ALICE COOPER

His out­ra­geous be­hav­iour prompted a state­ment in the House Of Com­mons and his band’s songs thrilled a gen­er­a­tion. We talk to Alice Cooper and his band­mates from the 70s about an al­bum that turned him from a cult icon into a main­stream-ter­ror­is­ing leg­end

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: IAN FORTMAN

We delve in­side a clas­sic cut from the orig­i­nal shock rocker him­self.

For­get mar­i­lyn man­son, for­get the

Sex Pis­tols; when it came to shock­ing the self-ap­pointed guardians of in­ter­na­tional moral­ity to the core, Alice Cooper pretty much wrote the hand­book. Flaunt­ing a sketchy past swathed in ur­ban leg­end and cun­ningly fab­ri­cated false­hoods con­cern­ing witches, ouija boards, dis­mem­bered chick­ens, blurred gen­ders and necrophilia, Alice Cooper suc­ceeded in out­rag­ing the forces of de­cency to an un­prece­dented de­gree over the course of his ca­sual early-70s tran­si­tion from cult no­to­ri­ety to main­stream ubiq­uity.

Alice’s in­famy was such that in may 1973 leo Abse, the in­cum­bent labour mP for Pon­ty­pool, splut­tered in the House Of Com­mons: “I re­gard his act as an in­cite­ment to in­fan­ti­cide for his sub-teenage au­di­ence. He is try­ing to in­volve these kids in sado-masochism. He is ped­dling the cul­ture of the con­cen­tra­tion camp. Pop is one thing, an­thems of necrophilia are an­other.”

the na­tion’s lead­ing cen­so­rial nanny fig­ure, mary White­house, head of the Na­tional View­ers’ And lis­ten­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, ea­gerly sup­ported leo’s cam­paign to ban Alice from re­turn­ing to the UK. But, as pub­lic re­ac­tion veered in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of hys­te­ria, sales of Bil­lion Dol­lar

Ba­bies – Cooper’s most provoca­tive record­ing to date – soared. Con­tro­versy sells, and in 1973 no­body was sell­ing more than Alice Cooper.

Of course, back in those days Alice Cooper were a band; five in­di­vid­u­als who had trans­lated a shared fas­ci­na­tion for the mop-tops and the macabre into a mil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try that had not only brought them universal vil­i­fi­ca­tion as de­praved, cor­rup­tive pari­ahs, but also celebrity be­yond their wildest dreams.

the quin­tet’s story be­gins in Phoenix, Ari­zona, when track ath­lete Vin­cent Furnier is vol­un­teered to or­gan­ise the Cortez High School’s 1964 let­ter­man tal­ent Show. Un­for­tu­nately, no one seems to boast any dis­cernible tal­ent, so Vince en­cour­ages some friends to take the stage as the Ear­wigs, where they mime along to Bea­tles records while wear­ing Bea­tles wigs.

Gui­tarist Glen Bux­ton can ac­tu­ally play his in­stru­ment. And while drum­mer John Speer fum­bles his way around the rudi­ments of per­cus­sion, bassist Den­nis Du­n­away hones his craft with the ben­e­fit of some valu­able lessons from Glen. the Ear­wigs meta­mor­phose into the Spi­ders; they play lo­cal Bat­tle Of the Bands shows; and they re­place their de­part­ing rhythm gui­tarist John ta­tum with ex-Cortez High foot­ball star michael Bruce of the trolls.

Fol­low­ing a move to lA in spring ’67, the fledg­ling Coop­ers, now known as the Nazz (but not for long, thanks to todd rund­gren’s band of the same name), re­place John Speer with fel­low Phoenix émi­gré Neal Smith and set about en­dear­ing them­selves to the Sun­set Strip in-crowd by host­ing reg­u­lar séances.

Soon enough – now that they’re mix­ing in a so­cial circle that in­cludes the Doors’ Jim mor­ri­son and love’s Arthur lee – miss Chris­tine (of the GtOs: Girls to­gether Ou­tra­geously, the world’s first all-fe­male rock band) ar­ranges for the band to au­di­tion for Frank Zappa’s Straight la­bel. the over-ea­ger Coop­ers turn up for their 6.30pm ap­point­ment at 6.30am, but their naïve tenac­ity is re­warded when Zappa of­fers them a record deal.

two days af­ter chang­ing their name to Alice Cooper, they’re taken on as the house sup­port band at the 20,000-ca­pac­ity Chee­tah Ball­room, where they grad­u­ally build a fol­low­ing in spite of the fact that their vo­cal­ist – hav­ing ditched the name Vince in favour of the in­fin­itely more note­wor­thy Alice – has taken to wear­ing full make-up and a pink clown cos­tume.

Grad­u­ally, the win­ning Alice Cooper for­mula takes shape, and af­ter record­ing a brace of feetfind­ing col­lec­tions on Zappa’s Straight im­print (1969’s Pret­ties For You and ’70’s Easy Ac­tion) the band sign to Warner Broth­ers and, with Cana­dian whiz-kid pro­ducer Bob Ezrin at the con­trols, hit the peak of their form with three set-piece col­lec­tions re­leased in rapid suc­ces­sion: June ’71’s Love It To Death (the al­bum that shocked Amer­ica), De­cem­ber ’71’s Killer (the al­bum that con­quered Amer­ica) and July ’72’s School’s Out (the al­bum that con­quered the world).

School’s Out, bol­stered by the enor­mity of its an­themic ti­tle track, quickly at­tained the ac­co­lade of be­ing the big­gest-sell­ing al­bum in Warn­ers’ his­tory and, thanks to a fren­zied tabloid press vir­tu­ally foam­ing at the mouth with hy­per­bolic vit­riol, Alice Cooper be­came the most news­wor­thy and con­tro­ver­sial band on the planet.

But now came the dif­fi­cult bit. In the face of con­dem­na­tion from the great, the good, the hu­mour­less, the pi­ous and the post­pubescent, the band needed to con­sol­i­date their po­si­tion. they needed to make the great­est al­bum of their ca­reer: an over-in­flated, flashy mas­ter­piece; an os­ten­ta­tiously of­fen­sive, crass and ex­pen­sive re­lease guar­an­teed to ex­pand the gen­er­a­tion gap to Grand Canyon pro­por­tions. they needed to make Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies. Fol­low­ing School’s Out was al­ways go­ing to be a daunt­ing task, but with band morale at an all-time high no one in­volved har­boured a shred of doubt that they could do it, and do it in style.

“We had a great team,” Alice re­mem­bers to­day, “and at that age you think you’re in­de­struc­tible. I don’t think we re­ally con­ceived of how big School’s Out was. We were re­ally fly­ing by the seat of our pants back then. You’d do two al­bums a year in those days, and two world tours to go with them. But, again, we con­sid­ered our­selves in­de­struc­tible, so we didn’t feel pres­sure at all.”

“We had other peo­ple do­ing the doubt­ing for us,” Den­nis Du­n­away smiles. “It was us against the world. Even af­ter we were suc­cess­ful and sur­rounded by peo­ple telling us how great we were, there were al­ways plenty more ready to share their opin­ion that we weren’t.”

re­flect­ing the dogged buoy­ancy and in­ner con­fi­dence that kept their spir­its high in the face of blan­ket me­dia con­dem­na­tion – and also in the grand show­busi­ness tra­di­tion of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ – the band elected to cel­e­brate their newly el­e­vated sta­tus in the al­bum’s ti­tle it­self.

“the ‘Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies’ con­cept was sim­ply mak­ing fun of our­selves,” Alice says in ret­ro­spect. “Here was a band no­body would touch three years ago, and now we’re the big­gest band in the world. We’d look at each other and go: ‘We’re like bil­lion dol­lar ba­bies.’

“We were get­ting voted best band in the world over led Zep­pelin, the rolling Stones and the Bea­tles. I al­most called up mcCart­ney and said: ‘lis­ten, we didn’t vote on this.’ led Zep­pelin we would give a run for, but when it came to the Bea­tles and the Stones we were em­bar­rassed to be ahead of them in any­thing.

“Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies was our most deca­dent al­bum. It was re­flect­ing the deca­dence of a time when we were liv­ing from limou­sine to pent­house to the finest of every­thing. We couldn’t be­lieve peo­ple were pay­ing us to do this. We’d have done it for free! We were a garage band who hap­pened to be at the right place at the right time.”

De­spite gig­ging them­selves to a vir­tual stand­still, ap­pear­ing in ev­ery print pub­li­ca­tion in ex­is­tence and work­ing on a movie project en­ti­tled Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper, the band were still on a cre­ative high and writ­ing songs of ex­cep­tional qual­ity.

“We’d been writ­ing pretty much con­stantly since Easy Ac­tion,” michael Bruce re­calls. “So by this point we had re­ally started to come into our own. We were on an up­ward spi­ral.”

With this con­fi­dence came a de­sire to push the en­ve­lope fur­ther into the arena of the bizarre.

“Den­nis Du­n­away had a lot to do with the in­san­ity of the band,” Alice ad­mits. “I let Den­nis be as sur­real as he wanted to be. He and I were both artists in school and were both re­ally into Sal­vador Dali. Also, Den­nis did a lot more… let’s just say ex­per­i­men­tal stuff, than I did.”

“I was the cru­sader for the avant-garde,” Den­nis agrees. “Any­thing that we came up with that sounded like any­one else, I was there to change it. Songs would al­ways be un­der at­tack from me if they didn’t sound un­usual enough.”

mak­ing sure that the Coop­ers’ col­lec­tive vi­sion was re­alised in the record­ing stu­dio was a man gen­er­ally re­garded to be the band’s sixth mem­ber, pro­ducer Bob Ezrin, who had helped to hone the band’s sound since Love It To Death.

“Bob was a young guy with a the­atri­cal back­ground, and we were a rock’n’roll band that wanted to be the­atri­cal.” Alice ex­plains. “Bob Ezrin was our Ge­orge martin.”

“I don’t want to un­der­es­ti­mate how im­por­tant Bob was,” Neal Smith cau­tions, “but I don’t want to over­es­ti­mate it ei­ther. In get­ting our sound on record Bob was hugely im­por­tant, but Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies was a team ef­fort. His big­gest achieve­ment, I think, was help­ing create Alice’s char­ac­ter. Be­cause be­tween Easy Ac­tion and Love It To Death a char­ac­ter evolves vo­cally that pretty much so­lid­i­fies into the real Alice Cooper, and Bob had a lot to do with that.”

“Bob came along at the right time,” Den­nis says. “mike Bruce’s song­writ­ing had im­proved leaps and bounds, Neal and I had im­proved across the board, and Alice’s voice had got­ten stronger and less nasal, but when Bob came along we were still try­ing to fit a mil­lion ideas into each song. It took him to come in and say: ‘No, this isn’t a song, this is a whole al­bum’ to fi­nally fo­cus our di­rec­tion.” The Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies al­bum was recorded in three stages. Ini­tially a mo­bile stu­dio from New York’s record Plant was parked up out­side the Cooper man­sion in Green­wich, Con­necti­cut, and the ba­sic back­ing tracks were laid down. Af­ter a cou­ple of months of record­ing in be­tween their myr­iad other com­mit­ments, the band flew to lon­don’s mor­gan Stu­dios to record over­dubs and vo­cals, then re­turned to the record Plant for mix­ing. the mor­gan Stu­dio ses­sions in lon­don soon played host to drunken, af­ter­hours jams fea­tur­ing some of the great­est – and in­deed the most in­dul­gent – stars of the day.

“We had ac­cess to a lot of the stars here,” Alice re­mem­bers. “In fact, t.rex, Dono­van, Harry Nils­son, ringo Starr and Keith moon are all on that al­bum some­where, but none of us know where be­cause the ses­sion was so drunken.”

“Keith moon would come down with marc Bolan,” Neal re­calls. “Alice, me, Keith and marc were sit­ting at a ta­ble one time when marc kept on push­ing at Keith to be in a band with him, which was so funny be­cause I couldn’t imag­ine a worse com­bi­na­tion of two mu­si­cians.”

“Harry Nils­son had a re­ally neg­a­tive ef­fect on the ses­sion,” Den­nis says. “We could’ve got a lot of great things out of that group of in­di­vid­u­als jam-wise, or even for use on the al­bum, if Harry hadn’t been there, fall­ing drunk on to the mix­ing board. He could hardly walk, but he’d sit at the pi­ano and out would come this beau­ti­ful voice and melody. I never fig­ured how he could do that.”

Also present at the ses­sions were a pair of ses­sion gui­tarist col­leagues of Bob Ezrin: Dick Wag­ner and Steve Hunter who, un­known to many con­tem­po­rary fans, were of­ten called in to cover for an in­creas­ingly ail­ing and er­ratic Glen Bux­ton.

“Steve and Dick were def­i­nitely on the al­bum,” Alice says. “We weren’t go­ing to pre­tend Glen was play­ing every­thing, and be phoney about it, so we gave them a credit. later on I used them ex­clu­sively for Wel­come To My Night­mare.”

“We knew Dick from michi­gan,” michael says. “there were al­ways mu­si­cians that were bet­ter than us in ev­ery stu­dio we went. If a li­brary doesn’t have the book you want, you just go to an­other li­brary. We’d al­ready used Dick on School’s Out and Un­der My Wheels.”

While in lon­don the band were pho­tographed by David Bai­ley for the in­ner sleeve of Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies. It pre­sented yet an­other golden op­por­tu­nity to taunt their le­gion of apoplec­tic de­trac­tors, and the band rose to the chal­lenge. Dressed in di­aphanous white silk and sur­rounded by stacks of cash, the mu­si­cians casually ca­ress al­bino bunny rab­bits, as their singer presents to the cam­era a baby, naked ex­cept for a splat­ter­ing of trade­mark Alice Cooper eye make-up.

“Any chance we got to ex­ag­ger­ate any­thing, we did it,” Alice says when con­sid­er­ing the cover de­sign of Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies. “We made a giant, bil­lion­aire’s wal­let, and in­side it there was a bil­lion-dol­lar bill: very Amer­i­can; every­thing big and ex­pen­sive. And we used the best pho­tog­ra­pher, the guy we were sure was the guy in [1966 movie] Blow-Up, be­cause we thought there was go­ing to be models lay­ing naked around the place… and there were a few.

“We brought in a mil­lion dol­lars of real money! two guys with ma­chine-guns were guard­ing it! Every­thing we did was overblown and the Bri­tish au­di­ence loved it. they loved this big Amer­i­can band that the mPs just hated. the fact we were flaunt­ing it was even bet­ter, be­cause we suf­fered so much at the hands of the press.”

“that cover shoot is a recre­ation of one we did for Love It To Death,” Den­nis points out. “We brought a pho­tog­ra­pher into the farm we had in Pon­tiac, put a bed in the liv­ing room and posed with some rab­bits that my wife Cindy had. Of course, we didn’t have the mil­lion dol­lars then. In fact, those shots never got used be­cause we couldn’t af­ford to pay the pho­tog­ra­pher’s bills.”

Prior to the re­lease of Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies, a pro­mo­tional flexi-disc sin­gle was given away with the New Mu­si­cal Ex­press. the B-side was short ex­cerpts from the al­bum, while the A-side boasted the ex­clu­sive track Slick Black Limou­sine.

“that was one of the few songs we had lay­ing around,” Neal ex­plains. “It was sup­posed to be an Elvis Pres­ley, rock’n’roll kind of thing, but in the end it got more Alice Cooper-ish, with rolling drums and dark psychedelics.”

re­leased in march 1973, Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies en­tered the UK chart at No.1, de­spite be­ing crit­i­cally cru­ci­fied for its ap­par­ent lack of taste. Within days, and with the band al­ready out on the road pro­mot­ing it to the hilt with their soon-to-be record-break­ing Bil­lion Dol­lar

Ba­bies Show, the al­bum had repli­cated that chart-top­ping achieve­ment in the USA.

the press were in melt­down. Just four days into the tour, Melody Maker an­nounced that Alice had been killed due to a fa­tal mal­func­tion dur­ing his I Love The Dead guil­lo­tine fi­nale. Al­most as soon as this story was ad­judged to be false, yet an­other ur­ban myth had ar­rived to take its place: ap­par­ently the baby in the B$B cover shot had been ren­dered blind by in­cau­tiously ap­plied eye make-up. Ob­vi­ously it hadn’t. The Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies Show may have been the largest-gross­ing rock tour in the his­tory of mankind, but it was also one of the most gru­elling. Fly­ing from city to city for months on end is one thing, but be­ing be­headed twice a night is some­thing else en­tirely.

“WE WERE VOTED BEST BAND IN THE

WORLD OVER THE BEA­TLES”

ALICE COOPER FOUND THE WHOLE SIT­U­A­TION HI­LAR­I­OUS

“When you’re sell­ing out six nights a week to 15,000 peo­ple a night, you feel no pain,” Alice ex­plains. “But un­der­neath I was erod­ing. You couldn’t tell by the show, or by my per­son­al­ity, but ev­ery night the al­co­hol be­came a lit­tle bit more like medicine and a lit­tle less like fun.

“By the time I was do­ing …Night­mare I was ready to die, go into hospi­tal or have a ner­vous break­down. Ev­ery time I saw my cos­tume I would al­most start cry­ing and al­most throw up.”

“the tour was hor­ren­dous,” mike gri­maces.

“It was sup­posed to be 60 dates in 90 days, but I think it ended up at al­most 80.”

“You’re push­ing your­self on ex­haus­tion,” Den­nis adds. ”You’d be lucky to get to bed by 4am, then you’d have to get up to catch an early flight or drive to the next city. But Alice and I were long-dis­tance run­ners – that’s how we met – so we had this keep-go­ing-at-all-costs men­tal­ity that pulled us through some sit­u­a­tions where a lot of other bands would have given up.”

“It was gru­elling,” Neal con­cludes, “but it wasn’t un­bear­able. We lived for the road.”

And, of course, road-life had its mo­ments. “the groupie scene was be­yond any­thing you can imag­ine,” Alice leers. “Now it’s just fat guys mov­ing amps, but back in the 70s you’d see any­thing. It was the golden age of deca­dence.”

Of course, over the years Alice Cooper has ceased to be per­ceived as a band at all, and is now pop­u­larly con­sid­ered to be an on­stage per­sona adopted by the artist for­merly known as Vince Furnier – a mr Hyde-styled al­ter ego so im­mensely dom­i­nant that it’s all too easy to for­get that Vince’s golf-lov­ing Doc­tor Jekyll even ex­ists.

Al­though the former Furnier re­tains ex­clu­sive cus­tody of the lu­cra­tive Cooper brand, the ac­tual de­vel­op­ment of the finer points of the Alice Cooper char­ac­ter was very much a team ef­fort.

“Alice came up with the name,” Den­nis says. “It shocked me when he sug­gested it, but when I ran it by my par­ents and saw their mouths drop open I knew it was the name for us. the make-up was my idea, the snake Neal’s idea, and the ex­e­cu­tions were band ideas.

“the Alice char­ac­ter was born of necessity; in the early days of Pret­ties For You Alice was shy. He had tem­po­rary stage fright, where he’d stand with his back to the au­di­ence for the whole set, and we weren’t sure what to do about it. then at one re­hearsal, when the band was still starv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, I sug­gested that he de­velop a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter for each song, be­cause he didn’t have a prob­lem when he was on­stage be­ing Keith relf or mick Jag­ger, it was only when we started do­ing orig­i­nal ma­te­rial he was at a loss as to who he was and what he wanted to project.

“So dur­ing No­body Likes Me he was a lone­some guy singing through a win­dow; for Levity Ball a kind of Glo­ria Swan­son, Sun­set Boule­vard char­ac­ter that de­vel­oped into a strong part of the Alice Cooper per­sona. We had a song called Fields Of Re­gret that had this sort of dirge-like ser­mon in the mid­dle that I think was in­flu­enced by Alice’s fa­ther be­ing a min­is­ter, but Alice be­came this darker, more sin­is­ter char­ac­ter for that par­tic­u­lar song. And peo­ple loved it, so I said: ‘We should write more songs that have that char­ac­ter in them.’ It didn’t hap­pen overnight, but by the time we got to Love It To Death that con­cept of the Alice char­ac­ter had taken root.”

Alice, mean­while, ra­tio­nalises it by say­ing: “Alice came out be­cause there were all these Pe­ter Pans and no Cap­tain Hook.”

He says he based Alice’s sin­gu­lar sense of style on Anita Pal­len­berg’s sadis­ti­cally se­duc­tive char­ac­ter in cult fan­tasy Bar­barella: “I saw the Black Queen and went: ‘that’s Alice! Black gloves with switch­blades, black make-up, eye­patch… that is so good. then I’d see some­thing else in a comic book, and as I stitched all these char­ac­ters to­gether, pretty soon there he was.”

Sur­pris­ingly, Alice Cooper were never per­ceived as a drug band. “We were way too Amer­i­can,” Alice in­sists. “too mid-West and too whole­some. We drank, watched foot­ball, base­ball and hor­ror movies, called our moms, had thanks­giv­ing din­ner and were all-Amer­i­can, home­spun guys. All on the track team, cross­coun­try team, let­ter­men, church on Sun­day…”

OK enough al­ready. But is Alice’s mem­ory en­tirely re­li­able?

“Put it this way,” says Neal, “Alice is the one who went through re­hab. michael, Den­nis, Glen and I all tried every­thing that was around.

You didn’t have to buy it – it was just there. But I never liked any­thing as much as drink­ing beer, and we prob­a­bly con­sumed more al­co­hol than any other band on the planet.”

Alice had started drink­ing in lA and had drunk con­stantly ever since. He and Glen would rou­tinely split a case of beer a day, and Alice would never take to the stage with less than a six-pack in­side of him. luck­ily, he was a ‘func­tional’ drinker.

“I could get up, drink beer all day, but when it came to in­ter­views I would never slur a word and when it came time to do tV I knew ev­ery line.”

“Alice was a pro­fes­sional drunk,” mike agrees. “He was al­ways where he was needed to be, and never com­plained. So it was a bit of a shock when he spoke of his al­co­holism. He was al­ways re­ally thin and ghastly look­ing, so it didn’t sink in.”

But while Alice had his drink­ing un­der some de­gree of con­trol, the same could not be said for Glen. “Every­body was wor­ried about him,”

“BY THE TIME I WAS DO­ING …NIGHT­MARE I WAS READY TO DIE” ALICE SUF­FERED FROM MA­JOR BURNOUT AF­TER A GRU­ELLING TOUR SCHED­ULE

Alice has said. “He was just not pro­gress­ing. Every­body seemed to be get­ting bet­ter at what they were do­ing and Glen just wanted to have his drink, his cig­a­rette and just kind of float.”

Shortly be­fore the Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies tour, Glen’s overindul­gence caused his pan­creas to ‘ex­plode’. Fol­low­ing emer­gency, life-sav­ing surgery, the gui­tarist re­turned to Con­necti­cut to re­cu­per­ate. With reg­u­lar sub­sti­tute Dick Wag­ner un­avail­able, gui­tarist mick mash­bir and key­board player Bob Dolan were brought in to paste over gap­ing cracks in the band’s live sound.

the bat­tery-recharg­ing sab­bat­i­cals en­joyed by to­day’s stars were not an op­tion in the 70s, and con­se­quently the de­bil­i­tated Alice Cooper were soon back on the record­ing tread­mill. But on this oc­ca­sion, not only was Glen’s con­tri­bu­tion se­ri­ously be­low par, but Bob Ezrin – who had al­ready com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing lou reed’s Berlin – was also out of the equa­tion. As a re­sult, Mus­cle Of Love – the ea­gerly awaited fol­low-up to Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies – was a com­mer­cial, as well as cre­ative, catas­tro­phe. rel­a­tively speak­ing, of course – it still shifted 800,000 copies.

But the band should have been pre­pared for the worst – they had been warned.

“Bob heard the songs and went: ‘Guys, this isn’t up to par’,” Alice ad­mits. “It was a per­fect ex­am­ple of a band be­ing over-con­fi­dent. the songs were OK, but put them all to­gether and it didn’t work.”

“We sim­ply wanted to do an al­bum of great songs,” Neal shrugs. “We’d also heard that there was a new James Bond movie com­ing up, so we wrote The Man With The Golden Gun for that (it was passed over in favour of lulu). the ma­jor dif­fer­ence with Mus­cle Of Love was that as it wasn’t a con­cept al­bum, we didn’t have a show based around it. the pre­vi­ous four had all come with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing stage show. I guess we just couldn’t fig­ure out an­other way to kill Alice.”

“Glen’s prob­lems took pri­or­ity,” Den­nis adds, “so we weren’t able to work on songs as we had be­fore. We had dif­fer­ent mu­si­cians com­ing in, and the al­bum sounded much more safe be­cause Bob wasn’t there. He’d al­ways been very tol­er­ant of my in­ter­est in push­ing the avant garde, but that’s not re­ally Jack richard­son’s style.”

“As a pro­ducer, Jack richard­son was about as close as you could get to a Bob Ezrin,” mike of­fers. “He also came from Nim­bus 9 Pro­duc­tions in Canada, and had even en­gi­neered a cou­ple of our pre­vi­ous al­bums along­side Bob. It wasn’t as much a mat­ter of what went wrong with Mus­cle Of Love as what didn’t go right.

“We’d in­sisted on packaging it in a card­board car­ton; that was an­other prob­lem. When we toured it there was a truck­ers’ strike, so we couldn’t use our nor­mal stage set; we would of­ten just turn up and play.”

With their lead gui­tarist plum­met­ing into obliv­ion and their sales fig­ures ap­par­ently em­bark­ing on a sim­i­lar course, the Alice Cooper group de­cided to take a year-long hia­tus that has so far lasted for decades. At least that’s how three of them see it.

“the guys were tired of spend­ing all the money on the show,” Alice says. “I un­der­stand that, but it’s what got us there. And they wanted to wear levi’s. So I said: ‘If that hap­pens I can’t be part of it. I can’t be the singer in Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter.’

“In the end every­body wanted to do their own al­bum. So I went: ‘I’m go­ing to take ev­ery penny that I have and in­vest it in the next al­bum [which was Wel­come To My Night­mare]. If you thought Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies was the big­gest thing you’ve ever seen, I want this to be big­ger.’ So, wor­ried about hav­ing to watch all of their money go

down the drain, they said: ‘You’re on your own.’ So I said, ‘OK. No hard feel­ings.’ At least we knew where every­body stood. No­body ar­gued or yelled.

“So they all did their al­bums, and I took Bob Ezrin, our man­ager Shep Gor­don and said, ‘let’s roll the dice. We’re ei­ther go­ing to be to­tally broke af­ter this or we’re go­ing to be re­ally, re­ally big.’ And that’s when I started writ­ing …Night­mare with Dick Wag­ner.”

“It’s not true,” Den­nis in­sists. “mike, Neal and I did the Bat­tle Axe show [billing them­selves as Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies] af­ter that, and I think spent more on that than we had on the pre­vi­ous Alice Cooper tour. So no, that wasn’t the rea­son at all. I also hate that spin about how we re­fused to wear stage cos­tumes. Who’d be­lieve that? Just walk­ing down the street we looked more out­ra­geous than most bands.

“I didn’t like the idea of bring­ing in schooled dancers. I thought it would make the show too slick and take away the raw edge that was our power. Nei­ther did I like the idea of big, fluffy mon­sters; I wanted some­thing more gritty – the chopped-up mannequin ap­proach.”

“Well, Alice says that stuff,” mike says, “and it’s like he be­lieves it so much that it’s be­come his re­al­ity. But no, it wasn’t that the band didn’t want a stage show, we just wanted to tone it down a lit­tle, make it funkier. We had also been tour­ing to the point where we needed to back off on the throt­tle. the road had taken its toll; phys­i­cally speak­ing, our cheques were cashed and the bank was no­ti­fied.”

“We had come back from Europe,” Neal says. “And be­cause michael had some ma­te­rial that he wanted to record him­self, we all de­cided to take a year off to do our var­i­ous solo projects. michael did In My Own Way, I did Plat­inum God and Alice did Wel­come To My Night­mare. Alice found suc­cess on his own with …Night­mare and, what with the con­tin­u­ing Glen sit­u­a­tion, we never got back to­gether again.”

Have the former Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies been left har­bour­ing re­grets? Well, some more than oth­ers.

“I would’ve loved to have con­tin­ued with the band,” Neal ad­mits. “I wish that af­ter we’d done our solo projects we’d have hon­oured what we’d stated and got­ten back to­gether to record the ninth Alice Cooper al­bum. And who knows, maybe we will one day.”

“If I had to do it over again,” michael re­flects, “I’d prob­a­bly try to keep it go­ing longer.”

“I wish we’d recorded more,” Den­nis laughs. “We never had a tape recorder, so we lost a lot of good songs sim­ply by for­get­ting how they went.”

“DID WE SHOOT SOME­BODY AND BURY THEM? I HAVE NO IDEA”

ALICE AND STEVE TYLER HAVE HAD SOME WILD TIMES. PITY THEY CAN’T RE­MEM­BER THEM

“I wish I’d seen a bit more of those days sober,” Alice con­fesses, “so I could re­mem­ber more. Ev­ery once in a while I’ll get a flash­back, be­cause that’s all I can re­mem­ber: I was driv­ing, Steven tyler had a gun and we were on some mis­sion. We ended up at my house, but all I re­mem­ber is a rolls-royce, tyler, a gun and a lot of al­co­hol. Did we shoot some­one and bury them? I’ve no idea.” Iron­i­cally, while Glen’s death from pneu­mo­nia in Oc­to­ber ’97 ren­dered a fully fledged Alice Cooper re­union im­pos­si­ble, it may well have made it eas­ier for the four sur­viv­ing mem­bers to re­group. the band was as much Glen’s as it was any­body’s, and while he was not in any con­di­tion to tour, for his band­mates to have re­united with­out him would have been un­think­able. Now that their former spar­ring part­ner has been laid to rest, ar­guably there’s re­ally no ob­sta­cle to the quar­tet shar­ing the same stage once more. In fact they’ve al­ready done so: at Alice’s Coop­er­stown restau­rant in Phoenix dur­ing the sec­ond an­nual Glen Bux­ton me­mo­rial Week­end in 1999.

So could that dé­tente be­tween michael, Alice, Den­nis and Neal ul­ti­mately de­velop into some­thing a lit­tle more sub­stan­tial?

“I’d work with those guys in a sec­ond,” Alice as­serts, be­fore stip­u­lat­ing, “if it was the right project. I don’t know how we could ever do it au­then­ti­cally with­out Glen. mike… [Alice sucks thought­fully on a tooth] Well, Neal and Den­nis are easy. they both still play great, but I don’t know if they could do an en­tire tour. I mean, I’m in re­ally good shape, but we’re not 28 any more.”

“I can’t say whether it’ll hap­pen,” Neal says. “If it does, it’ll be some­thing that all four of us will de­cide upon. It won’t be Alice say­ing, ‘Hey, guys, let’s get to­gether.’ If that time ever does come, there would be no­body hap­pier than me.” “I said to Shep Gor­don on the night that I played on School’s Out with Alice at Wem­b­ley in 2002,” michael re­calls, “that it would be nice if we got to­gether to redo the Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies Show for Europe – do the songs on the same stage set, with mick mash­bir and Bob Dolan. We never toured Europe with that show.

“I’d love to see some­thing hap­pen, but it’s up to Alice to put it into his game plan. the im­pact of any­thing that we did would be most felt by him. If it were a suc­cess the crit­ics would say he should’ve done it sooner, and if it were a fail­ure it would be, ‘So, you don’t have it any more, huh?’ So I guess he’s be­tween a rock and a hard place.”

“Well,” Den­nis con­cludes with a sigh, “Neal and I have been mak­ing that of­fer to Alice for 30 years now. He was sup­posed to sing on the Bat­tle Axe al­bum, but we couldn’t get a re­turn phone call. It’s cer­tainly not michael, Neal or

I, or even Glen, that have kept this band from ever get­ting back to­gether. that part I know.”

Alice Cooper and pho­tog­ra­pher David Bai­ley at the Bil­lion Dol­lar Ba­bies pho­to­shoot in 1973. We’re pleased to re­port baby lola Pfeif­fer was not blinded by her eye make-up

We’re now used to see­ing Alice with snakes, but in the 70s it was shock­ing. Here he is in 1972, sport­ing a rather fetch­ing 11-foot boa con­stric­tor…

Drink­ing bud­dies John len­non, Harry Nils­son, Alice Cooper and the mon­kees’ micky Dolenz cel­e­brate an early thanks­giv­ing with singer Anne mur­ray in Novem­ber 1973

Alice Cooper (left to right): Neal Smith, Alice Cooper, michael Bruce, Den­nis Du­n­away and Glen Bux­ton at a press launch in Chess­ing­ton Zoo, June 28, 1972

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