Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

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Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 12 Jan 2015, 19:38

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First off, we are talking about the Alice Cooper Band, the five young men from the Phoenix, AZ area who took their obsession with The Yardbirds, Kinks and Who to L.A. in the late 60s to make it big in the rock and roll business. High school friends who trekked to Frank Zappa’s doorstep at 7:00 am to make their dreams come alive. A lot of their story is about dreams and having them fulfilled. But there’s bad stuff, too.

So Mr. Zappa did indeed release some Alice Cooper Band music, and while their debut, Pretties For You, is likely adored by your closet Dungen fan, it’s Easy Action that displays much of the promise and ambition. Alongside the sort of fare you’d expect (“Refrigerator Heaven”, “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye”) is a show of love for the medium, that chance to join your heroes in some small way by fleshing out the sound of a full-length LP with piano, hooks and melody (“Shoe Salesmen”, “Beautiful Flyaway”). There are some incredible moments for such a young, upstart band. But they were amateurs who likely would have remained the province of Black Pearl and Sir Lord Baltimore champions. Thankfully, they wanted more. So they split L.A. for the most unlikely of places: Detroit.

Despite the fact that singer Alice (or Vince back then) was born in Michigan, we rarely consider Alice Cooper Band in the same breath as The Stooges or MC5. But the Motor City was kind to Alice Cooper – they were free to develop what L.A. clearly did not want (they literally emptied west coast clubs when they played) but the whole world would soon embrace. Alice Cooper did not invent cross-dressing, androgyny, outrage or shock. But knowing that Bowie and Bolan witnessed the Alice Cooper Show in 1971, it’s clear the band had a healthy hand in creating glam. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.



'Bob Ezrin wrote: (I was 19-years old) when I went to New York City to see Alice Cooper play. First of all, I found myself in a room filled with people in black spandex and face makeup, with black fingernails and spider eyes and black lipstick. And then when the band hit the stage, they came on like a group of theatrical ghouls, who sort of walked out with their instruments and props and amazing lights and proceeded to do a show that was as much theater as it was rock music. The show took us through all kinds of strange little twilight zone-like short stories involving a variety of twisted characters and weird tales. By the end of it, they had given us basically an hour and a half of theatrical and musical experience. And I thought, this is the future of rock music. We’re going to graduate from T-shirts and jeans, and graduate to big productions and songs about large ideas.




When we think of Alice Cooper, we usually focus on our singer Vince and the character he created. It’s impossible to discount the image he projected or the undertow of horror and macabre that serves as their calling card. But these were guys were smart – they wrote concise songs that rocked hard enough to keep your drug-addled teen enthralled and with musicians proficient enough not to chase away your Zeppelin muso. Their songs were original and hook-laden enough to cover the fact that Alice (like Jagger) couldn’t sing worth a damn. They were also smart enough to work with Bob Ezrin. He’s every bit as much of the story as any member of the band, for it was Ezrin who not only rehearsed the band into the ground, but helped give the monster shape.

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'Alice Cooper wrote: And he (Ezrin) comes back into (producer) Jack Richardson and he says, ‘Jack, you’re not going to believe this. It’s not just a band, it’s a whole movement. It’s something nobody’s ever seen before.’ It’s this and this, y’know. And Jack says, ‘I’m not going to fire you, I’m going to make you produce them.” So all of a sudden he comes in and says, ‘Okay, all of our butts are on the line here.’ And we took about six months and stayed in a barn in Detroit, way out in Pontiac, Michigan, didn’t do any gigs, all we did was worked on our sound. We worked on our material and re-learned how to play. Re-learned how to do everything. And he was our George Martin. We listened to him and he helped shape what Alice Cooper is today.’




We’ve had the impossible argument before – which is best? Love It To Death and Killer run neck-and-neck. School’s Out is a sentimental fave for many as it’s partly autobiographical and takes in everything from jazz and Badfinger-worthy melodies to a prevalent obsession with West Side Story. Billion Dollar Babies is the blockbuster, whereas the comedown came way too soon (Muscle of Love). This was the first great American band of the 1970s and almost entirely unprecedented in what they achieved as a singles artist (their greatest hits are, indeed, great), a long-player act (someone will argue soon enough that much of Love It...and Killer is prog) and a cultural tank that left little pockets of teen dementia and hysterical parents wherever they went. And like The Stooges and Dolls, the Alice Cooper Band burned out on drugs and alcohol, far too soon.

The little band that could. And did.
Did they ever.

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Last edited by Phenomenal Cat on 05 Sep 2015, 18:49, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Neige » 12 Jan 2015, 21:11

First time I saw the ABC footage from 1972, amazing!

What a great band they were!

Fondest memory: 15-year-old me had an *expressive dance routine" for birthday parties and ski camps with my (platonic) classmate Gisela for the entire Killer album and, well, I didn't get hanged in the end, but we probably looked just as clueless as Vincent Furnier in the gig mentioned above at some points. :? ;) :P

Favourite album: As a whole, it's Killer - Love It To Death is marred by Black Juju which sort of peters out and Sun Arise which feels dumb and foreign to the rest of the album, but I also love Easy Action, School's Out and BDB.

Favourite song: I still love the long "prog" ones from their peak period best - Dead Babies, Second Coming/Ballad of Dwight Fry, Halo of Flies, Killer...
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby trans-chigley express » 12 Jan 2015, 22:30

I love their classic run but have yet to hear their first two at all. On an impulse last year I bought pricey Japanese SHM-CD remasters of Love It To Death to Billion Dollar Babies and glad I did. Not only do they sound great but those classic album covers are reproduced beautifully and the covers were part of my initial fascination when I was a kid so are integral to the whole thing for me so it seemed important to have them, even in miniature form.

Listening to them again after many decades of never having heard them I was a little surprised at how good they all are, even School's Out which I always regarded as the weakest of the bunch but have since changed my mind: there is no weakest one. Billion Dollar Babies is still my favourite though, just great from start to finish.

To this day I have never heard Muscle of Love and have never heard a good thing about it. Even the boring cardboard box cover looks uninspiring.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 12 Jan 2015, 23:15

trans-chigley express wrote:To this day I have never heard Muscle of Love and have never heard a good thing about it. Even the boring cardboard box cover looks uninspiring.


Along with Mott's "Saturday Gigs", Bolan's "Teenage Dream" and Bowie's "Rebel Rebel", I always enjoyed the last-gasp-of-Glam vibe to this one:

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Jeemo » 12 Jan 2015, 23:36

Love School's Out the album, but don't really know the rest of their stuff apart from the singles.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Charlie O. » 12 Jan 2015, 23:43

I just watched this last night -

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The whole first hour of the hour-and-a-half feature centers on the original band, and some flaws notwithstanding - chief among them the fact that not only did Michael Bruce not participate, but as far as I can recall he wasn't even mentioned - it's quite well done, with (as you would expect) some great footage (though no complete songs) and great anecdotes, a few of which I hadn't heard before. Recommended.

Dennis Dunaway has a book coming out at some point - that should be good.

Favorites? At this point I'd rank them thusly:

    Billion Dollar Babies
    School's Out
    Pretties For You
    Killer
    Love It To Death
    Easy Action







    Muscle Of Love
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 13 Jan 2015, 00:44

Charlie O. wrote:The whole first hour of the hour-and-a-half feature centers on the original band, and some flaws notwithstanding - chief among them the fact that not only did Michael Bruce not participate, but as far as I can recall he wasn't even mentioned


I would expect Glen Buxton to be the guy they'd try to scrub from the story. Michael Bruce is pretty much the architect of those early hits. He even wrote complete lyrics with most of his songs (which Cooper would then revise). What a bummer.

Anyone have a copy of this?:

Image
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Rick Santorum
Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Charlie O. » 13 Jan 2015, 01:02

Buxton gets a few mentions (early on, mainly), but his decline is not discussed. The fact that his family contributed photos and stuff to the project may or may not have had something to do with this.


Phenomenal Cat wrote:Anyone have a copy of this?:

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Not I, but I finally got to read it online a while back (and here's the photo spread). Hot Coop poop!
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Harvey K-Tel » 13 Jan 2015, 01:35

Phenomenal Cat wrote:Pretties For You, is likely adored by your closet Dungen fan


I was wondering why my ears were burning.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 13 Jan 2015, 01:36

onions wrote:
Phenomenal Cat wrote:Pretties For You, is likely adored by your closet Dungen fan


I was wondering why my ears were burning.


Busted.
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 13 Jan 2015, 01:44

Killer
Love It To Death
School's Out
Billion Dollar Babies
Easy Action
Muscle Of Love
Pretties For You


I probably would have said the same thing ten years ago.
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Rick Santorum
Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Brother Spoon » 13 Jan 2015, 05:24

I've come to '70s hardrock in a very roundabout way in my musical lifepath (it's only this weekend that I've Deep Purple In Rock for the very first time for instance), so it's only in the last year or so that I've discovered Alice Cooper, and I quickly picked up the four albums from 'Love it to death' to 'Billion dollar babies' and 'Welcome to my nightmare', the first solo album.
I was very impressed with all of them, but - as it often happens these days when you can get entire discographies at the drop of a hat - it was all a bit too much too soon. Too much new information to really attach myself to it.
So I've temporarily filed most of them and I'm just getting acquainted with 'Love it to death' for now.
Such a killer album.
I'm looking forward to digging in to them one at a time.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby toomanyhatz » 13 Jan 2015, 05:47

I'm the guy that loves Easy Action. I know it's not the best, but it's still my favorite. I mean, stuff like "Still No Air" is just so damn weird. That's the stuff that supposedly the Zappa band just thought made no musical sense whatsoever. Oddly enough it sounds like Beefheart was more of an influence on that early stuff than Zappa. For me it's:

Easy Action

Killer (best weirdy/proggy/mainstream hard rock balance)
Love it to Death (just bubbling under)

Billion Dollar Babies (the last gasp - the title track is one of my favorite drumming songs ever)

School's Out (the concept and theatricality bogs it down a touch, but it's still prime)

Pretties For You (good, but dated and too 'jammy' in spots. They sound like they're still figuring it out)

Muscle of Love (the band has one foot out the door, but still some good moments).

I agree with everything said about the importance of Ezrin. Definitely their George Martin.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 13 Jan 2015, 14:48



And this just blows my mind - the silver suits, the striptease. It looks like cable access



Oh - FUCK YES!! Channeling The Who!!

Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Matt Wilson » 13 Jan 2015, 16:47

Nothing to add as it's all good. Anyone ever read Me, Alice - the 1976 book which never went back in print and now goes for silly money on the internet? I'd love to pick up a copy for less than $100.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 14 Jan 2015, 00:38

Now Playing:



Neal Smith wrote this(?!)
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Rick Santorum
Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby trans-chigley express » 14 Jan 2015, 00:46

I've always be very partial to Generation Landslide from Billion Dollar Babies.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby fange » 14 Jan 2015, 01:20

^^Great stuff. That golden period from 'LITD' to 'B$B' is one of my favourite run of albums ever, from one of my favourite bands ever. And as noted above, they WERE a band at that time no matter what happened to them when things started to go pear-shaped.

This was probably my first proper exposure to Alice Cooper as an impressionable '70s kid, and boy did it make its mark...

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All kiler, no filler, but really just the tip of the AC iceberg once i heard those classic LPs. I still spin em regularly too. This might be my ranking today...

Billion Dollar Babies
Killer
Love It To Death
School's Out
Easy Action
Muscle Of Love
Pretties For You

...though over the years all the top 4 have held my favourite spot at some point.

Love 'em to death.
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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 14 Jan 2015, 01:35

fangedango! wrote:Image

All killer, no filler, but really just the tip of the AC iceberg once i heard those classic LPs.


That's where I started - thank God for older brothers. This album is still the only place I've heard the version of "I'm Eighteen" with no harmonica. Even my original 45 has that harmonica. Where did the Greatest Hits version come from?
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Rick Santorum
Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.

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Re: Beyond the 130 - Alice Cooper Band

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 14 Jan 2015, 01:38

Answering my own question (from Wikipedia):

This compilation's song versions were remixed by Jack Richardson at the time, with the remix of "I'm Eighteen" being released as a single in the US. The reason behind remixing the songs was perhaps to boost its appeal as "new" versions because no new tracks were available for inclusion by the group as they were on hiatus at the time.


I noticed that the Killer version of "Under My Wheels" sounded like it was played my ten guitars compared to the thin Greatest Hits version. Now I know why.
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Rick Santorum
Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

But somehow when you smile, I can brave bad weather.