The second Alice Cooper group album and things were starting to come together, although it would take a few more months before they really hit their stride with 'Love It To Death'. Many people, including Alice, often dismiss the first two Cooper albums which is a shame, as while not sounding like the later material they have a lot to offer. 'Below Your Means' is an epic and 'Mr and MisDemeanor' has all the swagger of later Cooper classics. While not a place to start an Alice Cooper collection, 'Easy Action' should certainly not be ignored.


Released: March 1970

Track listing

  1. Mr And MisDemeanor(3:20)
  2. Shoe Salesman(2:33)
  3. Still No Air(2:30)
  4. Below Your Means (6:50)
  5. Return Of The Spiders (For Gene Vincent) (4:25)
  6. Laughing At Me (2:16)
  7. Refridgerator Haven (2:17)
  8. Beautiful Flyaway (3:00)
  9. Lay Down And Die, Goodbye (7:30)

Music, Lyrics and Arrangements by Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith

Musicians

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Neal Smith - Drums and Vocals
  • Dennis Dunaway - Bass and Vocals
  • Glen Buxton - Lead Guitar
  • Michael Bruce - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Piano and Organ
  • David Briggs - Piano on 'Shoe Salesman'

Sleeve Notes

Originally released by Frank Zappa's Straight Records
Produced By David Briggs for Alive Productions
Executive Producer: Herb Cohen
Engineer: Barry Keene
Art Direction: John Williams
Photos: Lorrie Sullivan
Recorded at Sunset Studios, Hollywood, CA

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

Alice Cooper - Easy Action Period
Alice Cooper 1970
By late 1969 Alice Cooper were heading back to the studio with a handful of songs but virtually no money. What they did have was a proper producer in David Briggs, who had been working with Neil Young. Unfortunatly Briggs wasn't exactly enamoured with his new charges. According to Neal Smith:
"David hated our music and us. I recall the term that he used, referring to our music, was 'Psychedelic Shit'. I think Easy Action sounded too dry, more like a TV or radio commercial and he did not help with song arrangement or positive input in any way."

In 2012 Dennis Dunaway agrees:

"David certainly did NOT relate to us, but he wasn’t alone because nobody could relate to us in Hollywood, we were kind of like the laughingstock of the town. We were so crazy that people would be afraid to admit it if they even came to see us and if they did come they would just yell insults and leave (laughs)."

Dennis Dunaway in 2016:

When we did the 'Easy Action' album, we had just started to focus on going in that direction with our songwriting when we got pulled into the studio pre-maturely. We went into the studio with half an album at best and the rest was just kind of knocking it out any way we could think of and coming up with something on the spot which isn’t the best way to do an album, for us anyway.

The album title came from 'West Side Story', a firm favourite with the band which would be plundered again later on the 'School's Out' album. In the film version, during the song 'Cool' [Youtube], the two rival street gangs face off and the character of 'Ice' is trying to cool them down. 'Action' tries to attack but 'Ice' pulls him back against a car saying "Easy Action!". The film and album title are referenced during 'Still No Air' which also features the "when your a jet" lines from another of the films songs 'Jet'. 'Cool' was the inspiration for something that appears at the end of 'Grand Finale' on 'School's Out'. At the end of the instrumental song the band shout "Pow!" similar to the way 'Cool' finishes. Of course 'School's Out' also included 'Gutter Cats vs The Jets', itself based on 'West Side Story', which also includes the "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way" lines from 'Jet'.

Dennis Dunaway:

"For the cover of Easy Action, the photo of the band facing away was Neal's idea. It proved to be very effective for emphasizing our androgynous look, especially since nobody had ever seen anything like that before.

In later years manager Shep Gordon has suggested Straight records refused to use the final production tapes for 'Easy Action' and instead used the bands own rehearsal tapes for the final cut.(source?).

On the original vinyl album cover the last two tracks are listed in reverse order with 'Beautiful Flyaway' listed as closing the album. It doesn't.

A review in 'Village Voice' complained the album featured "tuneless singing, tuneless playing, tuneless tunes, and pseudo-musique concrete."

'Easy Action' didn't break the Billboard top 200. 'Shoe Salesman' was released as a single, with 'Return Of The Spiders' on the flip side, but unsurprisingly didn't sell well either.

Rolling Stone Advert for Easy Action
Rolling Stones advert for 'Easy Action'.

The lead vocal on 'Beautiful Flyaway' and 'Below Your Means' are mainly sung by Michael Bruce, with Alice on backing vocals.

Dennis Dunaway in 2012:

"Alice wrote 'Shoe Salesman' with an evident double en-tender lyric about a dealer. Glen was pretty faithful to Alice's original acoustic guitar part on that, as well as on 'Laughing at Me'. 'Beautiful Flyaway' was Michael's piano tune, which I've always loved. He reminded me of a little Mozart brat when he was recording it. Michael is singing and playing piano on 'Beautiful Flyaway'. David Briggs played piano on 'Shoe Salesman' which was one of the welcome few times he seemed to care about the sessions."

'Lucky Luciano', who appears in the lyrics to 'Mr. and Misdemeanor', was an Italian-American mobster and crime boss. He was convicted for "compulsory prostitution" and running a prostitution racket in 1936 and eventually deported from the USA.

'Kenneth Pasarelli', who also appears in the lyrics to 'Mr. and Misdemeanor', was actually one of the band's road crew members. He was a bass guitarist and founder member of 'Barnstorm' and co-wrote 'Rocky Mountain Way', later made famous by Joe Walsh with whom he regularly performed. He has appeared with Tommy Bolan (in Zephyr), Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills and 'Hall and Oats' and also appears briefly on 'From The Inside'.

In 'Beautiful Flyaway' DDT is "dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane. A colorless odorless water-insoluble crystalline insecticide that tends to accumulate in ecosystems and has toxic effects on many vertebrates."

According to Glen's sister Janice Buxton the title of 'Mr and Misdemeanor' actually refers to Alice and Glen Buxton. However when asked about that Dennis isn't so sure: "I don’t think so. What is interesting about that song is that when the Alice Cooper Group did our Bastille Day Party at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles – this was a huge party that was funded by Warner Brothers Records. The GTO’s were there and Richard Chamberlain, Randy Newman and a lot of celebrities were there as well. The poet Rod McKuen was there. He made a big deal about how much he loved the lyrics to “Mr. and Misdemeanor."

Creem - July 1970

July 1970 saw the first Alice Cooper magazine front cover when Alice, alone, featured on the cover of 'Creem'.

The lines "You are the only censor. If you don't like what I say, you have a choice. You can turn me off" during 'Lay Down And Die, Goodbye' is recited by Tom Smothers of the 'Smothers Brothers', American singers and comedians who had had their own TV variety show 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour'. The show was controversial at the time as it was critical of the mainstream and sympathetic to the counterculture during the Vietnam war, which led to them being fired by the CBS network in 1969. In one recent interview Dennis suggests the lines came from the TV show. In the 2002 documentary 'Smothered', near the very end, you can see Tom Smothers reciting a version of the speech, but it isn't the same as the version on the album. Of course he quite possible said versions of this more then once. There is another direct connection between Alice Cooper and 'The Smothers Brothers' though as the band lived in a house owned by the Smothers Brothers for a time.

'Return of the Spiders' was dedicated to Gene Vincent after Alice Cooper had backed the legendary rock and roller when they shared the bill with him at the Toronto '69 "chicken" show. At the time it wasn't unusual for famous musicians to use local backing bands when they played, rather then have their own permanent band which would have to be paid a wage. After Alice Cooper had played their own set in Toronto they returned backing Vincent during his own set. Dennis Dunaway:

"We backed up Gene Vincent at the Rock and Roll Revival up in Toronto. Right after that famous chicken incident, we were sweaty and were covered with watermelon juice and we had feathers sticking to us and the promoter said, "Don’t go anywhere; stay on stage as Gene Vincent is coming out now." We said, "What? We’re supposed to go and put on jeans and be The Blue Caps, we’re not supposed to look like this."
Gene came out and he was more shocked than anybody else. He had stage fright, which we thought we had calmed down at rehearsals the day before. We were wearing jeans at rehearsal and we were these old time looking rock n’ roll guys. They sent Gene out and we backed him up as good as we could. During rehearsal we needed to get Gene that echo he needed. Glen plugged him into a Fender amp and got the reverb going. That made Gene Vincent happy, as he was nervous. We said, “Everyone is tuned up and ready. What song do you want to do?” Gene’s answer was, “Well….” And we all knew it was going to be “Be-Bop-A-Lula.” I was so excited."

Neal Smith, in May 2003:

"Alice Cooper was the 'Return of the Spiders', and this was our perspective of our band while we were recording 'Easy Action' in 1969. Meaning on way to fame, fortune and the future some people would get it and some people would not have a clue. The people that hated us didn't have a clue. 'Return Of The Spiders' is my favorite song off of the 'Easy Action' album."

Dennis Dunaway in 2015:

Zapped Compilation Album
The 'Zapped' compilation album put out by Warner brothers highlighted artists on Frank Zappa's labels.
"I was talking to Neal one day about (...) 'Wipe Out', because he did that 'Wipe Out' style drumming so well. I suggested to Neal that we needed to write a song based around that kind of drumming, and that was the beginning of 'Return of the Spiders'."

Around the time of release, Billboard magazine listed the band's name as "Alice Sooper" on at least one occasion.

Two tracks, 'Titanic Overture' and 'Refrigerator Heaven' appeared on a Straight Records sampler album called 'Zapped'. On the sleeve under the listing for Side One - Track 6. Alice Cooper/Refrigerator Heaven, there is the following:

Alice Cooper is a five-man group from Los Angeles, or maybe a four-woman-one-man group from Los Angeles, or maybe a five-woman group from Los Angeles. They get a bang, you see, out of playing off our confusion over their sexual alignment. Quite decidedly grotesque they are, but also visually stunning and quite impressive. According to the recent Newsweek article that spoke highly of them in relation to the dada-rock movement of which their sponsor, F. Zappa, is the founder, Alice was overjoyed early in the game to discover its ability to empty large clubs within minutes of coming on stage. Think about that, Will and Ariel.
David Briggs produced EASY ACTION, whence commeth "Refrigerator Heaven"

In 1973, to cash in on Alice's success Warner Bros in the UK released a double album package called "School Days: The Early Recordings"(K66021) which featured 'Easy Action' and 'Pretties For You' in a cool new sleeve design.

'Easy Action' Live

Only one live recording from the 'Easy Action' tour has ever surfaced, from the Chicago Underground in Warren, MI July 23rd 1970, and that is possibly incomplete. By this time the band were obviously already working on material for the next album 'Love It To Death'. 'Sun Arise' was already being used as an opener, an early version of 'I'm Eighteen' is a longer, bluesy version then the final cut, and 'Is It My Body' has also appeared although again as a longer jam. The final song is a mix of 'Lay Down And Die, Goodbye' and what would become 'Black Juju'. By this show they were already been announced as 'Warner Brothers Recording Stars". Yes, they were now with Warner Brothers Records, but not yet stars. That would soon change. The track list is as follows:

  • Sun Arise
  • Mr and Misdemeanor
  • Fields of Regret
  • I'm Eighteen
  • Levity Ball
  • Is It My Body - Extended
  • Nobody Likes Me
  • Lay Down and Die, Goodbye (announced as 'Black Juju')

What you do hear on the tape is that Alice's classic voice has now arrived. "Sun Arise' is slightly different to the version finally recorded, being about 90 seconds longer. 'Mr. and Misdemeanor' fits in pretty well with the newer material for the most part as does 'Fields Of Regret' which features Alice on harmonica. 'Fields Of Regret also features guitar parts that would be incorporated into 'Killer' a year later. 'I'm Eighteen' is introduced as "a brand new song" and at over eleven minutes is much longer then the final version. At this point it's a slow bluesy jam featuring Alice's harmonica over Michael's keyboards. The lyrics are also substantially different although many of the key phrases are there. In fact it sounds like he's possibly making many of them up, as towards the end he's just making noises rather then words!
'Is it My Body' features the 'My Very Own/Going To The Graveyard' section which, while missing from the studio version, would continue to be included live for some years, showing that the studio cut is really an edited version of the full song, rather then the live version being an extended version. 'Nobody Likes Me' likely featured Alice singing through the window frame as seen in photos from the time. It's very much of the Straight Records era, stylistically closer to 'Pretties/Easy Action' then 'Love It To Death' and it's clear why Ezrin would disgard it for the next album. It just wouldn`t have fitted.
The last song is introduced as 'Black Juju' but it isn't! After around a minute, during which all you can hear is the small crowd and an 'urrhh' from Alice, they blast into 'Lay Down And Die Goodbye'. Whether they had to drop 'Black Juju' because of time limits or something we will probably never know, but it's clear the song existed at this point. The instrumental ends and almost immediately the host is back on to remind the audience to come back next week.

The song "Return of the Spiders" seems to be the only song from either Straight Records albums to have been played after the release of 'Love It To Death' and that was only kept for the one tour. Since that time no song from either album has ever been played by Alice live.