The 1976 "TV Tour" saw Alice performing just twice,
but 36 million TV viewers isn't to be sniffed at.
Come 1976 and Alice was in trouble. The 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour was brutal and by the end he was battered, bruised and exhusted. He was also drinking heavily, even for him, and later he admitted he was actually tiring of the character he had created and made him a star.
In an 1976 interview with 'Record World' Bob Ezrin recalls working on 'Goes To Hell':
"The new album begun when Alice and Dick went away to Hawaii last summer to right what they thought was going to be the first non-concept Alice Cooper album. It was going to be an album of tunes, good tunes. They got to Hawaii, and they'd just come off tour, and needless to say they were both exhusted and were not in a raunchy street frame of mind. They saw palm trees and hawaiian guitars and started writing so very soft, extremely sensitive un-Alice Cooper material. Totally uncharacteristic. When they came back they had a tape of seven songs, and there were three of four on the tae that were as good as Paul Simon compositions musically and lyrically. After a while of thinking about it and living with the tunes, we decided that that was not the best album to come with at this moment, but not to dump it either. In fact we've cut two albums now. We've got another one, the tunes album, whatever it's going to be called, to be released later.
The question came up, do we extend 'Welcome...', do we continue on that line - which was not as credible as some stances we've taken in the past - It didn't have same kind of street raunchiness that 'Killer' or 'Billion Dollar Babies' had. It seemed that Alice Cooper fans, hardcore fans, were a little puzzled by the move in 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Musically they were not sure what the hell we were doing, so there were two ways of going: either we run away from that format and deny the existence of 'Welcome To My Nightmare' and deal with it as though it were a mongoloid child - "We never had that" - or we stick with it because it wasn't wrong. It was simply the transitional step to where Alice should be.
So this whole thing was the three of us [Ezrin, Alice and Wagner] coming in with our version of the next step. How this all evolved was that Alice's next step was a real theatrical piece/plot line, interaction between himself and other characters and a new style of lyric writing where instead of being just a bellowing, bratty child, he was getting into a couple of interesting pieces of poetry using his certain street style of writing. It's almost like Jack Kerouac was writing rock and roll lyrics.
Dick, on the other hand, is getting into a style of writing that's reminiscent of Gershwin, Rodgers and that school of writing in terms of his melodic structures, chord structures — not his rhythm — but putting a jump beat or a rock beat behind classical forms of writing. The stuff that I've been bringing into it is the next stage in my classically-oriented approach to rock and roll and to rock grandeur, plus the same awareness we all have of the influence of disco and r&b material on today's music. So I've tried to combine a different kind of bottom and beat and essentially a classical music form. I came up with a bunch of crazy ideas. If you lifted the themes out and played them on a french horn, they'd go well with a symphony, but they're all set to danceable rhythms.
While we were working on this, Alice, Shep and I discussed the concept of this album and decided that we would in fact not only not deny 'Welcome To My Nightmare,' but we would reinforce whatever we did there with what we do now and at the same time set up what's coming next. By having a concept that could be considered an extension of 'Welcome...", using a familiar form of Alice — the fantasy, the fable, the fairy tale — but at the same time make it musically interesting, into the realm of really good tunes. In some cases, really good show tunes; things that could have been written 20 years ago. One of the songs was written 20 years ago, so it's sort of a surprise on the record.
The concept that was first developed was 'Alice Cooper Goes To Hell'. Last week we saw Alice waking from his nightmare and this week we find him going to Hell. But Alice woke up once in the middle of the night and called me and said, "I've got it! I've got it! Hell is a disco-theque. No one can stop dancing." And the image of that disco was so clear and brought so many things to mind, from old movies to the present day. When we say discotheque, we mean a club, a concept of having that club there with smokey, red-lit rooms and all these bodies draped over each other until the man — The Boss — we never refer to him as the Devil — would say "Dance, damn you!" And they would dance. Okay, if there's a boss that means that there's an office, and the office is straight out of "The Front Page." And that means The Boss could either be a black leather jacketed hood, of he could be an old Sheldon Leonard type. It just opened up all kinds of possibilities. So we began working on that premise and we drafted a story in which there is no denouement, but there is simply Alice's introduction into the netherword.,br />
We begin by introducing the reasons for Alice's relegation to Hell in a song called 'Go To Hell', which is the first song on the album. It says, "For criminal acts, violence on the stage, for being a brat, refusing to act your age/for all the decent citizens you've enraged/you can go to Hell." It goes on to get even cuter than that, about gift-wrapping lepers and mailing them. It accuses Alice of being sick. Isn't that terrible? It accuses Alice of being sicko, and basically says that for that reason he's going to Hell. In the next song he's brought to the front door of the club by the Mephistopheles-figure we have, who's called Nurd. N-u-r-d. Nurd is never really part of the album, but he will be part of the stage show. We find out later that in reality Nurd is Dwight Frye. Well, we left him alone for so long we thought he might be getting lonely. We really wanted to bring him back somehow. We're not going to do the same tune, but he was so cute.
Anyway, Alice is condemned to washing floors in the club and to dancing when he's told to dance. So he does, and he begins to be assimilated into the whole thing. Then time passes — we don't know if it's months or years — and Alice becomes like Cinderella: resigned to his station. Then, while he's reminiscing about home, a switch goes off inside his head and he says, "Wait a minute! I don't care what they do. I'm gonna go home. I'm going home and nothing's going to stop me." And he determines he's going home and he sings the closing medley on the record. Verse two is a surprise but the last one is, "I'm going home" and the whole chorus ends like a 1937 movie: suddenly he's alone, center stage, in a pin spot singing "I'm going home/nothing can stop me," picks up his two suitcases, and as he marches off down the road 100,000 strings and voices start playing and singing "I'm going home." In fact, there is no encounter with the Devil on this one. He doesn't even really leave. It's just that we leave him at the moment he makes up his mind. We don't know in fact if he ever gets home. Perhaps he'll actually leave. Perhaps he'll get outside the front door and be hauled back."
A tour was announced to support the album but quickly canceled. The official reason given was that Alice was suffering from acute anemia and had been orderd to rest but really Alice was in no state to go back on the road so soon. However there were some high points. In March he married Sheryl Goddard, the dancer he met on the '...Nightmare' tour, in Acapulco, Mexico. He was also invited to be 'The Grand Marshal of Endymion' at the 1976 New Orleans Mardi Gras along with Wolfman Jack.
In the end the only promtional performances Alice made for the album were two television appearances promoted as "The Alice Cooper TV Tour '76". On September 18th he appeared at 'Don Kirshner Rock Music Awards' performing 'Go To Hell', 'Wish You Were Here' and 'I Never Cry', and then on the 21st he was on the 'Tony Orlando and Dawn Rainbow Hour', hardly the most 'rock'n'roll' show, performing 'I Never Cry' and 'Give The Kid A Break'. Both performances saw Alice singing to a backing tape. The strategy worked to a degree. the single 'I Never Cry' made it to #12 on the Billboard charts, his highest single placing since 'School's Out', but the album stalled at #27, his lowest charting album since 'Love It To Death'. Much of his original fan base was less then enamoured with the light-weight new direction which was more hollywood then horror. They wanted the sick and twisted Alice, not the guy they saw crooning ballads on TV. But Alice was tired of the old image and had always aspired to be a entertainer. His idols were movie and TV stars as much as The Yardbirds or the Beatles. Now he hung out with the very stars he had idolized finding they accepted him as a peer, and was enjoying it!
The inner sleeve of 'Goes To Hell' included a 'bedtime story' setting up the concept of the album.
"Lay still, Steven, and I'll tell you a bedtime story. I'll tell you a bedtime story that's not for all children. It's a very special story, that only special children will understand. It's a half-awake story, and it will be better if you close your eyes. It's a story that takes place in a dream, like other nightmares you have known. It's a dream that Alice has dreamed. You can dream along with him. You can follow Alice down the staircase, deep, down the stairs to the pit where he doesn't want to go, but he has to.
If you go to sleep now, Steven, you can go down the long and endless stairway and sing sweet songs to Alice and free him. And if you can't get to sleep, Steven, and in the middle of the night you get out of bed, when everything is quiet and the trees are still and the birds are hiding from the dark, you can lie down on your bedroom floor and press your ear tightly to the boards. If you listen very carefully you can hear Alice searching for a way out, forever chasing rainbows.
Sleep tight, Steven. And have a good night.
The Cover picture for 'Goes to Hell' is from the inside cover sleeve art for 'Billion Dollar Babies'. It was just magnified, copied and color shifted. While striking, after the lavish art and design on previous albums it was very plain and disappointing.
An original working title for the album was simply 'Hell'. The original title for 'Didn't We Meet' was 'Satan's Floor' although the lyrics were completely different.
'Wish You Were Here' is heavily based on an earlier Dick Wagner song called 'Stage Door Queen' which can be heard on the Ursa Major self-titled album. The original is a different song, obviously with different lyrics, but all the key parts of 'Wish You Were Here' can be heard.
'I'm Always Chasing Rainbows' was originally done by Charles Harrison but perhaps better remembered as done by Judy Garland.
Henry Winkler, world famous for portaying 'The Fonz' in 'Happy Days', was originally asked to sing on 'I'm the Coolest', but Winkler turned it down because he didn't want to do anything that would typecast him in the Fonzie image. Of course he was indelibly linked to that role anyway and it's unlikely he could do anything to avoid it.
The 'Goes To Hell' tour that was planned was to be based around the concept that Hell was a disco as, of course, disco was hell. Sets were designed using multiple level staging but it never got beyond the planning stages.