However, the publication of Bob Greenes' book 'Billion Dollar Baby' that year was the cause of much embarrasement to Alice. You will recall that Greene had joined the band for the duration of the 'Holiday Tour' late in 1973 to write a chronicle of a top band on the road. What it evolved into was a graphic, vivid account of how the band was ripping itself asunder, how Alice had become a wretchedly bored and at times paranoid about his image and persona and how the whole Alice Cooper concept was based on a form of sensationalism to not only attract attention but to make money. It was a 'fly-on-the-wall' book, which following the events in the book, the events at Neal Smiths' wedding aniversary and the news that Alice was preparing a solo album, seemed to suggest that the split in the band was far from amicable and was very permanant. Alices' interpretation was as follows:
"The unfortunate thing about Bob's book, even though it is accurate, is that it was totally out of context. Wewere in a situation of doing a tour which we didn't want to do haveing been together almost everyday for the last five years. We had torn at each other more and more, drinking each other dry in terms of friendship and creativity. The tour brought out the bands frustrations and my own fears and that's when Bob turned up in the middle of it all. That was the context it was in." (1974)
There is litttle doubt that Greenes' book compounded the divisions within the band, a situation which Alice admitted had made:
"It very difficult for us to see each other. It was embarrassing having our laundry done in public like that. The band resented the attention I was getting but we had made the decision to promote one image because it was easier than promoting five." (1975)
Greene's track record was an impressive one. He was not a rock journalist but a general collumnist for 'The Chicage Sun-Times'. He had spent much of 1973 covering the Watergate crisis and he had written a campaign journal of the 1972 American election. So, he had a pretty nifty track record. His plan this time was to go on the road with a major band and see what the fantasy was like alongside the reality.
He was a vague acquaintance of Shep Gordons', having sat in on the sessions for 'Killer' in 1971. When the two met again early on in the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour, It was Shep who suggested that Greene join them so as to put his book together. His commitments meant he was not free until later in the year but when 'The Holiday Tour' was announced, Greene was allowed to choose which songs he would like to sing backing vocals for the the forthcoming 'Muscle Of Love'. He would also become a temporary band member for the duration of the tour, being afforded the usual privileges and luxuries. He would be working, however, for himself as a writer. It was agreed that neither Alice, Shep or anyone else would exercise any financial, editorial or any other form of control. This, to Shep and Alices' credit, would allow Greene to write what he saw as the truth. Of course, it is up to the reader to decide what he believes when he reads something. but it is probable that Greenes' account of the tour is near accurate since neither Alice or Shep censored any part of the book, particularly as there are some segments which can be construed as showed Alice in a bad light, particularly in his relationship with the rest of the band.
It was during the rehearsals for the tour that Greene found out his role. As in the 'Billion Dollar Babies' Tour, the band had beaten up a look-a-like of the country' then beleagured President, now they would attack a seasonal father figure, that of Father Christmas, during the Christmas season!! Perfect and typical Alice Cooper! Much of the books' contriversial nature centered around the revelations which Shep Gordon, Alice and the others allowed to escape as thruth and which shattered many illusions of the bands audience. The illusions, sure, the balde did weigh 40 lbs and it was razor sharp but the Amazing Randi, who had built the machine, revealed it was totally safe:
"We always told people it was dangerous so that the kids would look harder, as if at any particular night is the night Alice dies, but I built this machine and it's failsafe." (1973)
There was also the resentment the band felt towards the fact that Alice was given a bodyguard, which added to his 'star' status and more so, they resented the arrogant sycophancy of the bodyguard Norm Klein, who was paid twice as much as the roadies and administrative crew such as the tireless Dave Libbert and Rebecca Segal. Klein upset the others for what they saw as extravagently over the top displays of concern for Alices' safety. On one occassion he refused to allow Neal Smith into Alices' suite because he didn't have an appointment!! The band considered Klein to be a paid flunky who infuriated them for often contravening Liberts orders with regards departures and arrivals etc. To them, he did little except chase after lost golf balls and open cans of beer for Alice. He originally had been one of the roadies on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour but his vigilance on two occasions had saved Alices' life (once, he tackled a knifeman who tried to get into Alices' room and another time he dealt with a kid who sprayed a soda-acid fore extinguisher onto the stage during the show and so he replaced the previous bodyguard):
"I used to be a wrestle in the '50's but I did odd-jobs for rock bands as well. I used to be Zappa's bodyguard too and the one time he didn't take me, he was nearly killed at The Rainbow." (1973)
Many of the band considered Klein to be thoroughly obnoxious, especially as on one other occasion he refused to carry some baggage because it wasn't his job to. He saw himself as having the one task only - to be next to Alice:
"If Alice is sitting around watching television. that's what I do. I'm not a baggage handler."
Alices' seeming indifference to the bands ' grievances towards his 'star status' ('star bright') infuriated the enflamed egos of Neal Smith and Michael Bruce. The clash of strong personalities was coming to a head.. Alice was going through the tour a tired and dejected man, most nights going through the motions of his 'evil' act and persona. He was too busy contemplating future changes of direction and on retaining his sanity to be concerned with what Neal and Mike thought. He and Shep had already decided on a change of direction, musically amd in relation to the Alice persona amd it was becoming clear that the band would have no role in the immediate future. It was a problem foreseen by the chief road rat Larry Hitchcock who told Greene:
"Alice isn't showing any enthusiasm for the tour but since he's a pro, he's putting on a good show. He's got tired of being 'Alice' and he's locked in. He's trying to avoid all the things that made him, the sick routines, throwing the posters into the audience, chopping up the dolls, staying away from the front of the stage etc. Before, he thrived on the audience contact but now he doesn't like what he sees when the crowds see him. Where does he go from here?"
Ironically it was Larry Hitchcock who was injured at the mini-riot in Toledo when the fire cracker thrown from the crowd exploded in his face.
The book did much to stress Alices' off-stage normality which by then had become well established. Alice stayed away from drugs, groupies and the other usual 'rock lifestyle' excesses, except for boozing, of course! Travelling to yet another anonymous city on the tour, he was horrified to see a roadie light up a joint and demanded that the offending item be extinguished. He had no need of groupies simply for two reasons. He wanted to be faithful to Cindy Lang and also he had become paranoid that some slut would inject him with aciid or heroin. He was skeptical of Mike Bruces' romps with various girls a night ("what's he trying to prove?") and insisted that he drank from bootles or cans which he himself or Klein had personally opened. Food laying on a table was spurned by Alice for fear that it may have been poisoned. Such rampant paranoia was mercillesly attacked by Neal Smiths' fiery sarcasm. to the rest of the band, Alice had become an idiot.
Glen Buxton fared no better in the opinion of Mike and Neal. During the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour, as a result of his alcoholism and operation in 1972, he had become a changed man, quieter, almost permanently dazed. This was reflected in his playing onstage and also had contributed to his abscence on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' album and on 'Muscle Of Love'.. It was Neal Smith who was the most exasperated with Buxtons' unprofessionalism. As early as the beginning of 1973, moves were made to replace him, permanently, with Mick Mashbir, who played on one track on 'Billion Dollar Babies' and one track on 'Muscle Of Love'. On the two tours, Mashbir was kept hidden well away, playing Bustons' lead guitar lines onstage. According to Neal, the moves to get rid of Glen were vetoed by Shep Gordon:
"Shep said he wouldn't get rid of Glen because he was the most popular member of the four of us. That's bullshit. Shep is afraid to ruin the image people have of the band."
So, Glen stayed. He was quiet, placid, in other words the total oppersite to the fiery personality he once was. He seemed not to be aware of how much the others resented his indiscipline and Greene hinted that Glen was taking drugs to replace his alcahol habit. He was also seemingly unaware that some nights, the road crew turned off Glens' amplifiers and allowed Mashbir to take over!! This was just one of the many startling revalations in the book. However, Glenn seemed to be fairly happy:
"My operation stopped me from croaking. It was pretty close. My pancreas had swelled, there was poison in me that needed draining. The doctor said that I must never drink again. I wasn't an alcoholic though. I was powered by it because I liked it. Alice's fame doesn't bother me. I prefer to sit alone and practice. I'm a star too because the roadies put my amps on stage. If they didn't, I'd do it. Being a star means I have a licence to set my own style. I don't have to follow trends." (1973)
He was however, justifiably proud of his role in the development of the band right from the early days in Phoenix:
It was me who taught Dennis how to play. We were freshman in High School and we went to the pawn shop and I helped him buy his first bass."
In his solitude, Glen spent a lot of time cartooning and one strip he drew was called 'Dennis the fucking pest'. He wrote poetry which Greene felt were a little drug-induced. His plans were to quit rock and roll and start a video production company and following the end of the bands Brazillian tour, Glen Buxton 'The blonde bomber', disappeared from the music scene and the public eye. In 1982, He jammed onstage in New York with The Lords Of The New Church. He is reportedly living in Phoenix, where he has formed a band.
Sensing the rifts, Greene gave each member of the band roughly the same amount of space in his book and it was Mike and Neal who were the most vociferous in their opinions. Greene felt however that it wasn't just egos that were hurt. Mike and Neal were feeling more and more restless and anxious about the future, with or without Alice. They were each bursting with ideas for their own solo albums but were unsure as to who and how to become sucessful solo artists. He could manage quite easily without them - what then? The emphasis placed on Alice as the main attraction, his monopoly of the media attention, the fact that it was his face on the posters, the name being used to promote Alice alone made them jealous and defensive. Their only recourse was to complain loudly at this inquality. Alice was aware of their feelings, but they had all reached the status they had striven for during the hungry years in Los Angeles and Detroit. It was never forseen that jjealousy would be added to the brew. Mike Bruce understood Alices' position, but he would not bend to it:
"Now Alice is a star, he's telling everyone that he's tired of the violence associated with the act. Well, he should have thought of that before chopping up baby dolls. He says he wants to go into movies - let him. If he does, I'll do my own thing, I'm not waiting. I've written lots of songs already, better than anything the band has done. I write songs that Alice ruins. His lyrics are negative, mine are positive. He puts in his own weird lyrics and they're not as good as they cand be. I have talent. I don't need the band. It won't fall apart without me. It's Alice who's trapped in the image. He has to break out of it and surpass himself. I can use this band as a stepping stone to other things. The band has become lost in the shuffle to promote Alice. We're the back-up band now and it can't go on. How do you think we felt when Alice had Flo and Eddie with him on the press conferences instead of one of us? We all own the name 'Alice Cooper'. We are Alice Cooper, it's just the singer also has that name. But legally we all own it. All money goes 5 ways, If Alice makes money in movies, we get our share. If I open up a music shop, an 'Alice Cooper' music shop, we all get money, all 5 of us." (1973)
Neal seemed to be the most bitter. Greene described Neal as thoroughly likeable, but full of incredible arrogance and boorish behavior, acting the role of the 'rock star' to the hilt. He was flash and exhuberant from his sunglasses at night to his silver topped walking stick and swagger. He believed in extravegantly gaudy displays of wealth, particularly because the country was in the throes of the oil crisis:
"If there's a shortage of gas, I want 20 cars. That's an interesting person. I don't feel guilty about being an American capitalist." (1973)
It was his ego that took the biggest battering in the 'war' against Alice. Following the incident when he and Mike were asked to vacate a limo for Alice, all his anger and resentment was directed against thte hapless Dave Libert, the road manager. Along with Mike, he complained that the band had been reduced to a 'fuckin' back-up band'. Along with Bruce, he was tiring of the theatrics which had made the band famous, which had in the early days distinguished them from hundreds of other no-hopers:
"We don't need this theatrics shit! On this stage we had to play without the stage set because it didn't turn up and we were still great. Alice and Shep don't want to know. They just care about 'Dead Babies' and the money. I'm rich, I'm not worried about the bread. I just want to make music." (1973)
Mike Bruce was in total agreement:
"I'm fed up with dragging Alices' headless body after 'I Love The Dead' as if it was something special. I feel like an asshole."
Predictably, Alice was against this:
"That's one of the main reasons why we broke up. They wanted more music and less theatrics. I couldn't see that. Why not have both?" (1977)
Ironically, when some of the band became The Billion Dollar Babies in 1977, they came back with the spectacular 'Battleaxe' show!!
For his part, Dennis Dunnaway kept himself away from the back biting. He spent most of his time with Neals' sister Cindy, whom he married in 1974. You will recall that in the show she played the dancing tooth, as well as being the costume designer. Dennis being quiet logical, put everything into a little more perspective:
"Sometimes, things don't look good, but then I remember all the good times there were. There is a conflict now. The way we planned it is not the way it's turned out. Some people don't know I'm in this band! We gave the public too much credit. We thought they'd realise that Alice Cooper is the singer and the band. Alice isn't like me. He can talk to anyone. Even in high school, he was unusual. He would talk and people would stop to listen. He would say interesting things. He's special. Everyone is coming down on him, but I can only say good things about him." (1973)
Greene interviewed Alice on this subject amd he was forthright in his opinions:
It's not my fault the press only talk to me. In fact it's better that way because some of the others don't fully understand the psychology behind what we do. We all agreed from the beginning that it was easier for the media to focus on one personality rather than five."
Ultimately, the book remains a highly readable and journalistic account of that tour. It is a highly entertaining read giving if anything, a real flavour of life on the road. How much of it is accurate, with whole chunks of conversation repeated verbatim, is a decision that can only be reached by the reader. By the time it appeared on the shelves, which was late '74, Alice had made a clean break, although it seemed at the time to be a temporary one. He was finished with the satanic image - he took the risk of losing his young and impressionable audience by putting together an album and show of total sophistication - he sat back and held his breath...
Towards the end of '74, along with Greenes' book, came the release of 'Alice Coopers' Greatest Hits', which appropriately enough went top ten worldwide. Particularly pleasing was the lavish design of the sleeve, showing the band dressed as gangsters surrounded by Groucho, Jean Harlow etc. In the background there are various references to the tracks on the disc. Promotion for the album was intense, hence it's sucess. Also released was the movie, 'Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper'. It was only released in the USA and surely it is ripe for a video release...??
By the end of the year, most of the album, to me know as 'Welcome To My Nightmare', was already written and recorded. It was announced that the album was to serve as the soundtrack to a television special (Alices' perfect medium) which originally was to be a documentary on the recording od the album but became something quite different. Much of the publicity would have us believe that the album was induced by nightmares which Alice had while on the road. It's more likely that Alice felt that a nightmare was a good a topic as any around on which to base a concept:
"A nightmare is frightening because it's so illogical and that's how we approached this. Some of it is pretty scary!! It's definitely the best thing I've done. The main charecter is a kid callled Steven who has a nightmare. Hes weird, definitely twisted. The stage show will be incredible! It'll be even more produced then anything ever done." (1975)
During 1974, Alice had seen David Bowies' 'Diamond Dogs' show, which had it's own theatrical splendour and sense of doom and despair. Despite it's use of props and Bowies' theatrical skills such as dance and mime, Alice wanted a show which was a full-blown concept, with a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as defined characters, all in all, a show with a sense of movement and dynamics:
"It's after trail amd error that you learn how to do theatre properly. You have to know how to get in and out of segments, make sure you're in the right place at the right time so that everything flows, the sounds and lights have to be right, the songs have to be played in a certain order and there should be, if possible, a beginning, a middle and an end. That's theatre, the dynamics of the thing." (1975)
But the theatrics need a soundtrack and that was put together, for the main part in 1974. During the summer he and Dick Wagner teamed up to co-write the album 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. It was a partnership which was to last four years (to be reconnenced in 1982), four albums and two tours. Along with Bob Ezrin, Wagner, a technically dazzling guitarist, is one of the major influences and reasons for Alice Coopers success. His contribution can never by under-estimated. In the late '60's, he had been in a band called The Frost who made three albums. He later joined Ursa Major, another of the hard rock bands of Detroit and it was there that he first caught Alices' attention. They were the support band on the '72 'Killer' tour and Bob Ezrin had produced their one and only album. He had also contributed shit-hot licks on 'My Stars', 'I Love The Dead' (which he co-wrote with Alice and Ezrin), and 'Muscle Of Love'. In 1973, he worked with Ezrin and some of the other 'Nightmare' players on Lou Reeds' harrowing and depressing 'Berlin' album. The album had such an adverse effect on Ezrin that he was unable to work on 'Muscle Of Love' although he, Wagner and the other 'Nightmare' players worked on Reeds' 'Rock And Roll Animal' album. With Wagner, Alice was able to work with a musician who was able to score the rhythms which were spinning in Alices' head:
"Dick would sit at the piano or with a guitar and we'd fashion something out of nothing. If I heard something I liked I'd say 'O.K. keep that'. Sometimes he would fit music aroun lyrics, if they were ready, or I'd go and write some. It was a great way to work." (1977)
The song in it's skeletal state would be fleshed out by Ezrin who would then present it to the band for their interpretation. This is how all the solo Alice albums have been put together, a combination of craftsmanship and lunacy.
By the beginning of 1975, with much of the album completed, it was announced that there would be a TV special which would be the visual interpretation of the album. At last Alice would be unleashed on a medium that would do him justice and give him the opportunity to exploit his talents for visuals and presentation. The TV show was to be the basis for the soon to be announced 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour and gave audiences a small taste of what they could expect in real-life at 20,000 watts on a 6 ft high stage set. Rehearsals had begun in earnest for the TV show and tour and on the 18th of April 1975, well into the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour, the TV show, entitled 'Alice Cooper - The Nightmare' was broadcasted on the A.B.C. network. Produced by Carolyn Pfeiffer (who's daughter Lola is the child on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' inner sleeve) and John Winthers, the storyline was put together by Alan Rudolph and Tony Hudz and the whole thing was directed by John Winthers and choreographed by David Winters. Shep Gordon was the Executive Producer. Lasting just over an hour, it has never been shown in the U.K. in it's entirety. Having not seen the whole piece, it's difficult to pass judgement on it. However from what I've seen, it's safe to say that it contained many 'state of the art', as it was then, video tricks and was THE forerunner to the video boom of the 1980's, the first complete set ofvisuas made to promote an album, years before Blondie, Duran Duran and the countless others who have depended on video to get themselves to the masses. Yesssiree it was Alice who was there first... Alice as Sreven, has his nightmare and somehow finds himself in 'The Museum Of Natural Horrors', where he comes across The Curator, played by the great Vincent Price (seven years before 'Thriller'). All the tracks from the album were featrured plus 'The Ballad Of Dwight Fry'. Much of the music for the TV special was not the finished product which appeared on the album and on more than one occasion, Alices' lip-synching is way off the mark. The whole thing can seem a little dated now, but in 1975, the whole thing looked way ahead of it's time and proved that Alice was now VERY big-potatoes in the entertainment world.
Alice Coopers' first solo album, 'Welcome To My Nightmare', was released in March 1975. It's release was marred by a controversity which has still never been resolved in the eyes of many Alice fans. The album was released on Atlantic Records in the US and Canada and on Anchor Records in Europe. The story is a very complex one so pay attention: Over the past year, the threat of a lawsuit had been hanging over Alice. The band were all owners and directors of 'Alice Cooper Inc.' The name was no longer just a stage name, but a wealthy business organisation. All profits went to the five members, if they were made under the name 'Alice Cooper'. Bob Greene had found out Mike Bruces' reaction to this in 'Billion Dollar Baby':
"the money goes five ways, even if I open an 'Alice Cooper Music Shop'."
Even on that tour everyone knew that Alice was also planning a solo album, as were Neal Smith and Mike Bruce. Would Alice have to pay the others a royalty for the use of the name? To the general public, the lead singer WAS 'Alice Cooper'. The others could have been anybody, with no identities of there own hence the anger and hurt egos. The solution to this problem was short and sharp; in 1974, Vincent Damon Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper in a California court. The lawsuits never happened but this opened up a new hornets nest. Warner Brothers had been unhappy with the relative commercail failure of 'Muscle Of Love' (it had gone gold by the middle of 1974!) and disturbed by the fact that he was recording without the original band, Warner Brothers refused to release 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Shep Gordon quickly negotiated a one-off deal with Atlantic and Anchor and decided that since technically 'Welcome To My Nightmare' was a soundtrack to the Tv special, it didn't count as an album and therefore need not be released by Warner Brothers. They then threatened to file a suit alleging that Alice had failed to make 'commercially acceptable' records! This would have set a hideous precedent wherby a record company could dictate the kind of records an artist could made, the age-old problem in the music business. The threats and counter threats continued throughout the year and were eventually resolved out-of-court with Alice returning to Warner Brothers, but things were never the same...
The album on release was an immediate hit, reaching the top ten in America but only top twenty in the U.K.. It spawned two hit singles, both of which were family size hits. The album, however, was mainly panned by the critics; it was considered too slick and sopisticated, with Alices' demented edge being blunted by the jazzy arrangements of Ezrin and Al MacMillan. Alice however was delighted with it and found he enjoyed the process more than he thought he would. He wanted his first solo effort to have that special quality:
"I didn't want to spent a little bit of money and less time and release it. I was prepared to spend as much time and money as necessary to get it right. Originally, it was going to be called 'Cold Cuts' about a pervert who had a thing about fresh meat, but that was too predictable and boring. My singing on it is brilliant, less shouting, more phrasing. As for this back-up band, they can take on ANY band in the world. They should write and record their stuff." (1975)
The band Alice was refering to was the one which toured with him in 1975 and played on most of the album and they were Dick Wagner (guitar), Steve Hunter (guitar), Whitey Glan (drums), Joey Chirowsky (keyboards) and Prakash John (Bass). They were all brought together by Bob Ezrin who had scoured North America for musicians to be the house band for his production company. Wagners' past has already been mentioned and the others equally deserve a brief profile since that line-up stayed with Alice in various formations until 1979. Chirowsky, Glan and John had all been in Mandala, a Toronto based band which later moved to Phoenix, where they regularly supported the original Alice Cooper group when they were The Nazz!!! That group broke up, but in 1972, John, Glan and Chirowsky toured with Lou Reed and stayed with him for two tours and two albums. That was all arranged by Bob Ezrin who also brought in Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. Hunter, who had been playing guitar since he was eight, was with Mitch Ryders Detroit Wheels, where he first came to Alices' attention in 1970. Hunter first met Ezrin in that capacity and along with Dick Wagner was used by Ezrin on 'Billion Dollar Babies' and 'Muscle Of Love'. Hunter also happens to be one of David bowies favorite guitarists! Alice himself couldn't believe his good fortune in having that particular band to play with:
"It took less time to record this album then it did to write it. It was all recorded in about a month. In the old band, they'd all bicker and tell each other what to do and then I'd get involved. It was all 'you stick to your instrument, I'll stick to mine, so fuck you' and all that. This time, if Wagner says to Hunter, 'try this' or 'try that', he'll try it. They're the best." (1975)
The title track opened the album, an album of dazzling mood and variety, with epic string and horn arrangements. From it's sparce acoustic introduction to it's crazed jazzy ending, 'Welcome To My Nightmare' welcomed you to Stevens' 40 odd minutes of beasties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. From there, straight to 'Devils Food' and a blistering hello from Dick Wagner. Co-written with someone called Kelley Jay, it also features the chilling voice of Vincent Price as a demented Curator and remember not to 'touch the displays little boy...'. 'The Black Widow', with that now famous riff, suffers a little from having that famous 'cast of thousands' on vocals on it since they don't sound like a cast of thousands!! 'Some Folks' has some silly lyrics but sees Alice in good voice and the arrangement by Ezrin and MacMillan is both tasteful and tasty as is Hunters' solo. The 'Gordon' who helped write the song is Alan Gordon who wrote 'Happy Together' for the Turtles (featuring Flo and Eddie). The lyrics were written in Rio De Janeiro, part of the almost endless scribblings that are the germination of Alices' lyrics, although this album does not feature many of Alices' better lyrics. However, the exception to this was the classic 'Only Women Bleed'. Released as a single it reached the top ten in the USA and top 40 in the UK. It was a song which despite it's beauty, sensitivity and perception, was angrily criticised by many women, including many feminists, as being detrimental to women since it can be construed as being a typical Alice Cooper trick to refer to the menstrual cycle. It was nothing of the sort of course and an equal number of feminists hailed the song as a recognition of the position of women as did John Lennon's 'Woman Is The Nigger Of The World' and Hlen Reddys' 'I Am Woman'. The B.B.C., always trying to protect our morals from the likes of Alice Cooper, threatened to ban the record and then relented when it was released as 'Only Women'. Alice was much amused by this:
"Maybe we should have called it just 'Bleed'!! Shep gave me a copy of the single and it said 'Only Woomen'. I asked why this was and he said it wouldn't have been released otherwise. I thought 'that's fine, I'll make the records and I'll leave it to the experts to release them'." (1975)
On the 7" version, the track is shorter but I prefer it due to a more pronounced nd up front horn arrangement which sinply transports me to another planet. Brilliant. By this album, Alice had also established his style of lyric writing which consists of writing simply and understandably, without having to resort to overblown, grandiose imagery and churning out oblique, profound, 'intellectual', epilectic, pen-masterbating crap. In other words, as John Lennon once said: "say what you mean, make it rhyme and put a back-beat to it."
'Department Of Youth' is a total bummer - I think it sucks! A pathetic attempt to re-visit the Clckwork Orange' punkery of 'Schools Out'. Over a beat so pedestrian it deserves to be run over, Alices' lyrics are reasonably witty but the whole thing doesn't match the rabble-rousing fever pitch of 'Schools' Out'. The track ends with tedious "We're the department of youth, we got the power" type crap. Chartwise it went top 20 in the USA and top 40 in the UK (but this was mainly due to the tour).
'Cold Eythl' is likewise a bore although it sounds pretty smart turned up loud but for someone who turned down the idea of doing an album about a pervert who has a fetish for cold meat, how dare Alice attempt to re-write 'I Love The Dead'!!! By writing about necrophilia (again), Alice seemed to br pandering to a certain section of his audience who wanted 'blood, guts and gore' of the old days, as opposed to the sleek and sultry 'Nightmare' album and the future sophistication to which it pointed.
From here on, things get better. 'Years Ago' has Steven embattled from his bouts with Black Widows and Cold Ethyls on his knees as he plunges deeper into his nightmare. Ezrins' synthesized backing is both goulish and some kind of expressionistic aural landscape of fear.
'Steven' is the albums centerpiece epic. alices' vocal goes from emotions such as fear and bewilderment to anger and defiance as the track biulds to it's final conclusion. Hunters' solo catches the ear as always and Ezrins' production bringing all the possibilities from a song so cinematic, a whole movie should be based around it with a budget of Millions!!
In 'The Awakening', Steven siezes the opportunity to 'Escape' but in the final track, Alice is singing about himself:
"Paint on my cruel or happy face
Hide me behind it."
"Where am I running to
There's no place to go.
Just put on my make-up
and get me to the show."
Soon after the albums release, a world tour was announced and, natually, it was a sell-out:
There will be no more 30 in a row one-nighters. This time it will bre strictly a four nights a week tour. After a year and a half off the road I can't wait to go back and do a new show." (1975)
The 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour established Alice not only as the all-round entertainer he wanted to be (the endless TV appearences with other show biz stars had seen to that), but also took his vision of rock theatre even further:
"This show is about as frightening as Sinbad the Sailor. It's show-biz, that's all." (1975)
Written by Alice and Shep Gordon, the stage set was once again designed and built by Joe Gannon and Jim Newton. Four dancers were brought in ("Two were thrown out of Las Vegas for indulging in lewd activities" said Alice) and David Winters was brought in to choreograph the show. He had previously choreographed shows for Raquel Welch and Ann Margaret. It was he who tried to teach Alice a few basic dance steps, but Fred Astaire Alice ain't! The whole production cost some 250,000 dollars to produce in terms of building maintaining and moving the set and keeping 30 people on the road for several months. For the first time Alice was to receive paise for the excellence of his musicians rather than just his theatre. As David Winter said:
"You have to ignore the theatre and the visuals for a moment and remember that we are a product of music." (1975)
Wagner and Hunter were rightly praised for their performances every night and for the first time in theiir careers, they were in the bigtime simply by being Alices' band. Wagner and Hunter claimed to have been treated badly during their time with Lou Reed and this time they were going to take all opportunities to make their names. Both remembered Alice from the Detroit scene of the early '70's since they themselves were a part of it:
"I remember when I was in Ursa Major and we supported Alice Cooper in 1971. To me, Alice had that certain magic but the band stank." (Dick Wagner)
Hunter thought that all of them including Alice, were awful!!
The tour kicked off in March 1975 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, playing five warm-up shows before the official opening night in Chicago in April. The support group as Suzi Quatro, who, although British based, was another acquaintance of Alices' from Motor Xity, Detroit. For the European dates, the support act was the Heavy Metal Kids. The tour almost got off on the wrong foot when the Australian Government announced that it would not allow Alice into the country to perform there as he had planned to.
At the Detroit shows, Alice invited down the old band to see him. He stressed to reporters that the split was amicable and temporary and he revealed that he had sung lead vocals on one of the tracks on Mike Bruces' album and having heard some of Neals songs for his album (which has never been released), admitted that some of the songs were pretty good:
"It sounds like a hit. I never thought Neal could sing so well as he has done. I never thought old Neal had it in him."
Incredibly enough, Jon Podell, who was the sole booking agent for the tour, had difficulty in convincing some promoters that Alice would fill the giant halls:
"All they care about is an ass on every seat. Alice said he didn't want the seats behind the stage to be sold because he thought he'd be ripping people off, but the promoters put up a fight. They also thought that because he had been out of circulation for a while, that he'd not fill the halls, but those assholes don't realise that he kept out of the public eye because he had got too close to over-promoting himself and the public could have got tired of him." (1975)
By the opening night, Alice had toyed with the idea of changing his make-up, or removing it altogether, but decided to keep it, otherwise he'd 'turn into Burt Bacharach'!! Another idea which was cntemplated was one which David Winters thought of:
"I thought of having a short movie before the first song, of Alices' head like the M.G.M. lion and he'd gobble up the curtain and then say 'Welcome To My Nightmare', but in this show, he is the victim, not the agressor. It was so tough trying to choreograph him because he was used to having the stage to himself and doing what he wanted. This time, he had to be in certain places at certain times and to interact with the dancers. He had to discipline himself and that meant cutting down on his drinking. That kind of discipline may keep him in better shape and prolong his longevity as a person, as well as an entertainer." (1975)
On the opening night, even Cindy Lang had turned into a bundle of nerves:
"Sometimes, Alice is a little macho and doesn't like to admit when he is scared but he confided to me that he's afraid the kids won't understand this new show. I never liked the old Alice and I never watched him perform, but I always new he had something better in him. Now he's done it, I'm proud of him but I did encourage him to take this step and I'm wondering if I did the right thing." (1975)
That opening night was such a frenzy that everyone left the stage after 'Schools Out' and the audience, having read the reviews of the warm-up shows, refused to leave until Alice and the band came back! Alice was delighted with this:
Isn't that great? The kids knew I forgot one number and wouldn't let me get away with it. That means they're paying attention!" (1975)
The invitation to the old band to visit Alice in their old home town, Detroit, was not mearly a case of old friends getting together for a nostalgic reunion. There was much unfinished business to talk over to determine royalties, future tours and the basic position of the old line-up bearing in mind that, as a solo artist, Alice was already top of the heap.
Originally, Shep Gordon had decided that even he would not be present:
"They're still best friends, despite these rumours of jealousies and resentments. They have a lot of things to talk about. They're all very close, so even I'm staying out. They'rre going to be left alone and they're going to get to know each other again." (1975)
Earlier, Alice had been visited by his lawyers who briefed him on the legal position of this and that, and then Neal Smith, Mike Bruce and dennis Dunnaway arrived minus Glen Buxton. A reporter from 'Rolling Stone' magazine convinced Shep that he should be allowed to report on the meeting as an impartial observer and as a result, there is at least a fairly accurate account of what happened...
Inside Alices' suite, the situation could not have been further from the starvation days of Topanga Canyon, or the fantasies in the sweltering deserts of Arizona, as shared by five spotty youths, then it was. There sat Alice, an undisputed star and major talent, surrounded by former equals who found themselves the victims of circumstances and their own egos (Dennis excepted). The lawyers also discussed various legalities with Dennis, Mike and Neal in Alices' prescence and by the time they left, there was an atmosphere of divorce in the air. The conversation was icy and tense and when Alice made a joke about Neals' high-heeled boots and how out of fashion they were, Neal was ready to explode. He had earlier played Alice a tape of a track he had recorded but Alice had somewhat unfeelingly stopped listening and started to talk about his new show. Neal began to mess with a lamp shade and when Alice jokingly asked him why he was doing this, Neal is reported to have replied "how about some of the old ultra-violence, Alice?"
This was obviously a reference to the 'rumble' from the 'Schools' Out' tour and although Alice won the bout, he was very aware that in real life, Neal would probably pulp him! The situation was difused by Neal sending the lamp shade flying across the room. Things had become petty and uncomfortable...
After the meeting, Shep announced that the band owed Warner Brothers one more album and that this would be recorded later in the year (as we know, it never was). He also said that the possibility of live appearances by the band should not be discounted:
"I can't see it being like it was, but it's likely that they'll play a big outdoor summer festival." (1975)
Mike Bruce, although more or less impressed with the 'Nightmare' show, admitted it was strange to hear some of his music being played by other musicians:
"The guys in his band are incredible musicians. But we had something as a band which can't be duplicated overnight. All you can do is do it differently. It was interesting to stand back and listen objectively to something like '18' but it did feel strange. We started doing the theatre and the visuals because we were not as good as the big bands of the time. We just could not play as well as those bands. We used the visuals to get attention and while the rrest of us have the music to fall back on, Alice depends on the theatre and seems to be stuck with it." (1975)
Alice was now firmly back in the public eye. During an appearence on 'theh Phil Donahue Show', an elderly woman stood up in the audience and loudly denounced Alice for his act etc. As always the true patriot, he threw a lavish party to celebrate the American Bi-centennial (a year early!). The guests included the legendary Kim Fowley (THE face on the L.A. scene, whom Alice had known since the late 1960's, and who co-wrote 'Escape' with Alice and somebody called Anthony. Fowley was also the man who formed and managed the Runaways), various G.T.O's (his old friends), Marlon Brando, Michae4l Des Barre, Steve Tyler (Aerosmith), Rick Springfield, club owner Rodney Bingenheimer, ex-Monkee Davy Jones and another ex-Monkee, Mickey Dolenz, who was Alices' next-door neighbour in Los Angeles, and many others. Also there were a variety of circus clowns, jugglers, dancers, gorillas, strippers and several drag artists. It was held at The Hollywood Paladium the night before Alice played four nights at The Los Angeles Forum. The whole place was decked out in red, white and blue and there was an 'Uncle Sam' to greet the guests!!
As the tour moved to the East Coast, 'Department Of Youth' was released and to coincide with this there was another typical, good humoured Alice Cooper publicity stunt, with real Cooper class. He had previously stated that he was uninterested in ecology and the enviroment simply because:
"I hate to hear about it in music. All this crap about 'save the trees, save the lakes, water tastes wonderful' and all that. I know what's wrong and right, I don't need to be preached to."
Alice, along with 300 youth organisation volunteers ('the dept. of youth'), members of the public and local garbage men, turned up at New Yorks' Roosevelt Park, where Joe Public and the media had gathered. Everyone was handed a 'Dept. Of Youth' sun visor and arm band and Alice led everybody in a giant operation to clean up the park. Alice told TV news cameras:
"It would be great if rock performers took some time out of their schedule to involve themselves in community orientated programs." (1975)
For a moment it seemed as if Alice had turned into John Denver, blatantly contridicting what he had said earlier and, of course, there was a minor feud between Alice and Denver. What had happened was as follows:
In an interview, Denver said:
"I'll be around when guys like Alice Cooper and David Bowie are long forgotten."
Alice, in a indiignant rage said:
"How can he say that? What an asshole! I always hated his sappy, ecology songs!! If someone had asked me first, I'd have said 'yeah, John Denver - great star', because I'm Mr Nice Guy. Since he's said that and probably not seen my act, I'm spiteful enough to stick around long enough to piss on his flowers!! (1975)
By way of apology, Denver sent Alice a dozen red roses. In return, Alice sent Denver a copy of 'Welcome To My Nightmare', a set of ear plugs and a specimen bottle!!
There were further incidents on the tour. In Vancover, Alice had a bad accident onstage during the opening song. As he chased 'the monsters' into the huge toy box (those of you who have seen the show or video will know what I'm talking about), the box flipped over and hit Alice who lost his footing, tripped on the footlights and fell off the stage into the photographers pit, hitting his head on the bare floor:
"I was lucky not to be killed! I hit a photographer on the way down and I was so dazed, I was taken backstage and bandaged up before I knew where I was." (1975)
After a 40 minute break, Alice, with his head bandaged up, returned and finished the show which had been shortened as a result. Later, at a local hospital, he received 15 stiches to his head. Despite a doctors' warning, Alice performed the very next night in Edmonton, Canada but he stopped the show after 20 minutes complaining of breathing difficulties due to bruised ribs. Ticket refunds were offered but there were no takers. The next show was in Minneapolis and Alice felt fit enough to perform, having decided to trim down the more 'physical' scenes, such as being lifted by the Cyclops etc. With the end of the US leg of the tour ten shows away (ending in July, in Montreal), Alice was looking forward to his vacation in Hawaii more than ever. The rest of the year was to be taken up with more triumphs as the tour hit Europe to play to tumultous receptions from the audiences.