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
- Mr And MisDemeanor(3:20)
- Shoe Salesman(2:33)
- Still No Air(2:30)
- Below Your Means (6:50)
- Return Of The Spiders (For Gene Vincent) (4:25)
- Laughing At Me (2:16)
- Refridgerator Haven (2:17)
- Beautiful Flyaway (3:00)
- Lay Down And Die, Goodbye (7:30)
Music, Lyrics and Arrangements by Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith
- 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'
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 1970
In 2012 Dennis Dunaway agrees:
Dennis Dunaway in 2016:
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'.
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 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:
'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."
According to Alice in the 'Life and Crimes Of Alice Cooper' box set notes: "At the time, I was trying really hard to write lyrics with as much wordplay as I could. The line, "Parked beside the ocean, Landscapes alive agoshin', Who put all of this in motion" was written right after a big Los Angeles earthquake that we had just lived through. The five of us were also having scary dreams about tidal waves...." - The suggestion being 'agoshin' is a made up word to suggest something like "oh gosh, the earth is moving!"
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:
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:
Dennis Dunaway in 2015:
The 'Zapped' compilation album put out by Warner brothers highlighted artists on Frank Zappa's labels.
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:
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.
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.