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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

HELLO HURRAY

In 1975, Vincent Furnier, aka Alice Cooper, split the band. For ten years Alice had fronted a band that at first was called The Spiders - a band formed by high school buddies in Arizona that re-located to L.A. in the late sixties. There they changed the name to Alice Cooper, and Vince took the name for his own as well. They gigged and offended as much as they entertained, which brought them to the attention of Frank Zappa who signed them to his Bizzare label and released two LPs, 'Pretties For You' and 'Easy Action'.

Sunny L.A. just wasn't the launching pad that they needed, so in 1969 they relocated to Detroit, home of the Stooges and the MC5, and a scene that was more appropriate for the band. On the strength of their performance at a Toronto festival they inked a deal with Warner Brothers, and were assigned newcomer Bob Ezrin as their producer, and the hits just poured out from classic LPs 'Love It To Death', 'Killer', 'School's Out', and 'Billion Dollar Babies'.

When the band got together for the recording of 1974's 'Muscle of Love' record, it was obvious to Bob Ezrin and manager Shep Gordon that the constant touring and recording schedule of the past four years had left them with a disfunctional band of alcoholics that were barely able to make a record. Session players were hired, the record got made, and then a decision was made to make a solo act out of Alice. The thought being one alcoholic was easier to deal with than five, and since he was the frontman, and had the name, Alice Cooper ceased to be a band, and became a man.

Bob got to work, brought in Tony Levin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, and a host of other notable session guys, and in 1975 they released 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Alice's desire to bring theater into rock was fully realized, and the record was perfect for the type of stage show Alice had always wanted. Alice Cooper Phase 3 had begun.

1976 brought us 'Goes To Hell', another great piece of concept theater rock recorded by the same team as 'Welcome To My Nightmare', now called the Hollywood Vampires.

The next year the team assembled, but Alice was in bad shape, and consequently 'Lace and Whiskey' falls short of the mark. A Vegas style tour followed that Alice barely remembers. His lifestyle had taken over. He was cracking up. A full-blown alcoholic, and unable to discern Vince from Alice.

In 1978 he checked himself into a looney bin. Betty Ford type clinics weren't the rage they are today, and Alice fully thought himself mad anyway.

His experience in the nut house became the fodder for his next record.

Since Bob's main client has gone batty on him, he had committed himself to work on Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' and wasn't available for what would become Alice's greatest miss - 'From the Inside'. Produced by David Foster, 'From the Inside' is a masterwork, part penned by Bernie Taupin, who can't remember the project due to his own struggle with the bottle.

This last record in Alice's 4th phase seems to have been lost in time, but it's point of view is singular in the Alice cannon. For the first- and only time he was dealing with reality, the subject matter actually happened, the cast of characters that appear throughout the song cycle were real people he observed on the inside.

There was a hit single - 'How You Gonna See Me Now', but the album didn't sell well, and during the time of Frampton, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac type sales, it was seen as a failure.

Alice soon relapsed, and began Phase 5. Punk had happened, and it had morphed into New Wave and Synth Pop - Alice had something to say about that.

1980's 'Flush the Fashion' began a string of records that featured Alice taking a new tack. It's hard to tell if he was embracing these new musical styles, or spoofing them, all I know is I bought these records, and I love them.

'Flush the Fashion', 'Special Forces', Zipper Catches Skin' and 'DaDa' (featuring the return of Ezrin), didn't sell well, and are difficult to find these days, but are well worth the effort, as this is the last Phase of Alice that is fresh and honest.

Sometime after 'Special Forces' Alice got sober for good, and in 1984, with the release of 'DaDa' Alice's contract at Warner Bros. was up.

He wasn't asked back.

The newly sober Alice moved to Arizona, picked up golf, and chilled for a couple years before staging a shameless comeback that featured a 'keeping up with the jonses' hair metal style band, and weak material.

Phase 6 - these are the records I didn't buy.

'Constrictor', ' and 'Raise Your Fist and Yell' were laughable, but oddly successful. On the Metal scene Alice was a God, worshipped by the likes of Slash and other contemporary rockers of the time. The kids showed up at the shows, and bought the records.

Then Alice committed the greatest crime of all - he sold out.

In 1989 he released 'Trash'. Largely written by others, the material was an obvious bandwagon hop. It's sad that he felt he had to compete with the very people who he had influenced during the 70's. It's also sad that 'Trash' featured the biggest hit Alice had had in ten years - 'Poison'.

I'm sure you remember the video.

He followed that up with 91's 'Hey Stoopid' (same crap), took some time off, played golf, appeared in 'Wayne's World', and then in 1994, he released 'The Last Temptation of Alice', a much improved record that predictably didn't sell.

Phase 7 - He's baaaack.

In 2000 Alice put out 'Brutal Planet' and hit the road with a band of youngsters that played the old Alice the way it was meant to be played. I saw that tour, as I would the next five. This period of Alice's recorded output shows him taking on the Trent Reznors and Al Jourgensens of the world, but done Alice style. It wasn't 1973 again by any means, but it sure beat the shit out of the eighties.

'Dragontown' followed, then 'The Eyes of Alice Cooper', and in 2005 'Dirty Diamonds' - a reasonably successful attempt to bring back the old Alice sound.

As I said, I went to see Alice every year, and the shows were amazing. Truly.

Maybe it was the golf.........

Comments:
One of my best 'foot-in-mouth' moments...
We met Dennis Dunaway in his video rental store in the 80's... He was a very cool guy...really WAY too friendly....
As a clueless youngster I decided to tell him my favorite bassline from his time with Alice...
oi....
Anyway... I started talking about the cool rolling glissando bassline on "Muscle of Love" and he looked disgusted... Now I am not sure if that was because he thought it was a thowaway shitty thing on a record he didnt like, or if he didnt even play on the track... I have always hoped for the former.
 
Alice has some decent love on iTunes (other than the fact that too many songs are mis-named...dopey)
I did a search for "Clones (we're all) and the song with that name is actually "You and Me" ...oops.
I did find 3 covers of "Clones", though...
1. Smashing Pumpkins
2. Penal Colony
3. Bile
I listened to a few seconds of the Pumpkins version and ...feh.
What are the tunes to DL off of DaDa and Zipper? Or are they full length album experiences?
It looks like iTunes changes the track order on some of the albums too... Wasnt "Talk Talk" the first track on FTF? They have track 1 as "Aspirin Damage"
Perhaps I am high.
I have fond remembrances of "Special Forces" most likely due to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center show (who warmed up?) "Seven & Seven Is", "Prettiest Cop On The Block", and "Who Do You Think We Are" were fun to hear again.
 
DaDa has some okay tunes, 'Former Lee Warner', 'Is Dis Love or Is Dis Lexia', but the standout tune is 'I Love America' - "I love that mountain with the four big heads, I love velveeta slapped on Wonder bread, I love a commie if he's good and dead...."

'Zipper' has only three real good tunes, but they are awesome; 'Adaptable', 'I Like Girls', and 'Remarkably Inscincere' - if you can't find them, I'll make some MP4's and send them to ya.
 
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