The North American leg of the 'Nightmare' tour had taken a three month chunk out of 1975, from April until the middle of July. Although much more relaxed then the blitz-like 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour, it was still a hectic and strenous trek and once it was over, Alice fled to Hawaii to recuperate. With him he took Dick Wagner, now established as his new writing partner, and together they wrote and made demos of the songs which eventually found their way onto "'Alice Cooper Goes To Hell'. With his sanity restored, Alice prepared for a 14 date tour of Europe (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France and England). As with all big names of the time, there were rumours of a tour of China(!) Although it never has taken place, the idea of Alice Cooper playing in China has always been touted by the press. Alice was intrigued by the idea:
"When we played in Brazil, it was a total culture shock for them. Imagine how the Chinese would react! If they don't like us, then we can send over all our rock groups and put the fear of God into them." (1975)
The European tour opened on September 1st in Gothenburg. The absence from the continent had been three years and the welcome Alice recieved from the audiences was nothing short of apocalyptic. Unfortunately, the only shows played in England were two in London and one in Liverpool. To this day, Alice Cooper has only played a mere 15 or so concerts in Great Britain, a situation which was part of the reason for the fall in Media interest in the late '70's. The reason Liverpool was chosen as the other English date on the 'Nightmare' tour was simple. It was a form of tribute:
"It's where it all happened. It's where the big guys came from." (1975)
I'm sure you can work out to whom he was referring...
Prior to flying out to Europe, Alice sat watching the late news on TV when on came an item showing footage of fireman fighting a blaze. The burning property was his own home in Hollywood. In the background to the report, 'Welcome To My Nightmare' was being played.
The next door neighbour (in Hollywood, a next door neighbour is someone who lives a mile up the valley) happened to be Elton John and so he did the neighbourly thing and called the fire brigade:
"Elton saw a flickering light from his window. It was weird how I found out about it, by hearing it on TV." (1975)
The house was a magnificent ranch-style affair which had formerly belonged to the parents of Richard Nixons' aide, John Haldeman. Destroyed in the fire, among other things, was $100,000 worth of paintings by Jonathan Winters and Salvadore Dali, bought by Alice in an effort to build up a serious art collection. As with most 'homes of the rich', the house was a one-off. Alice decided he wanted it rebuilt in the same style and so he hired the original architect to supervise the re-building. The cause of the blaze was said to be due to an electrical fault when the interior woodwork was sandbasted to give it a lighter colour. During this process, the wiring was dislodged, thus causing the fire. It took a year to re-build the house and in the meantime, Alice rented a house that belonged to a hero of his, Burt Bacharach and found himself to be next door neighbour to Mickey Dolenz (ex-monkee).
During this break, Alice was approached by the film director Robert Altman ('M*A*S*H', 'The Long Goodbye', 'Nashville', 'Popeye', 'Theives Like Us') and he was asked to appear in a screen adaptation of the classic Kurt Vonnegut novel 'Breakfast Of Champions'. Alice, a self-confessed Vonnegut admirer, agreed without hesitation. The role he was to play was that of Bunny Hoover, a gay Holiday Inn piano player. His co-stars were to be Lily Tomlin and Peter ('Columbo') Falk. To appear beside such a respected and reknowned cast and to be directed by arguably the most sensitive and intelligent of American film-makers, would have given Alice the opportunity to further stray from the 'Alice Cooper' image and further establish him as an all-round entertainer. To this day, Alice has yet to appear in a film which can force him to display his full range of acting abilities (I've not yet seen 'Monster Dog' or 'The Bite' as it is now known, but it doesn't sound too promising!). 'Breakfast of Champions' remains unscreened dispite various start dates between 1976 and 1979. So, the one chance for Alice to prove himself as an actor eluded him.
In Europe, the tour took on a lighter tone as Alice relaxed back into his old enthusiastic self. In Stockholm, the show was attended by a European record crowd of over 18,000 and three more shows were added to the itenary. Alice was kept in constant good humour by his new bodyguard, Frankie Scinlaro and when the legendary Peter Sellers joined the entourage, it was pranks and jokes all the way. Sellers became internationally famous for his portrayal of 'Inspector Clouseau' in the series of 'Pink Panther' movies and Alice created his own blatant rip-off character called 'Maurice Escargot' who was equally dumb and equally pompous. Alice would frequently lapse into a Sellers-esque French accent but it was not until 1977 that 'Escargot' appeared on-stage, in a minor role in the 'King Of The Silver Screen' show:
"Maurice is Clouseaus' smarter brother. I asked Sellers if he could get me a part in a 'Pink Panther' movie and he said that if he did, we would have to agree to him playing 'Alice' on stage for one night!!" (1975)
Whenever Sellers was around, there was always a pie in the face, a whoopie cushion on a seat or a bucket of water over someone's head. At a dinner party with Alice, when the tour hit London, Sellers 'became' 'Clouseau'. He wipped his face on Valerie Perrines' dress (she has appeared in movies such as 'Lenny', 'Superman' and countless others) after his face had fallen into Richard ('Dr Kildaire', 'Shogun', 'The Thorn Birds' etc) Chamberlains' spaghetti. At Alices' hotel, he and Sellers, acting like a couple of six-year olds, over turned the furniture in Alices' suite as they played at 'cops and robbers!' Sellers was later heard to say that "you can always tell Alice Coopers' limousine from the laughter inside."
When Alice arrived in London for a press conference prior to the opening night of the tour, he and Scinlaro (who was dubbed 'Fast Frankie' by Alice) armed themselves with toy guns and darts. They came out firing and the press conference turned into a riotous shoot out!! A very drunk press photographer managed to follow Alice around for the rest of the day and he insisted that Alice put on an English city gents suit and pose for him. Alice refused since he had already posed in a similar vein on his visit to England the year before and anyway, he though the idea was corny. The photographer did not endear himself to Alice any further when he lunged at one of the girls who was working for Anchor Records' publicity department, ripped her blouse off and threw her at Alice so that he could take a picture of Alice with the girl, who was now topless. A brawl ensued with the photographer getting Alices' pointed boots on his backside.
On his way to Gothenburg, Alice stopped off in Glasgow where he was to appear at the Glen Eagles golf course in a pro-celebrity golf match for the B.B.C. The stories of 'decadent rockstar turns golfer' had been widely circulated and although he was keen to play, a bout of 'flu put an end to his ambition. When the match was televised, Alice presented the trophy to the winner, Tom Weiskopf and actor Christopher Lee (famous for his portrayal of 'Dracula').
As with all tours, there was the usual catalogue of incidents and happenings. In Bremen, Alice woke up in his hotel room, opened the curtains in his birthday suit and found the female woorkforce of a nearby factory staring back at him. Some photographs of Alice sitting on the toilet taken by Scinlaro were stolen by over-zealous fans. In Vienna, Alice was met backstage by a tramp, one of lifes unfortunates, who was also deaf and a hunchback. He handed Alice a scrapbook containing Alice Cooper press cuttings and he was invited to ride in Alices' car to a party. Afterwards, Alice gave him some money and the man disappeared. In Munich, the man reappeared and the same thing happened again! He was afforded the same treatment and Alice remarked:
"I hope he shows up in Chicago!"
The shows in Munich were played at The Circus Krone, the home of the European Circus. Claiming that as part of his cultural heritage, Alice found out more than suitable venue. The band played from a balcony suspended over the stage and the show was graced by the presence of the Princess of Saxony. Alice was scheduled to appear on Russell Hartys' 'Eleven Plus' television show in London, but the light-heartedness of the tour was married by ugly scenes at Munich Airport. When Alice had arrived in Munich he had been warmly greeted. He was driven to his hotel in an armoured Police vehicle and a giant balloon of Alices' head was hoisted above the city (it was the same balloon which was floated on the Thames in 1973 when Alice was refused entry into Britain). This time though the mood was different. The entire tour party was lined up in the V.I.P. lounge and searched. Everyones passports were confiscated and the party was detained for over four hours. A senior officer then informed the party that they were being held for 'non-payment of the hotel bill'. The party was enraged that they were being treated in this manner when in fact the bill had been paid. However the hotel manager claimed that because Alice and party were leaving earlier then they had planned, they still owed the hotel money for the originally agreed stay. The tours' accountant refused to sign any cheques since he knew it was one of the oldest tricks in the business. However, because the amount was relatively small, everyone dipped into their pockets and raised the extra cash. Frustrated and angry, the incident left a bad taste in the mouth and almost ruined what had become a sparkling jaunt around Europe.
At Heathrow Airport, the mood was bouyant again. One of the dancers put on the Cyclops costume and used a 'Nightmare' backstage pass as a passport and posed with the friendlier Customs officials. Now in a far happier frame of mind, with Munich Airport just a dim memory, Alice looked forward to his appearence with Harty and he claimed to be 'as hot as a pistol' and gave what he then considered to be his finest interview. That night Alice was witty and amusing, immediately striking a good responce with Harty. When the subject of Munich came up, Alice told Harty that the hotel manager had claimed that the party had stolen ashtrays and towels from the hotel; as Alice said:
"That's ridiculous. We don't even wash." (1975)
Thoroughly annoyed with the whole affair, the last two shows in Hamburg and Dortmund were cancelled by Alice who did not want to be victimised by the West Germans again:
"I think they got mad with us because we wnet to the Munich Beer Festival and we took our own beer! Another time they wouldn't let us take the snake onto the 'plane because they thought we'd use the snake as a hijack weapon. They didn't realise we had no reason to hijack our own plane!" (1975)
There was another reason for Alices' happiness on this leg of the tour. There were four professional dancers on the tour. One of them was Sheryl Goddard, who along with Robin Blythe, made up the female half of the dance quartet. Sheryl was a mere 18 years old from Pasadena in California. She had won a scholarship to the Du Prez Dance Academy where she had studied Ballet and Jazz dancing. She knew nothing about rock music and unlike many of her age, had never heard of Alice Cooper:
"Outside one of my classes there was a notice which said that Alice Cooper was auditioning for dancers for a world tour. I thought 'this is great, but Alice Cooper, who's she?' You can ask me anything about Bach or Schumann, what opus, what cantata and what aria but ask me nothing about rock and roll." (1983)
Sheryls' background was similar to Alices'. Coincidentally, her father was also a Minister of the Baptist Church. She was taken on by The Joffrey Ballet Company as an apprentice, where she performed for a typical Ballet audience. Going on a rock tour with it's attendant hazards was quite a shock for someone of Sheryls' background. She and Robin Blythe kept themselves apart from the rest of the tour. Although Shryl did respect Alice as a fellow performer, the two originally did not get on too well. Alice was still with Cindy Lang, but their intense six year relationship was beginning to peter out. In those six years, half of which saw Cindy Lang support Alice emotionally through the barren, arduous days in Los Angeles and Detroit, there had been no question that their relationship would end. Now it was different and Alice and Cindy decided during the break in the tour that their relationship would have to end. Up until then, Alice regarded Sheryl as just another entourage member. The chemistry between them saw to it that he didn't like her and she equally didn't like him! It wasn't exactly hate-at-first-sight but neither were they particularly friendly towards each other! However, who knows how these things work out and before very long it was all 'Cupids' Arrows' and so Alice and Sheryl, while watching 'Godzilla vs. Rodan' at 3 am on TV, decided that the other person wasn't so bad after all. From that moment, they became inseperable.
The tour was ecstatically received by the European audiences. The two shows at Wembley, in London, were filmed:
Backstage, Alice was joined by Richard Chamberlain (again), Peter Sellers, Lynsey De Paul, Russell Harty, Alan White (of Yes), David Essex, Steve Hackett (then of Genesis), Keith Emerson, financier Bernie Cornfield and Jeanette Charles, a noted impersonator of Britains' very own Queen, who presented Alice with a gold disc for U.K. sales of 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.
So, what was it about the 'Nightmare' show which enthralled the crowds, but which alienated many of the critics? Simply the fact that Alice had now turned into the total opposite of what he had once reppresented. He had put together a show which would not cause hardly any offence and which was construed as being 'family viewing' or 'Alice goes to Las Vegas'. It was similar to a traditional British pantomime. There was no deviancy, no danger, no threat of the unknown and none of the old Cooper arrogance.
Starting with 'Welcome To My Nightmare' amidst deep hues of green and red and dry ice, a surreal 'bed', half four poster and half some kind of graveyard, slid to the front of the stage from beneath two huge aluminium towers which flanked the stage. Behind all this was the band, all dressed in black and kept well out of view. Unfortunately, Alice chose to wear a pretty stupid-looking red leotard with various strategic holes in it, which made him look like a demented toy doll. Joining him were the four dancers rigged out as frogs, bats and other monsters as they appear from inside the towers, they proceed to terrorise poor Steven who recourses to a pillow-fight with them.
As the toys climb back into their toy box, 'Steven' remembers back to 'Years Ago' and so to a brief nod to the past with '18', 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'Billion Dollar Babies'. Because the rest of the show was so precisely chorographed, it seemed that during the non-'Nightmare' pieces, Alice had forgotten how to improvise or revert to his past fierce stage-craft. The first succesful moment of the show (from here it was class all the way) was 'Some Folks'. The dancers appear in dayglo skeleton suits and dance to a piece which later appeared as 'Didn't We Meet' on the 'Goes To Hell' album. The dance, despite a rather silly attempt at being 'controversial' was genuine fun instilling a tone of lightness to the proceedings. Alice leads the skeletal quartet into 'Some Folks' and it was obvious that Alices' ability as a dancer would not give Fred Astaire any sleepless nights! Ripping off his white top hat and tails, Alice grabs a life size rag doll in a pink dress. This is the unfortunate 'Cold Ethyl' whom Steven/Alice proceeds to mistreat. On some nights, Alice would give the piece a chilling edge by simulating rape or a beating to rather then just tango with the doll and generally drag it around the stage. A lone spotlight picks out Steven as he cradles 'Cold Ethyl' in his arms. This was the show stopper 'Only Women Bleed'. Suddenly, Ethyl springs to her feet and the effect was stunning. From their vantage point, the crowd thought Alice was still holding the doll and to see Sheryl as 'Ethyl' piroutte around the stage was drama of the highest calibre. There was more to come, some equally stirring, some rather tedious, such as the introduction to 'Black Widow'. After a giant luminous green spiders web lowers itself from the rafters and two enormous, black spiders compete for climbing space, Wagner and Hunter go to the front of the stage and proceed to deliver the most pathetic, guitar-strangling cliches I've ever heard. The idea of a dual between them as Hunter is beaten to the ground by Wagner is a good one and was subsequently used on the 'Special Forces' tour but it was also used by Bowie on his 1973 tour. Vincent Prices' tones are played as Alice takes his place, preparing to grapple with the spiders. A fierce battle ensures and, yes, it works and it does look effective! The lighting, although never fancy or over the top, lent itself more to creating a mood, rather than be a diversion in itself. At the height of the battle, Steven attacks The Black Widow, rips off her costume to reveal to his shock... 'Cold Ethyl!'
Confused, Steven serenades Ethyl in 'Steven' until a cuddly ten-foot tall Cyclops, looking like a refugee from The Muppets, stomps onto the stage and gives Steven a hard time. Preparing to gouge Steven, the Cyclops is decapitated by a close-to-hand sword. Using the head, Steven bludgeons Mr Clops into submission and so, the set upon little dementoid is triumphant from his nightmare and the attacks upon him by his demonic toys which have come to life in his nightmare. The bed slides back into the distance and up rises the concerts' most spectacular effect. This was a screen covering almost the entire length of the stage on which was projected a short film of Alice walking through a graveyard (yawn) and coming across a gravestone which reads 'R.I.P. Alice Cooper'. After smashing it, as he did in the 'Good To See You Again' film, he is surrounded by four silver ghouls who then rather unkindly confine him to a coffin which happens to be close by. Then, in time with the opening cords of 'Escape', Alice bursts out of the coffin, through it's lid, rushes towards the camera and out onto the stage! It was devastatingly effective and throughout the song, the three-dimensional Alice and dancers go back through the screen and their two-dimensional images take over the story! This meant that when going onto the stage, the performers hd to go through the exact place on which their images were appearing and back in again! It was without doubt a magnificent spectacle and only Cooper would have the nerve to try and make that trick work on a rock stage night after night. The show ended with blistering versions of 'Schools' Out' and 'Department Of Youth' whereby the band were given the now obligatory solo spots.
So what were the criticisms of the 'hip' press, who treated the whole thing with a mixture of indifference and hostility especially where Alice personally was concerned? The press felt betrayed that Alice was not the revolutionary they had thought him to be, at least not overtly politically. They felt betrayed that he endorsed the 'star' system (even though he noted it's ironies). They felt betrayed that he had gone out of his way to become 'established', to present a nice guy image even though it would have been far more lucrative for him (but less challenging) to try and cause outrage and shock all over again. In other words, he was not the 'rebel' they had thought him to be. He had turned into a 'respectable' entertainer in the space of two short years. The accusations of 'sell-out' didn't annoy Alice in the least:
"I went from being a total freak to what I am now because I saw how the game was played. People are comfortable with Alice right now. He's on quiz shows now and grandmothers love him. But what if Alice turns around and does do something outrageous again? They'll be stuck with me! Ha ha ha!"
He was derided because he did not put forward political messages in his shows or that this show was turning into a perverse kind of Las Vegas production, that he had succumbed the way of all rock idols once the lure of money overpowers them:
"Don't worry about me, I've kept my brains while the others are losing theirs. There's nothing wrong with entertainment and showbiz. There's no reason why you can't mix the two. I admit this show is calculated and it does freeze the audience out. But don't keep looking for anything to deep in what I do now. I like to write on a fantasy level. If I'm going to write in a personal way, then I have to be sure about it. Right now, I have nothing to complain about." (1975)
The open hostility towards Alice from the press would continue right through the next few years and he has held up as an example of an idol who loses touch with his audience and who becomes safe, soft and bland. The truth was nothing of the kind. While his mind was free from too much alcohol, nothing and nobody could constrict his thinking or his creativity. He may have decided to live the secluded lifestyle of any nouveau-riche star, in his mansion in Beverley Hills, but the realities of the outside world were always there. Because he didn't write about them did not mean he was ignorant of them:
"I don't want to write about politics. I'm not going to change the world and neither is Rock and Roll. It's a form of communication but that's it. I don't want to preach at people on a record. I know what's wrong and what's right and people shouldn't need me to tell them. I'm not of that mould. I think it's stupid that people should expect artists to ave a message." (1975)
What Alice has never acknowledged (or deliberately forgets) is that the whole concept of 'Alice Cooper', the whole idea of the marketing and presentation of a persona, at a particliar time in the history of America had behind it a reasoning and a rationale which was an indictement not only of the music business but also on American society as a whole. This publication, for one, has constantly sought to examine that message and the general 'myth' of Alice Cooper. The message in a nutshell is that ONLY America in the early '70's could produce an act such as Alice Cooper - everything is down to the talent of Alice Cooper as a writer and performer looking at the underbelly of a rotten culture and doing nothing but exasperate the situation. The next two years were to see a slight decline in standards of his work as self doubts set in as to his own validity, no doubt hampered by the ever-present bottle of Seagrams V.O. But for the moment, Alice was untouchable... He had every right to be satisfied as he rested in Beverley Hills and quietly plotted his next move.
That next move turned out to be the one opportunity Alice needed to fully established himself as a standard American name alongside Coca-Cola, Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and the Quarter-pounder. After being criticised for putting together a show which deserved to be alongside the dross and show-girls of Las Vegas, Alice was invited to play at The Sahara Tahoe, in Lake Tahoo, Navada. The Sahara Tahoo was a Las Vegas type entertainment and leisure complex consisting of hotels and casinos (The Sahara was only one of four in the area, being part of the Lake Tahoo conplex). It wasn't quite Las Vegas but was in essence the same thing. Alice Cooper, along with Bette Midler, Cher, Dean Martin, Sinatra and others would be playing to stuffed shirts sitting at the back around dinner tables while the ordinary Joes' crowded at the front. He was advertised as 'The first internationally known rock star to appear in a Nevada Main Room.' The hotel laid on the entire 15th floor for Alice and the entourage. In effect, they had taken over the complex as the usual crowds were swelled by the hordes of Cooper fans who descended on Tahoo and it's casinos and other delights. The residency at Tahoo was for a week and the opening night was on December 12th, nearly three months after the tour ended in Europe.
As with all Cooper tours, the entourage took on a travelling circus atmosphere as it was joined by the likes of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (Flo and Eddie), actor Stacey Keach, Won-ton-ton ('The dog who saved Hollywood'), Tv personality Dick Clark, Michael Winner (director of the 'Deathwish' movies) and various other retainers. Also along for the ride was Vincent Price, who during 'Devils Food', walked onto the stage to deliver his monologue:
"I must say I like Alice very much. A nice boy. We met on 'Hollywood Squares'. I think this last record was a calming down, very cynical. I've heard him do more brasher things. Of course, he has better musicians with him now. I understand he was stuck with that group and he got rid of them. I was most surprised to learn that he held the record for the 27 mile run in Phoenix. Can you imagine him running with all that beer jiggling inside him? But the thing was that at the end of the race, he fell and broke his nose and of course, that nose has been his fortune - that marvellous hawk-beak he's got now." (1975)
Price surprised Flo and Eddie by remembering that he appeared with them when they were the Turtles on a TV show some seven years previously!
Despite his new surroundings, status and the prestige that apparently went with it, Alice was now bored out of his skull with the 'Nightmare' show and who can blame him after over 100 performances in the last year. A new guitarist had been drafted in to replace Steve Hunter who refused to play at Tahoo due to a bad experience while playing in a nightclub. "I tried to pursuade him" said Alice. "I told him it'd be great, but nothing would pursuade him". His replacement was Danny Weis, ex-Iron Butterfly (not to be confused with Mike Pinera, another ex-Iron Butterfly man who toured with Alice from 1980 until 1982).
The crowd reactions wre predictably favourable and the 32 piece orchestra which played a medley of classically arranged Cooper hits was an added novelty. Mike Bruce, who lived nearby, called in on Alice and told the press that the original band minus Alice and Glen Buxton would be reforming as The Billion Dollar Babies, a reference to their previous status. He was asked to comment on the possibility of playing with Alice again who had allegedley recorded lead vocals on two tracks on Bruces' forthcoming solo album 'Rock Roll On': "Nah, he just wants to get into films now" was his reply.
The tour proved that without having to recourse to past stage antics, Alice could still hold his audience and it's attention. Shep Gordon was particularly pleased:
"All through the past tours we'd get together after the shows and Alice would say 'well, we killed outselves again, they just wanted the hits.' This is the first time we're being appriciated for the show. This is the first proper attempt at mixing rock and theatre. This is going to set a standard for years to come. The other tours worked and they worked because it was Alice, but they weren't the kind of thing that people will refer to years later, but this is.
Alice is beginning to feel whole, as a human being again. For years 99% of everybody he met was telling him he was wrong. Or they'd say, 'yeah, Alice is doing great, what a machine.' It hurt to feel that you were the focal point of just a lot of hype.
In the beginning there was hype, no doubt about it. But no-one would acknowledge the artist in him, that he started all he did. But now, with this show, he's done it and he knows it." (1975)
During the stint at Tahoo, various other hotel complexes approached Alice to appear at similar venues at a later date and there were definite offers from Las Vegas:
"I don't think I want to do this for more than a week. I'm just tired of it. What surprised me was that these six shows in Tahoo are the best we've done." (1975)
The shows' choreographer, David Winters, tried to sell Alice on the idea that the next stage show should be based on Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart':
"Another long engagement would be boring - unless someone else played Alice! Wouldn't that be a strange thing to do - to direct someone else playing Alice? I'm 27 now, maybe when I'm 35 I'd audition people and indoctrinate them into the idea of what Alice is and then watch." (1975)
By now the film of the two Wembley concerts was put on cinema release in the USA and other parts of the world but as with the television speial and the 'Good To See You Again' film, it never made it to Britain and so had begun the slow starvation process of Alices' British fans by the media. UNTIL THE 1982 'SPECIAL FORCES' TOUR, ALICE WAS SEEN ON BRITISH TELEVISION A MERE THREE TIMES...
The film of the Wembley concerts will me reviewed in full at a later date but suffice to say it had many flaws and many attributes. During the stay in London, extra close up scenes, for some reason, were filmed. The film was banned in Britain and in certain parts of America as well as Australia where any possible future concerts in the near future were also banned because of Alices' 'barbaric' act. During the warm-up shows in Erie, P.A., the local Humane Society even went to the length of checking whether Alice still 'skinned cats onstage'. When the 'Good To See You Again' film was screened in Australia, an immediate ban was imposed thus preventing entry into Australia.
The tour was over. There was one other media excursion apart from various Pro-Am golf tournaments Alice was seen at, Alices' vocal appearance on the now collectable 'Flash Fearless Vs The Zorg Woman'. A spoof on the 'Flash Gordon' serials, with Alice taking the lead role and lead vocal on two tracks, 'I'm Flash' and 'Space Pirates'. The album also featured Elkie Brooks, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Alices' vocals were unusual Cooper fare with 'I'm Flash' sounding particularly vitriolic and they were recorded in 1974 during the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' sessions. The album wasn't a hit and it didn't look as if it was meant to be. It has become collectable to Alice and Who fans particularly if you get hold off a copy complete with the comic. The single 'I'm Flash' with Alice on the cover now fetches a small fortune.
Alice and Sheryl were now firmly ensconced in Beverley Hills. Elton John, Mickey Dolenz and Dave Mason all live close by. Alice rarely had much privacy then. Friends alway popped in and brought stranglers along with them. On several occasions, fans even managed to get into the house and Sheryl often found them wandering around awestruck. One of Sheryls' ice-blue glares and they would meekley make their way out again!
Sheryl was now firmly the apple of Alices' eye. Although he told an interested media that they were in love, but marriage was out of the question:
"I've never believed in Marriage. It's a dead institution. You don't need that piece of paper. What's the point of that?" (1975)
Tut tut tut and the son of a minister too...
To cash in on Alices' success, the film 'We Have Come For Your Daughters' was given a general release in Britain alongside 'Superfly'. You will recall, dear reader, that this was made in 1971 and featured a host of Warner Brothers acts as they toured the United States taking the philosophy of the underground with them, except for Alice Cooper who went along with the whole thing for the exposure and who didn't give a hoot for the underground and 'revolutionary' politics. Maybe this was the reason why they encountered so much hostility from the other acts and only The Jefferson Airplane ensured the Coopers played by loaning them the sound system (the original idea was that all the bands, living in a communal spirit, would lend each other their equipment - the exception were Alice Cooper who weren't given the time of day by the other acts). The advertising of the film gave Alice Cooper major billing alongside B.B. King thus giving the Cooper followers the impression that Alices' appearance would be quite substantial. In effect it was just a performance of 'Black Juju', a good half way through the film. In Liverpool in triggered off a riot in one of the cinemas. Alice maintained regular appearences on television chat shows and old footage was regularly shown, but in Britain, a big fat zero.
By now, Alice had stuck up a good friendship with the one big idol of his life, not John Lennon, not Eric Clapton and not Garner Mackay, but the great Groucho Marx! It was strange to see two generations, who were now household names in America and who achieved that status in such differing ways, swanning around Hollywood making absolute nuisances of themselves wherever they went. But was this so strange? After all, wasn't Alice trying to give rock a sense of old-time burlesque and vaudeville and to establish rock a sense of legitimacy (which in truth it didn't need)? Alice was thrilled that the old-timers such as Jack Benny, George Burns and Groucho Marx understood the thinking behind the spectacle of the 'Nightmare' show:
"When Groucho saw the show on video-tape, he said that 'Alice Cooper was the last remaining hope for Vaudeville'. He said that because he understood. I have more in common with those guys then I do with other rockstars. I have more in common with showmen like Jagger, Elton and David Bowie." (1975)
However, Alice now had a challenge that time was to prove he couldn't meet. Intelligent chaps they may have been, but for the next three years a band of Cooper followers from New York called Kiss were to become the biggest band in America with their brand of moronic heavy metal which even in 1975/6 was beginning to sound cliched. It didn't help either that some of their albums were produced by Bob Ezrin. Kiss became as 'American standard' as had Alice, firmly pushing themselves into the national consciousness in the search for the big money. Their name and faces were on a range of products not seen since the Beatles. Their stageshows were a bombardment of the senses; over the top in every way, a conflagrating mess of smoke bombs, thunderflashes, fire and brimstone. They could never match the scheming with which Alice put together his character who was the living embodiment of a crazy country. Kiss could have been put together by Walt Disney. That's how cartoon-like they were. They deserved the comic books on which they appeared (luckily, Alices' decline meant that he only appeared in one edition of a Marvel comic). I would need ten times the space I have here to tell you why Kiss can never be classed in the same stable as Alice Cooper. Having Alice Coper imitators is bad enough - bad Alice Cooper imitators is even worse. Alice, as always the gentleman, would not say a bad word about Kiss:
"They do what they do well, but you can't call it theatre. They don't move things, it's not kenetic. I remember them years ago, backstage at Max's Kansas City. They'd ask for an autograph and then ask for ideas for songs. But I'm not worried about Kiss. I can blow them off anystage and at anytime." (1976)
Alice had alienated a large section of the more impressionable American teenagers who thought that Kiss were far more 'rebellious' but in reality, Kiss were just as conformist as Alice was on the surface. The difference was that they didn't know it, with Alice, he still had a reputation for being against everything that the founding fathers stoof for. He still carried the old threat of pointing at his culture and saying 'behold, I am the face of the future (ha ha ha). You made me what I am!'. Kiss were totally inconsequential - no matter how far Alice dropped any responsibilities that he didn't like to have and therefore peddle the old 'it's just entertainment' spiel, he knew he meant more then that. Kiss were just entertainment (which is fair enough!). The gauntlet was thrown onto the floor: America had Kiss, Britain would soon have the Punk Rock explosion and the effect that it had on the UK, in the music biz and in British culture. Where did Alice fit in? He didn't. He still sold records, drew vast crowds, continued to make classic records and put on the best stageshows, made a lot of mistakes and generally lost any 'street' credibility. He didn't care - reality as he saw it wasn't changed by long hair and loud guitars. He continued to hold up a mirror to his beloved America; while he maintained control, he was safe. When the Whiskey bottle began to take over and make his decisions for him, he was in danger of drowning in a reputation and a legend that he would never live up to. That situation was not far off but for the moment, everything was a 'rose garden'.