After the 'Billion Dollar Babies Holiday Tour' at the end of 1973 the Alice Cooper band finally took a break after years of non-stop touring and recording. Michael Bruce and Neal Smith wanted to record solo albums, against the advice of manager Shep Gordon who warned them that if they did Alice would likely go and record his own. The musicians were adament and so it came to pass that Alice headed to Toronto with Bob Ezrin and started work on what would become 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.
Much has been made of the suggestion Shep Gordon planned it all from the start. After all it's easier (and more profitable) to deal with just one artist then five. The band had always been a democracy, with all aspects of the music and show needing a majority vote to happen. This was probably one of the reasons why Michael and Neal wanted to stretch out and do their own albums. Albums they would have full control of and not have to run through the committee. Michael especially wanted to show his songs without the interferance of Alice and Bob Ezrin, who he felt would constantly twist the songs away from his original vision, to make them more 'Cooper-esque'. Both also probably assumed their fame as members of the biggest band in America would see that their albums would sell reasonably well and show them as talents in their own rights. All these things were perfectly reasonable, but they had missed one vital ingredient. Alice was undoubtably the face of the band, with many people already assuming that Alice Cooper was a solo act. He was the face on the magazine covers. He was generally the voice in interviews, and even a cursory look at news articles from the early 70s showed Alice Cooper being refered to "he" rather then "they" more often then not. Outside the loyal fanbase Alice Cooper was a person, not a group.
Hollywood Billboard advertising 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.
However I think the change from group to solo artist was more organic then that, and there were many reasons contributing to it happening when it did. The solo albums were certainly a major part of it, but there was also the issue of Glen Buxton. Glen by this stage was less than engaged by what the band were doing. His health was poor and his playing at times eratic, but no one wanted to fire him from the band he co-formed. He was their high school friend and they natually felt a great deal of loyalty to him. By effectively leaving the band Alice avoided the problem completely.
Alice has often suggested that the band no longer wanted to do the theatrics, while he wanted to make them big and better, but the band refute that completely. It was just something easy for Alice to say to the press when asked (and at the time the band were never asked). Of course there was also the huge success of 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Alice, Bob and Shep had full control over the project and in turn reaped the full rewards that were split just three ways, meaning more money for all three. So there was far more to it then some masterplan to seperate Alice from the band. Even while working on 'Welcome To My Nightmare' the plan was still to regroup afterwards for the next group album, but when the '...Nightmare' tour was announced the writing was on the wall.
In an 1976 interview with 'Record World' Bob Ezrin recalls the genesis of 'Welcome To My Nightmare' as the soundtrack to a movie:
"[For '...Nightmare'] we weer first writing for a film, then we were writing for a TV Show. It fell apart as a result of some differences between people who were on the production end. We were brought in because Alice was to have been one of the two main characters and we were to have done the soundtrack. So we began work on those as soon as we got the script. We began to structure some things for Cooper, and for the character he was playing, in music well before they had even secured production rights. We were just cruising along in good faith, and the group of people putting the film together ended up being like a tower of babel and things just started falling apart. The next thing we knew we were sitting on seven or eight good songs, or song ideas, based on a theme tha was no longer important to us. Then we did the TV show and, because we started to get up against the wall time-wise, tailored some of the material we had written earlier for the film to the 'Welcome...' concept".
Anyway, we were also experimenting with different types of rhythm sections for Cooper and with different approaches to rock and roll music for Cooper, because for the first time we weren't limited by what we could do - Not by the players, not by the writing, not by anythng or anyone. We could use any musicians we wanted to use as long as we could afford to pay them. We just tried differend things. 'Welcome...' was an experimental record for us, being the first solo Cooper album, and being the first time Cooper and myslef had ever put something together in our heads before it got to the studio."
'Welcome To My Nightmare' was promoted as the soundtrack to the TV special, which allowed Shep and Alice to use a loophole in their contract with Warner Brothers Records and sign a deal with Atlantic Records who released the album in the US (it was on Anchor in the UK). Atlantic, while technically owned by Warner Brothers, was a major label in it's own right and autonomous. Warners were not happy to see their golden goose flying off to a rival. They fought to get him back in time for follow-up 'Goes To Hell'. It was all record company politics really, but likely helped Shep negotiate a better deal for future Alice solo albums when they returned to Warners the following year. Years later Warners obtained the rights to the record anyway.
When recording the album Bob Ezrin brought in most of the band he had assembled for Lou Reed 'Berlin' album, on which he had worked in 1973. Seasoned professionals, he knew they would do exactly what they were told with the minimum of fuss. Hunter and Wagner of course both worked on the original band albums as well so were already familiar to Alice and in Wagner he found the perfect new writing partner.
Of course Alice's life went through another major change in 1975. One that would have a huge effect that lives on to this day. During the tour he met a young dancer, hired to perform in the show. Her name was Sheryl Goddard. They fell in love, married the following year, and have been together ever since.
In 2002 the album was remastered and released with 3 bonus tracks, the TV Special versions of 'Devil's Food', 'Cold Ethyl' and 'The Awakening'. There was also a DVD-A version of the album which featured alternate mixes of all the songs by Bob Ezrin.
In 2011 Alice and Bob Ezrin recorded a follow-up album called 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' which featured musicial references to the original album and an updated version of the original's album cover.
Alice and Vincent Price on the set of 'The Nightmare'.
According to one document the Vincent Price monologue that bridges 'Devil's Food' and 'The Black Widow' had it's own seperate title: 'Jolly MacAmbre, Tour Guide at the Pasadena Palace of Insects'. According to IMDB Alice initially met Price on the set of Daniel Mann's 'Journey Into Fear' around July 1974 (released August 1975). Alice was there to talk about ideas for what would become '....Nightmare' with director Mann and was introduced to Price who was there working on the film. When Price showed up at the studio to record his vocals he shocked onlookers by arriving in a Hawaiian shirt and striped pants. Alice Cooper commented that the horro legend looked "like Ronald McDonald." While Price only has one monologue on the album, in the TV Special he has a much larger part. He also turned up to perform his part live at one show in Lake Tahoe. Unfortunatly no footage of the event exists.
Dick Wagner on 'Only Women Bleed':
"I wrote all the music for ['Only Women Bleed'] in 1968 when I was still with The Frost, and it had completely different lyrics. Then, when Alice and I sat down and began writing for the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' record, I played him that song, and he agreed that the lyrics weren't that good. So we wrote new lyrics, and he had this title, 'Only Women Bleed,' so that became the song."
Alice has said in interviews that he gets a lot of inspiration from the TV, including 'Only Women Bleed'. The title came from something that someone said on TV that sounded like "only women bleed" but wasn't. The song is, of course, about domestic violence. The women bleeding due to being beaten. Of course the mainstream press didn't (and sometimes still don't) bother to understand the words and often jumped to the conclusion that sick, deprived Alice was talking about menstruation. Dropping the word 'blood' from the title of the single didn't seem to help
In an interview, Alice said that the voices heard in the background of 'Years Ago' was some old audio footage of a supposed exorcism.
In an episode of YouTube series "Ask Alice" Alice explained where who he thought 'Steven' was:
"I didn't know who 'Steven' was until I had used him in four or five albums. I got the idea of using him through four or five albums from [author] Kurt Vonnegut using 'Kilgore Trout' through all of his novels, and I said "I need a character ilke that". Then I started realising that 'Steven' is the seven year old boy who lives in all of us. He's the little boy who's scared of the dark. He's afraid of what's under the bed... but he can't wait to see what it is. I think he's that seven year old boy that never dies, or never should die, in you. He's what keeps you young. Girls? I don't know.. you probably have a Brenda... or a Sally..."
'Escape' was originally written by The Hollywood Stars and recorded by them in 1974 [YouTube] for an album that wasn't actually released until 2013. Alice re-wrote the words for the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' version but kept the chorus.
The Hollywood Stars also wrote Kiss' 'King Of The Night Time World' for the Ezrin produced 'Destroyer' album around the same time.
Writers Mark Anthony and Kim Fowley sued Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive because his song 'Down The Line' sounded like 'Escape' (Alice was not involved as he only adapted the lyrics). They settled out of court and Bachman added their names to the publishing on his song.
An concert film was released, also calleed 'Welcome To My Nightmare', featuring the full 'Welcome To My Nightmare' show recorded live at Wembley in 1975. Unlike many early Alice Cooper film projects this one has been reissued multiple times, the best of which was the first Rhino Records DVD release which included a brilliant and funny commentary track by Alice and his personal assistant/archivist Brian Nelson. Unfortunatly this was only available in the US and all other releases omit the feature.