The first Alice Cooper album is a real oddity baring few signs of what was to come. Showing the obvious influence of both Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa (on whose label it was orginally released) it shows a band still finding its legs but there are still some great tracks on offer. 'Reflected' later became 'Elected' and was a huge hit in 1972, and 'Fields Of Regret' and 'Levity Ball' also show signs of what is to come. Not exactly essential, but certainly not as bad as some people claim. Dennis Dunaway has mentioned in the past that as possibly his favourite Alice Cooper record.


Released: Around June 25th 1969

Track listing

  1. Titanic Overture(1:09)
  2. 10 Minutes Before the Worm(1:27)
  3. Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio(5:33)
  4. Today Mueller (1:38)
  5. Living (3:02)
  6. Fields Of Regret (5:36)
  7. No Longer Umpire (1:54)
  8. Levity Ball (Live At the Cheetah) (4:23)
  9. B. B. On Mars (1:08)
  10. Reflected (3:10)
  11. Apple Bush (2:57)
  12. Earwigs to Eternity(1:14)
  13. Changing, Arranging(2:58)

Music, Lyrics and Arrangements by Alice Cooper (the group)

Musicians

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals and Harmonica
  • Neal Smith - Drums and Vocals
  • Dennis Dunaway - Bass and Vocals
  • Glen Buxton - Lead Guitar
  • Michael Bruce - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Piano and Organ

Sleeve Notes

Originally released by Frank Zappa's Straight Records
Produced By Alice Cooper (refering to the Group, although it was effectively produced Ian Underwood and Herb Cohen)
Cover Painting By Ed Beardsley
Photography by Ed Caraeff
Design by John Williams
Recorded at Whitney Studios, Burbank, California over just two nights.

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

'Pretties For You', the first album to be released under the name Alice Cooper, bares little relationship to the bands more famous works. It's a product of it's time (the late 60s) and a little all over the place, but it reflects what the band sounded like at this point, especially as it was basically recorded live!

Alice Cooper and Frank ZappaThe band came into contact with the legendary Frank Zappa in 1968 through friendship with the all-girl group 'The GTOs', basically a band of groupies in Zappa's social circle. Alice was seeing GTO Miss Christine (Christine Frka) who also doubled as an occasional babysitter for the Zappas. The band hassled her to get them in to meet her boss and eventually she agreed.

An 'audition' was set up at Frank's home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles and the well known story follows that the band thought the audition was early in the morning (9AM says Dennis), but what Zappa had actually said to come over in the evening. So at the crack of dawn the band dragged all their gear up to the Zappa home, set up (Dennis says it was outside Zappa's bedroom, Zappa claims it was in the basement), and started to play. Zappa emerged from a deep sleep and told them to come back later once he'd had time to wake up. A little later he returned, listened to them for a while, and said he'd come to see them live. This basic story is told by all concerned including Zappa himself in a 70s TV interview (YouTube).

Good to his word, Zappa did go to see the band play. Most stories say it was at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go club, although Zappa mentions the band opened for him a few times with similar results. This story follows that the room was full of hippies when the band arrived on stage, but by the time they finished the club was empty with only Zappa, Shep Gordon and Miss Christine (Alice sometimes adds Jimi Hendrix to the story) still watching them play. Zappa knew they had something (he didn`t know what it was, but it was something) and signed them to his 'Straight Records' label.

The band looked forward to recording their first album under the guidance of Zappa, someone the admired a great deal, but it didn't turn out quite the way they expected. Zappa was apparently barely present during the short sessions, instead leaving the actual production work to Ian Underwood, a member of Zappa's band. The band proceeded to run through the songs (a week? a couple of days? stories differ) ready for the actual recording when Zappa reputably appeared declaring the sessions done and that the album would be ready in a week! Members of the band pointed out that there were mistakes that needed to be repaired but Zappa's just said "don`t worry, we'll fix it in the mix', and that was pretty much the last they heard from him...

Upon it's release, as Alice is fond of recounting, one review descibed the album as "a tragic waste of plastic...." Harsh criticism, and far from true. While not containing many traces of the sound the band would achieve a year later there are still gems here, and without it (and follow-up album 'Easy Action') we would never have had the likes of 'Killer' and 'Billion Dollar Babies'. Of course the album didn't sell that well, although it sold more then the "50 copies to friends and family" that is sometimes suggested. It shows up at #194 on the Billboard chart listing for August 2nd 1969, mostly probably sold vai the Zappa connection! A single release of 'Reflected/Living' sank without trace.

Press release from 'Gershman & Swaney' - a West Coast PR company presumably employed by Zappa or Cohen.

ALICE COOPER SIGNED TO EXCLUSIVE BIZARRE RECORDS CONTRACT - Band's First Album, Cut by Frank Zappa, To Be Released Soon

Alice Cooper, a unique rock band discovered by Frank Zappa, has been signed to an exclusive recording contract with Bizarre Records, according to the label's founders, Zappa and Herb Cohen
The band's first album, Zappa's first production outside of records by the Mothers of Invention, will be released soon It will be distributed by Reprise Records under the recently completed Bizarre-Reprise distribution agreement.
Alice Cooper's unpredictable performances -- drawing on the environment of each concert situation -- have quickly gained them notoriety (sic) on the west coast rock scene.
Other musicians have wigged out on their advanced techniques, which one critic called "simply further extension beyond the current boundaries of rock."
Their shows often include stage presentations using props and costumes but no single show is like another. Each performance is a surprise.
The band was introduced by Zappa at a Bizarre Records concert in early December on the Shrine Auditorium in L.A [note: not true]. A national promotion tour following the release of the album will be part of a thorough sales campaign by Bizarre for the group

In his first autobiography, 'Me Alice', Alice describes the making of the album:

"In November of 1971 [correction: it was late 1968 or early 1969] we recorded our first album, 'Pretties For You'. For a week straight we arrived at the studio and played through every song five or six times with Herbie Cohen and Zappa working over the levels in the control room. We thought we were just getting down to business, ready to lay the bed tracks and experiment, when Zappa walked out of the glass-enclosed booth and said, "Okay. Your album will be ready next Thursday. I said, "There are a few mistakes in that stuff. We weren't even ready to record," but he just patted me on the shoulder and said "Not to worry. Not to worry. We'll work everything out in the mix." We didn't see or hear the album until five months later."

In 2015 Dennis Dunaway told 'Village Voice'

“I think that was Alice Cooper’s most original album. We did albums after that and became more conscientious about writing songs that would be relatable to the public, but that one was unlike any other album. I don’t think we could all sit down and write another one today that would come out like that. I still have a lot of the original lyrics handwritten by the band from 'Pretties for You', and in it, lyrics evolve so much that I’ll find three different versions of the same song. One’ll be in Michael Bruce’s handwriting; one’ll be in Alice’s; and one’ll be in mine. And then when you look through them, you find that the final song had a combination of all three of those…. Things were evolving very fast with a lot of collaboration in those days. When we recorded something, it was kind of like the song continued to evolve after that, so our stage version might be slightly different than the recording.
Some of the songs, like ‘B.B. on Mars’ and ‘No Longer Umpire,’ where there are drastic tempo changes in the middle, are typically tricky because you can’t really set the tempo. The song will start off at a particular tempo, but then all of a sudden it will go off into another section where the tempo slows down radically, and then when it comes out of there, it’ll go back to the original tempo. Those things are total feelers. There’s no way that you can count it. You really have to have everybody just know the right amount to slow down and the right amount to speed back up. So those are tricky. Neal and I would just watch each other closely on those parts and managed to keep it reasonably tight.

In 1973, to cash in on Alice Cooper's success, Warner Bros in the UK released a double album package called "School Days: The Early Recordings" which featured "Easy Action" and "Pretties For You" in a cool new sleeve design.

The first song on the album, 'Titanic Overture', was recorded on a giant pipe organ [at the] Whitney Studio in Burbank, and Michael Bruce sat down and they had giant pipes inside the walls of the studio. So these big, wooden panels would open up, and then you could see the pipes in there. Glen Buxton and I went inside the wall and closed the panels when Michael was recording it. It was really loud in there. Gigantic. But the song is called ‘Titanic Overture’ because Michael imagined that this is the kind of haunting song that the organist would have been playing on the Titanic as it sank.”

In the same 'Village Voice' interview Neal Smith recalls:

“Mike Bruce, who wrote a lot of the songs on it, was our rhythm guitar player, and he’s also a good singer. He and Alice would sing different lines over the same music.
‘10 Minutes Before the Worm’ and ‘B.B. on Mars’ are a couple of the shorter ones, and I don’t think they were written like normal songs. We wanted something to be very, very different and unique… I think that was our trademark. The music changed, but still we always wanted something to be unique, and these songs were certainly unique.”

Brian Nelson, June 1995/January 1996:

"As far as where the Alice band's heads were at when they were starting (Pretties For You era), they actually thought the stuff they were doing was very commercial and couldn't understand why people weren't accepting it. Alice looks back at "Pretties" now and sees the absurdity of it, but back then they were very serious and kind of disappointed with Zappa who wanted to turn them into a comedy act and rename them 'Alice Cookies'. It did win some type of Best Album award [in Germany] at the time, but it wasn't from a particularly major committee.

'Today Mueller' was written about a friend of theirs named Michelle Mueller. She is currently a secretary still in Phoenix. Her nickname was 'TOOTIE' --thus the name Tootie Mueller. Why Alice and the band changed it from 'Tootie' to 'Today' I don't know.

"Toodie, who is always smiling, drove the Earwigs around in her baby-blue Mustang. [She was] among the first to support the band and we are still good friends." - Dennis Dunaway, January 2007

In 1998 band friend Skip Ladd recalled that "if you listen close on 'Levity Ball' you will hear a string section. Alice said the weird part about that was there was no strings in the recording session! The reel to reel tape was erased before they recorded their cut, but something that was on before bled through in the same key!"

Dennis Dunaway on '10 Minutes Before The Worm':

"Inspiration came from the old saying, The early bird gets the worm. Just how punctual was that bird? 5 minutes early? 10 minutes?"

In November 2015 New York musician Nick Didkovsky recreated 'Pretties For You' live with input from Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, the latter of which also guested during an encore. A DVD of the performance was released in 2016. Didkovsky occasionally appeared with Neal, Dennis and Michael and various events, and did a repeat performance of the album the folowing year at 'Good Records' in Texas. All this led to Didkovsky being invited to play on Alice's solo album 'Paranormal' in 2017. Didkovsky, a well know musician on the New York scene, worked hard to reproduce Glen Buxtons original guitar lines and sounds, and the results were about as close to how the original band may have sounded as is probably possible.

The Cover

Alice Cooper and Frank ZappaBrian Nelson, June 1995/January 1996:

"Yes, It was Ed Beardsley - no, he was not a shop teacher. The painting was something that Zappa had -- there are some pictures of his home where you can see the original painting in his house. It was pre-existing - not done for the cover. Originally, they attempted to use the Dali painting "Geopoliticus' Child" but were unable to secure the rights. There was a small brown sticker that covered the girl's undies on some of the early copies of 'Pretties For You'.

Back in 2003 I managed to contact Prof. Edward Beardsley about his painting and here is what he had to say:

"Yes, I am the same person who did the painting used on the Alice Cooper album, 'Pretties for You'. Actually, that was the title of the painting, which Frank Zappa then used for the album. Frank, a friend of mine, was visiting my studio one day, bought two paintings he wanted to used for album covers, one for Alice Cooper, another for the Mothers of Invention. The two paintings purchased: 'Pretties for You' and 'The Four Apostles' both ended up in Frank's home, 'Pretties For You' in the main living room, and 'Apostles' in the downstairs music studio. Who knows what happened to them after Frank's death. I'm still in touch with his brother, Bobby, but not his wife or kids.
The idea behind the painting are the dreams and regrets of old men on the occasion of their death. It was inspired by the funeral of an Italian movie director who died in '68 or '69. There was a photo layout in Life magazine, I think it was, detailing the funeral. They had photos of the old director, and I liked his look, especially his hat. I tried to imagine his thoughts at his own funeral. Death is the fate of us all, of course, and I suppose the moment defines us as human beings... given the reality, however absurd it may seem to us, that we are born only to die."

When the album was originally released there were issues around the fact the painting featured a woman showing off her underwear. Due to this some copies were "censored" by simply putting a brown sticker over the offending undies! Later copies reverted to the uncensored version.

According to Dennis Dunaway the photo on the back cover of the album was not the bands first choice. Zappa lost the original picture, making the band all very angry.

'Pretties For You' Live

Live At The Whiskey '69Very few recordings exist of the band during this period. The earliest recording is the 'Live At The Whiskey'69' which was released in 1990 by Zappa's ex-partner Herb Cohen without the bands permission. In all likelyhood the show was actually recorded on July 23rd 1968 when Alice Cooper opened for Zappa's band 'the Mothers Of Invention' at The Whiskey. Why? Firstly, Zappa's PA Pauline Butcher diary entry for July 11th suggests the band auditioned for Zappa on the 12th. Zappa himself has stated that he wanted to see them live before signing them, and lastly Zappa, famous for recording almost everything he could, definitly recorded The Mothers performance from this show. It would make sense he would record his new signing as well to listen back to later.

This recording shows that many of the tracks for what would become 'Pretties For You' were already written and ready to go. The setlist for this first recording includes:

  • No Longer Umpire
  • Today Mueller
  • 10 Minutes Before the Worm
  • Levity Ball
  • Nobody Likes Me
  • B.B. On Mars
  • Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio
  • Changing Arranging

This professionally recorded performance shows that the band were extremely well rehearsed by this stage of their career. They are amazingly tight through all the twisted time changes, but then they had been playing together for some years by this point. Alice was still introducing songs during the show ("this song is about Tootie Mueller, that's a girl from Phoenix... Arizona. She's a lotta fun..."), something he would later stop doing as the 'Alice Cooper' character developed. You can also hear Alice flirting with sexuallity, saying to one audience member "Is that a pistol in your pocket, big boy, or are you just happy to see me' Mae West style.
Listening to the recording it's maybe hard to understand quite why the band were supposedly so hated in LA at the time, but maybe that's due to our familiarity with the songs. A drugged out hippie coming face to face with the androgynous 5-piece for the first time, expecting a blonde folk singer, would very likely head for the doors holding their head in confusion. The feathers, chickens and fire extingishers probably didn't help either...

The next recording is from the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on March 30th 1969. Presumably this would have taken place between recording the album and it actually being released. Considering it's age the sound quality on the audience tape is surprisingly good. The track listing of the tape is as follows:

  • No Longer Umpire
  • Reflected
  • 10 Minutes Before the Worm
  • Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio
  • B.B. On Mars
  • Fields Of Regret
  • Nobody Likes Me
  • Don't Blow Your Mind

Dennis has suggested that 'Fields Of Regret' was an important song for the band, being a germ for the idea of the 'Alice Cooper' character that would be fully formed by 'Love It To Death'. In fact the song was actually demoed for possible re-recording for that album but the idea was dropped.

Nobody Likes UsThe final recording was later in the year when the band played the 'Toronto Rock And Roll Revival' on September 13th, the infamous 'chicken show'. This has been around for decades on literally hundreds of unofficial releases normally with incorrect track listings. The only correct version was released on the 'Apple Bush' label in 2014 (with the Avalon Ballroom tape above added as a bonus) and listed the following tracks:

  • Intro - No Longer Umpire
  • Lay Down And Die, Goodbye
  • Fields Of Regret
  • Nobody Likes Me
  • Don't Blow Your Mind (i. Neal Smith Solo ii. Prisoner iii. Animal Pyjamas iv. Don't Blow Your Mind (Reprise)

It's likely the band also played a variety of non-album or cover tracks in the early days depending on the type of show they were playing and how long they got to play. Songs such as "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye" and a reworked "Don't Blow Your Mind" were culled from early 45 RPM singles recorded by the band in Phoenix before they were known as Alice Cooper. The unreleased song, "Nobody Likes Me", would later be issued as a flexidisc on the back of the band's first tourbook (for the 'Killer' tour).