A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Al Pitrelli – 1990 to 1992

Let’s go back to when Pitrelli got booted or left Danger Danger in 1988.

Bruno Ravel and Steve West held a tight ship on the writing process. It was either written by Ravel/West or Pitrelli/Pont. On occasions Pitrelli and Ravel would write. But once Pont was booted, Pitrelli felt that he was getting squeezed out.

Danger Danger is seen as Bruno Ravel’s band, however it was Al Pitrelli’s to begin with. So he stayed, because like Ravel, he wanted a record deal. With the addition of Ted Poley, the demos the band recorded got the band its Epic deal, however it also got Pitrelli out of the band due to disagreements with the A&R rep.

The Alice Cooper touring gig was a massive opportunity moving from regional nickel and dime gigs to arenas.

Joining Cooper and Pitrelli was his old Berklee friend Derek Sherinian on keys. The other guitarist was Pete Friesen who did multiple stings with Cooper between 1989-91, 1998-2000 and 2002. In between those stints he became the lead guitarist in “The Almighty”, did a stint in Bruce Dickinson’s solo band and prior to joining Alice Cooper he was in VO5 with Sebastian Bach.

The bassist is Tommy Caradonna who did work with Lita Ford before Alice Cooper and the drummer is Jonathan Mover who also did work with Marillion. Although not confirmed, I did read stories that Caradonna was the bassist that Michael Bolton did not like back in 1985 when Pitrelli brought a fully formed band to Bolton to become his touring band.

How Al Pitrelli got the gig with Alice Cooper is told a bit differently in this RAW article. Although Matt Bissonette did recommend Pitrelli, it was Steve Vai again who sealed the deal.

“I called up Steve Vai (ex-Dave Lee Roth guitarist, now with Whitesnake) and said: ‘I know you’re taken, so tell me who the next best is’.

And he said Al Pitrelli (from Long Island, New York). So as soon as I got him Roth calls up and says: ‘Did you take that guy?’ Cos he wanted him, but I had him, ha!”

In a Guitar mag interview, Alice Cooper had this to say about Al Pitrelli’s involvement.

“I particularly picked Pete and Al for two different reasons, even though they look like they could be brothers. Al is a total free spirit.

I called Steve Vai up and said, “I know you’re taken. Tell me the next best guy.” He said, “Al Pitrelli. He’s very fluid. He can play anything. He has a ‘leader’ quality.” That’s what I was looking for.”

For Kiss fans, Mark St. John was also in the running for the Alice Cooper gig.

In relation to the Roth gig, the slot went to Jason Becker, however tragedy was around the corner for Becker, with a disease called Lou Gehrig’s, which would leave Becker paralysed completely and relying on machines and special communication devices based on eye movements and blinking to communicate.

And Roth’s career took a nose dive after Steve Vai’s departure. By the mid 90’s, Roth was out of the music business and working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

A few side notes here.

  • Going back to the Jason Becker and Roth connection, Pitrelli would be replacing Becker’s “Cacophony” guitar mate Marty Friedman in Megadeth at the start of the 2000’s.
  • During the Pitrelli/Alice Cooper audition, his Hotshot bassist, Teddy Cook was also auditioning for Dio as part of the “Lock Up The Wolves” era circa 1989/90. After Dio disbanded, when Ronnie re-joined Black Sabbath, Cook would go on to play with Great White, Virgin Steele and Randy Jackson’s China Rain.
  • Hotshot with new members who replaced Pitrelli and Cook, were still pushing the demo they did with Pitrelli and Cook. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee heard it and wanted to produce the band. At the time, the Toxic Twins were going to start their own label however the departure of Vince Neil changed all that and Hotshot was again without a deal.

Before Pitrelli got the Alice Cooper gig, he needed to make some fast career decisions. He left Danger Danger because he didn’t have proper opportunities to compose songs with Ravel and West. In Alice Cooper he wouldn’t have those opportunities either. But in Hotshot, he had the creative freedom to write what he wanted and Hotshot was getting a lot of attention. Alice Cooper while successful in the past, was also known as having his ups and downs. On top of that, Pitrelli’s home life was doing guitar lessons, earning about $400 a week, married and with a son.

Pitrelli selected Alice Cooper.

In the end, Pitrelli was Alice Cooper’s guitarist and musical director from 1989 until 1991 on the “Trashes The World” tour. Shows from this tour were captured on tape and released on VHS in 1990.

There was a full dress rehearsal gig before the tour started. Steve Vai and Gregg Bissonette attended. Pitrelli was thankful of the two and hugged Bissonette for a long time.

Once the gig with Alice was over or in downtime between Alice shows, Pitrelli re-joined with Randy Coven and drummer John O’Reilly as a formal member of the Randy Coven Band to release “Sammy Says Ouch!” in 1990. On top of that, he also did some session work for Donny Osmond and that album “Eyes Don’t Lie” was also released in 1990. The lesson he learnt from the Michael Bolton days was to play with whoever and wherever.

His session work didn’t end there with albums from Kathy Troccoli called “Pure Attraction” and Henry Lee Summer called “Way Past Midnight” seeing releases. His skills to adapt to various musical styles was on par with Steve Lukather, who was a go to session guru as well. A song he wrote with Jimmy DeGrasso called “City” would also end up on the album “Ten” by Y&T.

Y&T by this time had Stef Burns in the band after Joey Alves left and Alice Cooper history shows that Stef Burns would replace Al Pitrelli within his touring band. And DeGrasso would leave Y&T to join Cooper as well.

In 1992, one my favourite albums was released.

The band was called Widowmaker and the album was “Blood And Bullets”. This was Dee Snider’s post Twisted Sister band 5 years after Twisted Sister broke up and two years after the failed Desperado project with Elektra. The band was aggressive, crunchier and the musicians a step above.

The band name was suggested by producer Ric Wake because he liked the song called “The Widowmaker”.

Snider even contacted bassist Bob Daisley (Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne), who played in the original Widowmaker, about using the name and got a “who cares if you use the name” reply.

Rick Wake as Producer was an interesting choice as his experience at that time was purely pop artists like Taylor Dayne, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross and Sheena Easton.

It’s also worth noting that there are songs on this album from the Desperado project written with Bernie Torme (RIP) which Snider had to buy back the rights to from Elektra. The songs “Calling For You”, “Gone Bad” and “Emaheevull” got re-done in Widowmaker. Other songs like “Hang Em High” and “Cry You A Rainbow”, would be released on other Dee Snider’s solo album “Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down”.

“Reason To Kill” is from the debut album. Snider is angry here and that anger is directed at Bob Krasnow, the head of Elektra Records and the person responsible for killing off the Desperado project and then not allowing Snider to take his songs elsewhere.

So you used me
Then threw me away

That is the slogan of the Label Run Music Business. Actually it still is, especially to the ones who still chase major label gigs.

All my life it seems
Been spent building’ dreams
I knew would be broke by you

Dee left Twisted Sister in 1987 and spent three years writing, demoing and recording the Desperado album, only to have it pulled from release in 1990. The band splintered apart and he was left in no man’s land. Three years out of the public eye in the music business is a life time, and prior to Desperado, Dee spent his whole life building up Twisted Sister only to have that broken as well, by label and management pressure.

Dee was also upset with Atlantic when the label announced it was putting together a best-of Twisted Sister album, which was released a few months before the Widowmaker album. It was typical of the labels. Releasing music as best offs. The maths are simple. Zero Cost = Pure Profit.

Dee Snider wanted to play bigger places with Widowmaker and he wanted similar commercial success to his Twisted Sister days, but it never happened. A loyal core fan base would be there to support the band when it made the trek to play the Clubs it had booked.

Acts like The Black Crowes, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Pantera were selling out larger venues. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana would join them soon. But the biggest thing with Widowmaker was the lack of promo. No one knew that Dee Snider was even in the band.

Pitrelli meanwhile was still in demand as a session player.

The Asia band featured three original members in keyboardist Geoff Downes, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Carl Palmer. It’s debatable how much Howe and Palmer actually played on the album.

Joining them for 1992’s “Aqua” release is Al Pitrelli on guitars and bassist vocalist John Payne. However, Pitrelli and Palmer never toured on this album as per the agreement, with their spots going to Vinny Burns on guitar and Trevor Thornton on drums.

Also in the same year, Coven and Pitrelli did a different project called Coven, Pitrelli, and Reilly (CPR). The album was simply titled “CPR” after the band.

He also was a writer on the “Hey Stoopid” album which came out in 1992. The song “Burning Our Bed” made it to the album (a co-write with Alice Cooper, Bib Pfeifer and his old Hotshot/Danger Danger buddy Steve West, while a few other songs remained in the demo stages.

He also did some session work for the act Expose. Their self-titled third album was released in 1992. The album’s music style has more pop and less Latin than their previous albums. Pitrelli plays guitar on two songs written by Diane Warren called “As Long As I Can Dream” (a co-write with Roy Orbison) and “In Walked Love”.

More to come as the 90s proved to be a big breakout year for Pitrelli.

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5 thoughts on “Al Pitrelli – 1990 to 1992

  1. Widowmaker really did never get a chance. It got no publicity at all beyond a few blurbs in magazines. Sad that is was dead on arrival. But at least Pitrelli had a steady gig on the horizon.

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