Easy Conception, Painful Delivery, Anti-natal Depression
February 1973: the release of 'Billion Dollar Babies' was less then a month away, 'Hello Hurray', was to be the new single. Shep Gordon had mapped out the oncoming tour. He and Alice had written the new stage act. February was the month of the rehearsal, as bit by bit, the new ideas were cobbled together into a cohesive whole. There was still a chance that the 'Alice At The Palace' idea could be saved, but when the alternative venue, the Schubert Theatre, backed out because they were 'afraid to take on Cooper', it was necessary for Alice to take Broadway on the road.
There were other plans too. The previous year, Alice had decided to market a line of cosmetics and toiletries, under the name 'Whiplash'. The products turned up later in the year and have become the most sort after Alice collectables:
"There is no reason why men can't wear make-up at home and this will shake a lot of people up."
The line was strictly limited edition and demand obviously soon out stripped demand.
As thte band rehearsed, news came through that they had won several readers polls from the U.K. music papers. Sounds, Disc, Melody Maker and N.M.E. all saw the band win awards ranging from 'best group' to 'best live act' to 'best single' to 'best vocalist' (for Alice naturally). The one the band were most pleased with was the N.M.E. award for 'best group'. Alice was delighted:
"God, I'd love to thank everyone. It's such a compliment because the British have SUCH taste. We all said 'whaaat!'. We'll have to think of something nice for them, because we don't have time to play a show."
In 1982, Alice said:
"that's when I realised we were the biggest thing in the world. It was such a great compliment. I never thought musically we were number 1 - we were very GOOD but for entertainment, well, we were number 1."
The 'something special' promised by Alice was a small round piece of flexable plastic called 'Slick Black Limousine'. It was given away free with the N.M.E. and immediatly became another collectable. although over the years, it has become relativly easy to find. Interestingly, the N.M.E. had its' biggest advance orders for that particular issue. Alice said at the time:
"this is for the N.M.E. and Roy Carr".
Carr was the N.M.E. journalist who had given the band much of their earlier UK exposure. 'Slick Black Limousine', which was and still is unavailable elsewhere, was a classy slab of rockabilly. For Alice it was an important track:
"A lot of people think we can't play anything else, that we're one dimensional. We recorded this in August '72 at the Mansion. It's mainly Dennis' song, all grease and echo, a rubber-legged knee-trembler with a nod to Sandy Nelson. The vocal was done in London. It's all about my slick black limo."(1973)
Having been off the road for nearly two months, Alice was full of rejuvinated enthusiasm for the tour:
"Being off the road has thrown my timing off. I want the schedules again, getting yourself organised like a hamster running on a wheel. It gets so intense and so crazy and you start bumping into walls and things. It's an unbelievably crazy existence. I love it. But I also know that this tour is quite possibly going to kill us."(1973)
The logistics of the thing were quite terrifying. Originally planned as 56 shows in 62 days, it was later pushed to 60 cities in 72 days. That amount of one-nighters was likely to kill all but the most stout-hearted people, but the plan was simple. Turn up, play, take the money and onto the next city.
Dispite his enthusiasm, Alice did have some trepidations. There was no way he could have survived the intensity of the tour without recourse to alcohol. It was his only vice and he needed it. With Sheps' Christmas advice still ringing in his ears, Alice devised his own personal drinking schedule: breakfast would be a succession of warm ('not cold')beers. As the day wore on, the beers got colder:
"with the cold beer, I had Italian food or something spicy. I just sip the beer, never slug it back. Then after a show around 11 pm, I hit the V.O.!"(1973)
For convenience sake, Alice and Cindy had moved out of the 'Cooper Mansion' in Connecticutt, to a luxury apartment in Manhatten. It was mainly for Cindy ('Alice pays for it all, but it's ok. I'm a good investment.' - Cindy Laing 1973). For his part, Alice had tired of the green fields and genteel citizens of Connecticutt:
"I'd wake up and see fields and chipmunks and it'd be so boring. In New York, I wake up and I see a brick wall and I go 'ah ha! YEAHH!'. My block is a kick. We have the police department, the Russian embassy, the Israelis, the whole lot with bombs going off everywhere. A building goes down here and they build a new one there. I'm living in the middle of the biggest cultural crisis the USA has ever seen!"(1973)
The rehearsals were going smoothly. The new act was kept a secret, with photographers barred from the theatre. Although Glen Buxton had made a complete recovery from the operation over Christmas, a decision had already been made that the sound would be augmented by another guitarist and a synth player. That guitar picker was Mick Mashbir, and old pal of the bands from Arizona. The synth player was Bob Dolin. Rumours abounded that Glen was to be ousted from the band and Mashbir to become a permanent member but these were quickly denied by the band's management. There had been a change in Glens' nature since his brush with death. Alice, Glens' oldest friend, particularly noticed it:
"It's not the same guy. He has become quiet and polite. Before he was deranged and crazy. It's weird."
As the tour was to progress, things soon got weirder viz-a-viz Glen Buxton.
A few das before the start of the tour, Alice Cooper, symbol of all that was evil in the world, was asked whether he would care to introduce the legendary comedian George Burns, at Burns' Philharmonic Hall performance. Remember dear reader that Alice's true idols are not other musicians, but the stars of the '40's and '50's, of Hollywood and TV. The Jack Benny's, The Groucho Marxs', George Burns', Mae Wests' and others. Alice swooned with pride:
"Jack Benny's going to be there too! I'm scared! What do I say, what do I wear?! I mean JACK BENNY and GEORGE BURNS!! When the guy called to ask me they said Cagney was there too!!"
At the show itself, Burns was a little unsure as to what to expert:
"maybe I should eat a live chicken.."
As it turned out, Jack Benny was the M.C. but at the party after the show, Alice introduced his award to Burns (a hideous gold coiled snake) described as a 'coveted prize'. Alice had had one made up for Benny but that had yet to arrive. For Alice, it was the start of his acceptance by 'legitimate' stars and entertainers, as he said:
"those guys understand what I'm doing. Burns, Marx (Groucho), Benny, Astaire, they were brought up in vaudeville and burlesque and that's what I'm reviving. That's the tradition I respond to. Showbiz - the smell of greasepaint, the roar of the crowd. The star is back - Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, me - HELLO HURRAY, I'M READY!!"
Sure enough, Rock had discovered glamour. Bowie had made his dazzling entrance by mid '72. Bolan had brought back the excitement and hysteria in a big way. That nebulous concept of 'Glam Rock' (stupid term) was awash with the likes of Gary Glitter and The Sweet. Genesis were now dabbling in their own style of surreal theatrics and of course The Pink Floyd had been zapping minds onstage for ages. Within a year, The late Alx Harvey maintained the tradition and The New York Dolls (with totally different motives) started to totter on on their high heels. BUT NO-ONE USED THE STAGE LIKE THE COOP. If you disagree, you're blind. Expensive gimmicks are not enough. It becomes an exercise in dynamics and kinetics, so eat yer heart out Ozzy. Alice enthused at the new stars:
"Me, Liza, Bette Midler and Bowie. No-one else. Bowie is VERY original. He is too futuristic though, I'm NOW. Bette Midler is TOO much. When I saw her, she was so good I forgot to oopen my beer! I like The Jackson Five too, We met them on Top Of The Pops and they thought we were gonna kill them. Michael keeps snakes so he must be ok!" (1973)
Opening night was now a day or so away and the publicity machine trundled on. A few weeks earlier, Shep had commissioned, for $60,000, a work of art by another of Alice's idols, Salvadore Dali. Dali, who had offered Geopoliticus Child as the cover of 'Love It To Death', came up with an extraordinary work. At The Knoedler Gallery in New York, Dali, in a flowing white robe, introduced Alice in black leather and pearls to the assembled art critics and newsmen. Dali rambled no about 'le brain of Alice Cooper' and insisted on kissing Alice on the forehead. "To me Cooper is the exponent of confusion" he said. Alice was especially pleased:
"I've always been a surrealist before. Everything we deal with is total confusion. I love confusion. I love the blur of the whole thing. I love the absurdity of it." (1982)
The work itself was Dali's dabbling in the recently discovered science of chronography which incorporated film and lasers to create 3-dimensional images. In other words, holograms.
Inside a clear cylinder a foot high and 2 feet in diameter was a 3-D image of Alices' head wearing a tiarra loaned for the occassion by The Duke Of Westminster. The head looked as if it was floating and the lips moved towards a microphone. You could pick up the cylinder and look at all sides of the head. Inside was a chocolate eclair, symbolising Alices' accessibility to the public, ants and the ever present soft watch. Alice also held onto a microphone which was a broken model of The Venus de Milo, symbolising 'the rock star Cooper shattering antiquity'. It was all very high brow and arty and Andy Warhol loved it. At a party later at The St. Regis Hotel, Alice wore the jewels which were watched over by armed guards and drank Michelob rather then the down market Budweiser. The meeting between the two (Alice and Dali) was the epitome of absurdity:
"When we speak we don't make any sense. He speaks five languages at once, He says sominthing, I say something and then he says something which has nothing to do with what we just said. That's what I love about Dali - He doesn't make any sense!" (1973)
By now the tour was underway. It had opened with a warm up show in Rochester, New York on March 3rd. On the morning, Alice had been invited to give a lecture (!) at The Eastman School of Music on the art of writing 'popular music' ... "and I laughed to myself at the men and the ladies..." Ahead of the band now lay an exhausting, dehabilitating and squalid schedule of shows, parties, Holiday Inns, beer, junk food and TV. Zig-zagging across the country in an effort to achieve the elusive million. The tour budget had been mapped out and was expected to gross 4.6 million dollars before expenses of 3 million dollars, leaving 1.6 million dollars between the band, Shep and Joe Greenberg (who retired soon afterwards suffering from the strain of overwork) and Charlie Carnel. Who? Carnel was the unknown lighting engineer who had been with the band ever since the days in Phoenix in the mid-sixties and had stayed with them through the years. Up until and including the tour of 1973, he was allocated an equal share of the tour profits!! UNREAL!
It was the most hyped up, media blitzed tour ever, making The Stones' jaunt across the USA the previous year look like a stroll. The stage set had been designed by Joe Gannon and Jim Newton. Gannon had previously worked with Liza Minelli and Neal Diamond and what he didn't know about taking a broadway extravaganza on the road wasn't worth knowing:
"Alice and Shep just needed me to tighten things up. They had used old schtick but old schtick is good schtick. The trouble was they were using theatrical devices designed for proscenium theatre,. On this tour they're playing giant stadiums, 8-40,000 seaters. It has to work on a big scale." (Joe Gannon 1973)
The stage was specially built to be lavish yet easily transportable. Weighing 8 tons, it cost 200,000 dollars to maintain while on the road. It was 25 feet high, made out of light aluminium stainless steel tubes and arranged like something out of Hollywood Squares. Across the top in the 'squares' were life size shop dummies over which were the giant spotlights which followed Alice around. The lights, designed by Carnel, were mainly bright white giving the whole thing a stark effect, stopping just short of being described as an 'expressionist' design. To Alices' left, Dennis and Glen shared one square while to his right, Mike Bob and Mick shared another. At the back, Neal sat behind his mirrored kit with a huge Egyptian mummy behind him, it's laser beam eyes strafing across the stage. The strobe effects were quite spectacular and the bands costumes (first white silk numbers with sequined dollar signs, then various black and red items) were designed by Neals sister and Dennis' girlfriend, Cindy. At the front of the stage were three seperate staircases which led down to the bottom stage, each step lighting up when touched. There were the usual smoke and mirrored globe effects and plexi-glass stars dazzled across the stage. After Flo and Eddie had finished their support set ("I need those guys otherwise this tour will kill me" - Alice), the stage lights dimmed for the arrival of the Billion Dollar Babies show.
The opener was obviously 'Hello Hurray' as Alice staggered through the smoke, sliding and slithering his way to the front, a few feet away from thousands and thousands of stoned and drunk and wide-eyed kids. He wore a long white coat, a ripped white leotard and a hideous pair of leopard skin boots with 6" soles given to him by Roger Manzuer and David Carter of Zooom, ("aren't they horrible? I must wear them!" Alice said, a lover of all things tacky). After then, off came the coat and into '18' and 'Elected'. Alice stalked the stage, more menacing then ever before as he sneers and thrusts himself inches away from the crowds as he wields a whip as the band lunged into 'Raped and Freezing', and the 'Billion Dollar Babies'. Alice spat at the crowds and by his mere presense created a frenzy of cruelty and terror and a sense of morbid voyeurism. The audience were mainly teenagers, many of whom screemed in delight or anguish as the crowds pushed and crushed onto the front of the stage. Rock had rediscovered the violence and the sexuality that Elvis had hinted at and that Jagger had now put aside and that the Sex Pistols were to carry on. For Alice, it was all one big act, to make, in his own admission, 'a million bucks.'
Alice gave the audience mutilation and torture, rape, sado-masochism, masterbation, he invited the crowd to hurl abuse and obscenities at him, oblivious to the paranoia that ripped through the crowd as kids were carried away caught in the crush. Alice asked for a display of primitive emotions and what he got was a reaction so ecstatic and which took him so seriously that it drove him away from the stage - but that's another story.
After 'Billion Dollar Babies' there was a break for a minute or two, while the band went into 'Unfinished Sweet'. Alice appeared on a silver table singing the song. Suddenly, from the other side of the stage, Cindy Smith, wearing a giant tooth costume dances into the spotlight. Wielding a gigantic toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, Alice gives Cindy the ring of confidence taste by squeezing the tube between his legs and massaging the tooth with the brush before finally raping the tooth. Clambering back onto the table, Alice writhes in agony as The Amazing Randi (on whom more later) ambles on and jams a giant drill into Alices' mouth. The first half of the show closed with the sublime 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and then darkness.
As an errie silence descended over the baying hordes, with just the noise of the amps buzzing away, the eyes of the mummy behind the drum kit lit up and lasers strafted across the stage and over the crowds heads. Mussorskys' classical piece 'Night on Bald Mountain' blared out for the brginning of some genuinely chilling theatrics. Under heavy strobe effects, the road crew ambled onto the stage heaving carts containing hundreds of plastic limbs and torsos. They dumped the limbs onto the floor, letting them pile up like some kind of bad dream from a concentration camp; suddenly in time to the music the roadies pick up an arm or a leg and start pounding at each other as if they were neanderthal men protecting their territory. The fight looked real as they clubbed away at each other and went on for a few minutes until strobes went off and there was darkness again. The four powerful spotlights that lit Alice came on to reveal him dressed in black leather, lace and silk standing at the mike with Eva-Marie Snake (never heard of Eva-Marie Saint?) who had replaced the now departed and stuffed Yvonne, around his neck. This was 'Sick Things' and as Alice looked out into the crowds he knew who was sick, and it certainly wasn't him...
From there it was into 'Dead Babies', performed with more preciseness then ever. As the plexi-glass stars rained down (they had highlighted 'My Stars' in the first half of the show which I omitted to mention..) This time Alice simulated oral sex with a doll (!) and then ever so slowly undressed it. Alice, one of the greatest ever live performers, as always, exploiting the theatricallity of the lyric and music, leant out into the crowds and encouraged them to become a human mangled mess as he offered them the dolls dress and arms, legs, head and body. This was the moment he always hated - when would the drugged fan, armed to the teeth, take a shot? It never happened, thank god, but already Alice was thinking of changing his approach. 'Dead Babies' went straight into 'I Love The Dead' and he started fondling the plastic limbs left on stage. As the necrophilia took place, a large prop was wheeled on draped in a black cloth. This was the secret effect that everybody had heard about but had never seen - the now famous giullotine. Placing his head on the block, Alice lookec up in mock fear at the 40 lb razor sharp blade. Built by the Amazing Randi, it was a stunning effect (by the way, Randi is now a professor of psychic studies at an American university. An expert mmagician and illusionist, he had appeared in 'Clockwork Orange' and was one of the tours brightest characters, a jolly ebulient man). But back to the guillotine. As the band played away, Alice placed his head on the block and then the music stopped and the hooded Rani pulled the rope, down came the blade and Alice's head lopped into a basketto 20,000 screams of fright, joy and astonishment depending on your point of view. As the smoke bombs and effects wafted onto the stage, Randi pulled out the dummy head and held it aloft as the crowd went bananas. The rest of the band (minus Mashbir and Dolan) clambered down to the guillotine (a tape played on) and dragged Alices' body around the stage, stroked it, kissed it and drank it's blood, before pummeling it and throwing it around like a football. Then blackness..
A few minutes later it was back for the encores, the morality play over ('Alice has to be punished after all!'). Alice swaggered on in white hat and tails, brandishing a silver topped cane and an armful of posters and into 'School's Out'... As he hurled them into the crowd, pink giant balloons and monopoly money fell from the ceiling as Alice sums it all up in a screamed and half-sincere monologue:
"You're all crazier then me. You're sick and I'm the only friend you've got!"
Again the front rows become a mess of human bodies as people clambered over each other, proving Alices' point as they gave birth and re-birth to their primevil instincts of greed, hate and violence. It was a miracle that no-one was ever badly hurt although the ambulance people worked over-time.
Many times on tour, Alice had whipped up that mass of teenagers into a riot. His boasts of 'controlling the audience' were frequently hollow since at almost every gig his very prescence drove the crowd insane. It was dangerous and stupid and Alice knew it. This could't go on forever. A second encore, 'Under My Wheels' and that was it. The band came on for their curtain call as the stars and stripes unfolded and the band payed mock homage to their country as if to say 'that is US and YOU, America. Can you dig it?!!' As a tape of Kate Smith sang 'God Bless America', the band waved their goodbyes and left. Those last few moments were as much a cultural statement as anything Alice has ever done. That was the Billion Dollar Babies show and that's what happened 60 times in the next 72 days... It was Alices' most controversial show and it's causes and effects, it's consequences and it's message (admit it Alice, there was a teeny little one) were the subject of much discussion by politicians, teachers, parents and sociologists. I've been over all that already so won't do it again.
The tour gave the band the biggest publicity they had ever had. They appeared in countless magazines (not only music papers) and Alice even made the front cover of Forbes, a business magazine, which had him on the front to commemorate the magazines realisation, that rock was a money spinner. There was also the now famous Melody Maker hoax in March 1973. In what was a hilarious send-up, the paper printed a mock obituary which stated that Alice had died when the guillotine had malfunctioned!!! The head was to be the prize in a competition(!) and it was announced there were 10 LP's on the way!!!
The papers' offices were inundated by distraught fans as they begged for more information (I remember feeling pretty pissed off about it and I remember the taunts). It was a similar trick to that pulled by Orson Welles in the '30's when he convinced the USA on his radio show that Mars had invaded Earth!!! It was marvellous dramatic irony, but many of the fans went into grief and showed a lack of a sense of dramatic irony and humour! Alice? Well he thought it was pretty funny:
"I wish I WAS dead. I lost 4,000 bucks to Glen last night at blackjack!"
It also prompted him to be forthright in his views on death - a topic he satirised:
"I'm scared to death of it! Nobody knows what happens. No doctor or anybody - nobody knows. I use an exponent of it, to make fun of it, a satire of it. It's the same with God right? I believe in him, as a deity, but not as some guy in a white beard looking down. I'm sure he has a sense of humour and looks at our concerts and can enjoy it. I'm sure he says 'yeah, that was good Alice' or if I hit my leg while trying to be cool, I bet he's laughing at me!! I don't think the church is very spiritual - it's got 90 billion dollars. That's a business and it's very clever. As for saying Alice Cooper is bad taste, that can't be true. Look around you. America is full of it in movies, TV, the newspapers. America has no taste. It has no culture. We rippped it off the Red Indians or the Europeans we are descended from. Alice Cooper is NOT one guy or a band. It's an atitude of mind."
Right on baby!
The huge budget of the tour was being eaten up by lavish receptions for the press in the morning and then after every show. Every morning at each airpport, Alice gave a single conference to the crowds of newsmen. Much to the bands annotance he chose Flo and Eddie to accompany him and all three would indulge in zany antics - a cross between The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers!! The band were jealous that Alice was getting the attention and to add insult to injury were told that Flo and Eddie were 'far more interesting people to have at a press conference with Alice'!!! Hysterically funny Flo and Eddie were, but the fires of jealousy were smoldering:
"They're only here 'cos they make Alice laugh." (Mike Bruce)
The conferences themselves became bouts of sarcasm between Alice, Flo and Eddie amd the newsmen; at one point, a Detroit newsman reported:
"I can't believe we are wasting our time with a non-person like Cooper."
Alice however loved it:
"That's what it should be - an encounter session. Rather than just questions and answers. It's better to talk so that you get an impression of people and they do too." (1973)
What Alice was beginning to tire of towards the end of the tour was the strain and pressures of touring, even if it was done in luxury:
Everytime I hear a camera go, I have to cringe - it's an involuntary action. I get scared and lost on the road. The same hotel room, the same food, turn up, sleep, eat, play, wath TV, sleep and onto the plane. Every time I hear... I just break down. All those scheduals, the demands on your time. If it wasn't for TV, Randi and Flo and Eddie, I'd die. You get uprooted all the time. You have no base. That's why some bands smash up hotels. I just watch TV and get drunk. Yet, when I'm away, miss all this." (1973)
Alice refused to fall foul of the two main hazards of touring life - drugs and groupies. His hatred of drugs was well-known. The hatred bordered sometimes on paranoia as he would often demand the sacking of anybody caught smoking dope on the bands private jet:
"Getting busted for drugs is so unprofessional. One guy fouls up and a gig is cancelled - that's 100,000 dollars lost. I hate drugs, so many of my friends have died from them..."
The Daily Mail had featured Alice during the tour and their reporter wrote that he saw Alice 'sniff at a powder on his hand' before a show and quoted Alice as saying:
"It's not the hard stuff - it just gives you a buzz."
I CATEGORICALLY REFUSE TO BELIEVE THIS AUTHENTICITY OF THAT STATEMENT ... OR THAT ALICE TOOK ANY DRUGS ON THAT TOUR ... What do you think?
Early in the tour 'Hello Hurray' had been released as a single world-wide and hit the top ten everywhere and rightly so. Towards the end of the tour, 'No More Mr Nice Guy' was released and was an even bigger hit. The tour was generating huge sales in America and the previous lp's (excluding the first two) hit the American top 40 again and nudged past the 2,000,000 mark!
Alice kept himself isolated away from everybody. He saw no groupies having a pathological fear of them and was constantly in touch with Cindy whenever she was away on modeling assignments, by telephone. He saw no-one except his bodyguard, Shep Gordon, Dave Libert (road manager) and Gail Rodgers, Shep1s secretary. The band only say each other in their dressing rooms and onstage. Mike kept himself in his room with a girl, Neal was often with his wife Babette (they had married earlier in the year), Dennis hung around with Neal's sister, Cindy and Glen was often his own man, a sad, dejected figure as future events were to fortell. Ocassionally, Mike, Neal, Dennis, Mick Mashbir and Bob Dolan would hit the town but for them, the touring life had it's bad points. Alice kept himself to himself, a beer bottle in his hand, the TV on and a bucket by his side for him to vomit into whenever his drunken nausea came over him. By the end of the tour, there was death and hate in everyones eyes. They had done too much too soon. They last few dates were played with extra power as the pent up frustrations began to be released. Alice getting more and more weary of the pace of the show, found that being Alice was becoming a job:
"Usually, you feel that there are 20,000 people there and that adrenalin brings out Alice. You feel 10 feet tall and master of the world. It's like another person out there, like a schizo. I can't feel any pain out there, but when I come off stage and I'm Vince I feel it, like a delayed reaction. But when you get tired of this sordid stuff, it becomes automatic. Alice is gonna have to change after this. I don't like it anymore." (1973)
Mike Bruce was furious when he heard this:
"If he doesn't like it, he should have thought about it before cutting up dolls!!" (1973)
As the tour wound to an end, Alice was a mess. His legs and arms were bruised from the pounding and effort he put into the show. He had two broken fingers, a cracked rib and severe mental tiredness. He became agitated and bored and yet he began to be afraid at the violence he was throwing at the crowds, praying it would never rebound on him.
Normality was not this for sure. It wasn't the groupies that he threw out of his room and out of cars or the under-age girls with Alice make-up on wanting to screw him so that thay can inject him with LSD. It wasn't the doped crowds, or the hangers on and the introduction to '18'. Normality was the plans he and Shep had for the future, to take Alice away from violence and sensationalism and into the realms of legitimate entertainment. But that was the future. 'Billion Dollar Babies' still dragged on. He didn't want Bowies' predictions that a rock star would be killed on stage, to come true. He didn't like the look of 16 year old thugs carrying guns or sticks at his shows. In reality, he was as middle-class as the people that reviled him. He was there to make money and had no time for guilt or to feel holier-then-thou, but a change had to be made.
The tour wound up on 6th July 1973 at Madison Square Gardens and that was that. Then it was back onto the private plane to Los Angeles where the band held a meeting to finalise plans for the rest of the year. The plane was quite an interesting piece of hardware. Painted black and silver, it was dubbed the AC-1 and had 'Alice Cooper' written on the tail fin next to a snake coiled into a dollar sign. Inside, it transported the band, the management people, their guests and some journalists. Dave Libert was is charge of everything in Shep's absence and one of his many functions (apart from being road manager, psychiatrist, baby sitter, ego stroker, business man, slave driver etc.) was to read the 'ball scores' which anyone with an imaginative sense of humour will know have nothing to do with sports! A huge video screen showed non-stop porn films which Alice hated since he prefered The Marx Brothers movies. The stewardesses had been signed from the unemployment lines. They had been sacked from commercial airlines on 'morality charges'. The back of the jet was adorned with porno pin-ups and a large table was laid out where Alice, the band, Flo and Eddie played cards. The floors were strewn with Alice Cooper poker chips, napkins, hats, t-shirts, photos, crunchy granola and the hold contained 250,00 cans of beer, 140 cases of Seagrams whiskey and 5,000 TV dinners. The road crew smoked grass much to Alices' displeasure and the Electra F-27 Jet became a home from home. This band of wandering minstrals logged 20,700 miles, flew 66 hours and 44 minutes, flew at a speed of 310 mph and oh I can go on. The pilot was called captain Kirk (I kid you not) and he played a nasty little trick on Aynsley Dunbar, drummer with Flo And Eddie, who being a bad passenger (he was scared of flying) was subjected to a 'plane dip' by Capt. Kirk!!
There also occured the starnge story of Eddie Haskell. Alice had started the rumour that he played the part of Haskell in the hit TV show 'Leave It To Beaver' ('I watch The Beav and Wally too'). The press circulated the rumour until Alice had to disown the rumour and admit that Ken Osmond was Haskill. Not knowing why Alice should say he was Haskill, I can't say why the rumour caused such a fuss. There were also rumours that Alice was to appear in the 'All In The Family' show alongside arch-bigot Archie Bunker, but this never materialised. Alice also hit the headlines in the USA when at the last show, a Richard Nixon look-alike walked on smiling and giving the victory sign. In a jiffy the band pushed him to the floor, beat him and carried him off - it was an outragous act considering the fact that watergate was the major issue of the day.
The plans for the future were: August and most of September would be a holiday, then they would record the next album and start editing the hours of footage they had collected for the movie and start writing sketches for it. TV appearences were planned for Alice in non-rock settings to promote him as an actor and personality so as to break into movies. There would be no tour until 1975 - but it didn't work out that way!!
The band went their seperate ways: Alice had just bought a house next to republican politician Barry Goldwater, who had run for president ('he has a dirty yard' said Alice). In fact, the whole band had invested their money mainly in property be it homes, apartment blocks, sports complexes and shoping precincts. Much had been made of the 4 million dollars the tour would gross. That money would go straight into Alice Cooper Inc. from which Shep Gordon and Joe Greenburg took their fair share. Bearing in mind the money brought in from merchandise, record sales etc, the figure soon topped 5 million dollars. But with a budget that had exceeded 3.5 million dollars due to the lavishness of the tour and endless press parties and other extravaganzas for promotional purposes, that left a piddling 1 million to go 7 ways, which doesn't leave vvery much. The original plan for everyone involved to become a millionaire, had been achieved - but only by the skin of their teeth. Money was quickly poured into assets set up for each member of the band, of his own choosing. There was little hard cash left. The tour left Alice a tired dejected figure. He had nightmares in which the furniture of Holiday Inns featured quite prominently. He knew the tour had destroyed the band and that it could never be as it once was. He saw Joe Greenburg, who, as Shep's associate, spent the last 3 years on the edge of his seat yelling into a telephone, determined to make Alice Cooper the biggest act of all time. Greenburg, knowing when it was time to quit, did so after the tour. All the time, jealousies were smoldering which finally came to an unfortunate head later in the year.
The press still hounded after Alice. They found out that his real name was Vincent Damon Furnier and that he was from Phoenix. They tracked down his father and extracted some quotable quotes from him:
"I can't say that I mind the volence in his act. It's there on TV and in the bible. I can't say I like the messages in his songs. I would be happier if he quit doing all this. I feel he is trapped because of the pressure of success. Then there is the pressure to stay there. But I do think that what he does is a little ungodly. I hear his next stunt is a crucifiction scene. If he does that he's no son of mine. I'll wash my hands of him. When he was younger, Alice, I mean Vince, used to help me as a missionary on the Apache reservations. He used to enjoy that and I hope he'll return to it. But he is a good man, and he has looked after us and made sure we have the Rolls-Royce and swimming pool he promised us." (1973)
The band spent most of the summer away from each other. Alice went to Acapulco with Cindy and then to Phoenix and New York. In New York he was often seen at the most exclusive nightspot, Max's. He had his own seat in the 'red light' room where Iggy, Bowie, Reed and Jagger had their own places. From there, they watched the dancefloor, like royalty. Alice saw the explicit sexual attitude of the customers who were every form of weirdo and hooker in the city. Knowing good sleeze when he saw it, ideas began to germinate for lyrics...
In London, things were stirring. As early as May, a Labour Member of Parliament, The Rt. Hon. Leo Abse MP asked the Home Secretary Robert Carr in the House of Commons to refuse Alice an 'entry and work permit' should he ever visit the UK in the next few weeks! Speaking in the House of Commons, Abse said:
"He is an incitement to infanticide... He deliberatly tries to involve kids in sado-masochism. He is peddling the culture of the concentration camp. Pop is one thing. Anthems of necrophilia are another. Pop can help teenagers over come their isolation. But that is not what he is up to." (1973)
The order to ban Alice was made, but Alice had no plans to visit the UK at the time anyway and the orders validity soon expired! Alice was said to be 'taken aback' by the furuore which made the headlines in the UK. He wasn't upset about Abse's remarks but by the possibility of a ban, and speaking in London in early 1974 he said:
"I never tried to keep Abse out of the country! But I can see his point. The same for Mrs. Whitehouse. I can see that from her point of view 'School's Out' was detrimental. But everyone went back to school, because thats how things are. I'm not a revolutionary."
But there is a tale behind Leo Abse's indignation at Alice's act. He had not seen Alice perform ever. He heard about Alice from his children, then in their teens. His son Toby said:
"I read Dad a story about Cooper coming to London and told him what he did. I think his show is sick." (1973)
His sister Bathsheba said:
"I'm sure 12 year olds are influenced by him. I prefer Elton John!" (1973)
So, without ever seeing Alice play, Abse took action on the hearsay of his two teenagers! Abse appeared on the 'Today' TV news show to put his case forward while Jonathan King in a multi-coloured wig supported Alice. What made things even more surprising is that Abse is/was considered one of Britans more liberal politicians. He had played a major part in the ligalisation of homosexuality in the UK, in the '60's. The papers also did a little research into Abse's and found that at the time, his butler was a drag artist in pubs and clubs in his spare time! The music papers were full of letters from angry fans denouncing Abse. SO WHERE HAVE THOSE FANS BEEN FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS!!
Back home, Alice made the front of the prestigious 'Time' magazine which had spilled the beans on his mysterious past. In a mere three years (mere?) he had become the most talked about performer in America.
Once again, 1973 was a gigantically sucessful year for the original line-up, indeed many argue that 1973 was the PEAK year in Alices' career. In 1973 there was no-one bigger. The album was number 1 worldwide and it had spawned three giant selling singles. Total record sales in 1973 were over 6 million! Yummy, yum, yum!
Everything Alice did, said, thought had become front page news and worthy of mention on most TV shows. In three years, he and the band had gone from degenerate transvestites to acclaimed performers, from musical morons to makers of CLASSIC and ACE recordings (take a bow Bob Ezrin). Those three years were the most gruelling and demanding Alice had ever known, coming on top of four years of poverty, squalor and degredation. From now on, life took on a different colour. Alice had become establishment, part of the workd of Showbiz that he aspired to. A year earlier, he and Iggy Pop were described as American Punk Rockers. The attitude and music were abrasive and 'rebellious'. For a brief spell, Alice threatened to undermine the sensibilities of a generation, as The Stones did and The Sex Pistols did, but drew back, as much for his own safety and sanity as for those of his audience.
It was almost like admitting defeat, that his act did incite violence, but in truth, he had grown weary of a character that stifled his artistic development. If he had gone the whole way and lived his character off stage as Bowie did with Ziggy Stardust, the trauma for Alice may have been as much as that suffered by Bowie. The seperation from the stage Alice had to go further, to extend to the stage - a different Alice was needed. Yet, the pressures were such that this avenue remained unexplored until the middle of the following year 1974. Alice had shown up society to be what it truly is - one based on sex, death and greed. It was time for the sordidness to stop.
The NME that year (1973) wrote a particularly fine piece on Alice and said similar statements two years later just before the 'Nightmare' tour. Here is an extract:
'How many of you ot fooled by Woodstock? How many thought that youth culture would save the world? Suckers. Alice Cooper single-handedly destroyed the myth of love and peace and replaced it with the glory of the cheap thrill. Alice Cooper are second rate musicians with a first rate singer playing first rate songs. They play cleanly and efficiently and that's all they are supposed to do. But more power to Alice, 'cos his music is the selling point of there hype. He is the first McLuhanesque rock star. He has proved that the message is the medium. Alice Cooper is in it for the money and he admits it. That's the message and the tactics that he uses are the medium. We all love him for it because it's a lot of fun. You don't have to believe him when he says he is the opposite of his stage character - you pay your money and you make you choice. BUT BY THEN YOU'VE PAID YOUR MONEY! Alice Cooper is a con-man. But he is a good con-man because he leaves you thinking you've had a good deal, which you probably have. You forgive him that he is such a hoaxer. He is a clever man. A manipulative man. He has elevated hype into an ART. Sensation is caused for the ultimate profit. Beautifully, he doesn't deny it. He is an American cultural hero because he operates in the tradition of American culture i.e. advertising. He is a total fake and his music is secondary. What he has done is to reveal the terrifying truth about his country, as well as his audience and profession.
The trouble with Cooper however is that he doesn't understand what is tasteless. What he does is bad taste, not tasteless. Tastlessness is a rejection of the concept of good and bad taste. in other words, do what you wanna do. Bad taste is pandering to bad taste and that is not very subtle. In the '70's, America found out it couldn't trust it's Government. It also discovered you can't trust rock and roll because Cooper was the first to say 'I have no message, no answers to save the world'. He didn't capture the Woodstock generation but their younger brothers and sisters who were bored by everything. He has made a total blunder that he admitted that what he does is bad taste because he then confirms his allegiance to the old order, to the status quo. Alice Cooper represents a far more insidious form of comformity than even the Osmonds." (N.M.E. 1973+5)
I hope you understand all that boys and girls because to me, that says it all about dear old Alice up until 1973/4. It hits the nail bang on the head.
So where was I?
Ah yes. September 1973. The band met up in Los Angeles to plan the recording of the next album and also to view the hours of footage that had been filmed and also to write the sketches for the film with Joe Gannon. Alice had as always been making notes of lyrics as the inspiration came, ending up with chunks of prose which he then fashioned into finished lyrics once the band had arrived at a skeleton of a song.
Originally Bob Ezrin was to produce the album, but through 1973, he had been working on Lou Reeds 'Berlin' album. The recording of this harrowing album had given Ezrin nervous exhaustion and viral pnuemonia. His former boss at Nimbus 9, Jack Richardson, who previously had taken an interest in Ezrins' development with Alice Cooper was asked to fill the producers seat. He immediatly said no! But eventually he relented and brought in Jack Douglas to engineer (who has since become a leading producer in his own right). The instrumentals had been recorded in Los Angeles but Douglas had been unhappy with the vocal and so later that month he, Jack Richardson, Alice and sundry other backing vocalists moved to New Yorks' Record Plant to re-record the vocal takes. There had been trouble in Los Angeles Airport when Douglas refused to walk through a metal detector because he was carrying the master tapes of the backing tracks. When he was told by the guard that the detector would not harm the tapes, Douglas said:
"I have 5 million dollars worth of recordings here. Give me your name and you can take the responsibility if the tapes are harmed."
The guard declined and Douglas got his way!
In Los Angeles, the band had put together, again with Mike Bruce mainly at the helm, the backing tracks to which Alice wrote the lyrics. As on the last two albums, outside musicians came in. Glen Buxton was again a pproblem. He had made some contributions to certain songs, but only played on one track, two at most on the lp. He was simply unable to play to any decent standard for the recordings. His sloppiness and indiscipline had angered and saddened everyone. He was a member of the band in name only.
Already a decision had been made as to the shape of the album (I don't mean round!). The band had felt that the albums with Ezrin took a little to long to record with endless takes and over-dubbing. This time they recorded the backing tracks 'live' with horns etc added later. Recording was over in a tiny three weeks. It's title had been leaked during the recording, since the song of that name had been cut. Alternative title had been 'A Kiss And A Fist' (set aside when it was pointed out it was too close to a Spooky Tooth lp). Alice was delighted with the sound:
"Studios are too contrived. I like it when it's a little raw and you can feel the energy. We wanted a leakage effect to make it sound powerful but dirtyy, so it sounds live like 'Fun House' by Iggy Pop or 'Out Of Our Heads' by The Stones. 'Billion Dollar Babies' was too slick in places. I kept thinking of 'Decembers Children' by The Stones. That's what I went for." (1973)
It was a rare rock excursion for Richardson, who worked with the Guess Who and Poco. Being keener on jazz. he wasn't too sure at first of what to make of Alice Cooper. He listened to the bands' demos in Toronto before joining them in L.A. because they wanted some 'sunshine and Hollywood atmosphere'. Strangely his version of events is that 'no outsiders were used' but this is plainly not the case, as a look at the credits show.
The album was of course 'Muscle Of Love', released in December 1973 (in those days it was fashionable to release an lp every nine month). A fuller review will follow but it had another loose concept, that of 'American sexuality' which came about after Alice thought he had noticed something about sexual trends. In reality the album is mearly a collection of songs, but excellent songs. 'Muscle Of Love' was the end of the original Alice Cooper group.