By the tail end of 1973, the western world was in the throes of one of it's man crisies. America was drowning in Watergate (a pun), Nixon was ripe for impeachment, Vietnam raged and the Arab oil crisis was taking hold. In the middle of this setting, Alice Cooper took stock. He was successful, famous and potentially fabulously wealthy - but changes were already in the air.
Following the conclusion of the 'Billion Dlooar Babies' tour, Alice and Cindy spent much of August travelling in New Mexico, Hawaii and Fire Island. The rest did him a lot of good because in the middle of September it was time for work again, which included the recording of 'Muscle Of Love' and the planning of the developement of his career, plans which included movies, TV and being seen with as many stars as possible!
During the recording of the album, Edgar Winter popped in for a can of beer or three, Alice had this photograph taken with Glenn Ford, Rock Hudson and a host of others and formed the Hollywood Vampires. This basically was an after hours drinking club in a room above The Troubador Club in Los Angeles; along with Ex-Monke Mickey Dolenz, Alice invited as many exclusive stars as possible. In attendance on opening night were Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Dolenz, Harry Nillson and John Lennon. Lennon was going through his 'Lost Weekend' during his split with Yoko Ono and was in LA to record an album with Nillson, Moon and Starr. The parties were boisterous to say the least:
"One night, Linda Lovelace came down and Lennon was following her around saying 'prove it' and pretending to unzip his fly! It's great, Los Angeles is getting crazy again - we're the new hierarchy!" (1973)
During his stay in Hawaii with Shep Gordon, Alice discovered a new all-consuming passion - golf. Shep, who had been playing golf on and off for a few years, thought the game would be good for Alice. A few strokes and Alice was hooked - it made a few headlines, 'Mad rocker plays golf' and Alice used the news to promote what he wanted to be his 'all-round entertainer potential'. Starting off in the lower 200's (!), Alice became pretty shit-hot at golf and is now said to shoot in the 70's:
"At first, all those middle age guys playing thought I was a freak. But when I got out of a bunker real easy then that was it - I was just another player." (1973)
After laying down a few rough vocal demos in L.A., producer Jack Richardson and engineer Jack Douglas took the master tapes to New York where Alice would re-record his vocals. While in New York, Alice was introduced to Bob Murcer, ace player withy the New York Yankees baseball team at the Yankee Stadium. He gave the team a boa constrictor called Casey and Alice was given his own inscribed Louisville Slugger bat. Jtting back to Los Angeles, Alice appeared on the Grammy Awards. He presented an award to Stevie Wonder for 'best pop vocal performance'. His co-presenter was Helen Reddy and they indulged in some cue-card repartee:
H: "Hows the snake Alice?"
A: "It's with the snake-sitter"
G: "How long is your snake?"
A: "Length isn't important!"
Then, it was a quick dash to Japan (October 19th to be precise), where he did some quick promotion work. Strangeley, Alice has never toured Japan... The nations TV, radio and press met him at Tokyo Airport along with 2,000 fans and one fan presented him with a 10 foot boa called Moiche Moiche ('Hello, hello'). At the Akasaka Prince hotel, Alice held a press conference attended by 300 media folk, a record gathering for such an event. During his stay, Alice was presented with five Geisha girls who escorted him around. Then it was time to zoom back to the States. In New York at the Hayden Planetarium, Alice and Cindy attended a post show party for Hawkwind, where Alice met Lemmy, a self-confessed Alice fan. Then it was time to arrange the TV appearences which would finally indentate Alice into the American consciousness to make the ultimate American symbol, an American standard, as American as apple pie to quote a clich;è! Via TV, Alice reached more people than ever but not as Alice Cooper - Rock Star. He was Alice Cooper - actor or Alice Cooper - chat show guest or Alice Cooper - TV quizshow guest:
"I want people to know that Alice can be romantic or a comedian. I need to break away from the violence of the Alice image." (1973)
He appeared on 'Hollywood Squares', 'Password', 'What's My Line' and other quiz shows and made his acting debut in 'The Snoop Sisters', an offbeat detective series. In the episode he appeared in, The Snoops' got involved in the occult and Alice, wearing a skeleton costume and the Alice make-up (oh dear) and, after singing 'Sick Things', playing the part of a warlock delivered his lines reasonably competently with the correct timing. TV work, movies, all flooded in over the years, but few acting roles met with Alices' approval. However, he enjoyed his stint on the show:
"It was a great privilege to actually be in the same room as Helen Hayes, let alone act with her. It was frightening, because she depended on me for ,y lines as I did on her for hers and I kept thinking 'it's Helen Hayes, It's Helen Hayes'." (1973)
By November, Alice had started work at the Record Plant on his vocals for the album. Some more filming for the projected movie was completed including the promo clip for 'Teenage Lament '74' which was the first single off the album whereby the band dress up as escaped convicts, play a gig and get attacked by girls dressed as keystone cops.
At the Record Plant, producer Jack Richardson was also working on the quadrophonic mixes of 'Billion Dollar Babies' and 'Muscle Of Love' ready for Christmas. However, with Alice, he demanded total perfection and for each track, the vocal took on average four hours to record!! In the end some of the tracks were made up of the best lines of various takes! 'Story of my life - a series of tape edits!!' - Alice took it all in his stride:
"I'm not the world's greatest singer, but I am the best at what I do. I can sing flat in any key, especially when I got beer and snot in my through! In 'The Spiders', I wanted to sound like McCartney!! In that Beatles' song 'I'm Down' where he sings 'You tell lies thinking I can't see', I tried to sing that high and my veins would pop and I'd see stars!!"
During the sessions, Alice was trilled to recieve a custom built Sony colour TV which measured 4' by 4' and that was just the screen! It arrived complete with a free video tape od 'Deep Throat'.
The album was released in Late November 1973. The production had been threatened by the oil crisis which slowed down the work of pressing plants, but a poster depicting Alice as an Arab ('Be an Arab, be a Jew') claimed that 'Muscle Of Love - The Embargo Is Lifted'!!
Arriving in the now famous cardboard cover, the inner sleeve was banned in some States and in South Africa, and I well remember taking my copy back to the record store three times convinced I had been ripped off by being given a record in a cardboard box!! Well, I was only twelve!
It's a fine piece of work of course. Advanced orders were in excess of half a million and it soon notched up top ten positions worldwide. But the lack of promotion it recieved in relative terms meant that it's entry straight at the top of the charts also meant a rapid fall. However, like most of Alices' albums, it hung around in the nether regions for a long time thus notching up big sales.
As stated previously, the band did their recording 'live' in the studio rather than on seperate tracks to get a 'live feel'. This is at odds with Richardsons'quote that there were 'no overdubs and no guest players' wheras it is well known that guest guitarists were used to replace the malfunctioning Glen Buxton.
"Max's Kansas City is almost my mailing address now. It's the best club anywhere - you see everything that goes on and I get the idea about seamy sex, that's real seedy. There's even a dirty stain on the album box! The concept of the album developed like that. Neal keeps writing songs but we're not using them!!" (1973)
The opener was 'Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo)'. Establishing the albums tough guitar sound and melody hooks, the song tells the story of a wide-eyed country bumpkin type from Ohio who wants to see the Big Apple and taste its delights, it's massages and 'dirty shows'.
'Never Been Sold Before' has a hooker rebelling against her pimp but it's a liitle weak and is saved by a dazzling brass arangement.
The first killer track is 'Hard Hearted Alice', a semi-autobiographical account of life on the road with it's pressures and hassles:
"It's not meant to be a complaint but it is half serious"
said Alice. The playing is uniformly excellent and by now Alice has made his reputation for being a varied vocalist blending gentle tones with his now famous rasp. Lyrically, he is a genius and the song here proves it with it's 'Minds get scrambled like eggs' and 'when you live in countdown' illustrating the schedule mania of being on tour.
'Crazy Little Child' is a tongue in cheek look at George Gershwin and Chicago swing - another candidate for a place in the top 10 Alice Cooper soundtrack themes as Jackson becomes a petty two bit thief in an effort to escape from his bitch of a mother and rich father. Mike Bruce, who wrote the music, showed that he could write in a varied style although the arrangement owes as much to Paul Prestopino and Richardson.
On side two, 'Working Up A Sweat' is another classic, full-speed ahead belter and obvious contender for a poll. About intense pyrocidal passion, Alices' lyrics offered a cheap pun ('Hardest part's explaining all those blisters on my...nose') but the images of fire abound and it's one of the the best tracks ever recorded in the history of the Universe.
The title track was another weak joke as to what Alice is talking about:
"It's really about the heart because the song says so but what about a kid who goes to the bathroom and learns to masturbate? He steals his dads' books and he's away! It's about sexual re-awakening or in the kids case, The Awakening.."
For backing vocals, Alice wanted females with high notes. The best he thought of were Liza Minnelli, Ronnie Spector, two from LaBell and the Pointer Sisters (currently in the charts with 'Jump').
"Bette Midler was busy or else she would be there too. I just wanted great scat singing, a big wall of voices. At the end of 'Muscle Of Love', they're all going 'Hallellujah, king of kings, hallelujah!' and we played it backwards." (1973)
Another example of the bands' soundtrack fixation was 'Man With The Golden Gun', a James Bond/John Barry parody that Alice desperately wanted for the film of that name:
"Ever since I was in the 8th grade, I'd been a James Bond freak and when I saw 'Live And Let Die' at the end it said 'coming soon - The Man With The Golden Gun.' I wrote the lyrics in a minute and wanted the song out before the movie so the the producers could use it but they used Lulu's version! I really thought they'd go for it. I was giving their movie free publicity so I thought I was getting more than a foot in the door, but they didn't use it. It would have been great - Alice Cooper singing a James Bond theme. It's not rock and roll at all. When I write I don't listen to rock 'cos you may get influenced. This is more John Barry or Burt Bacharach. But it was great to work with Ronnie Spector, LaBelle and the Pointer Sisters. I got on especially well with Liza. Joe Gannon had designed a show for her and arranged for her to come down. She was like everyones tom-boy sister. She came in, whacked me on the arm and said 'hey, where's the beer?' When the TV people came in, I told them we were getting married!" (1973)
The next track is the classic 'Teenage Lament '74', the obvious choice for a single. Ronnie Spector is well to the front here as the track is reminiscent of the Wall Of Sound. It was also Glen Buxtons' favorite cut off the LP because it took him "back to the '60's". Alice likened it to a 'Billy J Kramer thing!'. It also features one of two appearances on the album by Glen - the only other track he had played on was, I believe, 'Big Apple Dreamin'. By now he had little self-discipline or self-confidence, he had become a pale shadow of his former exuberant brash self. The other guitar work was done by Mick Mashbir and Dick Wagner (Bruce playing rhythm), with Bob Dolin playing keyboards. The final track is the brilliant 'Woman Machine', a re-make of the old Spiders song 'Mr Machine', from way back in the days of Phoenix.
Whereas 'Teenage Lament '74' was a sympathetic look at kids who didn't want to look like Alice Cooper or David Bowie ('I cut my hair wierd, I read that it was in, I looked like a rooster, that was drowned and raised again'), 'Woman Machine' was a blatant and chauvinistic look at what it would be like if women were just robots, programmed to carry out different functions:
"It's a futuristic thing. She can clean, or cook or go to bed just as long as you change the tubes. It's a backlash against Womens Lib." (1973)
The robotic voice at the end is just Alice reading from a technical manual, phased and treated with studio effects.
One track that never made the album was a cut called 'Refrigerator Heaven', not the one which appeared on 'Easy Action'. It supposedly exists in demo form but was never properly recorded and is about a woman who falls in love with her washing powder:
"She squeezes it and white powder comes out. That's how advertisers on Madison designed it, 'cos Sex sells. Unknowingly she falls asleep with it in bed. Subconscious advertising. Madison manipulates everything. They tell Nixon which spagetti to buy." (1973)
Interestingly, the real 'Muscle Of Love' wrestling bar did not give it's permission to be used on the inner sleeve and Pacific Eye And Ear, who designed the Alice sleeves give or take a few, designed it's own store fron to look like the wrestling bar. Apparently, for about a week, no mail was delivered to Pacific Eye And Ear while they had the design draped over their own store front!
The album quickly notched a million sales in the USA and Europe but quickly nosedived. There was admitidly a slight lack of consistancy in the tracks, or perhaps the public had tired of Coop, since the radio was now telling them to like someone else. It was a problem that Shep Gordon had well in control:
"The next step for Alice is going to be difficult. He con't carry on doing the same thing. We're going to make him expand his talents because he has those talents. We've reached satuation point and it's time for change. When we don't stay one jump ahead of theaudience, then we lose it." (1974)
Up until 1977, Alice WAS one jump ahead - punk overshadowed him and jolted him from his conplacency so that he came back stronger than ever - but that was to be the future.
By the end of November 1973, a new tour was announced. Alice was unsure weather he wanted to go through with it:
"The schedual will kill me if it's like the last one. But after so long off the road, you start itching for it. I think I'm going to hate it." (1973)
It was hoped that the tour would be of Europe, but the oil crisis had plunged Britain and some of Europe into a three day working week - there were power shortages galore:
"That's a drag - because our lights would keep London going for a week!"
Instead, the tour was to be of the North-east of America, with a few shows out of that immediate area. Beginning in Nashville on December 8th, it went to Greensboro, Madison, Ann Arbour, Toronto, Syracuse, Norfolk, Maryland, Tampa Bay, New Haven, Buffalo, Montreal and a few others on the way until it ended on Decmber 31st. Billed as the 'Billion Dollar Babies Holiday Tour', it was also known as the 'Muscle Of Love Xmas Tour'. It was basically the Billion Dollar Babies show with the addition of 'Hard Hearted Alice', 'Muscle Of Love' and 'Working Up A Sweat'. It was to be the tour that ripped the band apart, that brought past jealosies to a boiling point - but it wasn't quite that bad - strong words were said, egos shattered, hopes similarly so - it convinced Alice that it was now or never that change would happen before the image, hype and publicity surrounding him destroyed him physically, mentally and emotionally. It was a tour that went 1,000 miles per hour 'with a band that was ripping itself apart' - Alice. It was all documented accurately in the book 'Billion Dollar Baby', on which more later.
Despite restrictions on petrol, fansstill drove to the venues to but tickets which made the tour a near sell-out. The money the tour would make was needed - it would boost the sales of the album and also help pay of the hire-purchases made by individual members of the band such as more apartment buildings and shopping precincts. Although again, there would be little hard cash left, the money made now would keep the band rich for the rest of their lives, from rents and dividends. It was all very scaled down - there were no lavish promotional parties for the press - expenses were kept to a reasonable minimum. This time the tour did make money. In the buildup to the opening night, Alice met yet another of his idols, Kurt Vonnegut, the writer, at a party. As you may know, Alice was always rumoured to appear in a screen version of Vonneguts 'Breakfast Of Champions'. At the party, Vonnegut promised Alice a signed copy of his new book and Alice was surprised that the promise was fulfilled:
"When you meet famous people, they always say they'll send you stuff and they never do. But Vonneguts sent the stuff down and I was so thrilled. I sent him all our albums and T-shirts and posters. I'm a Vonneguts fan forever."
Also at this time, it was rumoured that an Italian restaurant had a specilaity on it's menu - Veal a la Cooper - I doubt weather this is true somehow!!
Opening night was plagued with difficulty. There had been the usual rumours that Glen was about to be thrown out of the band - he had become so out of it, that some nights he was just radomly picking at his guitar, playing anything that came into his head. It was left to Mashbir, hidden away at the back, to play the solos. It was also rumoured that Glen did not notice when orders where given for his amps to be switched off - he never noticed!.. Apart from that, the bands aeroplane, the Starship, was still on hire to the Allman brothers (Wow! what an inconvenience!) and the trucks carrying the lights had no suspension so that 50% of the lights were smashed. With Alice wishing it was over, before it had begun, opeing night went as well as could be expected. Cindy Smith had designed new costumes (White silk sailor suits) to fit in with the album sleeve and the mummy behind the drums was replaced by a giant white christmas tree, it was after all the festive season, although nobody was very festive on the tour.
As the tour ploughed on, Alices' performances rarely reached the devilishly vicious persona he was capable of - he had become bored and tired of acting the role, and that's all it was, of a degenerate, bisexual, bratty, violent, blood-letting, mutilating child molester. The audiences never complained, because their imaginations told them that onstage was the most evil being to have ever lived. Alice tried hard, too hard and now while the physical scars healed after a bath and a beer, the mental scars took their toll. He became dejected, afraid, bored and downright sick of his image. He longed to do something different, but he always appreciated that he was in a position that millions that millions would dearly love to be in, even for a day... his only solace was Cindy, a beer, a golf club and the flickering images of a TV set. Alice was now revilling rock and roll. There were some shows that went well however. In Madison, Alice was racked with a 'flu bug and a temprature of 103 degrees. In sever discomfort, he did the show but for that one gig, the rest of the band forgot their simmering jealousies and helped Alice get through the gig. Mike, Glen and Dennis bounded down to the front more frequently, bouncing off each other and Alice to take the pressure off him visually. It was a real team effort and for a brief hour and a half, the band were drifted back to Phoenix and the days when their naivety was nly matched by their ambition. It was as if Alice Cooper (the group) had become the Spiders again, playing with their former enthusiasm. By the time Bob Greene came on as Santa Claus (replacing the Nixon walk-on), Alice felt that there had been a job well done, The beating up of Santa was a cunning stunt by Shep and Alice. Whereas previously. the countrys president would appear on stage via a look-a-like and get beaten up to cheers from the crowd, here was Santa Claus, jolly and laughing being beaten up by Alice Cooper, at Christmas time!! After this, Alice grabbed the microphone and in gratitude to the band yelled to the crowd:
"They're my boys and I'm proud of them! Didn't they play great?"
However Glen was only into everything in a half-hearted way - when the second half of the show began with 'Sick Things', Glen was two or three minutes late getting on stage...Neal was totally into the spirit of the whole thing. Before the encores, he gave Greene a pair of sunglasses to wear with his Santa outfit to give Alice a shock. It worked, it had cheered Alice up but he later admitted that his attack of nerves was:
"Psychosomatic. I never want to play this concert show again. This is it."
But there were a few dates left and things got worse!
The Amazing Randi, the magician, was also with the tour, natually to operate the guillotine. He was the parties liveliest character, continually whining, complaining, cracking jokes, hopping around, dancing, skipping, a kind of Falstaff figure. He would keep everybody entertained with conjuring tricks but irritated Cindy Smith to destraction with his incessant chatter. On one occasion he retalited by tying her shoe laces together. She didn't realise this had happened until she tried to walk...
The show in Michigan was also a good one by all reports and Alice met his Uncle Vincent there backstage. Uncle Vince had once smashed jazz singer Mel Torme in the face during a bar room brawl!!
Then Toledo happened. The following was detailed in Greene's book, a review of which follows later. Allthough the book did show the band ripping itself asunder, no-one could blame Greene, who was there to observe and write. To their credit, none of the band or Shep tried to exercise control over what went into the book. Therefore Greene, who originally wanted to write about a band on the road, ended up with more then he bargained for.
Toledo was the show after Detroit. It was quickly arranged because the gig was not a planned one. But a venue was available and the demand for tickets was strong. Greene described the gig as the place 'Alices' chickens came home to roost'. The three years of selling an ultra-violent image rebounded in the most unlikeliest of towns. It was reportedly a grey, 'nasty day' which green took as an omen for the mishaps that were to follow. It was to be the show were the audience became uglier then the central character, where they didn't know the difference between illusion and reality, where they believed the myth of Alice Cooper...
On entering the car park of the venue, the driver of the limo containing Alice and others made a wrong turn and nearly ended up in a river - just as ZZ top, the support band, were going on stage. The car did a U-turn but found itself trapped by parked cars, at the very edge of the parking lot. It took several minutes to megotiate another route to get Alice to a stage door, only to find it had been blocked by trucks and cars. The trouble was made worse when Dave Libert arrived and in a fury demanded that in future, no-one leave the hotel without his permission. As the road manager he was quite correct. The fact that Alices' limo had left early had caused the confusion. He demanded that Alices' driver drive them back to the hotel! When Alice and Neal refused to drive back and got ready to walk to the stage door, Libert, almost covered in freezing snow, told them that with 100 or so kids waiting by the stage entrances, they wouldn't make it in there. Alice and Neal got ready however to walk through the mud and snow to face being mobbed by the crowds. Alices' bodyguard, Norm Klein, suggested smashing car windows so that he could let go the handbrakes of the parked cars and so move them. Libert gave the order for Alice and Neal and the others, including Bob Dolin and Cindy Lange to walk to the entrances since the police had cleared the area. But, in the dark and snow, they walked in the wrong direction, away from the arena, and ZZ Top were nearing the end of their set, With a police escort, the party made it into the arena. Mikr Roswell, who was Shep's assistant, warned everyone that he sensed and ugly mood in the crowd. Rather than the usual clapping, cheering and sense of anticipation before a show, the mood was quiet and brooding and VERY tense. There was a quiet mumbling buzz, like bees getting ready to go on a stinging spree. What made things worse was that there were no seats on the main floor so that the area around the stage was taken up with local thugs and delinquents who had pushed their way to the front trampling on people and causing a mini-riot. The kids at the front all looked mean, angry and drunk. Alices' bodyguard was shitting bricks and called for some roadies to take the front of the stage.
Exciting stuff eh?! As the lights dimmed, the kids at the front roared with anger, as if ready for a fight and brought out sticks and baseball bats, with only one or two roadies between them and the stage!!
As Alice appeared for 'Hello Hurray' he was hit in the chest by a beer can. Down rained cigarette lighters, eggs and flash bulbs. A heavy object hit him on the shoulder causing Alice to drop the microphone and this with the first verse still to be sung!! Suddenly there was a frenzy of objects being hurled onto the stage, with apparently Glen Buxton using his guitar as a shield. The audience was in a death wish frenzy - what they saw was Alice Cooper, the public image - but it was they who were the REAL Alice Cooper, 20,000 of them!!
During 'Billion Dollar Babies' the missiles continued and then 'it happened as described by Greene in terrifying detail, A bomb of sorts was hurled onto the stage where it exploded with a loud 'bang' and exploded in Larry Hitchcocks' face, who was the head of the road crew. Alice ran offstage followed by the rest of the band as Larry was carried offstage. Alice was said to be near hysterical as he screamed forambulancemen to get to Hitchcock. Dennis Dunnaway had bravely picked up the microphone and was trying to calm the crowd down. If Alice was petrified with fear, then Neal Smith was purple with rage. If he could have, he would have mutilated the guyy who threw the bomb. Alice demanded for a car to take him away, flatly refusing to go back. Although 'Hitch' was alright, with no damage done, none of the band would go back on stage. Neal was hardly able to contain his fury, Alice still shaking, kept calling for his car. Glen Buxton refused to 'play for those fuckers', and the crowd were now going apeshit.
Although Hitchcock had recovered and would have lost his eardrum had he not been wearing ear-plugs, a decision had to be made whether the gig would continue - after all, the money had not been taken in from the box office. Roswell wanted the band to wait for the crowd to cool down but Alice pointed out that with his head on the guillotine, he would be a sitting target. As he and Neal got into their car, Libert told them to wait, but Alice was convinced the bomb was for him. Alice knew he had put Libert on the spot and said he would explain to Shep Gordon why he was not going on. Shep, in Toronto, had been informed of the events and had called the hotel to wait for Alices' arrival. As Libert explained what had happened, Alice was already in the lift. When he spoke to him, Shep pointed out that Alice had responsibilities to an audience. By now, the band had calmed down and were ready to go back to the venue. Only Alice refused and Shep, reluctantly, gave permission for the show to be cancelled. Libert was ordered to make sure that the box office money was collected. The story given out to the media was not the true one. The story was that Mike Bruce had been hit in the eye by glass, but that he would soon recover. The story was concocted so that the media wouldn't know that Alice was afraid to go back onstage. To Alice' and Sheps' credit, they allowed the truth to be told when the book with Greenes' account came out in 1974.
Back at the venue when the cancellation was announced, there was a mini-riot with several thousand dollars worth of damage done. Although quickly forgotten, Toledo wasdescribed as the psychological flashpoint. It made things worse afterwards as if it was the catalyst for the final rift. After the following show in Toronto, Neal Smith exploded into another of his famous rages when he was told to get out of a car by a driver because 'Alice needed it'. With Mike Bruce present, he maintained that the other musicians wre reduced to a mere back-up band. The exact nature of these jealousies were very complex. There were five big egos. But it was Alices' ego that was the one that was promoted. As Alice said: 'It's easier to promote one personality than five.'
The resentments against Alice were keenly noted by Greene and these will be examined later, but the events of Toledo had led to the explosion of Toronto. It was basically a case of getting all the attention, all the glory, being pampered and cossetted more than they were. They were afraid that by changing his image, they would become surplace to requirements. They wanted less theatre, more music. Alice wanted the theatre.
The band had spent nearly 10 years together. They were the only real friends they had, yet they had grown tired of each other. With Alice wanting to break into TV and movies, it left them afraid of what their standing would be. Mike and Neal had solo albums planned, but they knew that it was as part of the Alice Cooper group that they were known and they must have had their own elf-doubts as to their worth without him. It must have been a daunting prospect. When the final split happened in 1974/5, there were to be further reasons for the break-up...
The tour was further plagued by other happenings. In Binghampton, the city elders cancelled the show despite the personal interventions of Alice and Shep. The city councillors were afraid of the usual crap, would Alice be an evil influence on the local youth etc etc. The negotiations went on for a week or two until finally the decision was 'No'. Shep and Alice had argued long and hard explaining their motives and themes of the show, the snake, the guillotine, 'Dead Babies', the blood, the make-up, the tooth. Shep called the councillors 'irrational'. He went further:
Alices' reaction was brilliant:
"So we're not going to Binghampton? That's ok. I didn't even know where it was."
On this tour, Alice was living up to his reputation for clean living. He demanded that a roadie who lit up a joint, extinguish it immediatly and insisted that only Norm Klein, his bodyguard, serve him his food and drink from sealed containers. The rest of the band took this as being rampant paranoia, but Alice was afraid that some groupie could have put anything into his food and drink. He demanded that Dave Libert check the Id of a girl who looked under-age and he refused to allow Neal Smith to talk to a girl of 15 because that's '20 years in the pen you're talking to.'
There was some fun at the show in Montreal, Canada. Randi had the bright idea that in '18', Alice should sing 'dix-huit' which is french for '18'. Alice said he would never remember that so Randi wrote 'dese wheat' on the floor in big white letters. When Alice sang the words, it had no effect on the crowd but sent Randi into ecstasy!!
After the Utica show in New York State, there was further unpleasantness between Neal and Alice. There had been a buffet in the dressing room after the show and everybody tucked in. On the way back to the hotel, Alice announced he was hungry and wanted a hamburger. When Neal pointed out that he should have eaten at the buffet, Alice said he didn't eat exposed food. Neal taunted and mocked Alice for his paranoia and the air was said to be decidedly tense. That night Neal got drunk and pining for his wife Babette who he had married earlier in the year, he and his roadie Goose went on the rampage, destroying a whole floor of the hotel! In his druken state, the rigours of the road, the soul destroying scheduals, the grind, the up-rooting had led to Neal needing a way to expand his aggression and pent-up frustrations.
The final show of the original Alice Cooper band played in America was in Buffalo. It was New Years' Eve and because it was the last night of the tour the roadies were allowed to dance on stage and there were streamers and crackers and confetti galore as Mike Bruce counted in the year of 1974. Mike Rosewell was dressed up as The New Year Baby in a diaper and rattle and Santa came on and pushed the 'baby' in a wheel barrow. Suddenly the roadies rushed the stage with custard pies and shaving cream. As the band joined in the mellee, the stage became a mass of bodies and shaving cream. Only Alice who was dead on his feet, looking absolutely shattered, quietly walked off stage and burst into tears from the emotion of the show and the tour finally coming to an end.
In the dressing room with everybody celebrating the New Year, Alice dragged a driver to a car so that he could be taken back to the hotel. He had had t up to there with anything to do with Alice Cooper. He stayed in his hotel room while the parties raged on, just as he had done throughout the tour, with just Norm Klein and a TV for company. Oh, and some Budweiser beer of course...
That was it kiddies. Alice Cooper were more or less finished, although they didn't quite realise it. There was a lot of work still to do. The film had to be written and edited with some sketches to be added. Alice wanted guest stars like James Bond (A.K.A. Sean Connery) to randomly walk on stage during 'Unfinished Suite' and for Burt Bacarach to play piano etc. The others wanted the film to feature exclusively the band, but Alice was accussed of not listening to their opinions. The single was to be released soon and that was another hit world-wide. When it came for the Gold Reccords to be presented for 'Muscle Of Love', Dave Liberts dog was awarded one for her contribution as a backing vocalist on the album!!
January 1974 was a month of rest and relaxation. Alice was still in the publics' consiousness via chat shows, quiz shows, a hit single and the marketing of 'Whiplash', a line of cosmetics which included mascara and a bubble bath set, which now has become the most collectable Alice item apart from the Spiders/Nazz singles. The line was a success but retailing ended soon after.
Alice announced that the band would be taking a long rest from each other, although this lasted until April!! He spent January golfing, drinking, reading film scripts and watching TV. The others had gone their seperate ways also. Neal and his wife Babette settled in Miami, Mike Bruce went back to Arizona, Dennis and Cindy stayed at The Mansion in Connecticut along with Glen. Alice and Cindy Lai also made a move, out of Manhatten to Los Angeles, where he wanted to work on his suntan. Shep Gordon took a well earned break and bought himself a 20 foot boat which he named the 'AC 1'.
February arrived and the band congretated in Los Angeles to finish a few more scenes for the movie and to watch the editing take place under the direction of Joe Gannon. Alice, although sick and tired of live performance expressed an interest in playing Europe, particularly Britain. Although a few dates were pencilled in, the tour, for some unknown reason, never took place. Instead, Alice went on a solo promotional visit to England, France, Holland and West Germany. Once again, the European airwaves and magazines resounded to the sight and sound of Alice and his charisma, wit and intelligence.
The trip started offin Holland and while he was there he was introduced to Col. Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, whom Alice met in 19971. In Britain, Alice appeared on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' and announced he wanted to play in Britain soon and that the band would be recording soon since "Mike has a vast library of songs that we haven't even touched yet." He did announce however that he, Mike and Neal were going to start work on solo albums first, before recording together. He spoke openly about the disastrous show in Toledo ("I thought fuck 'em! I wasn't going to be a target for anybody") and about his love of lying ("lying is much more interesting than telling dull truths, but you make sure that no-one gets hurt as a result."). He also paid a visit to the Speakeasy nightclub where he spent the evening drinking with Bernie Taupin with whom he had become something of a soulmate:
"The Speakeasy is the only decent club in London. When I came here in 1971, it was like being in Detroit!! Iggy was there, Ron Ashton and Suzi Quatro. It was like being in a time-warp!" (1974)
He also announced that he was starting work on a comic novel (!) about 'Closeaus's dumb cousin', Inspector Maurice Escargot and he ocasionally lapsed into a very Sellers-ish French accent.
Alice was also one of the rock artists immortalised by Guy Peelheart in 'Rock Dreams, a book of paintings. The picture showed Alice sitting in an office surrounded by posters of himself, in his hand is a stopwatch:
"That painting had me as some kind of calculating businessman type, trying to work out how to sell records. It's only half true. It should be Shep sitting there because I'm no businessman. All I've done is prove that American culture is very stark and pointed, because we are a young country and we haven't refined our culture like Europe has." (1974)
Alice was also proud to announce that he had been lucky enough to meet his one main idol Grocho Marx and also Elvis Presley in Las Vegas:
"Elvis put on a party in his suite and there were only five people there: Me, Elvis, Chubby Checker, Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace! That would be a great band. What instrument would Linda blow...!") (1974)
Alice also spoke about wanting to go to the House Of Commons to meat Leo Abse:
"I've heard he's a flashy kind of guy so maybe we'd get on OK?"
Alice also made a ligtning visit to Helsinki, Finland, where he met a delegation of Soviet journalists and government officials! Apparently, Alice had expressed an interest in playing in Moscow "on a cultural exchange. That'd put the fear of God into them." It would have been a startling project - the ultimate symbol (along with Coca-Cola) of American culture playing in Moscow. The journalists were keen, the government were not so. The newspaper of the Communist Youth League, Komsomlskaya Pravda stated that Alice was not for them. Their report stated:
"He was an ordinary singer before he found his way to glory, using the fashion of horrors. Dressing in devils attire or in a shroud, floods of artificial blood and bad language are inseperable parts of his act. He describes himself as a benefactor to humanity for satisfying the demand for horrors. What is true is that the horror business has made him a millionaire."
All perfectly true of course!!!
"That makes us cultural ambassadors. It's gonna be chaos because they are not used to handling rock tours there." (1974)
The shows were a dynamic success, played to audiences of at least 90,000. The final show was in Sao Paulo in front of 148,000 people indoors!! This was a world record for an indoor audience which I believe still stands:
"It's nice to be in the Guiness Book Of Records. I couldn't believe that crowd. I looked out there with binoculars and it was like a wheat field! Instead of cameras at the front of the stage, there were armed police. It was a future shock for them. Welcometo the seventies Brazil!!" (1974)
Those concerts in Brazil necesitated the use of giant video screens placed above the stage for the benefit of the thousands at the back. It was not the first time giant screens had been used. The first time had been during 'The Holiday Tour', in Baltimore. Alice loved the idea, since it was using the medium he loved most, TV, but on a giant scale. He played to the cameras with renewed enthusiasm. Everybody was facinated with it including Bob Greene, who, when it was time for his Santa Claus walk-on role, was so busy watching himself on the screen that only Neal Smith saved him from certain injury since he had walked to within a foot of thestage! That show was marred by near tragedy also. During the show, Alice would perform certain magic tricks as taught by Randi. One of them was rurning a scarf into a magic wand. This happened via the use of a tiny coil of razor-sharp rolled steel, which was hidden in Alices' palm. When Alice pressed it, the coil was released and the steel formed the shape of a cane. Although it may have seemed solid, it was hollow. Alice had dropped the cane and two kids were fighting over it. As they fought for it, the steel came apart and one of the boys hands was sliced to shreds. However, the accident wasn't as band as it could have been...
The concerts in Brazil were significant for another reason. They were the last shows played by the original line-up. On their return to their homes, all that they knew was that some solo albums would have to be got out of the way first - the future was the future. Alice had already made plans for his solo album, to be recorded with Bob Ezrin but Neal and Mike had settled for Jack Douglas. Mikes' album 'Rock Rolls On' did not surface until 1975 and was re-issued in 1983. Neals'album, 'The Platinum God' never surfaced. He spent much of his time pottering around in his garage full of Rolls-Royces.
Dennis did some painting, went on nature hikes and started up a private zoo. He also started some recording with synthesizers, producing stuff which Alice compared to the 'wierder moments of Pink Floyd'. Mike had moved into a mansion in Lake Tahoe in Las Vegas, where he also built a studio.
As for Glen, he did not return to the States with the others. With his girl-friend Susan Aaron, he headed off for the Brazillian jungle where he studied the local wildlife for a month or so. On his return, he moved into a house in Connecticut, a mile or so from The Mansion. He made plans to start a video production and pphotographic company, which was one of his major hobbies. Within a few days, an electrical fault sparked off a blaze which caused 300,000 dollars worth of damage to the Mansion which was empty except for a roadie who looked after the bands equipment. Glen watched as 100 fireman doused the blaze, but surely it was symbolic? The past was now history - things wre never the same again.
That incident could be said to have ended the first era in Alice Coopers' career, band wise and performer wise. Perhaps even from the ashes of the fire, a new Alice can be said to have emerged, with fresh plans for the future. Things were to be interesting to say the least...
The next fewweeks were full of news which ensured that Alices' name was always somewhere in the news. He played at James MacArthur's (Hawaii 5-0) Celebrity Golf Tournament where he picked up a few tips from Jack Nicklaus. With his album still being planned, he denied that the songs would be old Beatles numbers which would be arranged by stage songwriter Narvin Hamlisch. He had announced that the album would be the soundtrack of a movie and would be followed by his 'most extravagant production featuring the new Alice getting rid of the old horror image'. It all sounded very promising and we were not to be disapointed..
Other bits of news were as follows: Alice also dabbled with the idea of opening a nightclub to be called 'Hippo' after the son 'Big Aple Dreaming (Hippo)'. He then decided to change the name to lub Foot (!) but none of these ideas came to fruition. Interestingly, in 1982, a club in London changed its name to Club Foot!!
Controversy surrounded Neals first wedding aniversary party on a million dollar yacht, 'The Columbia'. During the party, Dennis revealed that he and Neals sister Cindy had also got married the previous day in Greenwich, Connecticut!! Then, Donna Dodds, an assistant of Sheps' decided to marry her boyfriend Ralph Febre, an old pal of Alices, right there on the boat so the Captain of the boat performed the ceremony at sea!!! By the way, Neals present to his wife Babette (whom he met in '72 when both were working on promotional campaigns for Premier drums) was a Jaguar XK-E.
The controversy surrounded the fact that although all the old pals were there including the band, Randi and everyone else, Alice was not invited. This fuelled press speculation that a split in the group was imminent.
There were also reports that Alice had two lucky escapes while golfing. On one occasion a thunderstorm broke out and when a flash of lightning ('a bolt of lightning hit me from the sky') exploded perilously close, Alice switched from metal to wooden clubs. The other occasion was when, while happily putting away and sinking birdies, the security at the golf club reported that they had spotted a sniper lurking in the trees. Wearing snakeskin golf shoes, he made a hurried exit to the club house. It s not known whether the man was ever found...
There was further trouble for Alice in the summer when a 13 year old boy in Canada hanged himself following the broadcast of the '72 in concert TV show. At the coroners inquest, it was revealed that the boy and his friends held 'hanging parties' after 'watching the Alice Cooper thing'. The pathologist said he knew of three similar cases which were being invstigated. Alice came in for violent criticism for being 'an evil influence on young people'. But in truth, what about those kids that hurl themselves out of windows after watching Superman. Alice always gave his audiences credit for realising that what he was presenting was illusion not reality. His shrug-off was taken as being totally cynical and exploitative:
"Kids are always smarter then their parents. They watch the show and know that it's like watching Halloween. They know Alice is a legendary figure and is not to be taken seriously. It's unfortunate that there are a few unbalanced people around." (1978)
Alice was also pretty chuffed to hear that the sheriff of Davidson County wanted to make Alice a Deputy!! There seemed no end to the in-roads that Alice was making on the consciousness of Middle-America. Here was a man, with a womans name, who for three years was considered the archetype in al that was repugnant and here he was, playing golf, appearing on TV with Helen Hayes of all people, hanging around with Groucho, being feted by established stars and becoming a Deputy Sheriff. Alice was now well and truly an American household word. Everyone knew who Alice Cooper was now - even Vincent Furnier became a name bored housewives watching Gambit knew. After the awards ceremony where Alice was given a Deputy's badge he quipped that he was 'off to catch people without a dog-licence, even if they don't have a dog..'. Alice revelled in the Hollywood atmosphere which some claimed stifled his creativity. He loved the parties, the celebrities, the flaunting of wealth, it's lack of taste. It Was American!
By the autumn he had left Los Angeles (he had bought a house next to Mickey Dolenz) and flew to Toronto to start on his album. It was all in his head; it just needed to be got down onto paper and tape. At around this time, the film finally was released across The States where it was an immediate hit with fans and critics. It never made it to the UK... Shep Gordon had some trouble with the films' distribution however:
"The picture has a PG rating ing the states. Therefore the censors of the USA have decided that at last, Alice IS safe for your kids. But it was a struggle." (1974)
The film was co-produced by Penthouse films, an off-shoot of the magazine empire. The magic of film brought to giant cinemascope proportions the full majesty of the 'Billion Dollar Babies' show, featuring at least 70 minutes of the concert. Apart from the live footage there were some incredible random Pythonesque sketches, written by Alice mainly, which included a 'Sam Peckinpah attack of Indians on the cars', a baseball match inside an aeroplane, elephants, custard pies, tennis shoes and a donkey. It was very much in the tradition of the Marx Brothers or Max Sennet and it was an experience Alice enjoyed. Video release would be most appropriate.. It emphasised Alices' ability to adapt to film and as Joe Gannon said: 'an idiot can see what a good actor Alice is.' The film also established that Alice is much rock and roll as Leonid Brezhnev - Alice was a Star that rose above categorization. He didn't believe rocks false promice of revolution. He just wanted to entertain, to sing for his supper.
Jetting from Los Angeles to New York to Toronto and back again, Alice took time between recording sessions to watch a few bands, to watch TV and sink a few putts along with the inevitable can of Budweiser. He had seen Kiss and was not overly impressed although he was mildly flattered at the obvious influences:
"I remember they used to ask for my autograph when I used to hang out at Maxs!"
Some of the other bands he saw included The New York Dolls, whose own bbrand of subterranean sleave was the for-runner to punk-rock in New York according to the oh-so trendy writers that supported them, quickly forgeting that Alice, four years previously, was more of a monster then the pathetic babblings of Sylvain and Johnny Thunders, caught up in living the rock lifestyle. They were now the darlings of the underground as was Iggy Pop, whom Alice saw play in New York. Suffering a bad fall after coming offstage, Iggy complained of breathing difficulty and so Alice bundled him into a limo and ordered the driver to make for the nearest hospital pronto.
At the Lou Reed show in Toronto, Alice turned up to watch the living legend in action. The other legend (Alice) soon bounded onto the stage to join in on the chorus of 'Walk On The Wild Side' as did guitar genius Robert Fripp.
It was also announced that a TV special, to be shot in England would be filmed with the new album being the soundtrack. This was just what the readers of one American magazine wanted for it's poll. The magazine asked 'what should Alice do next? The choices were more records, more gigs, more TV, retire, become a comedian etc. TV, Alices natural medium won easily. It's a tregedy that at least in the UK, we've been deprived of seeking Alices' TV appearances.