Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Record Vault – Alice Cooper

This is going to be a long one. For me, Alice Cooper’s career was discovered backwards.

I knew “I’m Eighteen”, “Schools Out” and “No More Mr Nice Guy” are tracks from his early career, but the versions I had heard were all covers of these songs.

Plus, I am a horror movie fan and I knew he did a song called “He’s Back” for a “Friday The 13th” movie.

Trash

It all started with this album. For the year it came out and my hard rock mindset, this album fit the criteria to a tee. Plus we used to play games to see how many times, Alice Cooper sang “baby” throughout the whole album.

I have the LP, plus the singles “Poison”, “Bed Of Nails” and “House Of Fire”.

“Poison” kicks it off, with a guitar riff that’s stood the test of time and I bet ya no one knows who John McCurry is or the guitar work he did on albums or the songs he co-wrote for others. You can tell that Desmond Child is involved because of the Chorus. It’s his style down to a tee.

“Spark In The Dark” immediately hooks me in with its sleazy bluesy guitar riff and I was surprised to see that no guitar player was involved in the songwriting of it as it’s listed as an Alice Cooper and Desmond Child cut.

“House Of Fire” is catchy and I swear it’s on the album to increase the “baby” count. Written by Alice Cooper, Desmond Child and Joan Jett, even Bon Jovi gave the song a go for their “New Jersey” album.

“Why Trust You” fires up, and like “Spark In The Dark”, it’s written by Alice Cooper and Desmond Child and it’s a dead set rocker.

“Only My Heart Talkin’” is next and I’m reminded of Aerosmith straight away, so I wasn’t surprised when Steve Tyler made an appearance on the outro. Even the feel of the song is different, and it’s the only song on the album which doesn’t have Desmond Child as a co-writer.

“Bed Of Nails” kicks off side 2, and muscled up guitarist Kane Roberts from Alice’s band before “Trash” has a co-write along with Alice, Child and Diane Warren. The way this song starts off, with the backwards guitar effect, I thought Sammy Kerr from the “Trick or Treat” movie would arrive in my lounge room. For those who don’t know, in the movie, a grieving fan plays the album of his favorite artist backwards and resurrects him back from the dead.

“This Maniacs In Love With You” is written by Alice Cooper, Desmond Child, Bob Held and Tom Teeley. The only reason I included the whole shebang of writers is to show how far and wide Alice went, to get the songs he needed for this album. This song could have worked with any artist.

“Trash” is written by Alice Cooper, Desmond Child, Mark Frazier and Jamie Sever. Again, there is a songwriting committee.

How good is that little riff after each line is sung in the verse?

“Hell Is Living Without You” is written by a songwriting committee of Alice Cooper, Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

The emotive solo break hooks me in this song.

“I’m Your Gun” ends the albums and it’s the same writing team as the opening teach “Poison” with the classic lyric line of pull my fiddle.

And for the “baby” count, we all had different counts, ranging from 30 to 70.

I even borrowed “Alice Cooper Trashes The World” on VHS tape from a friend of a friend of friend and dubbed it into blank VHS tape.

After “Trash”, I needed more Alice Cooper. The live video opened up my eyes to classic songs everywhere. And I purchased “Welcome To My Nightmare” and “Billion Dollar Babies” together based on the covers.

Welcome To My Nightmare

And I’m transported to the sounds of 1975.

Man the acoustic start, the “hit the road” feel, the shimmering tones and we are off on some musical journey that’s a cross between rock, jazz, blues and whatever else they could chuck in, like a saxophone solo.

And I liked it.

Then that riff that kicks off “Devils Food” should be iconic but it’s not, because the opening track took that glory.

And here, my prize, the black widow, isn’t she lovely.”

And how good is that “Black Widow” riff?

It puts most of the bands who call themselves “Metal” to shame. It you want to see menacing, this is the song and Bob Ezrin as producer took this album up a notch, while Dick Wagner as one the guitarists and main co-writers is basically unheard of today.

And that outro. Fuck, what a song. It follows no formula, no structure and it’s memorable.

Then when the cabaret feel of “Some Folks” kicks in, it feels dissonant, but as the song plays on, it fucking works.

And you need to remember in 1991, I’m listening to this and I’m like, “god damn, they don’t make music like this anymore”. The variations between each song, the different styles, the influences from other popular songs and how they are merged seamlessly into a coherent little song.

And that outro, I’m hooked and I pressed repeat on my CD player just to hear it again.

It’s knockout punch after knockout punch.

“Only Women Bleed” has an awesome guitar intro and that section after the bridge at about 2.28 to 2.38 is perfect.

And the knockout punches kept coming.

“Department Of Youth” kicks off with a riff that sums up a generation and the lyrics which confirm it.

And we ain’t afraid of high power
We’re bullet proof
And we’ve never heard of Eisenhower
Missile power, justice or truth

And that’s the Youth summed up. The issues and leaders of the world that concerned our parents didn’t concern the youth of the times.

And then “Cold Ethyl” keeps the punches coming, with a bluesy riff and a super melodic chorus.

“Years Ago” is just a circus tinker box like riff which is menacing and when you’re used to guitar heavy music, it’s a “ah-huh” moment.

And this leads into “Steven”, the best song on the album. That piano riff is enough to hook me in as it reminds me of horror movies but hearing a grown man sing like a little child about to lose his shit is scary enough.

And the musical groove when everyone sings “Steven”. Fuck, I still get goosebumps writing about it.

And that whole musical passage after it, sounds depressing, and I know the song is about to end and I had my finger on the repeat button.

I would have been happy if the album ended there. “The Awakening” is a little piano jam, which is haunting. “Escape” closes the album with an uplifting major key riff in the similar key and feel of “Department Of Youth” which is perfect.

And by the end of it, I’m bloody and bruised from all of the knockout punches.

Billion Dollar Babies

This was up next and man it had a lot to live up to. The first three songs were cool and “Elected” got me going, but after hearing “Department Of Youth” first, “Elected” had themes and style too similar for me.

And it took an iconic drum intro on track four which is as good as any classic guitar riff I’ve heard to hook me in. That my friends is the title track.

And when the guitar riff comes in, i was shocked again at how good these 70s albums are and the way the musicians write songs, following their muse and sticking a middle finger to the label guy.

And the labels hated this period because they couldn’t control the artists and they felt they should be the ones who could drop and sign anyone they wanted, but also scared to drop any artist or a disobedient successful artist, just in case they had a hit with another label.

“Unfinished Sweet” is 6 minutes long and they just try shit out. There is this section where all they are doing is hitting a chord with an effect on it and just letting it shimmer out. After that section, a simple 4/4 beat is played, and the song builds to a conclusion.

“No More Mr Nice Guy” was already a favorite and Megadeth’s version for the “Shocker” soundtrack was in rotation already for me.

“I Love The Dead” is brilliant. On the live VHS tape I have of the “Trash” tour, these 70s songs get an awesome modern sounding upgrade. And the repeating “I Love The Dead” is spot on and when you chuck in some cool pentatonic based lead lines, well what can I say. Once they added horns and violins, it’s a perfect ending.

In 1991, I don’t think any band at the height of MTV would sing or write a song called “I Love The Dead”, except an extreme or death metal act. And here is Alice Cooper in his ascendancy, writing about zombies, babies and what not.

I felt like I needed a proper original VHS video of Alice, so “Prime Cuts” was available and I purchased it, watched it once, the footage was crap and never watched it again.

Hey Stoopid

There is not a song on this album that I don’t like. And like “Trash”, Alice and his team went searching far and wide for songwriters to co-write and have them jam on the album.

Slash is on it, Mick Mars is on it, Nikki Sixx is on it, Joe Satriani is on it, Steve Vai is on it, Vinnie Moore is on it, Ozzy Osbourne is on it, Stef Burns from Y&T is on it and future Jovi bassist Hugh McDonald is on it.

For songwriting, the bulk of the songs are written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti and Bob Pfeifer.

Zodiac Mindwarp and his buds contribute “Feed My Frankenstein”, Sixx and Mars contribute “Die For You”, Dick Wagner contributes to “Might As Well Be On Mars”, Desmond Child also contributes to the Wagner track and “Dangerous Tonight”, Jim Vallance contributes a few and the list just goes on.

The beauty of it is, regardless of the different writers, it’s still an Alice Cooper album in sound and feel and when I heard “Wind Up Toy”, I knew the psychotic Alice from the 70s was still there along with “Steven”.

Constrictor

Back to 1986 and Kip Winger is on bass and “He-Man” Kane Roberts is on guitar and as co-writer for the album.

“Life And Death Of The Party” sounds like the song that would launch the career of Ghost as the style and feel is similar to what Ghost would bring forth many decades later.

“The World Needs Guts” is a great title and I wanted the song to be great but it was okay.

And then you have the synth driven “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” which sounds cool and for the movie it works.

Muscle Of Love

“Muscle Of Love” and “The Man With The Golden Gun” are the tracks I still remember, with “Muscle Of Love” being the one which still gets played today.

The Last Temptation

For me, this album is excellent. I became a fan because of the MTV friendly “Trash” album. I discovered his back catalogue after that. This album is a combination of the “Trash” era commercialism, merged with the 70s “Welcome To My Nightmare” and “Billion Dollar Babies” albums, merged with the sonic production qualities of the mighty “Black” album from Metallica.

Guitarist Dan Wexler from the band “Icon” is on hand to co-write most of the songs as a few years before Alice Cooper did guest voiceovers on Icon’s 1989 album. Shaw-Blades, Chris Cornell, Jim Vallance and Bob Pfeiffer are other writers who make an appearance.

“Lost in America” is basically a rewrite of “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” in the verses. And how good are lyrics, about how Steven can’t get a job, because he aint got a car, and he can’t get a girl, because he aint got a car and he’s looking for a girl with a job and car. But it never made it as a hit, much the labels dismay, because it’s a god damn album cut.

“You’re My Temptation” is one of his best 90’s tracks and it’s unfortunate this co-write with Shaw and Blades is largely unknown.

The album has three different producers in Andy Wallace for “Side Show”, “Stolen Prayer”, “Unholy War” and “Cleansed by Fire”, Don Fleming on “Lost in America” and Duane Baron and John Purdell did the remaining three tracks.

Brutal Planet

The first album of the Bob Marlette era.

The title track is a stand out by far and the sound was very heavy, industrial and gothic. And what a live track it makes. Check out “A Paranormal Evening”.

And those riffs and dissonant leads in the intro,

We’re spinning round on this ball of hate
There’s no parole, there’s no great escape
We’re sentenced here until the end of days
And then my brother there’s a price to pay

It takes Alice to tell us that we have no escape or chance of parole during our lives.

Right here we stoned the prophets
Built idols out of mud
Right here we fed the lions
Christian flesh and Christian blood
Down here is where we hung ya
Upon an ugly cross
Over there we filled the ovens
Right here the holocaust

That’s only a drop in the ocean of the brutality that Mother Earth has seen.

Dragowntown

The second album of the Bob Marlette era.

And of course I was still seeking out the past albums, but as I started hearing em, I realized that I maybe had the best ones already.

For the “Schools Out” album, the title track is the only song I liked and what hasn’t been said about it or how it captured a perfect moment for a whole new generation, liberated from the social shackles placed on their parents.

For the “Killer” album, “Under My Wheels” is the song which stands out on this album. “Goes To Hell”, “From The Inside” and “Lace And Whiskey” came and went without impact.

A live album called “A Fistful Of Alice” didn’t set my world on fire and neither did an album of original material called “Dirty Diamonds”.

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6 thoughts on “The Record Vault – Alice Cooper

  1. I discovered Cooper a few years earlier than you as Constrictor was my first Cooper purchase!(1986) Great call as Life and Death of the Party would make a great Ghost tune. You should run it by Tobias! Haha..
    From Constrictor it was Trash/Hey Stoopid and a few others until Paranormal and the recent Live album that I really got back into Coop! Course having front row at a Coop show helps as well! haha
    Great writeup ..

    • Henrik says:

      Ditto. Constrictor was my 1st AC purchase, though I knew some of his tunes already.
      Next one… DaDa. Romans were right, “nomen est omen”. It’s pure dadaism and should be avoided at any cost. Realized this too late and spent my hard begged weekly pocket money. Other lads went to buy beer, I was at home listening to DaDa. Shit happens.

    • Cool to hear a similar musical discovery. I still haven’t seen Alice Cooper live and to be honest, the best chance I had was a few years ago when he played in Sydney and i looked at the prices it tickets, assessed it against the budget and decided that he didn’t have that much pull at this point in time to make me go. Back track to the mid 90s and it would have been a no brainer.

  2. I heard those albums (meaning DaDa, Zipper Catches Skin and Special Forces) via downloads and as quickly as they came onto my hardrive, they exited even faster. I struggled to understand how creatively bankrupt he was.

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