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Area 51

(c) Bruce EastonMichael Bruce, Glen Buxton and Neal Smith, together with Richie Scarlet (Ace Frehley, Mountain), came together on the 10th of October 1997 to perform two shows. Billed as BSBS (Bullshit on Bullshit - GB) they first performed on the Stevens and Prewett morning radio show [Live at Billy Blues] and then on the 12th, at a small club in Houston, Texas called Area 51. Dennis Dunaway apparently couldn't make it as he was ill. John Glenn played keyboards.

On the radio, the band played, 'I'm Eighteen', 'Schools Out', 'Under My Wheels', 'Billion Dollar Babies', the intro from 'Hello Hurray' and 'Muscle of Love'

At Area 51 they played:

  • Hello Hurray (intro only)
  • Caught in a Dream
  • I'm Eighteen (With the "American Pie" ending)
  • Under My Wheels
  • Be My Lover
  • Desperado
  • No More Mr Nice Guy
  • Muscle of Love (With Drum Solo)
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • Titanic Overture
  • Schools Out
  • Hard Hearted Alice
  • Train Kept A Rollin`

After the show there was a jam session until closing time which both Michael and Glen participated in although not at the same time.

Sadly, a week later Glen Buxton passed away, leaving these shows his last ever public appearances.

Area 51 VHS - 'Rock Legends'

(c) Bruce EastonA VHS was made available of the show entitled 'Rock Legends' but is presumably long out of print. Clips can be found on YouTube though courtesy of Jeff Jatras.

Technical release notes in the form of a letter to Neal Smith:

May 27, 2000

Mr. Neal A. Smith
c/o Kachina Music, Inc.

Neal:

Enclosed are copies of the final products. I hope they meet with your expectations and approval.

The following is an explanation of the development process:

First off, to paraphrase: “You know Bob Ezrin Bob Ezrin is a friend of yours. I ain’t no Bob Ezrin”.

As you know, once Glen died we only had the existing materials to work from. You and I discussed your preferences regarding the product a product (cutting out dead time, adding crowd noises, overdubs, angles, etc), and to the extent, have always kept your suggestions in mind during the production process.

We had three audio and two video sources to work from: the mono soundboard and the two camcorders. Only on the soundboard tape could you actually hear Glen and even then not completely. As you know, the first tapes I sent you had his fingers moving but you could hear nothing. I think you agree letting something like that out would have been no service to him at all. Any video therefore had to include an overlay of at least the soundboard onto the video.

I took the soundboard and both video audios and downloaded them onto a PC using ATI video/audio capture software to create three audio streams which I could edit using Sound Forge 3.0. One mono stream (the soundboard) was of far superior quality, although not great by any means. The others had different attributes. While soundboard was a pretty clear recording, it had no real audience sounds, no bass guitar to speak of and the highs were gone.
The camcorder picked up crowd sounds and the trebles such as your cymbal crashes sounded better. Using the video as a guide, I placed the SB on the right channel, and my camcorder audio on the left. The effect doubled up MB’s guitar so it appeared more left of center, and GB on the SB sounded more on the right. Your drums came out best with all levels from lows to highs becoming clearer across the spectrum. I then cross-mixed both tracks at about 35% over each other to blur the distinction between the two channels while leaving them also distinctly different which created the stereo sound. Also, this made it much less apparent that there were two distinct audio sources. By using a 35% channel over mix your trebles were places at just the right place in the stereo mix, just left of center looking at the stage. The effect is clearly apparent on your drum work, especially on MOL and B$B.

Additional audio information and effects:

Camera #2’S audio was virtually worthless, except I was able to pull a bass track out whereas both the SB had very little. I could have used my audio to create a similar track, but I thought it better to use a completely different recording since it was available, even if that meant more work. After loading that track on the PC, I EQ’d out everything but the bass and kept
increasing the gain on it until it was a distinct bass line, and then layered that only the right channel at 60% and left at 40%, putting Richie just to the right of center stage where he really was. The whole technicque placed everybody in the right places on the audio, GB and MB are clearly on opposite channels. On MOL, it’s especially interesting, a “what if GB had played on MOL” take, and to me, the last of the great MB/GB guitar duels so distinct to the early albums. In fact through the whole show, GB is, as Alice likes to say, “the icing on the cake”. You and MB were in classic form that night. Your solo is just fantastic and the work on B$B is my favorite part of the whole album. Michael’s guitar work on B$B and MOL may be the best I’ve ever seen him, especially the end solo of B$B.

Every so often the soundboard recording was absolutely silent, like between drum hits. This creates what I believe is called “dead silence”, a silence which is more like what a deaf person must hear than mere quiet. The copies you have heard until now sometimes sound odd due to mere quiet on one side, dead silence on the other. To fix this, I visually looked for the silence in the waves of both tracks and when I found these, cross-mixed the alternate track to it at 40%, just enough to negate that effect.

During your solo, and at other times when band member names were said loudly, (ie. Glen saying, “Fuck em Neal! Fuck those drum big time … com’n, … com’n etc,” and “From Akron, Ohio, Neal Smith!” and the like, I brought these out more. It was especially fortunate also, that before the “I’m Eighteen” solo, MB yells “Glen!” (MB told me later he was reminding him to play). The support you guys show for each other adds to the chemistry of the night that I tried to illustrate where ever the opportunity presented itself.

Also, crowd noises, cheers, hooting, and yells like “Great song, man!” and “You guys are Bad Ass!” and stuff were pulled from both video audio streams along with their respective crowd sounds to attempt as best I could to comply with your stated request to give it a bigger sound without adding anything that was not there that night. This was best effected during introductions and directly after songs. While not making it sound as if there were 500 people in the place, does make it sound like a lot more people than the soundboard alone. Most of this is apparent more in the video as the CD is banded track by track, and the video is contiguous.

SO is obviously a very hard song to sing. Therefore, on this song, I effected a couple of minor pitch corrections by using the functions provided by Sound Forge. Also, it was only on SO that I offset the tracks by about 1/500th of a second, the effect being to make it sound more like a crowd, adding to the desired “classroom” sound, and masking “off” notes.

On the CD, I started each song off sharp and where possible, tapered endings. Some of these are not very long, specifically “Hello Hooray” as it originally went into “Caught In a Dream” (not on either the CD or the video) MOL, and B$B.

One last point on audio: It was tempting to want to redo some things, especially those things easily fixed like when Michael doesn’t get to the microphone in time and missing the first few words of “Under My Wheels”. Or Glen’s solo drowned out on the same song. However, in the long run, rather than alter anything, these recordings maintain the integrity of the performance as it occurred, neither adding nothing, no overdubs, no redoing anything. Just pure rock and roll as it sounded that night in October 1997. The decision to let the warts remain came hard, but in the long run I believe will be shown to have been the correct decision and a testament to guys who played just once more after a 23year break.

Additional video information and effects:

On all previous versions of the tapes, I either used only my camera or a mix that resulted in degradation of the video further than their limitations as mere VHS recordings. In addition, both cameras had a different look and feel to them making cuts awkward. However, camera #2 eventually moved around to GB’s side of the stage during “Desperado” and “NMMNG”, and in addition was the only camera running for the first 23 seconds of B$B. Therefore to make a contiguous tape to match the soundtrack and in order to get in the best of GB, we needed to make it work.

Most of camera #2 was unusable, a lot of wobbly shots, walking around, monitors taking half the screen etc. However, when the angle was right and the occasion or shot called for it, I either used it alone or in a multi-camera mix, especially at the end of songs, where the technique seemed most appropriate. “Desperado” and “NMMNG” were greatly enhanced by the option of the opposing camera angles. Camera #2 was also very useful as it had many good shots of fingers on the guitars, especially GB’s, which otherwise would have been lost.

Per our discussion, the club is never seen from the bands perspective. Only during the B$B opening when I had no choice was some of it seen from a side view. However, there is no video at of the crowd itself, although camera #2 was full of them. Camera #1 always faced forward, as it was stationary.

Your solo on MOL is one camera only. Although (as seen in your introduction) there were tempting reasons to use both cameras, your solo spoke for itself and additionally I wasn’t about to take chances here, period. I think it ultimately was the correct decision as the audio/visual effect is enhanced by the stability of you on the kit added to the stable camera allowed your performance here to be recorded as I it was performed with no distractions. Without having an opportunity to discuss this with you, I made the decision I felt you would have made.

Note: Any time GB looked good, could be heard talking, playing a riff, or anything else characteristic of him, the spotlight is all his.

Finally, I was able find a quality video capture and editing system that allowed both videos to be uploaded onto disk. Color was corrected to the extent they could be, and the images mixed based on the best shots at the time using fades, cuts, duel shots, and everything else I ever wanted to do. There was nothing to be done about the time stamp, and after a few seconds
becomes unnoticeable anyway.

Once the final video was created, it was output to ¾” master from which VHS copies are made. Due to this production process, the only visual limitations are quality of the source tapes. There is no longer any noticeable degeneration from the master as you’ve seen in all previous versions of the show due to the duplication process

Lastly, “Hard Hearted Alice” and “Train Kept A Rolling” are not included on either CD or video as they were not part of the set. As far as posterity is concerned, the show ends with “School’s Out” per our discussion.

Cover information:

Finally, using Photoshop 5.0, I created the art using the flyer image in color, photos from the show, a shot of GB at the record convention and a quote from his final letter. The goal, of course, is to pay a final homage to Glen and his “Grande Finale” while always attempting to maintain his image as the rebel and a rogue and to indicate for posterity that he had a great time with his “buds”. That he enjoyed himself immensely is evident to anyone who watches this tape.

Promotion and Distribution:

Currently, the disc is only on sale at The “Official” Michael Bruce Website. However, I have been approached by other entities asking about distribution pricing and other concepts. I’ve attempted to keep the price reasonable for both CD and video, however, that price may increase after an initial period in order to accomplish a distribution discount or to pay for ads in magazines like “Goldmine”, Metal Edge, etc. Between production costs and royalties, and prices as low as possible, so far it has been more of a labor of love than anything else.

The agreed upon “Rock Legends from the Original Alice Cooper Group” will always be the name. In addition, the “Rock Legends” part of the name will always be much larger than the rest of the title. In addition, the names of the “Rock Legends” themselves, you, Michael, and Glen, will always be proportioned and centered greater than the section of the logo which identifies you as members of the “Original Alice Cooper Group”. This basic format was delivered to Shep, Renfield, and Alice as early as December 1998, to no complaint. At that time, as you expressed your own satisfaction with the format, I’ve not changed it since. I believe all parties agree that this format is fair and accurate, and suits everyone’s requirements including fans who can both identify you all with the Cooper name and at the same time not be misled into thinking that Alice himself is on the album.


In Conclusion:

After Glen died, there wasn’t much to work with. There is no pretense that the recordings or video are the quality we would have wished to achieve had we known we were only going to get “One Take Only” (which would have been a great title I think). But, one take is all we had and he was gone. Had we not agreed to do this project, his final performance would have remained in fragmented and any bits that ever saw light of day would not have done him or what happened down there justice. The final product, while limited by its source tapes, is as good as it could ever have been expected to be, the best damn garage recording of the best damn garage band ever to roll down I-10. I am certainly glad that whatever our differences, we were able to pull together and finish this final project. I hope it meets with your approval because it was the very best I could do.

Sincerely,

Jeff Jatras
Torn Ticket Productions