heard and felt at high volume."
Morning after I hit a win streak ($10 jackpot in nickels and $4 betting my age numeral in roulette), bringing me down to only nine fish behind with means I owe Alice 6 clams worth of Christian charitability (you tell me a better motivation for an honest critic!) so here 'tis: better late than never. First to tell it true those aforementioned out-of-context old riff and some new one too ("Baby, baby, come on and save me, save me" from Some Folks for inst.) did in fact get about one person in three off. Second, speaking of riffs there were occasional Yardbird gleanings from Danny Weiss and Dick Wagner that were (swear to God) maybe the first Yardbirdisms used in contact since 1966, no mean feat. Third, on "magic screen" routine used on "Escape" was as precisely executed and technologically interesting as anything Broardway's ever charged money for. Forth, all those prolonged periods of utterly meaningless gesturing hafta make Alice one of the all-time master of extended ambiguity if that's even the word and some of his rinky-dink de facto continuities would hafta rate as tops in that book (they beat Brecht, Godard, and Mickey Spillane to shit). And fifth you got his use of Vincent Price as the yoyo he is, reading (cause he still ain't memorized it!) the intro to "Black Widow," a feat requiring the embarrassment of specs: finally a director who understands the silly old ham!
And Vince is ultimately the key for at least a pair of reasons. 1. The crucial elements in composition are now merely (merely) Alice and the rest of showbiz the start of "The Tingler" and art-history (!) contestant on the $64,000 Questions being but the first totally willing brushstroke from an alien tune of grey acrylic. 2. Just as Vinny had himself a streak of cinematic loser (just check out Corman's "Tomb of Ligeia") before happening upon the "Dr. Phibes" dipytch there's no reason why Alice oughtn't to come back with a winner in maybe five or six years from now. After all, mature people have the patience and there really ain't a mature performer in the current rock circus than good ole Alice, I mean, who's maturer, Jerry Garcia? If, that is, you go for maturity. (Which does not now and never has equaled all that many redeeming anything elses). But anyway there's a lesson in the law of conservation of intellectual energy to be found in the stew somewhere, a real genu-wine post-Morrison grownup type lesson to help you make it thru the night if you really give a rusty fuck, to wit: DON'T SHIT WHEN A FART WILL WORK JUST AS WELL.