The Billion Dollar Babies were the band put together by Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Michael Bruce in 1977 after it became clear that Alice wasn't going to return to the original band after 'Welcome To My Nightmare' was so successful, And 'Battle Axe' features material that was originally written for the follow up to 'Muscle Of Love'.
Produced By Lee DeCarlo and Billion Dollar Babies
Recorded at Record Plant, New York
Design and Illustration: Ernst Thormahlen
Photographs: Mark Platt
Billion Dollar Babies is the brainchild of Michael Bruce, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, members all of the original Alice Cooper Group. If you were ever enrolled in Rock 'n Roll History 101, you'll remember that "Alice Cooper" was the name of the entire band, before it was taken as the nom de plume of the lead singer. And well it should have been the band's moniker, since Michael Bruce penned 81% of the vintage Cooper material and the Smith-Dunaway rhythm section not only formed a rock solid foundation, but caused severe palpitations of many an adolescent heart. Breaking through the barrier of superstardom in 1970 with the hit single "Eighteen" and the LP "Love It To Death," and continuing through 6 gold albums (3 platinum!), perpetual touring in the U.S.A., Europe, South America and any other locale which would have them- irreconcilable differences (aesthetic and otherwise) eventually took their toll.
Our three heroes could not all fit comfortably behind either an X or O on Hollywood
Squares with the gentleman who adopted the group's name. They found themselves temporarily in the situation of being a band without portfolio and after catching their breaths for a brief spell, each one came up with the exact same prescription for their respective cases of the "Rockin' Pneumonia and The
Boogie Woogie Flu."
The cure-all was the formation of Billion Dollar Babies- a band dedicated to their original goal, namely crisp, sure-footed, scorching, and catchy hard rock for teenagers of all ages. Neal Smith and Michael Bruce immediately plunged into their collective extended-adolescent thought streams and generated a wealth of material that had all who listened feel had surpassed their previous efforts.
The next step was completing the band- but that turned out to be no task at all. While touring back in 1973, Neal, Dennis, and Michael had seen an amazing young guitarist named Mike Marconi performing in Rochester. No other guitar player would be considered until they had a decision from this dark, angular, shaggy haired rock 'n roll whiz kid. Mike, Neal, Dennis, and manager, Leo Fenn went on a "search and recruit" mission to darkest Rochester, zeroed in their target, and came away with B$B's "strato-blasting" lead guitarist.
Finding a master of keyboards was a bit easier. Bob Dolin had been hired to play on the 1973 Cooper Group Tour and had impressed everyone. Accomplished on synthesizer and organ as well as piano, the classically trained Dolin joined up with the fledgling rock 'n roll crusaders and the Billion Dollar Babies were ready to dance in their rock 'n roll baby shoes.
"Battle Axe" represents the debut LP of the Babies. Not only is it the title of the album, but also of their sports spectacular stage show. The concept- if one can really apply that trite word- is basically the triumph of pure rock 'n roll over other musical
forces seeking to weaken rock's grasp on the hearts and minds of teenagers. A sonorous fanfare commences, a futuristic fight ring rises out of the stage and a battle to the finish takes place between rival guitarists dressed in bold sci-fi rock-star
regalia a la a space-age gladiator. "Born from the despair of MOR and Disco comes the ultimate in spectacular" riff to riff combat pitting the resurgent energy of rock against the cold and calculating wastelands of formula disco and other such enervating musical forms. Rock 'n roll triumphs and the audience is left to pronounce the fate of the vanquished. The Billion Dollar Babies rock 'n roll ammo consists of strong doses of solid rock songs as presented on Battle Axe: "Rock 'n Roll Radio," "Too Young," "Dance With Me," and all the other tracks are a salvo of well-executed melodic rock 'n roll that should keep the airwaves and concert halls pulsating through the rest of the seventies. The Billion Dollar Babies mean business! This infant is a killer!
"After Michael Bruce's (In My Own Way), Alice's (Welcome To My Nightmare) and my (Platinum God) solo projects the ACG was to reform and do a new album. Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and I got together in Connecticut and started writing new songs for a new ACG album, but it was never to happen. So we stayed together called ourselves "The Billion Dollar Babies", got a record deal and recorded "Battle Axe". We were professional and the band was very up and energetic for recording and touring. "Billion $ Babies/Battle Axe" went on tour, but we were having problems with management, and shortly thereafter we broke up. As far as the B$B/Battle Axe show, to my knowledge there is no video of that great show."
(Neal Smith, November 1999)
The BDB's did do some touring in support of 'Battle Axe' but it was limited to small venues in the North East [about four shows]. Let's keep in mind that as much as we all love those guys - that album BOMBED. They did do a kind of theatrical show - at the end the two guitarists did a gladiator thing that was reminiscent of the movie "Rollerblade" and the stage was kind of a boxing ring motiff - Nothing that came even remotely close to Alice's productions.
(Renfield, June 1995)
"There was also a screenplay written in 1977 for "Battle Axe". It was written by Leo Fenn (look him up in your Cooper research materials!). I don't know how many people ever knew that the concept was given a screenplay treatment, but I found this buried pretty deep. It may be the only one. It's about 21 pages bound in a blue folder. Leo Fenn was a member of the Cooper team back during the 'Love It To Death' days, booking, and reportedly doing his utmost to get the albums played on the radio. He's also Sherilyn Fenn's daddy if any of you know who she is.
(Jeff Jatras, March 2000)
From The Sickboard:
This is too weird! I was just "surfin'" along and stumbled upon this discussion. I am glad to see that Michael Bruce is still in action! And in DALLAS yet, where I am. Get this -- believe it or not, in the late 80s I directed a Michael Bruce music video, which actually aired here and there -- the song, "TOO YOUNG," I guess from his first attempt at an album after breaking up with Alice Cooper? I'm not even sure. It was a situation where Bruce had done this album but couldn't appear in the video because of health problems. The producer dude needed somebody to make a video of the projected "hit," "TOO YOUNG" (which is very much like "I'M 18") but on NO BUDGET and WITHOUT MICHAEL BRUCE. For $5,000, my pals and I managed to make a... video... can't call it a GREAT video... that told a story about a young girl sneaking out at night and trying to act like she was old enough to drink. Or something like that. The producer made us attach this perverted ending wherein the young girl had a car wreck and died... WHO CAN EXPLAIN RECORD PRODUCER TYPES??!?!?
We mainly just tried to have lots of images of a cute gal partying and imagining ghostly rock stars serenading her and her parents smashing Michael Bruce records and throwing them into the fireplace -- real generic stuff I guess. Considering the budget, it's technically a pretty professional looking video. Conceptually, it's a lame attempt to make a video for a rock star without ever showing the rock
star... go figure.
The "TOO YOUNG" video was produced by the company "TELEMUSIC" which was then run by a guy named Bob Stevens. Bob hired me to direct and/or edit and/or animate these various odball music video jobs. The fanciest one we were involved with was DEVO's "R.U. EXPERIENCED."
"TOO YOUNG" was the lowest budgeted of them.
(Rev. Ivan Stang, February 1998)
"I'm good friends with Mike Marconi; he lives in my town. He once told me that much of the reason why B$B failed was due to pressure from Shep Gordon, Alice's manager. He threatened both the band and their record label, Polydor, with all kinds of lawsuits if they continued as "Billion Dollar Babies". So the band had a new album out and no way to promote it... and they called it quits shortly thereafter. They did have an interesting stage show set up, though... for the "Battle Axe" song, they had a gladiator theme, with two dueling, robot-like characters (Mike Marconi and Mike Bruce in Power-Ranger suits!) and wielding axe-shaped guitars. Mike Bruce and Dennis Dunaway kept the suits; the axe/guitars were bought back by their builder. Oddly enough, Mike Marconi never had a copy of the B$B "Battle Axe" album; I made him a tape copy of mine (he autographed the cover for me!)."
(unknown, June 2001)
1. Too young
Billion Dollar Babies - Complete Battleaxe (NMC Music ltd, Pilot77 - 2001)
"Packaging is very good. Nice booklet with rare photos and info with a MB interview. I`m impressed. The covers very nice too. Better then I expected(I almost feared a one sided colour print). The discs are NOT CDR`s in case you were wondering, they`re proper CD`s with printed black and green graphics. "
"Interesting there are NO writing credits or music copyright credits to be found... Seems that someone won`t be getting paid. The few credits there are relate to the actual package itself with Mike Bruce as executive Producer. Check under the first disc though and you will find a few familiar names mentioned!"
"Battle Axe is still a pretty good album, especially the 'Battle Axe Suite' itself which I`ve always loved. However, while the sound is pretty good, it`s very obviously taken from vinyl, not the master tapes(a fact mentioned in the booklet) and it`s a shame that the sound files weren`t run through something like Sonic Foundry`s de-click filter as there are many clicks and pops throughout which this would probably have removed(in my experience anyway, you run the filter, then check through the files by hand to remove anything else audible). There is also some hiss/static artifacts on some tracks but this is a vinyl problem and would be difficult to remove. They say that the masters have been lost but there is no credit to Polydor(who released the original album) that I can see and with the dubious officially of the release(Neal and Dennis haven`t apparently authorised it) it makes me wonder if they even asked Polydor about the tapes, let alone permission to release it."
"The Original Demos seem to have been taken from cassette tape(that`s what it sounds like to me), but as the rarity they are, are a good addition to the set. Sound is obviously far from perfect but no one would expect anything else, they are demos after all. A bit of E.Qing could have maybe improved the dynamics a bit on here but still worth a listen."
"Finally, and in many ways most interesting, is the live disc. First of all, it`s not the complete show! It misses `Dance with me`(1st track which was incomplete on my tape), and `Wasn`t I the one(presumably because it`s also incomplete on the tape)` at least. Sound wise it`s a bootleg obviously but a pretty good one. As there were only four B$B shows it`s lucky this exists at all! It`s an interesting show from an historical point of view, the Alice medley(Hello Hurray/No More Mr Nice Guy/Elected/18/School`s Out) is cool, Battleaxe, showing how it was performed live is very interesting with it`s classical centre part and B$B itself is the encore. Well worth hearing."
"So all in all, and dubious copyright/legality aside, a worthy project which at £11.99(amazon.co.uk) should be snatched up. Be warned, only the first few copies apparently have the live CD!"
(Si - 2001)
Here is Neal Smith`s official statement on the release:
Urgent Notice!!! October 16, 2001
The "Complete Battle Axe (3-CD Set) Limited Edition", is an unauthorized release of recordings by the group known as "The Billion Dollar Babies". It is very likely that Disc #1, the "Battle Axe" album is being released without permission from the owner of the master recordings, Universal Music.
Disc #2 "Bonus Original Demos CD", is being released without permission
from the owner of the master recordings, Neal Smith.
This unauthorized "Complete Battle Axe (3-CD Set) Limited Edition", is being released without permission from Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway.