The original Alice Cooper, the band (Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway) ceased to exist after the South America '74 tour. The reasons for the split have been debated for decades among fans. It's been said that the band members didn't want to do the theatrics any more (something denied by Neal and Dennis especially). It's been suggested that Shep wanted to deal only with Alice so as to split the money only two ways. It's been suggested that Alice didn't want to return to the band and face Glen Buxton's health problems (and his own). It's even been said that Alice "fired" the band which is completely untrue. Whatever the reasons it's unlikely that it was a cut-and-dried reason. The fact is there was no one thing that caused the split, with lots of different elements coming into play.
The first, and most obvious reason, was 'Welcome To My Nightmare', Alice's first solo album. Many suggest Alice's solo album was such a success he simply abandoned the other band members. There is certainly some truth in this but it isn't quite that simple, and it would be wrong to simply make Alice the villain of the piece.
In the first place there is the question of why Alice did a solo album in the first place. It's been mentioned in various biographies that both Neal Smith and Michael Bruce wanted to do their own solo albums, which they did record during the period Alice was working on his album. Supposedly manager Shep Gordon advised both not to go that route, as if they did, Alice would likely do his own album. Shep could see that any Alice solo album would be much more successful then anything the band members could come up with, which would obviously set Alice up to go it alone. Neal and Michael didn't listen and things panned up exactly as Shep said they would. However the question arises on the timing of all this. Did Shep already know and plan on Alice recording 'Welcome To My Nightmare' when he gave his advice? It's possible we will never know.
Another factor was the constant touring and recording cycle the band had been on for the past seven plus years. They were all exhausted and needed a break. The 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour had been especially brutal, and the original plan was to take a year off, recharge, and come back together in 1976 for a new album. Of course the success of 'Welcome To My Nightmare' put an end to that, and as Alice already had the name there wasn't a lot the band could do. Yes, they could taken Alice to court to prevent him using the band name, but by then he had changed his name legally, and that would have likely led to a long drawn out court case where the only people to gain would be the lawyers. The band declined to go that root, and so they were left out in the cold.
There was also the issue of Glen Buxton. Alice and Glen were very close, and Glen's health, and interest in the band, was going downhill quickly. No one wanted to fire him from the band he had formed, but they also couldn't simply carry him forever. They already had Mick Mashbir and others playing on the albums in place of Glen. By going solo Alice effectively removed himself from making that choice. He chose to leave the band. He didn't "fire his band" as is often claimed in the press. They were equal partners in 'Alice Cooper' so he couldn't do that even if he had wanted to. Every band decision was decided by a vote, and the other band members were hardly going to vote to fire themselves.
Lastly there is the small matter of the most often repeated reason the band split up. Alice has often claimed that the other band members didn't want to do the theatrics any more. All but Alice claim this is completely untrue and simply a smokescreen to use in interviews to avoid further questions. Neal, Dennis and Michael all point to the highly theatrical 1977 'Battle Axe' show to prove their point. The "no theatrics" reason took hold mainly because no one bothered to ask the other guys their side of the story at the time. Alice himself was by then already 'Alice Cooper' in the minds of most of the public and the media, so they didn't see any break between 'Muscle Of Love' and 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Only the hardcore fans knew the difference, something that continues to this day.
So at the end of the day there were many factors in the break up, possibly even including things we don't know.
Below are various comments and quotes about the split for your consideration.
Brian Nelson, Alice's archivist and personal assistant for many years:
"...Alice eventually reneged on an agreement to do a farewell tour after his 'Welcome To My Nightmare' album?
I would say that the word reneged is a bit overboard. The band never really broke up, they just never got back together again. In a Rolling Stone interview, Shep said something to the effect that he could see the band getting back after the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour for some big festival shows or something. By the time the success of 'Welcome To My Nightmare' happened, there was really no reason to do it. It's not like they had an agreement in writing or anything.
There was musical frustration, too, around Glen Buxton.
Glen was very burnt out. Too much drugs and drinking. It has been mentioned here before that Dick Wagner, Steve Hunter and Mick Mashbir often were the actual guitar players on a lot of the stuff - particularly on the last 2 albums. I know that the Glen factor was a major part of the band falling apart. I know that Alice always felt a close affinity to Glen. I think it was quite clear to the group that it was going to be difficult to carry on with Glen in the band. Glen certainly was a key figure in the group.
He [Michael Bruce] basically says that Shep Gordon was the instigator of the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' album and the prevention of any reunion.
Well, of course he's going to say that. Who else is he going to blame? Certainly not himself. Here are some facts. Not a "take" on what happened. Michael and Neal were not interested in pursuing the theatrical aspect of Alice Cooper (something they still deny). Michael and Neal went off to record solo albums. Alice in turn, rather than sitting around on his hands, figured that he would do one if they were doing one. 'Welcome To My Nightmare' was a major success. The musicians on the album, while maybe not as charming as the original band, were something fresh and professional at the time for Alice to work with. Glen had become inoperative. The 'Billion Dollar Baby' book had been published. 'Muscle of Love' was a disappointment.
Around 1981 Alice talked to Mike Bruce on the phone, discussed something (a reunion), talked to the other guys and went to Bob Ezrin about a reunion and he turned them down, saying he would have nothing to do with it because they (the band) can't play!
There is some truth to that. Bob Ezrin is certainly entitled to his own opinion is he not? Notice that Bob didn't do the 'Muscle Of Love' album. Read between the lines.
It seem that the other members of the band have been sending Alice stuff to listen to for a while now (there some for the new album)
This is true. Alice has no problem in covering any of the songs if they are appropriate for the album that he is doing at the time.
It's not like Alice refuses to comment on the topic. I made very sure that the topic was brought up and answered in 'Prime Cuts'. A lot of people seem to want a nice, tidy simple answer to the breakup of the band. I don't think there is one. A band breaking up is not much different from a divorce. It is possible that a couple divorces due to one single reason such as infidelity. More often than not, it is because of many different reasons.
Warner Bros. was broached with having Alice record a song for the 'Life And Crimes of Alice Cooper' box set with all of the members of the original band including Michael Bruce. Alice agreed to do it. Warner Bros. passed on the idea.
In his book 'No More Mr Nice Guy', Michael Bruce had this to say (paraphrased):
With or without Bruce's memories and observations, the chances of a reunion of the original Alice Cooper band that had such phenomenal success in the first half of the '70s are slight, to say the least. "About as much as me moving this hotel to the left about four feet," chuckles Cooper. "The funny thing is, I like everybody in the band, everybody likes everybody. I don't have anything against Mike Bruce. I don't have anything against [guitarist] Glen [Buxton]. [Drummer] Neal Smith and [bassist] Dennis [Dunaway] and I are the best of friends. It's just that putting the band together would not be like putting Kiss together. Kiss had a whole different thing. [With] our band there were problems that were almost insurmountable musically. I haven't seen Mike Bruce in a long, long time but I'm sure we'd have a good laugh."
(Allstar Online, September 1997)
"I just finished reading 'Billion Dollar Baby'.. as I said to Ren."I can't believe I was on the same tour", meaning so much goes on, that you can't see everything that goes on.
Bob Greene was given admittance to the inner circle so, I'd say it was a fair accounting of the mood and reactions and egos of the band at the time. Because he was there everyday, people forgot he was writing a book. He never took notes or used a tape recorder in front of anyone so no one was guarded in their comments or actions.
What they needed was a break from each other to re-group.. The book exposed their raw nerves.. with a little time they could/might have healed. They took a break, and during that time AC released his solo album and decided to leave the group.. To be fair, Mike Bruce's album was never really released,(well it was, but it was never promoted) so it posed no threat to the future of the ACG. As far as solo projects... I think that Kiss learned a lesson from the ACG (not the first or last!).. they did solo albums so they wouldn't break up (at that time). As far as the book goes, I tell people that "If they want to know why bands break up at the height of their success, to read 'Billion Dollar Baby'." Sad, but true......."
(Mick Mashbir, December 1998)