KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

ALICE COOPER Part 4 – Skeletons In The Closet (1978-1983)

Alice Cooper Photo (with The Muppets, circa 1978)The five albums released by Alice Cooper between 1978 and 1983 may not form the most highly regarded portion of his catalog, but after spending a lot of time with these records this past week I came to appreciate them a lot more than I ever have.  Not only was Alice succumbing to his alcohol addiction (which would lead him to a sanitarium more than once), but he was also transforming his image & music to conform with the times. To many music fans he probably seemed like an artist whose best years were behind him, but in many ways the experimental nature of this era opened up possibilities for him in the future which may not have been the case had he stuck to a single image & sound. This era in music might be my favorite, covering the tail end of the so-called “dinosaur bands” of the ‘70s, like Led Zeppelin, The Who and progressive rock, the rise of new wave artists like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Pretenders & Nick Lowe, and the introduction of a new generation of guitar-based bands that influenced me for the last 30 years (Big Country, U2, REM & The Alarm). So while some people look back on the questionable sonic choices & production techniques of that time with negative connotations, I have an affinity for it all & happily focus on the songs buried underneath. Fortunately, Alice had a number of good ones. They may have taken some time to sink in, but I’m glad I stuck with them.

Alice Cooper - From The InsideFrom The Inside (1978) documents Alice’s stay in the sanitarium (the cover has Alice’s face superimposed over the sanitarium door), with songs about specific people he met there as well as first person accounts of his harrowing time “inside.” All songs were co-written by Alice and Bernie Taupin (Elton John’s longtime lyricist), and the album was produced by David Foster (a composer & arranger who went on to produce Chicago’s 1982 comeback album and a slew of adult contemporary artists). On paper it shouldn’t work, but I really like at least 6 of its 10 songs. “From The Inside” sets the tone with bouncy piano giving way to a funky dance groove (a bit like Boz Scaggs) as he confesses about his addictions and how the rock & roll lifestyle took its toll on him (“I never dreamed that I would wind up on the losin’ end”). “The Quiet Room” is a stark electric piano ballad that finds him writing to someone on the outside, asking about things back home & reporting on his experiences. I love the soulful backing vocals, and the way Alice barks in anger & frustration in the chorus. He even admits to contemplating suicide (“I just can’t get these damn wrists to bleed”). “Millie And Billie” is a duet with Marcy Levy, best known for her work with Eric Clapton (“The Core”) and the duo Shakespears Sister. Although it sounds like a Broadway show tune, which isn’t something I usually respond to, it was stuck in my head for days (especially at “He was thinkin’ of us”) and I love the revelation that they’re both “criminally insane.” “Serious” is a driving, dramatic rocker that sounds like a cross between Sammy Hagar, The Tubes, Rick Springfield & Foreigner. It’s pop with a rock edge that features several hooks, most notably at “All of my life was a laugh & a joke & a drink & a smoke & then I passed out on the floor.”

[Alice Cooper – “How You Gonna See Me Now”]

“How You Gonna See Me Now” is the highlight of the album for me. It’s a piano ballad with a super catchy chorus: “How you gonna see me now? Please don’t see me ugly babe, ‘cause I know I let you down Alice Cooper Photo (Back cover of From The Inside)in oh so many ways.” I haven’t been able to put my finger on who or what this reminds me of, but it’s another song that could’ve been a huge hit by someone without Alice’s reputation (although apparently it did reach #12 on the Billboard chart…not bad). “For Veronica’s Sake” is a cool melodic pop-rocker with a tight arrangement and a great chorus about how he needs to get out of the sanitarium to visit his woman on death row (“For Veronica’s sake I gotta get out of here”). “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)” has a stop-start rhythm with a haunting string section & synths that point to Foster’s work with Chicago. It also has elements of Meat Loaf and Toto, and features strong hooks at “Good old boys & girls, congregating, waiting in another world” and “We’re all crazy.” The other three songs I haven’t mentioned (“Wish I Were Born In Beverly Hills,” “Nurse Rozetta” and “Jackknife Johnny”) are all excellent but didn’t impact me like the others. The last of those, which is about a Vietnam vet who went crazy when he returned from the war (I think), has a great solo, moving from guitar to Hammond organ. This album certainly deserves a place among his best work, even though it was part of his commercial decline.

I remember when Flush The Fashion (1980) was first released; not being much of a fan at the time, it was a shock to see the gaunt Alice Cooper - Flush The Fashionfigure on the back cover. Clearly a new decade was upon us. At less than 29 minutes, this is a sparse, new wave-influenced album with more than a hint of that same year’s Scary Monsters by David Bowie. This time Roy Thomas Baker, best known for his work with Queen, The Cars, Foreigner & Journey, handled production, and notable musicians included Elton John’s guitarist Davey Johnstone and Flo & Eddie (The Turtles, Mothers Of Invention) on backing vocals. Album opener “Talk Talk” is an interesting choice; a tightly produced, minimal garage rock cover of a ‘60s song by The Music Machine. This segues into “Clones (We’re All),” a futuristic, sci-fi tune that adds in a steady electronic drum pattern and synth melody, recalling The Cars at their best. “Pain” is the song that stuck with me the most. The piano intro leads to a booming, midtempo song, and I love the squealing guitar accents & the great chorus (“I’m pain…I’m you’re pain…unspeakable pain”), as well as the clever arrangement.

“Leather Boots” is a manic-paced, 95-second new wave raver with throwback ‘50s guitars & a walking bass line: a minor blast of fun. In “Aspirin Damage,” I love the synth squiggles, sparse guitar riffs and steady beat, along with the memorable chorus. The lyrics are funny but troubling, about his addiction to over-the-counter headache Alice Cooper Photo (from Flush The Fashion)medications. “Nuclear Infected” is a fast paced rocker with synth washes being the most modern touch. The lyrics are silly but a whole lot of fun (“I’m nuclear infamished, I need something to eat, a China Syndrome salad with plutonium & cheese”), equating nuclear infection with a man or animal on the prowl. “Model Citizen” has Alice playing the counter-culture bad guy & having fun with it (“He’s a model citizen…he’s an ultra sweety guy”). Album closer “Headlines” is a pulsing but generic rocker, with lyrics that are even more appropriate in the age of reality TV (“I wanna be in the headlines, anything to be in the headlines”). The rest of the album is mostly forgettable yet it’s an enjoyably brief record that I will revisit a lot more in the future.

Special Forces (1981) is a mixed bag, combining some excellent material with a number of songs that I’ll never need to hear again. Alice Coope - Special ForcesBeginning with this album and continuing through the next two, Alice has admitted to being so drunk that he barely remembers writing or recording them. With that in mind, it’s surprising to find any good material, but it’s there if you look for it. Production duties this time were handled by Richard Podolor. He was best known for his work with ‘70s hit makers Three Dog Night, as well as Iron Butterfly and Blues Image (of “Ride Captain Ride” fame), whose singer/guitarist, Mike Pinera, plays guitar throughout this album. After the generic rocker “Who Do You Think We Are,” where the only noteworthy feature is the biting lead guitar, and a mediocre version of the Arthur Lee/Love classic, “Seven & Seven Is,” he hits a high note with “Prettiest Cop On The Block.” Driven by a rolling & tumbling drum beat, Alice delivers an interesting, double entendre-laden story about a secretly gay vice cop (“I’m the prettiest cop on the block, I’ll handcuff your desires, I got a stiff reputation with a stick like a rock, my kids are confused & my wife is in shock”). “Don’t Talk Old To Me” is weighed down by generic verses but I love the chorus, where the tempo shifts and Alice’s voice is multi-tracked to layer the line “Don’t talk, don’t talk old to me” on top of itself.

[Alice Cooper – “Skeletons In The Closet”]

My favorite song here is “Skeletons In The Closet,” which comes closest to capturing the essence of classic Alice Cooper (the harpsichord-esque intro is somewhat creepy) while also being a Alice Cooper Photo (circa 1981)moody, synth-pop song. The arrangement is fantastic, and the overall mood points to The Fixx, who would hit the charts the following year. “You Look Good In Rags” could be a Cars song from that era (it reminds me of their minor 1982 hit, “Cruiser”). Basically it’s a modern rock song with a great guitar sound, and the lyrics find him complimenting his woman (“you look good in rags, with dirt in your hair”) compared to high class prostitutes and millionaires’ girlfriends. It may not be a traditionally romantic expression but it works. The album closes with “Vicious Rumours,” a fast-paced driving rocker with a memorable chorus (“Vicious rumours, paranoiac fears, sonic boomers ringing in your ears”) sung in a sneered, half-spoken voice. There’s a cool chunky rhythm guitar and a reprise of “Who Do You Think We Are” at the end that might have tied things together more tightly had the album been more consistent. However, I like half the record, so it’s far from a bust even though there are a handful of completely unnecessary songs.

Zipper Catches Skin (1982) was co-produced by Alice and Erik Scott. I don’t know anything about Scott, but based on this mediocre Alice Cooper - Zipper Catches Skinalbum I’m not inspired to look any further into his production career. Then again, I shouldn’t place the blame on him, since it was probably a combination of drunkenness, poor songwriting and an overall lack of inspiration. Keeping that in mind, I did manage to find a handful of songs I really liked, while the rest mostly fell flat. “Make That Money (Scrooge’s Song)” has a nice heavy guitar riff & stomping drums, and at times had me thinking a bit of Deep Purple. Although based on the Charles Dickens titular character (“When it’s time for me to croak, bury me with all my dough”), this is no Christmas song, but it’s got a great chorus (“Make that money run like honey on your tongue”) and memorable melodies throughout. “I Am The Future” was featured in the low-budget movie Class Of ’84, which I saw years ago but don’t remember much about (other than a very young Michael J. Fox). It’s a moody, jazzy ballad with ‘80s production touches (mostly synth splashes) that was written by Elton John collaborator Gary Osborne with film composer Lalo Schifrin. I like the hook at, “Take a look at my face, I am the future, how do you like what you see?” Album closer “I’m Alive (That Was The Day My Dead Pet Returned To Save My Life)” is a silly little chugging rocker that would only be enjoyable to those who see that title and think “fun” instead of “ridiculous” (I’m in the former group). The chorus, where he sings the title, is extremely catchy, and was probably burrowed into my brain more than any other song from this batch of albums. His sneering vocals sound like a precursor to Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, which is something I probably should’ve noticed on some earlier songs but this is the first time I’ve made that connection.

The bonus track on my copy of the CD, “For Britain Only,” is aptly titled as it was a UK-only single in 1982. I like the driving midtempo groove, cool bass line and stabbing guitar chords. It’s as good as any Alice Cooper Photo (from Zipper Catches Skin)of the songs I’ve mentioned, and better than all the songs I haven’t. Even though the remainder of the album is mediocre at best, there are a few things worth noting. “Zorro’s Ascent” has a swashbuckling swagger with Spanish touches while still rockin’, and “I am the fox & I go where I want” is a good hook. “I Like Girls” features an excellent guest vocal performance by Patty Donahue of The Waitresses (“Christmas Wrapping”; “I Know What Boys Like”), who’s credited with “vocals and sarcasm.” “Tag, You’re It” doesn’t have any discernible hooks but features interesting lyrics with Alice describing a scene from a horror movie he’s directing, where a bride is killed by her new husband on their wedding day. Sometimes his lyrics make up for mediocre music. The album title comes from the song “I Better Be Good” (“If zipper grabs skin I’ll know I had it out when I shoulda kept it in…Ow!”). Ow, indeed. I’ll be curious to find out if there are any fans out there who love this album, which to me has too many clunkers and therefore it won’t be a record I’ll come back to very often.

Bob Ezrin returned to the producer’s chair for Dada (1983), and he co-wrote most of the songs with guitarist Dick Wagner and Alice. It Alice Cooper - DaDamay not be on the same level as the classic albums the three of them worked on together in the ‘70s, but at least 5 of the 9 songs stand up to repeated listening, which is a very good hit-to-miss ratio, especially considering Alice’s physical state at the time. “Dada,” which was written solely by Ezrin, is a creepy & atmospheric mood piece with sound effects, a baby’s voice (an Ezrin trademark), and a barely audible conversation between therapist & patient. The album really begins with “Enough’s Enough,” a catchy pop-rocker with a programmed drum beat, sung in the character of a boy whose father becomes abusive after his mother dies (“I just want to tell you you’re a lousy dad, to Hell with you”). During the section where he sings “go buck & buck & make a buck,” the first two “buck”s sound like something that would now give the album a “parental guidance” warning. “Former Lee Warmer” is a dark, twisted tale about his dead brother “living” in an upstairs room (“formerly warmer”). Musically, it sounds like something from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, possibly Ezrin’s most well-known production. “Dyslexia” is a percussive synth-pop number with a steady programmed rhythm, catchy melodies in the verses & choruses and clever word play (“Is dis love…or is dys-lex-i-a?).

“Fresh Blood” probably goes on a little too long, at just under 6 minutes, but it might be my favorite song here; a synth-pop tune with steady, loping percussion and keyboards that recall Genesis’ Tony Banks circa Abacab. Musically it’s atypical for him, even considering the wide range of styles he’s recorded, but the lyrics (he’s a predator…either animal or psychopath…stalking random people) Alice Cooper Photo (circa 1983)are classic Alice Cooper. Wagner’s tasty lead guitar work deserves special mention. “Scarlet And Sheba” is another new classic, with a swirling Middle Eastern synth melody, sharp guitar chords and programmed drum accents. The catchy melody in the chorus (“I just want your body, Sheba, I don’t want your brain”) stayed in my head for days. “I Love America” gets old pretty quickly, but the first couple of times it’s enjoyable: a parody of patriotic redneck anthems…in the form of a patriotic redneck anthem. Album closer “Pass The Gun Around,” with verses that have a John Lennon vibe, is a midtempo semi-ballad that’s a good change of pace, although it’s a relatively minor song. Some fans probably hailed this as a return to form, mostly due to the presence of Ezrin & Wagner. For me it slightly misses the mark, but the handful of highlights I mentioned makes it worth exploring, and without a doubt it’s more consistent than either of its predecessors.

Alice would spend the next couple of years cleaning himself up…for good this time. When he returned with a new record on a new label in 1986, he adapted to the changing musical climate by embracing hair metal (not my favorite genre, but it had its moments), which led to a well-earned career resurgence. In my next post I’ll discuss that era, which I’ve already begun listening to. Until then, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the portion of his discography addressed above.

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36 comments on “ALICE COOPER Part 4 – Skeletons In The Closet (1978-1983)

  1. mikeladano
    May 21, 2013

    I’ve been waiting for this one! I’ve been revisiting along with you, but I’m missing Special Forces and Zipper Catches Skin.

    First, I think From the Inside is a lot better than I used to give it credit for. I saw the video for “How You Gonna See Me Now” and I loved it. I “got it” and really started getting into Alice Cooper more seriously after that. His albums were so damn hard to find but I got this one around 1990 or 1991.

    Flush the Fashion I have on Japanese import (no bonus tracks). That one took me by surprise. I still love Clones, and Pain. Both would make my personal Alice Cooper compilation. From there on, I like certain songs from what I’ve heard, but it was DaDa that I still have not really penetrated. I don’t know if I so much as appreciate it, rather than like it.

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    • Thanks for the feedback, Mike. Before delving into these albums last week I didn’t remember much about them, so I had no expectations. Although knowing about Alice’s physical & mental state at this time, I assumed there would be a lot of filler with maybe a handful of memorable songs. I should never underestimate him, because even at his “worst” he still delivers the goods. None of these albums could be considered a stone cold classic, but From The Inside probably comes closest. Lyrically & musically it’s a winner, where even the lesser songs are worth hearing.

      Glad to hear that you also love “Pain.” I couldn’t help thinking that it was a precursor to some of his later hair metal recordings, specifically “Poison.” The musical setting may have been a bit different, but his approach was very similar. I’ve already run through the next four albums a couple of times, so I’m now in that frame of mind.

      Surprised to hear that Dada hasn’t done it for you yet. There are at least a couple of songs that would make it onto my hypothetical career-spanning anthology.

      If you ever get Special Forces &/or Zipper Catches Skin, I’d like to know what you think. The high points of those two would make a pretty strong album, while the lesser tracks would form a pretty unlistenable one.

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      • mikeladano
        May 22, 2013

        It’s almost tradition Rich that somebody buys me an Alice album for Christmas or birthdays, because everybody knows Alice and I still have some on my Amazon wishlist! So we’ll see. Birthday in July!

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      • What will you do for your birthdays after you own everything in the Alice catalog, Mike? Hopefully by then there will be some new deluxe editions for you to collect.

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  2. Todd
    May 23, 2013

    A “zipper” promo film…

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  3. waynelaw
    May 25, 2013

    One of my first music memories is watching Alice on Top of the Pops back in the old country. (I still see that image of him waving his sword at the camera in my head…man that must have just scorched its way right into the permanent memoryI) I think he gets dismissed as a novelty far too often…but as always you produce a detailed and thoughtful analysis of his work…thanks.

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    • Which song was he singing while he waved the sword? I agree regarding people’s perception of him as a novelty act. If they could look past the theatrics and just focus on the music, they would discover one of the greats. Thanks for checking in. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      Rich

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      • waynelaw
        May 25, 2013

        “schools out” – it was a smash hit for this one little kid.

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  4. Andrew Wellman
    May 26, 2013

    I’m really enjoying these entries. This particular period of Alice’s career is fascinating, although Alice’s continuing disavowal of it is frustrating–when asked about this material, he tends to shrug it off by claiming to remember none of it. Perhaps he doesn’t, but these albums hardly play like drunken, misguided self-indulgence.

    First off, for me, “From The Inside” is a flat-out classic album, one of the few “concept albums” which truly integrates an overall concept into each song is contains, yet the territory covered in the songs is vast. I’m only half serious when I say that this type of album, in which each song portrays a different character, influenced Bruce Springsteen’s early 80’s songwriting–“Jackknife Johnny” covers much of the same narrative that the title track of “Born In The U.S.A.” did several years later, and “Nebraska” is a much more somber look at homicidal relationships than “Millie And Billie”–but I do think that the album does not get enough credit for, if nothing else, sheer narrative ambition. .

    If there is any aspect of “From The Inside” that continues in the following four albums, it would be that this was the era in which Alice really tried to expand the possibilities of the “Alice Cooper” persona. I’m not entirely clear on the reasoning behind why, with “Flush The Fashion”, Alice cut his hair, removed the makeup and experimented with synthesizers, but today it comes off like a silly attempt remain relevant in the 1980’s (he even added the year to the FTF album cover). The only thing he lacked was a skinny necktie. Still, there seems to be enough apparent ambition in the next four albums to indicate that he considered the multi-character approach of “From The Inside” to be somewhat successful. (This is strictly my theory, of course.)

    My biggest problem with the next four albums is that they are somewhat interchangeable, despite the fact that Alice seemed to be attempting to give each record some type of unifying theme. There are great moments on these four albums; trouble is, I have trouble remembering which album contained which moment. Call me old, but another thing I love about “From The Inside” is how it is designed as a start-to-finish listening experience, ten songs on two album sides, designed to be played in two five-song chunks.

    Yet, this was obviously not a good era for Alice either personally or professionally. While his alcoholism did not seem to act as a complete detriment to the music, the dawn of the 1980’s, and Alice’s attempt to update his act, seem only misguided. Looking back, it is not difficult to see where Alice and the early 1980’s were not a good fit; although the original Alice Cooper band fancied themselves “art rockers”, such artistic ambitions would manifest in 1980’s through the rise of a new musical “art form”, music videos. (If you think that you are detecting that I might have a lifelong cynicism about 80’s music, you are absolutely right.) This artistic sensibility, however, was considerably more earnest and pretentious than Alice’s more eccentric artistic sensibility, expressed most explicitly in the use of a Salvadore Dali painting on the cover of “Da Da”. Songs with social consciousness were hip, songs with a sense of humor were not. Finally, with the advent of MTV, male singers became, frankly, “prettier” in more ways than one. Alice was screwed–it was almost as though 80’s music had conspired to become the exact opposite of his 1970’s catalog.

    These are the kind of factors which lead me to wonder about Alice’s state of mind during this era, and which is why I find it sad (or at least frustrating) that he claims to have none. But, again, there were some great moments on these albums: off of the top of my head, “No Baloney Homosapiens”, “I Am The Future”, “Pass The Gun Around”, “Who Do You Think We Are”, “Former Lee Warmer”, “Pain”. One song I especially want to single out is “I Love America”–a hilarious song that was probably way too ironic for the 1980’s music industry to process. In the booklet with the “Life And Crimes” boxed set, Alice voices regret that he never made a video for “I Love America”, or did anything further with the redneck version of the Alice character. The thing is–because the track is so ill-suited to 1983, backed primarily by guitars and drums, rather than synthesizers and drum machines, and sung in a manner so inconsistent with other singers of the day (Sting, Benjamin Orr, Steve Perry), as a result, the song sounds as though it could have been recorded yesterday. What’s stopping you from singing it today, Alice?

    Anyway, I’ve been running off at the typewriter again. Sorry about that. Suffice to say that while there are a few bum tracks here and there on the first four 80’s albums, there is still just enough of Alice’s unique vision to make them worthwhile.

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    • Andrew, thanks so much for your insightful comments. Although I may not agree that From The Inside is a flat-out classic, it is the most consistent batch of songs in during this era. For me it falls just short of “classic” but is still very underrated and improves with each subsequent listen. Having gone through his catalog sequentially over the past month, it was hard not to feel a slight dip in quality compared to his (and the original group’s) earlier work. The concept does hang together very well, possibly even better than on Welcome To My Nightmare.

      I understand your feelings about ’80s music, but I guess it depends on your age how you react to the musical climate at the time. I started high school in 1980, so a lot of my formative years were spent during the advent of music videos. I certainly enjoyed that format, but it did bother me that a lot of not-pretty artists were marginalized because they didn’t meet some ridiculous “videogenic” standard, while less talented performers & songwriters received exposure solely based on their looks. I could make an argument that the quality of music created in the ’80s is every bit as strong and diverse and other decades. The only difference is that in previous decades the cream often rose to the top, but starting in the ’80s you often had to search beyond the pop charts to find the truly inspiring artists.

      I think Alice held his own during the early ’80s, especially considering the state he was in at the time. None of the other four albums I discussed in this post is a strong work from beginning to end, but as we’ve both pointed out, he did expand the notion of what the Alice Cooper character could be. I agree that “I Love America” is hilarious, but once I heard the joke a few times it didn’t hold up. At least it was just one song on that album. A whole record of redneck Alice would’ve been unbearable for me.

      I’m looking forward to revisiting the Life And Crimes box set soon, as much for the music as for the liner notes. Alice is such an interesting guy, so whatever he had to say about his songs & albums should make for interesting reading. I probably only skimmed the packaging when it first came out.

      I’m curious to find out if your feelings about his music changed once the ’80s came to a close. I’ve already spent nearly a week with the first four albums from his hair metal years, and I’ll post my thoughts on those here soon. I hope you’ll come back & share your views on those records then.

      Best wishes,
      Rich

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      • Hank
        May 29, 2013

        Er…I should say that I’ve been going back and forth between a far more sobering blog–where I’m using my full name, and this blog, where I’m going by the name everybody calls me.

        I’ve said before that I’ll confess to being something of a cheerleader for Alice, and I’m probably inclined to be one for no better reason than I think his stuff is too often dismissed; Alice doesn’t seem to take himself seriously at all, so it’s easy to dismiss some of this stuff without criticizing it, yet when I look back at his catalog as a collective whole, it is not only remarkably consistent, it’s a lot smarter than he’s really ever been given credit for.

        I’m kind of going through the catalog along with you, Rich, and thinking a lot about the hair metal albums.

        I should say that while I do tend to take shots at 80’s pop music, I should also acknowledge that it was 80’s pop music that led me to seek out all sorts of other music back in the 80’s, mostly 60’s and 70’s music.

        I can see where “I Love America” can get old fairly fast. All I now is that once or twice a year, I do tend to make a point of making everybody and everything around me to stop to listen to it with me full blast. I mean, there’s firecrackers going off in the middle of that thing!

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      • I’m guessing your “I Love America” extravaganza should be coming up on July 4th, and you may have done it this past weekend to commemorate Memorial Day. What kind of reaction do you get? With enough alcohol I suspect that everyone enjoys the song.

        Be on the lookout for my post on the hair metal years in the next day or two. Was hoping to have it up already, but the busy holiday weekend got in the way. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on those albums.

        Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts on Alice’s music here, and for being a cheerleader for his music. I’m really enjoying our conversation.

        Best….
        Rich

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  5. BeeDeeWarner
    May 28, 2013

    Rich, I just discovered your blog last week, and I’m very impressed. Your thoughts are intelligent and articulate. I’m also looking forward to your thoughts on “Life and Crimes.” When I first got it, I was especially interested in hearing the Spiders’ “Don’t Blow Your Mind”, as it was a hit on the radio in Arizona. I lived there at the time, and always had my transistor radio tuned to Top 40 (I was 10 at the time). The song did sound familiar, although I don’t specifically recall the name of the band. It may be that it just sounds familiar because it’s a typical 60’s sound.

    One interesting note is a comment from Dick Wagner about the making of “Zipper Catches Skin” –
    ” ‘Zipper Catches Skin’ was a drug-induced nightmare.” Whether he’s referring to his own cocaine addiction at the time, Alice’s addictions, or both, he refused to elaborate. Regardless, the creative juices were flowing and there are some real gems on those early 80’s albums. “Pain”, “Zorro’s Ascent”, “I Like Girls”….

    As for “Dada”, it’s one of my favorite Alice Cooper albums. My first listen to it gave me a weird impression, but I kept listening, and it grew on me. I really think that Alice needs to do “Former Lee Warmer” in his show. I have some ideas for the staging of this, if I knew who to contact…
    And I will be wearing a red-veiled hat (a la “Scarlet and Sheba”) at my next Alice show in July.

    Going back to your part 3 in this series, “Lace and Whiskey” is another of my favorite albums. “You and Me” and “My God” are just beautiful. More than any other album, this one really shows off Alice’s singing ability. As a singer myself, I can detect the little things that show off that talent. An obvious tenor, he has some difficulities with the lower notes (my range, as a woman, goes as low as Alice’s, although I can also hit much higher notes, too), not just on this album. He really shines on the higher notes. I could go on, but for now will wait to hear more from you and from your other blog readers. Have a great week!

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    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on Alice’s music. The two main purposes of this blog are (1) for me to get to know the lesser-played albums/artists in my music collection and (2) to have conversations with fellow fans, so your comment is an important part of what I’m trying to accomplish.

      It’s nice to hear from someone who knows this era of Alice’s career and appreciates these mostly underrated albums & songs, as well as Alice’s strong vocal abilities. I think many people think of Alice as the snarling hard rock growler and don’t realize that he can actually sing. I mean, he’s no Sinatra or Pavarotti, but he deserves a lot more credit for his vocals than he gets.

      I’m looking forward to checking out some of his live albums before wrapping up this series next month, since I’ve never seen him live and I only recently borrowed those records from a friend. I only ever owned the studio albums. I’m curious to find out which songs he chooses to perform that aren’t the “classics.” I’ve read that there are a lot of songs from the period I covered in this post that Alice has never performed (like “Former Lee Warmer,” as you pointed out). I guess these songs either have negative associations for him, or he just doesn’t consider them important because he was so out of it at the time. It’s a shame, because there are a number of gems. I’m glad you agree that “My God” is a beautiful song. It’s one of my favorite discoveries so far.

      I’ll get to Life And Crimes in a week or so, and hopefully we can compare notes on the box set at that time. I hope to complete my next post, which covers his hair-metal years, in the next couple of days, and I’ve already started listening to the few albums that follow. It’s been all Alice around my house & office lately, and I’m loving it.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I really appreciate it.

      Best….
      Rich

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  6. BeeDeeWarner
    May 29, 2013

    .

    I just recently listened through the boxed set again, and there are songs on it I don’t have any other recordings, particularly ones only released in the UK or elsewhere. I do, however, have the special UK edition of “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”, which came with a magazine. It has a couple of extra cuts on it – “Under the Bed” and a live version of “Poison”. The packaging is different, too, and very nice.

    Don’t know where you live, but you’ve got to try to see Alice’s show as soon as you can. He has no immediate plans to retire, but he’s not getting any younger. You will not regret the money you spend or the time it takes to get there if you have to drive a ways. He came to my hometown last year, but I’m driving five hours (one way) to see him this year. He’s worth the trip, believe me. You will never have more fun at a concert. It’s one big party. I’d wanted to see him before last year, but couldn’t get there for one reason or other. I vowed after last year that i would go see him at least once a year until he retires, but by then I’ll be back in Arizona pre-retirement, and can see him every year at his Christmas Pudding show, which benefits his non-profit, The Solid Rock Foundation

    Like

    • mikeladano
      May 29, 2013

      I have that Welcome 2 My Nightmare edition, it’s very pretty indeed:
      http://mikeladano.com/2012/03/21/review-alice-cooper-welcome-2-my-nightmare-2011/
      Actually somehow I ended up with two copies, the other is still sealed.

      Like

    • I also have that magazine edition of “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” and I’m glad I splurged on it. Classic Rock does such a great job with those special editions (I also have their version of Rush’s “Clockwork Angels”).

      I do need to make it a point to see Alice one of these days. I’m not as much of a concert-goer as I was in my younger days. It’s a combination of money, time & avoiding standing-only shows. I have a feeling I’ll be much more eager to see Alice by the time I wrap up his catalog next month. I didn’t know about this Christmas Pudding show. If I was in Arizona I would absolutely check that out.

      Like

  7. Heavy Metal Overload
    May 30, 2013

    Great posts as ever, Rich. Totally agree with your assessment that none of these are stone-cold classics but there has been plenty of songs from this era that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve actually never heard From the Inside all the way through as I’ve not been much of a fan of the songs I have heard. I imagine they may work better in the context of the album so I will add From the Inside to my wishlist!

    Like

    • Thanks, HMO. It seems like a lot of fans enjoy a number of songs from this era, but none of the albums are loved from beginning to end (although From The Inside seems to get the highest praise of this batch, which I agree with). Whenever you check that album out in its entirety, I’d like to know what you think.

      Like

  8. Mark
    June 26, 2013

    Lyrically From the Inside may be my favorite Alice album ever. I really, really like the Special Forces and Dada albums as well.

    Like

    • It’s difficult for me to choose my favorite album, lyrically speaking, because he’s always been a great lyricist, but it’s hard to argue about From The Inside because it’s so raw & honest (without neglecting his wicked sense of humor). When I finally started delving into his catalog about 10 years ago, it was albums like Brutal Planet and The Eyes Of Alice Cooper that made me realize how good his lyrics are, and I’ve been trying to convince my music-loving friends about that ever since (mostly to no avail…people can be so close-minded).

      Like

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  10. mikeladano
    June 8, 2014

    Rich,
    I began revisiting DaDa today. Suddenly I get it so much more. Now to me it’s sounding like a second chapter to Welcome to My Nightware in scale and subject matter. I wish I had paid closer attention before.

    I loaded it into my car player too, so I’ll be listening to it on the road and absorbing more. Stay tuned.

    Like

    • Mike, I’m looking forward to reading more about your re-appraisal of DaDa whenever you get around to it. Hope it continues to grow on you.

      I have a lot to catch up on after being away all weekend, but once I do I’ll be stopping by to check out your series on the classic Van Halen albums.

      Like

      • mikeladano
        June 9, 2014

        No problem Rich, I’m sure I’ll see you over there sooner or later!

        Yeah, DaDa was great to hear fresh with new ears. It used to both me that there was so much synth and drum machines and so on. But now I’m also hearing the depth that I missed before.

        Like

  11. Mark
    December 20, 2015

    Hi Rich

    I stumbled across your blog looking for reviews on the Muscle of Love album.
    I’ve been a big Alice Cooper fan since the late 70’s although I’ve not listened to much of the music for 15 years until a few months ago.

    I had Pretties for You and Easy Action and forgot most of the songs so I started listening to them over and over for a week. I loved the music and lyrics.

    Another album I forgot (hadn’t played for 25 years) was Muscle of Love. Again it was brilliant. I had heard that this album was not liked by fans. I remembered when I was a teenager all my friends who were Alice Cooper fans loved the album. I wondered if there were other people that appreciated the album and that’s how I found your site.

    I was in the process of listening to all the Alice Cooper albums that I had, most up to The Last Temptation, and found that you were doing the same 2 years before.
    I hope this gets through to you because you mentioned that you were interested in other opinions on the albums. We were pretty hard core fans back then. The last day of high school we were driving around the yards playing “Schools Out” full blast from the cars tape deck.

    Cheers Mark

    Like

    • Hi Mark. It’s great to hear from you, and I’m glad we shared the experience (a few years apart) of revisiting the Alice Cooper catalog. It’s a shame that more music fans & critics don’t include Alice (the band and the man) in discussions of the all-time great rock & rollers. It’s probably due to the makeup & stage antics, but the music is so great & diverse…especially those early records. Based on your comment I’m guessing you’re just a few years older than me, which means you got to experience some of those classic albums first-hand. As you probably read, my introduction was via Welcome To My Nightmare when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t discover “School’s Out” until a few years later. I’m pleased that you feel as strongly as I do about Muscle Of Love. Not sure why some fans wouldn’t like it. I think it’s the equal of just about everything that came before it.

      Thanks again for stopping by & sharing your history with Alice’s music. Please let me know if you end up checking out some of the more recent albums. I think you’ll find a lot to like.

      Best…
      Rich

      Like

  12. Mark
    December 21, 2015

    Thanks Rich

    You must see Alice in concert before he retires. I saw the Brutal Planet concert and his daughter comes out dressed as Britney Spears singing Hit Me One More Time.
    Alice turns to the audience ,shrugges his shoulders and then punches her in the face and knocks her out. Theatrics of course but it was the loudest cheer I have ever heard from a crowd.

    My favourite albums are from the original band especially Love it to Death .I had the name printed on a t-shirt when I was 19. Alice Cooper lyrics were the reason why I became a fan in the beginning. The persona of a Clockwork Orange character was and still is fascinating. I love horror movies and here is a musical version. I remember looking at Alice Cooper albums in a record store and seeing Billion Dollar Babies for the first time. The song titles were horrifying, great my mum is going to hate this.

    The humour in the songs is also a great appeal. I would sit around the record player with friends and we would laugh at the jokes written into the songs. King of the Silver Screen a 240 lb footballer crossdresser, I Like Girls, Give the Kid a Break, Unfinished Sweet ,Vincent Price etc

    As for the ballads I think and I may be bias that Alice Cooper has the best. I have lent my cassette of Lace and Whiskey to 3 different people over the years so they could play You and Me as their wedding song. Would you agree that hard rock bands have the better ballads, KISS – Beth, Black Sabbath – Changes are examples you would know.

    You mentioned No more Love at Your Convenience and how fans must hate the song. I heard it on the radio a few times before I knew it was Alice Cooper and I like it. Alice Cooper has a great variety of song styles and all the fans that I know appreciate that quality.

    One friend I introduced to Alice Cooper became a bigger fan than me. He has every album and has travelled 780 miles to go to a concert. I didn’t like Constrictor or Raise Your Fist and Yell. I pined for the old days but I only see glimpses in a few songs lately. I have been inspired to listen to the more recent albums because of your blog so I thank you again.

    Cheers Mark

    Like

    • Hi Mark. I would love to see Alice in concert before it’s too late but none of my friends are Alice fans (at least the ones in the vicinity) and it wouldn’t be the same going by myself. At least I’ve watched several of his/their concert DVDs so I’ve gotten the second-hand experience of the spectacle. Never saw him “punch” his daughter as Britney Spears but that must have been hilarious. I’m sure his take-down of modern-pop royalty was tongue-in-cheek since he’s always been vocal about his love for genres that many rock fans hate (disco, Top 40, basically anything with a good melody & lyric). I love the fact that he worked with another pop star (Ke$ha) on Welcome 2 My Nightmare. At this point in his career he’ll do whatever makes him happy.

      That’s a good question about rock bands possibly writing the best ballads. That’s certainly true for the type of ballads I enjoy, since I would prefer to hear any of the ones you mentioned than the theme song from Titanic. I think rock artists bring an edge to ballads that make them more relatable…or maybe they just kick a little bit of ass. Even at an early age I had an affinity for melancholy music, and a sappy ballad like Paul Stanley’s “Hold Me, Tough Me” was a personal favorite when I was 12.

      Thanks for mentioning all of those lesser-known Alice songs. A lot of rock fans who dismiss him/them are probably not aware of the diversity in the Alice discography. Some of his recent albums have been hit-and-miss but others are more consistent, and I’m honored that my blog series has inspired you to check some of them out. Please let me know if you discover any new favorites, and especially if any of them recaptures some of what you loved about those early records.

      Again, I really appreciate your feedback.
      Rich

      Like

      • Mark
        December 22, 2015

        Hi Rich

        I have read the reviews for all of the Alice Cooper albums and have decided that Dirty Diamonds would be the best to add to my collection for a start. The very first album I bought for myself was a cassette tape of From the Inside. I must have worn it out playing it over and over for months. Millie & Billie is the greatest duet of all time.

        Changing the subject to another band, my sons are avid Dream Theatre fans. I think that you mentioned them somewhere on your blogs. Will you be reviewing their albums in the future. I would like them to read your opinions on the albums and songs. The boys favourite album is Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory.

        Are you into Nine Inch Nails, I have recently discovered I like most of Trent Reznor’s music. I’m jumping around here but I read your Roxy Music review and it was interesting that they were not popular in the States. Here in Australia they charted very well and the songs were played often on the radio and music shows.
        I heard In Every Dream Home a Heartache once when I was a teenager and loved it but I didn’t remember the name of the song or who played it. It took me until 2013 before I found it. I only knew that inflatable doll was in the lyrics. Also Live at Leeds – The Who live album that I had on vinyl when I was 11 and lost somehow. I had a guitar riff in my head and I knew the song went for 14 minutes. I found it 30 years later.

        I must look into KISS music. I have never owned an early album of theirs. I got Dynasty for Xmas one year. If Bob Ezrin was the producer it would be worth a listen. Alice Cooper was once asked what it was like to work with Ezrin and his response was ” He is one sick puppy”

        Cheers Mark

        Like

      • Hi Mark. Dirty Diamonds is an excellent choice to start your exploration of the recent part of Alice’s catalog. For me, it was The Eyes Of Alice Cooper that brought me back from casual to passionate fan, so I have more of a connection to that record, yet I can see why many fans prefer Dirty Diamonds. I’m just glad he went back to his garage rock roots since his hard rock/metal material was running out of steam.

        I am a big fan of Dream Theater but it might be a while before I revisit & write about their discography. They’re on the list, though, and sometimes I change my mind about who I’ll write about based on my mood at the time, so stay tuned. When they first came on the scene I wasn’t really listening to heavy music, so even though I love progressive rock it took some time for me to embrace prog-metal. Now I’m just as enthusiastic about prog’s heavier brother. My favorite DT albums are Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (mostly for Disc 2) and Train Of Thought, but that might be because they came out at the time I had just gotten heavily into them. I’ve enjoyed the earlier albums but haven’t spent quite as much time with them yet to consider any of them favorites.

        I’m more of a casual Nine Inch Nails fan, and my interest came years after their commercial heyday. I have to be in a particular frame of mind to play their records, but when that mood strikes they’re pretty spectacular.

        Great stories about Roxy Music and The Who’s Live At Leeds. You must have thought you’d never figure out what those songs were after so many years. Glad you eventually solved the mysteries.

        Kiss music isn’t for everyone. They were my first musical passion when I was about 10 so I’ll always have that connection to them, but I wonder how their albums would sound to a grown-up who has never heard them before. I think Ezrin only worked on a couple of their albums, including Destroyer (which is a good one to begin with) and Music From The Elder (a critical & commercial bomb that I’ve always liked, but not a good starting point). Although they were heavily overdubbed, you can’t go wrong with Alive and Alive II for the early Kiss experience. And yes, everything I’ve read about Ezrin is that he’s a sick puppy, but not in a bad way. I believe he told his young kids that their mother died (or something similarly tragic) just so he could record them moaning & wailing for a Lou Reed album. That’s sick…and maybe bad as well.

        Best…
        Rich

        Like

  13. Ronald S
    September 11, 2016

    I followed the coop from 89 untill 12. Still listen a lot of his work. It has an unique twist and briljant lyrics. It has morality as well, at the end the bad guy is dealed with by the hangman.
    The 78-83 period really sinked in by the time I was in my early 30s, mourning my daddy an my wife bot from cancer. So, these albums have special meaning To me. They helped me getting on with life as it is, I guess.
    I like Dada most, because of the ezrin-wagner chemistry. It is a sinistre little album, consistent in its study of his selfdecline end human behaviour. Pass the gun around, by the way, was the leader to an item in a tv program for the young here in Holland: je ziet maar.
    I like the humor on zipper, but you are right – the songs are poor.
    Flush the fashion really kicks in. It’s short and furious. Pain is a brilliant song, clones as well.
    From the inside gives me the creeps. I can imagine these lost souls and Vincent Furnier, not being Alice, terrified by them. It is welkome to my nightmare part 3, if goes to hell woud be nr 2.
    Special forces to me is a sequel to flush, with poor songs you Do not want to hear a lot.
    Anyway, penning my thoughts down, I am wondering, why is the very weak Lace and Whiskey not the start of thuis analysis?

    Like

    • Hi Ronald. Thanks for sharing your history with Alice’s music. I’m sorry you suffered those losses in your early 30s but I’m glad you found the right music to comfort you during that time. I mostly agree with your assessments of the albums from the ’78-’83 period, and I hadn’t considered From The Inside as …Nightmare Part 3 but that’s an excellent point.

      As for Lace And Whiskey, I wrote about that in the prior post, which covered his work from ’75 to ’77. I don’t consider it a very weak album. It’s all over the place, musically speaking, and not everything works, but there are a number of fantastic songs throughout that record.

      I appreciate you stopping by. Hope you’re having a nice week.

      Rich

      Like

      • Ronald S
        October 11, 2016

        Hi Rich

        Thank you for the kind reply. I listened to Lace and whisky and had some Good feelings about it. It is really crafted well and has some sturing lyrics only Alice can produce.

        Like

      • Hi again, Ronald. I’m glad you had a positive response to Lace And Whiskey. I agree with your comment about his lyrics. Thanks for stopping by.

        Rich

        Like

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