The original Alice Cooper most successful album, and the album that put them on top of the world. 'Billion Dollar Babies' is classic Alice from start to finish and features many songs that went on to be stage favourites to this day. It was, however, a slicker production then anything the band had done before and some fans consider it a step to far towards commercialism. Of course that was exactly what the band and Ezrin were aiming for. They never made any secret about the fact they were in it for the money, and releasing an album housed in a snakeskin wallet and included an over-sized billion dollar bill just drove the point home. However trouble was on the horizon...
25th February 1973
- Hello Hooray (Kempf)(4:14)
- Raped and Freezin' (Bruce, Cooper)(3:15)
- Elected (Cooper, Smith, Dunaway, Bruce, Buxton )(4:39)
- Billion Dollar Babies (Cooper, Bruce, Reggie)(3:53)
- Unfinished Sweet (Cooper, Bruce, Smith)(6:17)
- No More Mr. Nice Guy (Bruce, Cooper)(3.05)
- Generation Landslide (Cooper, Bruce, Dunaway, Smith, Buxton)(4:31)
- Sick Things (Ezrin, Cooper, Bruce)(4:18)
- Mary-Ann (Bruce, Cooper)(2:19)
- I Love The Dead (Ezrin, Cooper, (Wagner))(5:08)
- Alice Cooper - Vocals and Harmonia
- Neal Smith - Drums and Vocals
- Dennis Dunaway - Bass and Vocals
- Glen Buxton - Lead Guitar ('possibly only on 'Generation Landslide'
but he did the orgasmic vocals on 'I Love The Dead')
- Michael Bruce - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Piano and Organ
- Bob Ezrin - Keyboards
- Mick Mashbir - Guitar
- Dick Wagner - Guitar on 'I Love The Dead' and possibly 'Hello Hooray'
- Steve Hunter - Guitar on 'I Love The Dead', 'Billion Dollar Babies', 'Raped and Freezin'', 'Unfinished Sweet',
the end of 'Generation Landslide' and the end of 'Sick Things', Pedal Steel on 'Hello Hooray'
- Donovan Leitch - Vocals on 'Billion Dollar Babies'
- Reggie Vincent - Percussion on 'Elected', Guitar on 'Billion Dollar Babies', 'Elected',
'Raped And Freezin'' and 'No More Mr Nice Guy'
Produced By Bob Ezrin for Nimbus 9 Productions
The Cooper Mansion, Greenwich, CT (August and October 1972)
The Record Plant, New York (December 1972 and January 1973)
and Morgan Studios, London (December 1972)
Shelly Yakus and Frank Hubach (Greenwich)
Jack (The Rock) Douglas, Shelly Takus and Ed Sprigg (New York)
Robin Black and Peter Flanagan (London)
Album Concept and Design: Pacific Eye and Ear
Photography: David Bailey, Lynn Goldsmith and Neal Preston
Album Notes - (Detailed release information)
The sixth Alice Cooper record was their most successful and most extravagant yet. The album was contructed in three different studios over the course of six months between touring commitments including their own basecamp at the Galesi Estate (as had been parts of 'School's Out') in Greenwich, CT which they took over in 1972. Dubbed 'The Alice Cooper Mansion' The estate, off Doubling Road, north of Greenwish, has become part of Cooper folklore. We have a page all about the Mansion here.
'Billion Dollar Babies' was also the album where cracks began to appear in the previously united band. Guitarist Glen Buxton was starting to have health problems, based mainly around his heavy drinking. After the European Tour at the end of 1972 during the London recording sessions he was rushed to hospital with pancreatitis. He flew home to his family in Phoenix and checked into Maryvale Hospital to discover his Pancreas was ruined after years of alcohol abuse. He was warned to stop drinking or face the concequencies. He recovered, but friends and the band say he was never quite the same afterwards. Alice was also having his own problems with alcohol but it would take a few more years before he hit his own crisis point.
Mick Mashbir circa backstage 1973
As a result of his illness Glen barely plays on the album. It's suggested he is only on 'Generation Landslide', plus some orgasmic vocal effects on 'I Love The Dead'. Of course he still performed live with the band, but even here there were rumours of problems with suggestions that on some nights Glen's amps were turned down. The band recruited Michael Bruce's old 'Wildflowers' friend Mick Mashbir to tour with them as a third guitar, as well as keyboardist Bob Dolan, ostensibly to help them recreate the complicated arrangements on 'Billion Dollar Babies', but it's pretty certain it was also a safeguard against any problems they might have with Glen on the road. Having said all that, if you listen to the live tracks on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' deluxe reissue you can clearly hear all three guitarists and Glen sounds just fine, so any problems must have been intermittent at this point. The fact remains though that 'Billion Dollar Babies' was the first album not to feature the main five band members throughout. The follow-up album 'Muscle Of Love' would face the same problem and would be the last by the original Alice Cooper band.
A total of four singles were taken from 'Billion Dollar Babies' although as mentioned earlier 'Elected' pre-dated the album by some 5 months, reaching #26 on the Billboard charts and #4 in the UK. 'Hello Hooray' (#35) followed it, then 'No More Mr Nice Guy' (#25), and finally in the US only 'Billion Dollar Babies' (#57) itself. In the US while all were reasonably successful none approached the success of 'School's Out' In the UK however Cooper-mania was at it's peak and all three singles released hit the top 10 (#4 for 'Elected', #6 for 'Hello Hooray', and #10 for 'No More Mr Nice Guy'). To say thank you to the UK fans in February (17th) 1973 the band released a flexi-disc of a new, non-album, song, 'Silk Black Limousine' free with the UK music paper 'New Musical Express (NME)' who had just voted them "World's Top Band'. Alice told NME:
And good to his word the band didn't play the UK supporting the album, or anywhere in Europe ever again. In fact it's staggering when you realise that the original Alice Cooper only ever played 4 shows in the UK (Birmingham and London in 1971 ('Love It To Death'), Wembley ('Killer') and Glasgow ('School's Out') in 1972)) in their entire lifespan, yet in 1973 were still the biggest band in the country. In fact Alice solo would only play an additional three more shows that decade, all in 1975.
The album itself was the biggest album in their career hitting the #1 spot in both America and the UK. It went gold a month after release and has gone on to sell many millions of copies since. Many songs from the album still feature in Alice's stage show today with 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'Billion Dollar Babies' featuring in nearly every show. The chorus of 'I Love The Dead' is used as a coda to the guillotine execution, 'Elected' is generally saved for a US election year, 'Hello Hooray' is often the opener, and even 'Raped and Freezin' and 'Unfinished Sweet' have made appearances relatively recently.
When Alice eventually left the original band in 1975 Michael, Dennis, and Neal, with tour musician Bob Dolan and friend Mike Marconi, set up their own new band under the 'Billion Dollar Babies' banner.
Quadraphonic Version and the DVD-A
A quadraphonic (four discreet channels rather then stereos two channels) version of the album was also released which included different mixes and in some cases different takes and/or edits of the album's tracks. including different vocal tracks ('Raped and Freezin''), unfaded endings ('Generation Landslide'), and editings ('I Love the Dead'). Alice’s lead vocals are more upfront in the quad mix as well. A DVD-Audio version of the album was released in 2002 featuring a version of the Quad mix but it isn't exactly the same mix. The DVD-A also includes the 'Elected' promotional film, an interview with Alice talking about the album, and a photo and lyric gallery. The DVD-A also included some of the live tracks also found one the 2001 Deluxe edition.
Billion Dollar Babies 2001 Reissue
In 2001 Warner Brothers released a "Deluxe Edition" (Warner Archives/Rhino 8122-79791-2) of the album as a two disc set with deluxe packaging. The extra tracks on the second disc included songs recorded for the 'Good To See You Alice Cooper' movie, 'Slick Black Limousine' from the NME flexi-disc, 'Coal Black Model-T' which was an alternate version of 'Slick Black Limousine', and 'Son of Billion Dollar Babies (Generation Landslide)', a different take of 'Generation Landslide'.
The bonus/live tracks on the CD are:
- Hello Hooray (Houston `73)
- Billion Dollar Babies (Houston `73)
- Elected (Houston `73)
- I`m Eighteen (Houston `73)
- Raped and Freezin' (Houston `73)
- No More Mr Nice Guy (Houston `73)
- My Stars (Houston `73)
- Unfinished Sweet (Dallas `73)
- Sick Things (Houston `73)
- Dead Babies (Houston `73)
- I Love The Dead (Houston `73)
- Coal Black Model T (a early version of Slick Black Limo)
- Son Of Billion Dollar Babies (Generation Landslide Outtake)
- Slick Black Limousine
While the live songs were originally recorded for possible use in 'Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper' not all are the exact same versions as used in the film. The venues listed above are based on comparing the the CD vesion to the flim and bootlegs of the other shows that were recorded. They are not definitive.
The film soundtrack appears to feature: Track 1 from Dallas, Trac 2 from Houston, Tracks 3-9 from Dallas, Tracks 10-11 from Houston, with the final 'School's Out' and 'Under My Wheels' (not on the CD) being from Dallas. The Nixon skit at the end of the movie is likely to have been filmed at the Madison Square Garden show.
It's also worth mentioning again that while many sources say Glen Buxton was unwell during the tour and was turned down in the live mix, three guitars are clearly heard during the remixed live disc.
'Hello Hooray' was written by Canadian Rolf Kempf and originally recorded by Judy Collins in 1968. Alice:
Alice in the 'Elected' promotion film.
'Elected' was recorded in August 1972, in advance of the rest of the album, and released in September '72 as the follow-up single to 'School's Out'. It had it's origins in the song 'Reflected' from 'Pretties For You' which in turn had originaly been 'You Shall Be Elected'.
In 'Elected' the band wanted famous radio broadcaster (and the narrator on 'The Untouchables' TV show) Walter Winchell to provide the voice for the newscaster during the middle section of the song. Winchell was famous for opening his broadcasts with the tapping of telegraph keys and "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea". Unfortunatly when they tried to contact him they found he had died earlier in the year, so they settled on Will Jordon, a famous impersonator who'd appeared on TV shows like the 'Ed Sullivan Show'. The promotional video for 'Elected' was one of the first of it's kind, in that it was a purpose build promotional film which didn't just feature the artist performing their song. Nowadays of course such thnigs are commonplace but not in 1972.
The second voice on 'Billion Dollar Babies' is Donovan, famous for such hippie hits like 'Mellow Yellow' and 'Sunshine Superman'. In concert, Michael Bruce sang Donovan's lines. Donovan recalls:
I'm experimental. I will try combinations that others won’t and have a lot of fun doing it. Alice had a guitar player in his band that was playing a little bit like Keith Richards and I thought that was fascinating.
I went in and sang this piercing falsetto and sang, 'Biiillllion dollllar babbbbieeeees.' I can do things with my voice like that. Alice said, "That’s it, man. Let’s record." I think I did about half the vocals on that song. I have met Alice again over the years. It was really extraordinary to be a part of that song. 'Billion Dollar Babies' went to No. 1. I also did the talking part on the song: 'We go dancing nightly in the attic.' It was all like a horror movie, all tongue-in-cheek. I love Gothic mysteries. It has that spookiness."
'No More Mr Nice Guy' was actually written around the time of 'Killer' but wasn't considered in line with the theme for either that album or 'School's Out'. There have been suggestions for years that Marc Bolan plays on the song but it's not true. Legend has it that the song's lyrics were inspired by a particularily harsh review in Rolling Stone Magazine. Michael Bruce talks about the writing of the song:
Alice Cooper in the Canery Islands 1973.
Photo by Cindy Smith Dunaway.
Neal Smith on writing 'Generation Landslide':
The main verse and structure of 'Sick Things' is remarkably similar to a piece of music used in the film 'IF..' featuring 'Clockwork Orange' star Malcolm McDowell. The Choral piece is called 'Sanctus' from 'Missa Luba, An African Mass'. The backing and vocal line at one point are almost identical.
Alice has stated that 'Mary Ann' was written about infamous UK moral crusader Mary Whitehouse. But it was originally rather different. Michael Bruce:
Michael Bruce recalls working on 'I Love The Dead':
Dick Wagner on 'I Love The Dead':
The 'Superstar Jam' with Dennis, Alice, Keith Moon,
Harry Nilsson and Marc Bolan.
During the London sessions for 'Billion Dollar Babies', there was a famous 'superstar jam' session which featured members of the band with Keith Moon (Drums), Rick Grech (bass), Marc Bolan (guitar), Donovan and Harry Nilsson (vocals). Contrary to popular belief, none of the songs were Alice Cooper songs or soon-to-be Alice Cooper songs and nothing from the session was used. It was just a group of fellow musicians goofing around with songs and getting drunk (much to Bob Ezrin's disappointment, who had hoped to capture something special on tape). Some of it is jamming to old standards with improvised and sometimes crude lyrical changes, other bits are just drunken messing around. A recording of the session does still exist, but it's terrible, and completely unreleasable. In 1996 Brian Nelson commented that "none of it is coherent enough to even include on the [Life and Crimes] box set". Mick Mashbir:
The drunken jam is also mentioned in the book 'Marc Bolan: The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar' by Mark Paytress.
A promotional LP called Versierschijf Volume 1 was released on Scandecor records in 1973 in Holland and features an interview with the band around 72-73. One side has the interview and one side has the story of Alice Cooper in Dutch with funny (well, funny at the time) effects. The LP came with a poster and features an oversized label with a hole in the vinyl so you could hang the LP on the wall once you were finished listening to it (obviously Scandecor realized no one was going to listen to the LP twice). The intention was to release a series of Versierschijven, but this idea didn't quite make it and the Cooper one is the only one released.(Freek Kinkelaar, Netherlands)
The 'Billion Dollar Bill' found inside the album.
The original vinyl cover of 'Billion Dollar Babies' was a work of art in itself. The cover was styled like a green snakeskin money wallet, with curved edges and an embossing effect on the snake scales and coin-like emblem with diamonds around it. Open the gatefold wallet and you were presented with a over-sized billion dollar bill to the right, and perforated cards on the left featuring portraits of each band member and on stage photos, like the sort of personal photos one would keep in a wallet of a wife or children. Remove the cards and you discovered the album credits (something I didn't realise for over a decade as I refused to remove them!). The inside sleeve featured lyrics on one side, and on the other a classic photo, by the world famous photographer David Bailey, of the band standing all in white, behind Alice holding a baby with the classic Alice Cooper make up, surrounded by one million dollars of real money, and white rabbits. Other photos taken at the session feature the band holding machine guns completing the 'sex, death and money' theme.
The baby in the picture was Lola Pfeiffer, daughter of Carolyn Pfeiffer who handled the bands public relations in the UK. Sadly the baby died a few years later.
The band ran into problems with some of the photos on the sleeve (again!). There is a law in the US which requires FBI approval on the reproduction of photos of United States currency, and it took some negotiating to be allowed to use the potograph after the government agency decided you couldn't tell if it waas real money or not!
Dennis Dunaway tells a story about the photo shoot. Apparently the band borrowed exactly one million dollars for the shoot and sent it down in an armored car with their own security. When the money was counted up at the end of the shoot, $10 dollars was missing and he says "Glen just couldn't resist" although others say it was eventually found in a light fitting.
The 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour poster designed by Praire Prince
In addition to the band members, the tour also featured:
- Mick Mashbir - guitar
- Bob Dolin - keyboards
- Cindy Smith - Giant Tooth
- The Amazing Randi - Dentist, Executioner
- 'Richard M. Dixon' - Richard Nixon
The 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour started out as a project called 'Alice At The Palace'. It was going to be a Broadway type production, choreographed by 'Follies' star Michael Bennet, at the Palace Theatre in New york but the Palace pulled out. They changed the venue to a 1700 seater Broadway Theatre for five day in mid-February 1972 but that was canceled too. According to Joe Greenberg, they shows were canceled because too many ticket requests were received to make it feasible. He said that without any advertising, they had received 33,000 requests for tickets and couldn't guarantee security if irate fans descended on the Theatre. In the end the 'Billion Dollar Babies' US tour began instead. The 'Alice At The Palace' idea continued to be talked about for a few years to come but never happened.
While the tour didn't play outside of North America Alice did do a promotional trip to Europe in early '74 which included interviews on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test', BBC Radio One, and Radio Luxembourg.
The incredible artwork for the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour posters was designed by Prairie Prince from fellow Phoenix band The Tubes, old friends from the early days.
The Leopard Boots
This was also the first tour on which Alice wore those famous leopard skin boots.
Rock Scene - September 1973 (their typos):
The next night Alice gets ready in the dressing room of the Omni Arena. He applies black lipstick and fake blood to his white leotard and tights . . . smudging it in real good and then ripping his clothes in shreds here and there. "I refuse to go on unless my clothes are dirty," he says seriously. And of course, it is the Debut Of The Boots. Al Kooper comes in to say hello and stares at the boots. Alice practices walking around in them and stands next to Neil Smith. He is almost as tall as Neil. Almost."
The 'Billion Dollar Babies' show stage, 1973
Cindy Smith Dunaway as the giant tooth bottom left.
The 'Billion Dollar Babies' show featured a lavish stage set including it's own stage which was 25ft high, weighed 8 tons and cost around $200,000 to build. It had several levels for the band to move around on including a huge staircase that lit up as Alice walked up and down it between the stage levels. Behind Neal's kit stood an Egyptian Sarcophagus which shot lasers during 'My Stars'.
The show opened naturally enough with 'Hello Hooray' with Alice appearing through the smoke in white tail coat, White ripped leotard and the famous leopard skin boots.
'I'm Eighteen', 'Elected', 'Raped and Freezin'' and 'Billion Dollar Babies' followed in quick succession as Alice taunted the crowd from the front of the stage, seemingly reveling in the chaos in the audience as the crowd fought to get a better view.
'My Stars' saw Alice climbing up the steps to sing from behind Neal`s drum kit at the back of the stage, next to the laser eyed sarcophagus. Almost allowing himself a breather from the intensity at the front of the stage and maybe also letting the rest of the band members get a share of the spotlight.
'Unfinished Sweet' saw the start of the real theatrics with Alice starting out on a silver dentists table and Cindy Smith appearing dressed as a giant tooth which Alice proceeded to brush with a giant toothbrush before seeming to sexually assault the poor tooth. Returning to the table, The Amazing Randi appears dressed as a crazed dentist, with a giant dentists drill which he proceeds to use it on Alice who rolls around in mock-agony. 'No More Mr Nice Guy' follows before the stage is plunged into darkness. Lasers cut through the smoke as Mussorsky's 'Night On Bald Mountain' blasted over the P.A.. Strobe lights flashed as plastic body parts were placed around the stage by the road crew ready for part two of the show, piling the limbs and torsos up and using them to hit each other in some macabre nightmare.
Alice reappeared in a black leather outfit with the snake for 'Sick Things', before the slow bass intro to 'Dead Babies' raised the level again, Alice molesting dolls and torsos at the stage front to the open mouthed astonishment of the audience. He spat on them, caressed them. 'I Love The Dead' began as the cloth covered guillotine was wheeled onto the stage with Randi, now dressed as a hooded executioner. Alice placed his neck on the block (Michael Bruce continued singing while Alice mimed) and Randi pulled the rope, bringing down the blade to leave Alice twitching on the platform. The music switched to a tape as the band came down from there platforms and Randi pulled out the severed head and held it aloft. The lights went out as 'Night On Bald Mountain' again echoed through the hall. Show over, Alice punished for his crimes.
Of course they were all back a few minutes later for 'School`s Out' with Alice in the now traditional top hat, tails and cane as balloons burst and fake money fell. He also had an armful of posters which which he teased the audience. Alice grew to fear this part of the show, always waiting for someone from the audience to grab him and pull him down. He talked to the audience though, goading them on to greater zeal and declaring the famous quote "You`re All Crazier Then I Am". And then it was over. Kate Smith`s version of 'God Bless America' played and the band took their bows. At some shows a Richard Nixon lookalike (who usd the stage name 'Richard Dixon') walked on stage only to be beaten up by the band and carried off while still smiling and flashing peace signs.
(Report based on work by Andy Michael)
- Hello Hooray
- Billion Dollar Babies
- I'm Eighteen
- Raped and Freezin'
- No More Mr. Nice Guy
- My Stars
- Unfinished Sweet
- (A Night on Bald Mountain-tape)
- Sick Things
- Dead Babies
- I Love The Dead
- (A Night on Bald Mountain-tape)
- School's Out
- Under My Wheels
- God Bless America - Kate Smith impersonator on tape
A theatrical film showing the show in all it's glory was released as 'Good To See You again, Alice Cooper'. The film containes the full show but also includes several monty Python-esque skits between and sometimes over the footage. While the opening skit with the band performing 'The Lady Is A Tramp' is wrthwhile, many of the others just get in the way of the concert footage. The film was unavailable to fans for decades. Only a bootleg German VHS tape was ever seen, but that was quickly stopped. When the film was released on DVD some effort was put in to include a "performance only" option, but as the original footage was no longer available that causes some very obvious cuts and edits to the live material where the skits took the place of real live footage.