By the autumn of 1972, "Schools Out", th l.p. and single had become THE boss waxings of the year so far. The l.p. and single had notched up no 1 positions in the UK and most of Europe and got onto the top 4 in the States. The single even became WEA's biggest selling single to date and by 1973, the l.p. and single had gone platinum, to make Alice Cooper, WEA's biggest sellers of the early '70's. While Alice noted these chart positions with dollar signs in his eyes, he was always ready to listen to what the punters were saying and whenever his heavy schedule allowed, he delved into the stacks of fanmail that awaited him. He derived the greatest pleasure, reading letters that stated that parents would not allow their children to listen to, or see Alice play live:
"We're the only band that parents hate. There's rebellion back in rock again. It hurts parents more that their kids like us, or wear eye make-up. It's subversion and it's so political."
To Alice, being an Alice fan was a far more subversive thing then going on an anti-war march. It increased the generation gap further until the 'older generation' could only gasp in astonishment at how quickly the band were taken up and at how young the audiences were:
"Kids at our gigs feel at home with what they see. We get our influence from the main media which is TV - our violence is cissy in comparison. So we get kids of 13-17 years old, smoking and probably fucking and going around with street gangs and we get the kids who go back home and wish they were in a gang. That's what's happening and that's the future."
Although Alice never made explicit social or political commentary (but it IS there if you look hard), he was attacked by teachers and parents for seemingly siding himself with the pupil power movement, more about which, a little later.
As the band played the last "Killer" show at Wembley, Alice had already wanted a new form of execution for the "Schools Out" tour to be. The idea predictably came from a TV cartoon:
"Even a cartoon is more gory then what we do, yet nobody bans them! People get sliced up, blown up and shredded. We're nothing like that, we don't even use guns, not even fake ones."
The new execution trick was to be a cannon:
"The idea was to shoot me into the audience. It was wooden with a stick of dynamite at the end which let off a spring. The first time, it shot me out about 10 feet, but I didn't try it again. I thought to myself, 'there must be an easier way to make a living!"
The cannon set aside, it was back to the gallows and off to Hollywood for a showcase gig at the Hollywood Bowl in August, which kicked off the "Schools Out" tour. Before the show, there was a display from the Disney Fireworks show and tens of Mickey Mouse, Minnies and Plutos' dished out school certificates to the crowds. The M.C. was the legendary Wolfman Jack atop a 4,000 dollar camel and as always, the helicopters dropped thousands of paper panties into the masses and out of the giant balloons filled with fake dollar bills. Backstage, the dressing rooms were decorated like classrooms with noticeboards, blackboards and schoolgirls. The show itself was similar to the "Killer" show except for the inclusion of numbers from the latest l.p. and the inclusion of "Gutter Cats/Streetfight" at the expense of "Dead Babies" and so, the band re-enacted the famous rumble from "West Side Story", whereby the band congregate at the front of the stage and indulge in some very real looking violence with knives and fake blood. carefully rehearsed and with punches usually but not always pulled, Neal Smith floors Alice and proclaims himself the victor and takes the crowds applause and cheers. Alice, in true melodramatic fashion, staggers to his feet and plunges a broken blade into the back of the unfortunate Neal who dies his grisly death. As "Killer" emanates from the band, it's back into the hanging routine as before, this time as Alice hangs and swings too and fro, stark white flashes of light and smoke erupt across the stage to the sounds of howling winds - the stage blacks out and a skeleton swings in place of Alice on the gallows. Reading about it isn't enough - you have to have seen it (and I didn't!) - it was effective and entertaining - mission accomplished. The recriminations followed as the bands status worldwide increased. The violence, sheer force of cruelty that Alice portrayed, invoked further outcries from so-called 'responsible' citizen's No amount of explanation could appease those critics, whose sensibilities had been aroused. Some were merely infuriated because there small minds were touched by Alice and he prevoked that effect. Others however, saw what they saw as 'genuine grounds for concern' and wrote long-winded articles to this effect. Even the band, which up to now had allowed Alice and Shep Gordon to be the main spokesmen were drawn into the debate, as Mike Bruce said, "What you feed in will come out". This line of reasoning, that the band represented society as they saw it was quickly dismissed. "We are a mirror, reflecting the world we see" quoted Alice a million times. This was dismissed as dangerous drivel by many. Charles Manson, during his trial had used words to the same effect. Alice, once again, seemed hellbent on being as controversial as he could make us think he was, by not doing very much:
Many commentators refused to accept that Alices' shows had a cathartic effect on the crowds he played to. The atmosphere was often ugly, with underlying tension and fear in the audience which not only attracted younger kids and genuine music fans but also the local hoods, junkies, crazies, bikers etc. What cannot be denied was that the tension was eased as soon as Alice was hanged, thus justifying Alices' claim that, like Roman audiences, crowds respond to blood and death and that the whole process was a relief. what also can't be denied is that most of the time, Alices audiences were no more violent, or caused more damage then a Faces crowd or a Rolling Stones crowd. Alices' were younger however!!
The serious rock 'press' continued to denounce him as being third-rate. Many quoted the German poet Goethe to prove that Alice was evil and dangerous:
"If we take man as he is, we make him worse."
To his credit, Alice was genuinely concerned at the various alligations and comments made, but found no adequate reason to make him change his mind. It was dismissed, as being cynical exploitation of mans' worst evils for profit (which of coarse it was) but the essential point to remember is that Goethe's quote did not take into account freewill. If it offends - ignore it. Alice did not offend his audiences and so they did not ignore him. Alice piled on the sensationalism and rubbed it into us the fact that he was becoming rich by presenting the darker side of our animal instincts. I don't begrudge him a penny. Alice did and still does inject what he does with enough humour to off set the seriousness and tension. He is a master manipulator of reactions and of getting us to reach for our wallets. He should be in advertising, n'est pas?!!
Alice, along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, along with Peckinpah, was accused of leading youth towards a road of degeneracy and decadence - that the moral fibre of the West would suffer, degenerate into gangs of droogs and thugs, fed a diet of sex and violence. Look around you - what do you see - answers on a postcard....
The least of Alices' problems was the trifling matter of Screaming Lord Sutch. He had been and still is, a singer from the '60's who back then had been experimenting with vampiric imagery onstage, with blood, capes, fangs and coffins in his presentation. although he was a pregenitor of 'theatrics' in rock, he never had the backing or success to sustain a successful career. His audiences were and still are tiny (could he fill Hammersmith or Wembley??). In the summer of 1972, he was a little peeved at Alices' great success and decided he would create a stir and a few headlines. In interviews to the music press he remarked that:
"Alice Cooper stole his ideas from me and Arthur Brown! I was wearing eye make-up in 1960. He has a nice act, but all his ideas are from me. He's just a queen. I met him when he was in The Nazz and he said he thought I was great and a bit mad. He is plastic and I was doing this when he was a virgin. In fact he is a poor copy of me. Kids like Alice, because they never saw me. Arthur Brown copied me too."
He also issued a challenge to Alice:
"I challenge him to a gig in the UK. I'll go on first and he can follow. I guarantee he will be booed off stage. He played Wembley Pool, I'll be playing Wembley Stadium which is 100,000 people.
What Sutch ommitted to mention was that he was on the bill (not at the top) on a rock and roll festival to be held at Wembley. He was not headlining. The press had a field day, fans of both artists hurled insults at each other until Alice, who up to then had held a dignified silence, said:
"He's just a silly punk. I'm playing to 14,000 in Detroit tomorrow, Arthur Brown could destroy him! Tell him to go and paint his Rolls Royce! We're into psycho-drama, he attacks drama too comicly. Me and Iggy'll take him on in a tag match."
The tittle-tattle went on for a few weeks. Sutch these days plays regular shows in small clubs, and often stands in local government elections for the Monster Raving Loony Party!!
With "Schools Out" still at number 1, it was announced that the new single to be released that October was to be a track called "Elected". It was obvious that the idea was to strike while the iron was hot (cliché). Throughout August, the band had been zapping the USA on tour and in Connecticutt, at the Dillon Stadium, they smashed the gross record, held by The Rolling Stones. The band were near untouchable, a tremendous momentum was being maintained. Of course, 1972 was election year in the States, one of the most polarised elections ever. Nixon, the right-winger on the one hand and McGovern, the democrat on the other. He had the youth vote, with Vietnam the main issue. The songs roots went back to the days in Topanga Canyon where "Reflected" had been written. It was originally called "We Shall Be Elected", influenced by the election of 1968. Alice had, in late 1972, been voted homecoming queen by the University of Texas, beating Angela Davis, a leading figure at the time, so it all seemed to be pretty appropriate!!
The backing tracks were laid down by the band in June at the studio in the house in Connecticutt, re-mixes and overdubs were done at The Record Plant in NYC. In between meeting Rudolf Nureyev in Canada and bounding onstage to jam with David Cassidy (!) in Montreal, the band waited for Alice to come up with a final lyric, which he promptly did. As always, Ezrins' majestic production brought all the songs glories to the fore. He worked tirelessly on a final mix that everyone was pleased with:
"I had a full length mirror on the studio so that Alice could give it everything. He could watch himself and deliver a great vocal, as if the camera was on him. Because of the instruments and horn arrangement, I was never happy with the end product because the voice had to be mixed down and into stereo. The whole thing cost a fortune to mix and took a full week almost."
The two master strokes for me were the idea of getting a presidential campaign result read over the middle eight! Originally, Walter Winchell, a famed newsreader of his day was to do the honours but he was no longer alive, so the impersonator Will Jordon took over. An original mix exists which has the voice over at the start. the other stroke of genius is the lyric 'and I told ya 'bout school'... just sublime - a treat for the ear.
For some, this was an example of Alice making a political point, which it wasn't:
"Politics is boring. I prefer personal politics. If I was President, I'd impeach myself! I prefer the political aspect of what WE do. A cop will be really hurt if his son wears make-up. That's real subversive..."
Not anymore Alice, even policemen like Boy George....What did surprise some people was the fact that Alice came out on the side of Nixon in the Election whereas most rock stars who were 'political' were in favour of McGovern, who was very much a liberal:
"McGovern would foul up the economy."
He always stressed that whatever his political belief (the few he had), he would never preach to an audience to vote his way because that would be 'an abuse of who I am. People should make up their own minds.'
The Screaming Lord Sutch thing blew up again when Sutch said:
"I'm insulted by what he said about me. I mean what I say and I will prove I am the King Of Horror Rock. I'm going to his house to issue a personal challenge. I was going to forget the whole thing but when I heard "Elected", I couldn't believe his nerve. Now he's stealing my ideas. I released 'Election Fever' in 1966. I wonder what other ideas of mine he'll steal..??"
An intresting development to Alices' career was not only the amount of press coverage he was receiving (full page spreads, front covers nearly every week), but also that he was being promoted as a teeny-bopper idol in magazines like 'Jackie' and 'Mirabelle' in the UK and '16' in the US where the late Gloria Stavers pushed Alice alongside The Osmonds, David Cassidy, The Jackson 5 and others. He was regarded as fun and sexy by the teenage girls that 'wrote' in. He appeared in countless posters, articles about what kind of sandwiches he ate etc etc. The rest of the band were also receiving some fanmail, varying from the usual requests for autographs right down to the downright perverted! Mike Bruce was the chubby, handsome one. Dennis, the quiet, sensitive one, with Neal and Glen, long blonde hair, tough-guy looks, eye shadow beads, jewels and bangles were the macho types...
Although a decision had been reached long ago that for convenience sake, Alice, as front man, should be promoted on posters and conduct interviews, the band were keen to put their ideas to the media. Neal Smith particularly, was a little annoyed that the musicianship of the band was being hidden by Alices' theatrics:
"Theatres were never easy first. I had to get stoned first before I could go on, But nowadays it's ok. I only need a couple of beers!"
In the many interviews that followed (hundreds literally), the usual questions were being asked. Alice still refused to reveal his real name but did reveal that off-stage he was the total opposite of his stage persona. As expected, the media were always ready to play on the Jekyll and Hyde angle:
"Offstage, I'm the sweetest guy ever. Alice is my hostility, my release for all my anger and frustration. If I had no Alice, I'd go nuts. Everyone needs an Alice, or some vehicle for a release. Alice is a demon within me, with a life of his own. It's a schizo thing. I'm lucky - I've the vehicle to exploit it. Others can't. I used to try at be Alice offstage and I'd beat people up and get beaten up. But then I realised I had to leave Alice onstage. I saw a shrink when I was 20 and he said it was normal and ok as long as no-one gets hurt. Somehow Alice respects the law even though he doesn't like authority and he never breaks the law! My tastes aren't what people think they'd be. I'm happiest with a beer, a TV show and some Burt Bacharach in the background. David Cassidy, The Carpenters, that's what I like. I bet those guys listen to me! Slade I like, Bowie, Mott The Hoople, those guys are great! The main thing that Alice does is deal in emotion. I can provoke different emotions from different people. I can even make change their emotion like pouring hot water on something that's freezing. I can make 'em scream with fright then with laughter. Especially if that guy is on the edge with drugs. That's real Machiavellian!!"
By this time, the band and Shep had formed their plans for the future. A Movie was planned (which appeared in 1974) which prompted Alice to quip:
"It's 1972 and video tapes will be here soon - imagine what we'll do with them! The movie will be totally surreal and Python-esqe."
The next step was to be a Broadway Musical at New Yorks Palace Theatre. It was to be called 'Alice At The Palace'. Alices intention was to bring the surreal theatre of the asbsurd of his stageshow to the legitimate stage. It was due to open in October 1972 but was later put back to early '73. It was to be choreographed by Michael Burnett, who had won an award for his work on 'Follies'. Alice was full of enthusiasm for the new project:
"It'll be like Hellsapoppin'!! Total confusion! We wanna get into enviromental theatre where no one escapes because they are part of the show. The movie'll be great, part documentary, part sketches. Concerts are great because you baptise the audience with your energy. But it'll get cheaper with video to tape gigs and do all kinds of other things you can't do with video. Video will take over from concerts, you'll see.."
Even in 1972, Alice was a great visionary and his comments about the importance of video have proved correct.
In his absence from the UK, Alice was still the centre of controversy. Screaming Lord Sutch continued his verbal war which provoked Alice to say:
"That guy - is he still alive? If he thinks he did it all before, why didn't he do them right? Anyways, he stole his act from Screaming Jay Hawkins!"
What surprised Alice even more was the reaction from Mary Whitehouse, Secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association.
Mrs Whitehouse had heard "Schools Out" and had seen the band on TOTP. She branded the song 'violent' and 'anarchic'. She complained to the BBC's Light Entertainment Department and to the controller of Radio 1. She even sent a copy of the single to the director of public prosecutions, asking him to consider whether the record incited violence and subversion. He deemed it did not. Mrs Whitehouse believed she had won a moral victory when the BBC did not show the band the fourth week the record was number one:
"The BBC showed that film of the chap waving his sword for three weeks before they changed it. They changed it because they knew we'd complained. I was most distressed at the mood of the film. It was quite anarchic. Recently some boys beat up their teachers and with this in mind, the record should have been banned. They either don't care or they don't think."
The BBC said the showing of a different film was nothing to do with Mrs Whitehouse! She was also upset that the song was taken up by the militant Pupil Power movement, which demanded a greater right in the administration of schools and in sex education. Alice himself was not involved with the movement, merely observing it as:
"Pupil Power is a great thing if it's constuctive. I'm all for kids having self-confidence and self-respect. I'm no revolutionist but I believe kids should get a better deal. I was kicked out of school eight times 'cos my hair was 1/2" too long."
By the middle of October, "Elected" was number two in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. It was released in November in the USA where it peaked at number four. A promo film was shown on TOTP showing Alice in top hat and tails, surrounded by thousands in cash and cavorting with a chimpanzee on roller skates.
Interest in the band was at fever pitch. Mick Jagger caught one of the last shows of the tour in the states, with a view to signing the band to the Rolling Stones label. He wasn't too impressed.
The band had worked tirelessly for over a year and a holiday was in order. Alice and Cindy Laing went to Venezuela, Dennis and Cindy Smith went off to the Caribbean, Mike Bruce went to Phoenix, Neal tried to break the bank in Las Vegas and Glen went home to Akron. Back in the States, Shep made final arrangements for the "Alice At The Palace" musical:
"October 9th was opening night but it'll be put back. It'll go on the road and to Europe, playing a London season in January. We'll put it on at Londons' Palace Theatre when 'Jesus Christ Superstar' leaves, or we'll go for the Palladium. It'll be based on "Schools Out", but geared for younger audiences, not the theatre types. There'll be no dialogue in it."
Alice wanted the play to open on February 4th (his birthday) and had visions of directing an unknown young actor in the part of 'Alice~!! Due to union problems, the musical never appeared. Alice was very disappointed since he had never been convinced that musicals like 'Hair' and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' were 'rock' musicals as they had been dubbed, to him, this would have been breaking new ground.
Back from the holidays, the band worked out a few ideas for the film script. Alice came up with one scene that would have been a real tension piece:
"There's a guy in a hotel, really hungry and it's late so he can't get room service. In the corridor he sees a piece of cake. He eats it up and as he finishes it another guy appears, with sores and scabs and syphillis round his mouth and he yells 'Don't touch the cake....!!'"
After turning up at the NY premiere of Pythons' '...And Now For Something Completely Different', Alice joins the band at Hofstra University in Long Island for the first 'In Concert Special' presented by Don Kirschener for ABC TV. Broadcast on November 24th 1972, with simultaneous FM broadcast, Alice appeared with Poco, Allman Bros., Blood, Sweat And Tears, Curtis Mayfield, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley (recorded on Nov. 2nd). It was shown in two parts from 11.30 - 1.00am on the 24th and December 8th. The recordings were a total success, in front of an audience that endured a rock festival atmosphere for the whole day in a studio. The band had invited the cameramen to one of the shows so that they could get ideas for camera angles and obviously, Alice played to the camera in masterly fashion. Some critics accused Alice of being uncomfortable with close range cameras that showed up the act to be a total hoax! In Cincinatti, the Tv special was blacked out - the head of the local TV station said that Alice Cooper was turning music into pornography and blacked it out, halfway into Alices' set!! 'Rawhide' was hurriedly put on and hundreds of irate fans jammed the stations switchboards and picketed the station the next day...! Strangely, WTVN in Columbus, Ohio, owned by the same guy, showed the whole show!!
After the recording of the TV special, a European tour was announced with a solitary UK date at Glasgows' Greens' Playhouse on November 10th. Ticket prices were a paltry £1.50. To the despair of other UK fans, no other dates were added:
"We could have made more money playing to a bigger crowd in London, but we wanted to come to Glasgow." said Alice.
The tickets sold out within hours and on the day of the show, Glasgow was hit by an air of anticipation usually reserved for the Celtic Vs Rangers soccer match. Glasgow crowds are THE most fanatical audiences in the world and the atmosphere at the concert was reputed to be close to a second coming. It has been described by many associated with Alices career as the finest concert the original Alice Cooper band gave to the most incredible crowd reactions seen before or since.
But I digress. Before the start of the tour, the band and the roadies moved their home studio into the ballroom at the Cooper Mansion and laid down rough demos for what was to be the new l.p. and also came up with ideas for the new stageshow (also planned for the musical). Alice it was, who insisted that the studios in the UK were of a better quality then the US studios and he wanted to record in London. They turned up at Morgan Studios in Kilburn, NW London and got round the union problems by not telling them they were there!! At a party for The Phlorescent Leach and Eddie (who were Mark Volman and Howard Kayman, otherwise known as Flo and Eddie) who were supporting Alice on tour, Alices PR man, Ashley Pandel, rounded up Harry Nillson, Marc Bolan, Donovan, Keith Moon and Rick Grech. Big names no doubt. The invitation was for them to watch the band record backing tracks for the next l.p. with Ezrin at the controls. The urge to jam proved too great and with borrowed equipment, the other stars bounded onto the other side of the tinted glass to join the Coopers. Only one track from this session eventually turned up on the fourth-coming l.p. The rest of the nights efforts involved hilarious renditions of Elvis songs, led by the hysterically funny Flo and Eddies, as well as Alice and Marc Bolan dueting on numbers from the musical 'Pal Joey' and an hour long version of 'Twist and Shout' and Harry Nillsons' 'Coconuts'. Everybody drank like fish and Alice described it as the 'craziest session of all time!' Just as the superstars messed around with the track that eventually became 'Sick Things', Dave Liberts' dog, Dolly (Libbert was the trusty tour manager) crapped on the floor and Moon needed help to get into his car! That was the end of the session. Then it was onto Glasgow. At the time there had been plans to play some shows in the UK in a chain of small clubs known as The Sundance Chain, but these were never finalised and so the Glasgow gig was the only UK gig of the tour.
The band had charted a jet (or rather Shep Gordon had) to transport them from London to Glasgow. As the red, white and blue 52 seater jet streamed across the airways, 400 fanatical Glaswegian kids attempted to see the band arrive. The police had rather hurriedly brought in extra men and barricades were put between the terminal building and the runway. Oblivious to this the band and entourage stepped out of the plane to be greeted by 400 screaming fans who immediatly ran over the barricades in an attempt to get to the band. Rather shocked by this 'Alice-mania', the band, under police protection, fled into the comparative safety of the cars and sped to the hotel, The Glasgow Central. Worse was to follow. In an attempt to ward off the crowds, the cars drove around the city, but eventually everyone had to get out. As the cars pulled up, a group of kids ran for the nearest Limo and promptly overturned it, with some very frightened band members inside still! Another fan decided to help himself to some personal belongings owned by the band and fled over to the nearby train station where some roadies and Shep gave chase:
"Now I know what it's like to be an Osmond!"
quiped Alice, who although shaken, was delighted at the reception. Glasgow makes Detroit look like Disneyland - it's a war zone city, full of gritty, tough people all struggling to survive in a gritty, tough city. It was a city of extremes and that week had witnessed terrible crowd scenes during the local derby game between Celtic and Rangers where not only soccer loyalties are tested but also religious loyalties. At the game, the hooliganism had been particularly horrendous with many arrests and injuries. The city was still tense as a result and when Alice said that for the gig he would wear a sequined jockstrap with the scarves from Rangers and Celtic, horrified WEA people told him that it could trigger off further violence among the crowd and Alice wisely changed his mind, although he saw the gesture as unifying.
So try and imagine the scene inside the hall on November 10th at 9pm. Flo and Eddie had just ended their set and in the interval before Alice's entrance, the atmosphere was buzzing with electricity and anticipation. Hundreds of teenage girls had rushed to the front with the result that several were crushed and needed hospital treatment. The first 10 rows were a mess of mangled seats and it was like a Harrods sale in there. As the sea of bubbles indicated Alices' entrance, the upper balcony began shaking and pieces of stonework started flying everywhere! The band? They gave what they admitted was their finest show and many still consider it to be Alices' most tumultuous concert ever. After the concert, the crowd quietly made its way home - catharsis complete.
The tour was to blitz Europe for the rest of November: Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Essen, Frankfurt, Berlin, Zufinguen, Copenhagen, malmo and other towns. In Holland, Alice, Flo and Eddie challenged the local table tennis champion to a match. In fact the whole tour was a riotous affair, the All-Americans crashing into civilised and cultured Europe and turning it into a playground. There were endless press conferences, parties and great gigs. after the Glasgow show, the Alice entourage held a party for Glen Buxton on his 26th birthday at the hotel. It soon descended into a slapstick cake throwing tournament with Flo and Eddie being the main culprits. The object of the exercise apparently was to cover every inch of Glens' body in cake and icing sugar!! Apparently, mission was accomplished!
The waitresses were supplied with 'Alice Cooper - Elected' straw hats and the food and drink was kept flowing. Alice was slightly subdued despite being on a high from the show because he had, a day or so earlier, learnt of the death of his former girlfriend, Miss Christine, from a drugs overdose:
"She was a great girl - We used to hold hands. She'd hold hers and I'd hold mine..!"
The rest of the trip was similarly crazy - all the profits being eaten up be the vast expenses. A stay at the George V hotel in Paris set Alice Cooper Inc. back a cool $4,000 dollars a night for bed and breakfast for 4 days. That'll teach them to book the whole second floor! It wasn't all work and no play however. Apart from sampling the local sights, Alice found time to fly to Morocco for a spot of fishing and came back with a 235lb hammerhead shark!
"I was an expensive tour. The loss is well into five figures, but I learnt a lot too."
In Paris, demand for tickets was so great that an extra show was added in the afternoon of November 13th (Broadcasted by Radio Luxembourg). The first show strangely enough didn't go too well. Apparently the band weren't too happy doing a matinee show, prefering to do the show the following day. They did their best but the performance was pale and tired and the audience reaction was muted. Alice placed bets with the roadies that the show would regain its usual impetus for the night time show. Again the audience was full of intellectuals' determined not to enjoy themselves....the rest of the crowd had a jolly time though!
Following the two Paris shows, the usual party was held at New Jimmies with actor Omar Sharif as host. all Parisian high society was there, Dukes and Duchesses, the full jet set.. Regine, the owner of New Jimmies, was there of coarse and Alice spent the evening playing poker with Sharif. Back at the hotel, the Hard Rock Cafe in London had flown in extra cases of Michelob and Budweiser beer since the band had drunk their supply dry! Alice made his grand entrance wearing a sheer black snakeskin jumpsuit and later changed into the see-through jacket with real dollar bills inside, but also decorated with pinups of a decidedly pornographic nature. Earlier that year, Alice had offered the jacket to Ethyl Kennedy at a party for Neil Diamond in New York. After the party at New Jimmies, Omar Sharif dressed himself as Raquel Welch and Alice insisted all the male guests do the same! Afterwards the whole gathering trooped off to a gay bar. The whole evening took on the atmosphere of 'the last party on earth before the bomb drops...', a binge of decadent indulgence... Because the band had been tired from the matinee show, the evening show started two hours late and this had irritated a crowd of yelping Frenchmen. One 'fan' jumped on stage with a guitar which had been doused in paraffin He lit it and threw it at Glenn Buxton!! As always, Shep Gordon saw to the matter. In the usual round of interviews, Alice gave his usual opinions:
"Nothing we do is wrong, that's why I don't have a moral conscience about it. I get very hurt, because I don't like people banning me all over the place. kids aren't that impressionable. They're smart. they don't form street gangs after a show of mine and start killing babies. Street gangs exist anyway. cartoons don't make kids slice up their cats and dogs. I don't care about anything I'm not involved in. I couldn't give a shit about Vietnam. I escaped it and I don't have friends there. People don't have to be involved in Vietnam (don't be stupid Alice!!). We don't believe in any ethics at all."
Alices off the top of his head quip about Vietnam showed some immaturity and triggered off further controversy in the USA.
The tour continued in similar vein. Everywhere, the band met with ecstatic audiences as 'Elected' and 'Schools Out'(the lp) ascended to the top of various charts. Along the way there were the usual press parties, TV and radio appearances and publicity extravaganzas including a table tennis tournament in Holland dubbed 'The Alice Cooper Ping Pong Tournament'. Alice, Flo and Eddie took on the Dutch national champion who promptly trounced them all: "He cheated" quipped Alice as the champ made off with the first prize of a $1,000 fur jacket.
By the end of the tour, the band and their entourage landed in the Canary Islands, on November 27th. The hotel had to have staff flown in since it was still being built and the band had brought the Rolling Stones mobile studio to do some more recording, where it is rumoured that new versions of '18' and 'Schools Out' were cut, although they never surfaced. However, the authorities continued to harass the band. the snake was not allowed to enter the island but a fair amount of dollars and pesos ended that little problem. Dave Libert, the bands long suffering road manager who was in charge of everything whenever Shep was absent, tried to 'chat up' a local girl, When the girls boyfriend attacked him and threw him across the room, unable to take the guy due to the intervention of the Spaniards' laughing friends, Libert, Alice (a very drunk and dangerous Alice) and Mike Bruce waited outside to settle the matter:
"I went to hit the guy just as he apologised. We tore those guys to pieces. Then we got into the car and got away quick. Alice was a real mean slugger when he got drunk!"
After that unfortunate affair, the band spent the next week back at Horgan Studios in London, where they re-recorded some older tracks and laid down demos of the songs they had written during the tour. On December 15th the band left London with a goodbye kiss and handed the tapes over to Bob Ezrin to toil over a hot mixing desk at the Record Plant, New York.
By now, Alice Cooper were arguably the biggest band in the world. But there were changes in the air. On the tour, Glen Buxton, who had been the heaviest drinker of the troupe, had taken his drinking into the realms of absurdity. Back in the States, he knew he was seriously ill. He went home to Phoenix and checked into the Maryville hospital. A combination of heavy indulgence in Whiskey, Brandy, no food and no rest had ruined his pancreas. He was told that another drink would kill him and that if he had delayed his arrival in hospital by a week he would have been dead:
"That was close. I just showed up and demanded an operation. I knew how ill I was. I'd been drinking 2 quarts of booze since I was 20 plus a crate of beer everyday. But I wasn't an alcoholic because I quit drinking completely. They took out a gallon of looze booze out of my stomach, but I didn't need booze, it just powered me."
Glen's brush with The Reaper shocked the whole band. Alice, particularly, was shocked. It was Glenn who had helped Alice discover drinking and the two had a special affinity for each other, Glen being Alices' oldest friend. But Alice, with his own drinking problem was too wrapped up to realise the dangers of success, Glen's illness being a sign of those dangers:
"I can't remember 1972. It's just a blur of V.O. It changed me, made me load, arrogant and obnoxious. I thought that was what people wanted. I wanted people to see me drunk. As a star, you have everyone do everything for you. You just sit back and get drunk. You become an infant, and they treat you like one. You're life is mapped out in a record company office with or without you. People won't tell you what you are doing to yourself because you make them so much money. Even Cindy threatened to leave me but she couldn't go through with it. Only Shep bailed me out."
Shep Gordon is not the kind of Rock'n'Roll manager who exploits his artists. To him, Alice was not a product to make him rich. alice was a friend with whom he had a deep friendship which started well before Alice Cooper made any money for anybody. Shep saw what had happened to Glen and saw it was happening to Alice.
While Glen, Alice's room mate, was in hospital, Shep demanded a meeting with Alice at Sheps suite at the American Hotel. After Alice had spent the early hours preparing himself for the day by drinking a bottle of Whiskey and vomiting green phlegm into a basin, he had breakfast with Shep, shaking and drinking more whiskey. shep roasted Alice. he tore him to pieces with invectives at how he had allowed himself to become a complete drunk. he threatened Alice with imminent death from drinking, citing Glen's experience as proof. He then dropped the bombshell - he would no longer be Alice's manager if he was to remain a drunk. It's not nice when you're best friend does that particularly when you know he is acting in your best interests.
The next day, ALice and Cindy left for Jamaica, to spend the days leading up to Christmas, where Alan Strahl, and associate of Sheps, was now living. Alice gave his V.O. to autograph hunters at the airport, and vowed not to touch another drop. That night in Jamaica, deprived of drink, ALice was a quivering mess, nauseous and with bouts of diarrhea. He Drunk 6 cans of Budweiser a day to keep his sugar levels constant, and by New Year, he was 201lb lighter, his skin was cleaner, his bruises gone and his eyes alert and bright. But the damage had been done.
In 1973, Alice resumed his heavy drinking, as he did 1976 and again in 1977. Each time Shep Gordon saw Alice destroying himself until the final, much publicised dry out in 1977/78 which led to the 'From The Inside' album. This reads like tragedy upon tragedy, by Alices' own hand and the rumours of Alices' cocaine addiction in 1980-82, make for further distressing reading. But back in Jamaica after Christmas 1972, Alice managed to stay 'on the wagon', drinking a few cans of beer only. He began to realise in time what had nearly happened to him. Subsequent events show that he was never able to learn the lesson properly. Still, Alice and Cindy flew back to New York and moved into their new penthouse apartment in Manhatten. On the plane from Jamaica, Alice had an accident in the toilet when he rushed in to throw up following an attack of nausea. After flushing the toilet, it exploded, splashing the vomit over his jacket. It was the most embaresing moment of his life. Back in New York, Bod Ezrin finished the final post production work on the album which was released in March 1973 and in April in the Uk and Europe.
As always,the lp's packaging created tremendous interest. The concept of the lp was basically, new wealth and decadence. It was to dictate the raison d'etre of the tour and it became the philosophy of Alice Cooper - 'make as much money as you can, as quick as you can', a philosophy used by Malcolm McClaren and the Sex Pistols which they called 'The Great Rock And Roll Swindle', although Alices' methods were more legitimate! While in London, Alice wanted the band to be photographed surrounded by their wealth. The shot was taken by David Bailey, the famous society photographer, at his London studio. The band had wanted to be surrounded by exactly 1,000,000 dollars in cash but their was only 500,000 dollars in London, and the UK banks at the time. By arrangement with the US treasury department, Brinks guards flew in the rest of the money. A real human billion dollar baby was made up in Alice style makeup, by Alice himself, and posed with the band while the rest of the group wore white silk suits and fondled white rabbits and machine guns. It was a stunning photograph. The baby was Lola Pfeiffer, daughter of Carol Pfeiffer, head of Alices' public relations in Europe. As she pee'd on the dollar bills, the rabbits chewed on the cash. It was then discovered that photographing money is contrary to treasury law number 8592.190353. However this minor technicality was soon sorted out.
The rest of the lp sleeve was equally opulent, a tour de force by Pacific Eye And Ear. You all know what it looks like of coarse, a hideous mock snakeskin wallet with a billion dollar note and wallet size cards of the band inside. As always, the sleeve was as important as the record itself, and for many, the new lp 'Billion Dollar Babies' was the peak of the original line up. Alice had let slip the title of the lp as early as November 1972:
"It kind of refers to us, young and wealthy. Society is decadent, just like Berlin of the '30's. Everywhere you look, there are 16 year old kids with cars, TV, stereos, the lot. Over indulgence is the name of the game. I'm close to my first million and this lp and tour will take us there. I represent affluence. That's why I get ripped off. Everyone puts an obstacle in your way and makes out that they need a bribe. Billion Dollar Babies is a footlights parade thing. It'll be like Hellzapoppin' even more intense because the road is going to make us crazy. I've been off the road for nearly 2 months and my whole timing is off. This album and tour will smash people with its vastness and that's how we'll make that million each. Play to huge crowds, as quickly as possible and take the money and split."
It didn't quite work like that...
The album opener was 'Hello Hurray', the then present hit. Originally written by the Canadian Rolf Kemp in 1968, Alice found it on a Judy Collins lp, 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes'. It was a perfect show opener for a Broadway type extravaganza which was to be the new stage show (the Alice at the Palace musical had been ended due to union problems). Epically put together by Ezrin, it has all his trademarks of lush strings and horns making the track quite momentous. Contrary to rumour, Marc Bolan did not play guitar. Alice was annoyed that the single version had to be cut down particularly since 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' was a number 1 hit and very long at 6 minutes.
'Raped And Freezin'' is according to Alice, ' hilarious, a real Tennesee Williams thing'. Whatever it is , it features an excellent lead break by Glen Buxton, not too flash or fancy. 'Elected' by then everybody knew about and then came the killer cut 'Billion Dollar Babies', on which Alice and Donovan sang alternate lines as the chorus of the songs' protagonist has a love affair with a blow up doll. This was the first track on the album to feature an outside guitarist, Steve Hunter, more on whom later, brought in on the sessions by Bob Ezrin. The atmosphere 'Unfinished Sweet' is another of Dennis Dunnaways' surreal James Bond fantasies complete with the gruesome sound effects. Glen Buxton played on this track along with 'Raped And Freezin'', 'Elected' and 'Hello Hurray', but his demo guitar solos and general playing had been very sloppy and due to his hospitalization had not been available to re-recorded them. Besides, as we know, Steve Hunter is shit hot. 'No More Mr Nice Guy' is the one track that came from the superstar session which was usable, with Marc Bolan on lead guitar but with Keith Moons' drums and the Superstar backing vocals taken off and replaced by the bands':
"I didn't know that there was a track called that on an old Sparks' album. It's not meant to be a put down of the press, but I wrote it because they're getting to hate me. It's got 'em thinking, whats' he gonna do now? But the songs' about someone who got destroyed by the press."
'Generation Landslide', which Glen Buxton had a big hand in writing eventually turns up with Hunters' solo on. As Ezrin said: 'Only Steve Hunter can play that kinda solo'. Featuring possibly some of Alices' finest lyrics, the song has some mild social commentary as Alice sees the generation gap widen until the Billion Dollar Babies were inconceivable to the parents (a great pun). Eight years later the song was mildly updated. 'Sick Things' is another near cliched 'Horror movie' effects track with its' gloomy and spooky atmosphere created by drums and bass then by horns and guitar, it's a stunner, with Alice dedicating the song to the society that spawns him and those like him. Aren't we all sick things? Again, lead guitar is supplied by Steve Hunter. 'Mary Ann' was written by Alice for Mary Whitehouse:
"I don't think she'll mind. She's a lady, a grand lady."
The Pink Floyd also wrote a song for her in less complimentary terms! The joke at the end ('I thought you were my man') is a bit silly (but at the time it blew by 12 year old mind). Lovely piano though.. 'I Love The Dead', a paen to necrophilia also blew a few minds at the time and became the centre piece of the stage show, with Alice putting a powerful and realistic performance in his usual perverted and demented fashion. The track was originally written by Dick Wagner but the band decided to buy him out so as to imply that it's an original. Wagner also played lead on the track, with Glen again relegated to the sidelines.
On release, the album, with one or two exceptions, was mutilated by the press. The band were described as Who ripoffs, blatantly commercial, merely hoaxers and illusionists etc. What most of the press wanted was for Alice to revert to the days of 1969/70 when he acted more like a decadent monster then the planned theatrics that he was putting on. His fantasies and fears, they argued, were fake while Iggy Pop and Lou Reed played out reality in their work (a theory strengthened by Bob Ezrins' production on Reeds' 'Berlin' lp). What we know of coarse is that for their entire existence, the original Alice Cooper were the flashiest, ritziest, classiest, yes commercial, catchiest and most entertaining band of minstrels for many years. With the oncoming year, the Coopers became a travelling circus bringing colour and entertainment into the music scene. The media wanted 'real' heroes, politically motivated. They didn't realise that the worlds' a big enough place - Alices' tactics were blatant titillation designed for commercial gain but in Alices' own words:
"The music has to back it up otherwise it's stupid".
As we know, the music more than backed it up and justifiably, 'Billion Dollar Babies' was a number 1 album.
Review Alice's Albums
Read about The Band
Why not get hung in the Sickthings Gallery ?Or Order the superb Alice's Bloody Rag