1972 – PRESENTORIGINAL ALICE COOPER BAND

In 2011, the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band were finally inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, where they performed for the first time publicly in many years. The original band also contributed to Alice’s 2011 album “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”, a follow up to Alice’s first solo album.

In 1975, Alice Cooper joined forces with longtime collaborator and producer Bob Ezrin to begin his solo career with the album Welcome to My Nightmare, a theatrical concept album about the nightmares of a young boy named Steven. Now, he’s followed Steven into adulthood and presents Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a new but familiar concept album about the fear, anxiety and disgust that haunt Alice Cooper’s dreams in an era of Facebook, Lady Gaga, Sketchers and Angry Birds.

“Alice hates technology, disco is still a nightmare for him and working in a cubicle from nine-to-five would give him cold sweats,” Cooper says. “At the same time, this is a nightmare so all these normal life things are thrown into this crazy world that’s only logical when you’re in the nightmare. You could have an elephant in your garage, and you’re on the lawn in a pink tutu cooking hot dogs. And at the time it’s fine. But when you wake up you go, ‘How insane is that? Where did that come from?’ So we realized that having Alice in a modern-world nightmare is a great place to come from theatrically because we can go anywhere we want and make it as insane as possible.”

A wild, surreal odyssey, Welcome 2 My Nightmare provided Cooper and Ezrin the opportunity to work with numerous musicians and experiment with various musical styles. The three surviving members of the original band, guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith, co-wrote three songs and they all played on “When Hell Comes Home,” a gritty ‘70s-style rock track about the nightmare of domestic abuse. “I wanted the song to feel like it was off of Love it to Death or Killer, Cooper says. “But we never had to talk about playing the song ‘70s-style, they just did it. It was great and there was nothing we could do to make it any more ‘70s ‘cause that’s just the way these guys play.”

The collaborations with his fellow original band members stemmed from their 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for which they reunited to play four songs. “I was always looking for a logical reason to work with them again,” Cooper says. “When we broke up there was no bad blood. Most bands break up and they start suing each other. We never broke up on that level. We broke up on a very friendly level. ‘You go do what you’re gonna do, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. Let’s see what happens.’ When we got in the Hall of Fame I called them up and I said, ‘We have to do four songs. Let’s get together and rehearse.’ And they sounded great. They played great. We did a few projects after that. We played a couple times together. And I said, ‘Let’s keep it going. Let’s get these guys on the album.’ And Bob said, ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s write with these guys.’ It just worked.”

The first single from Welcome 2 My Nightmare, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” is about a gorgeous but deadly female who takes Alice by the hand and guides him through the various scenes of his nightmare. The song was co-written by Neal Smith and features a swaggering ‘60s British rock rhythm, brash, bluesy guitars and sneering, seductive vocals. “We tried to make this sound as much like early Rolling Stones as possible and we really did capture that,” Cooper says. “We’ve been doing it onstage and the audience sings along without knowing the song.”

On “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever,” Cooper combines a tongue-in-cheek disco beat and rhythm with near-rap vocals and lyrics about taking a machine gun to zombie disco dancers who refuse to die. Then there’s the zany surf rock of “Ghoul’s Gone Wild,” the derelict down-on-his-luck slur of “The Last Man on Earth,” and the Beatles meet Gary Glitter show tune “The Congregation,” which stars Rob Zombie as a narrator describing such modern-day nightmares as telemarketers, lawyers, pimps, mariachi bands and mimes.

One of the highlights for Cooper is the throbbing, modern rocker “What Baby Wants,” which stars Ke$ha as the devil. “Some people thought I was crazy to have Ke$ha on the record, but I never saw her as one of these Britney Spears diva girls. I saw her more as a rock singer. So I said, ‘Let’s present you not as a diva, but as a rock singer on this.’ We wrote the song together and in the end the darker lyrics were hers.”

Like The original Welcome To My Nightmare, which was highlighted by “Only Women Bleed,” Welcome 2 My Nightmare also features a lovelorn ballad, “Something to Remember Me By,” which was written with Dick Wagner back when they released “I Never Cry” in 1976. “We never used it on an album before because I never felt I was good enough to sing that song,” Cooper reflects. “It was never in my key, I could never get it right. Finally, we got it where my voice is in the right place so we included it and it may be the prettiest ballad we ever wrote. Steve Hunter played guitar on it and we really got a nice Beatles-y sound out of it. So when you’re listening to it you hear this really pretty romantic song and then you realize that in the Nightmare Alice is singing to a pile of bones that used to be a girl.”

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Fans of the first Welcome To My Nightmare will recognize melodic references to the original woven throughout the new record. For example, in the cinematic minor-key song “The Nightmare Returns,” Ezrin plays the theme from “Steven” when Cooper sings, “I think we’ve heard that song before.”
“I really like the idea of having some of the musical identity of the first album showing up in the second album,” Cooper says. “It really connects the two and if you’re a real Alice fan and you hear those themes it makes you feel comfortable.”

Welcome To My Nightmare, which came out in 1975, was a landmark album for Cooper. It was his first solo release, following a historic string of anthems written and recorded by the original band between 1971 and 1974, including “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Elected,” and “I’m Eighteen.” A multimedia smash long before the dawn of music television, Welcome To My Nightmare proved that Cooper could remain popular musically and could take theatricality to an entirely new level of dream by exposing audiences to the crippling fears of a seven-year-old child with an active imagination.

Welcome To My Nightmare spawned two major singles, the ominous, anthemic title track and the beautiful, melancholy acoustic ballad “Only Women Bleed,” and featured narration by horror movie icon Vincent Price. In addition to touring the live “Welcome To My Nightmare” show, Cooper created the prime time special The Nightmare, which was essentially the first long form music video. The program debuted in April 1975. In September he shot the concert film “Welcome To My Nightmare” at London’s Wembley Arena.
“A seven-year-old kid is pretty sure there’s something living in the closet and thinks that something is waiting for him under his bed,” Cooper says. “His toys are probably coming to life and trying to kill him. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a good general approach for the album because we’ve all been kids and we’ve all had those nightmares.’”

The story of the original Alice Cooper Group begins in Phoenix, AZ, where in just shy of a decade an unknown group of high school students went from being just another garage band to being one of the biggest and most influential bands in the world.  They were terrifying,  legendary and undeniably significant to the history of rock & roll.  Below is a rough timeline of events that shaped the lives of 5 kids from Arizona, and changed the face of music forever.

The Early Years
In 1964, 16-year-old Vincent Furnier  (Alice Cooper) was eager to participate in the local annual letterman’s talent show, so he gathered fellow cross-country teammates to form a group for the show. They named themselves The Earwigs. Because they did not know how to play any instruments at the time, they dressed up like The Beatles and mimed their performance to Beatles songs. As a result of winning the talent show and loving the experience of being onstage, the group immediately proceeded to learn how to play instruments they acquired from a local pawn shop. They soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, John Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar and John Speer on drums.  Musically, the group was inspired by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Doors and The Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider’s web as their backdrop, the group’s first stage prop.

In 1965, The Spiders recorded their first single, “Why Don’t You Love Me” (originally performed by The Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for the song.  The single’s B-side track was the Marvin Gaye Tamla Records hit, “Hitch Hike”. The single was released by local record label, Mascot Records, owned by Jack Curtis, a concert promoter who also owned the Stage 7 teen club which later became the VIP Club where The Spiders were the house band.

In 1966, The Spiders graduated from high school and after North High School footballer Michael Bruce replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band released their second single, “Don’t Blow Your Mind”, an original composition which became a local #1 hit, backed by “No Price Tag”. The single was recorded at Copper State Recording Studio and issued by local micro-imprint, Santa Cruz Records.

By 1967, the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles to play shows. They soon renamed themselves The Nazz and released the single “Wonder Who’s Lovin’ Her Now”, backed with future Alice Cooper track “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye”. At around this time, drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith. By the end of the year, the band had relocated to Los Angeles.

1968 – The Nazz become Alice Cooper
In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name.  Furnier also believed that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage.  The legend is that the name “Alice Cooper” came from a session with a ouija board, but this story is untrue.  The name was simply said at random, it was largely chosen because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band’s image and music, and eventually adopted this stage name as his own. Cooper later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves.

Early Theatrics
Nonetheless, at the time Cooper and the band realized that the concept of a male playing the role of a villain, a woman killer, in tattered women’s clothing and wearing make-up, would have the potential to cause considerable social controversy and grab headlines. In 2007 in his book Alice Cooper, Golf Monster Cooper stated that his look was inspired in part by film. One of the band’s all-time favorite movies was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis. “In the movie, Bette wears disgusting caked makeup smeared on her face and underneath her eyes, with deep, dark, black eyeliner.” Another movie the band watched over and over was Barbarella. “When I saw Anita Pallenberg playing the Great Tyrant in that movie in 1968, wearing long black leather gloves with switchblades coming out of them, I thought, ‘That’s what Alice should look like.’ That, and a little bit of Emma Peel from The Avengers.”

The classic Alice Cooper group line-up consisted of Furnier, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. With the exception of Smith, who graduated from Camelback High School (which is referred to in the song “Alma Mater” on the album School’s Out), all of the band members were on the Cortez High School cross-country team, and many of Cooper’s stage effects were inspired by their cross-country coach, Emmett Smith (one of Smith’s class projects was to build a working guillotine for slicing watermelons). Cooper, Buxton and Dunaway were also art students, and their admiration for the works of surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí would further inspire their future stage antics.

One night after an unsuccessful gig at the Cheetah club in Venice, California, where the band emptied the entire room of patrons after playing just ten minutes, they were approached and enlisted by music manager Shep Gordon, who ironically saw the band’s negative impact that night as a force that could be turned in a more productive direction. Shep then arranged an audition for the band with composer and renowned record producer, Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. For the audition Zappa told them to come to his house “at 7 o’clock.” The band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o’clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of psychedelic rock at seven in the morning impressed Zappa enough to sign them to a three-album deal. Another Zappa-signed act, the all-female GTOs, who liked to “dress the Cooper boys up like full size Barbie dolls,” played a major role in developing the band’s early onstage look.

1969 – Pretties For You
Cooper’s first album Pretties for You (released in 1969) had a slight psychedelic feel. Although it touched the US charts for one week at No. 193, it was ultimately a critical and commercial failure.

Alice Cooper’s “shock rock” reputation apparently developed almost by accident at first. An unrehearsed stage routine involving Cooper, a feather pillow and a live chicken garnered attention from the press; the band decided to capitalize on the tabloid sensationalism, creating in the process a new subgenre, shock rock. Cooper claims that the infamous “Chicken Incident” at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in September 1969 was an accident. A chicken somehow made its way onto the stage into the feathers of a feather pillow they would open during Cooper’s performance, and not having any experience around farm animals, Cooper presumed that, because the chicken had wings, it would be able to fly. He picked it up and threw it out over the crowd, expecting it to fly away. The chicken instead plummeted into the first few rows occupied by disabled people in wheelchairs, who reportedly proceeded to tear the bird to pieces.The next day the incident made the front page of national newspapers, and Zappa phoned Cooper and asked if the story, which reported that he had bitten off the chicken’s head and drunk its blood on stage, was true. Cooper denied the rumor, whereupon Zappa told him, “Well, whatever you do, don’t tell anyone you didn’t do it,”[21] obviously recognizing that such publicity would be priceless for the band.

The band later claimed that this period was highly influenced by Pink Floyd, and especially the album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Glen Buxton said he could listen to Syd Barrett’s guitar for hours at a time.[23]

June 1970 – Easy Action
Despite the publicity from the chicken incident, the band’s second album Easy Action, released in June 1970, met with the same fate as its predecessor. At around this time, the band, fed up with Californians’ indifference to their act, relocated to Cooper’s birthplace, Detroit, where their bizarre stage act was much better received by the crowds of the Midwest states who were accustomed to the similar hard rock styles of local bands such as The Stooges and The MC5. Despite this, Cooper still managed to receive a cream pie in the face when performing at the Cincinnati Pop Festival. Detroit would remain their steady home base until 1972. “L.A. just didn’t get it,” Cooper stated. “They were all on the wrong drug for us. They were on acid and we were basically drinking beer. We fit much more in Detroit than we did anywhere else.”

Alice Cooper appeared at the Woodstock-esque Strawberry Fields Festival near Toronto, Ontario in August 1970. The band’s mix of glam and increasingly violent stage theatrics stood out in stark contrast to the bearded, denim-clad hippie bands of the time.[25] As Cooper himself stated: “We were into fun, sex, death and money when everybody was into peace and love. We wanted to see what was next. It turned out we were next, and we drove a stake through the heart of the Love Generation”.

Fall 1970 – Love It To Death
In autumn 1970, the Alice Cooper group teamed with producer Bob Ezrin for the recording of their third album Love It to Death. This was the final album in their Straight Records contract and the band’s last chance to create a hit. That first success came with the single “I’m Eighteen”, released in November 1970, which reached number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1971. Not long after the album’s release in January 1971 Warner Bros. Records purchased Alice Cooper’s contract from Straight and re-issued the album, giving the group a higher level of promotion.

Love It to Death proved to be their breakthrough album, reaching number 35 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album charts. It would be the first of eleven Alice Cooper group and solo albums produced by Ezrin, who is widely seen as being instrumental in helping to create and develop the band’s definitive sound.

The group’s 1971 tour featured a stage show involving mock fights and gothic torture modes being imposed on Cooper climaxing with a staged execution by electric chair, with the band sporting tight, sequined, and color-contrasting glam rock-style costumes made by prominent rock fashion designer Cindy Dunaway (sister of band member Neal Smith, and wife of band member Dennis Dunaway). Cooper’s androgynous stage role had developed to present a villainous side, portraying a potential threat to modern society. The success of the band’s single and album, and their tour of 1971, which included their first tour of Europe (audience members reportedly included Elton John and a pre-Ziggy David Bowie), provided enough encouragement for Warner Bros. to offer the band a new multi-album contract.

1971 – Killer
Their follow-up album Killer, released in late 1971, continued the commercial success of Love It to Death and included further single success with “Under My Wheels”, “Be My Lover” in early 1972, and “Halo of Flies” which became a Top 10 hit in the Netherlands in 1972. Thematically, Killer expanded on the villainous side of Cooper’s androgynous stage role, with its music becoming the soundtrack to the group’s morality-based stage show, which by then featured aboa constrictor hugging Cooper on-stage, the murderous axe chopping of bloodied baby dolls, and execution by hanging at the gallows. Back then, the real criticism was aimed at questioning the artists’ sexual ambiguity, rather than the stage gore.  In January 1972, Cooper was again asked about his peculiar name, and told talk show hostess Dinah Shore that he took the name from a “Mayberry RFD” character.

1972 – School’s Out
The summer of 1972 saw the release of the single “School’s Out”. It went Top 10 in the USA and to number 1 in the UK, remaining a staple on classic rockradio to this day. The album School’s Out reached No. 2 on the US charts and sold over a million copies. The band now relocated to their new mansion inGreenwich, Connecticut. With Cooper’s on-stage androgynous persona completely replaced with brattiness and machismo, the band solidified their success with subsequent tours in the United States and Europe, and won over devoted fans in droves while at the same time horrifying parents and outraging the social establishment. In the United Kingdom, Mary Whitehouse, a Christian morality campaigner, persuaded the BBC to ban the video for “School’s Out”, although Whitehouse’s campaign did not prevent the single also reaching number one in the UK. Cooper sent her a bunch of flowers in gratitude for the publicity. Meanwhile, British Labour Member of Parliament Leo Abse petitioned Home Secretary Reginald Maudling to have the group banned altogether from performing in the country.

1973 – Billion Dollar Babies
In February 1973, Billion Dollar Babies was released worldwide and became the band’s most commercially successful album, reaching No. 1 in both the US and UK. “Elected”, a late-1972 Top 10 UK hit from the album, which inspired one of the first MTV-style story-line promo videos ever made for a song (three years before Queen’s promotional video for “Bohemian Rhapsody”), was followed by two more UK Top 10 singles, “Hello Hooray” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, the latter of which was the last UK single from the album; it reached No. 25 in the US.  The title track, featuring guest vocals by Donovan, was also a US hit single. Around this time Glen Buxton left Alice Cooper briefly due to his waning health.

With a string of successful concept albums and several hit singles, the band continued their gruelling schedule and toured the United States once again. Continued attempts by politicians and pressure groups to ban their shocking act only served to fuel the myth of Alice Cooper further and generate even greater public interest.  Their 1973 US tour broke box office records previously set by The Rolling Stones and raised rock theatrics to new heights; the multi-level stage show by then featured numerous special effects, including Billion Dollar Bills, decapitated baby dolls and mannequins, a dental psychosis scene complete with dancing teeth, and the ultimate execution prop and highlight of the show: the guillotine. The guillotine and other stage effects were designed for the band by magician James Randi, who appeared on stage during some of the shows as executioner. The Alice Cooper group had now reached its peak and it was among the most visible and successful acts in the industry. Beneath the surface, however, the repetitive schedule of recording and touring had begun to take its toll on the band, and Cooper, who was under the constant pressure of getting into character for that night’s show, was consistently sighted nursing a can of beer.

1973 – Muscle Of Love
Muscle of Love, released at the end of 1973, was to be the last studio album from the classic line-up, and marked Alice Cooper’s last UK Top 20 single of the 1970s with “Teenage Lament ’74″. An unsolicited theme song was recorded for the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, but a different song of the same name by Lulu was chosen instead. By 1974, the Muscle of Love album had not matched the top-charting success of its predecessor, and the band began to have constant disagreements. For various reasons, the band members agreed to take what was expected to be a temporary hiatus. “Everyone decided they needed a rest from one another”, said manager Shep Gordon at the time. “A lot of pressure had built up, but it’s nothing that can’t be dealt with. Everybody still gets together and talks.” Journalist Bob Greene spent several weeks on the road with the band during the Muscle of Love Christmas Tour in 1973. His book Billion Dollar Baby, released in November 1974, painted a less than flattering picture of the band, showing a group in total disharmony.

The End of an Era
During this time, Cooper relocated back to Los Angeles and started appearing regularly on television shows such as Hollywood Squares, and Warner Bros. released the Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits compilation album. It featured classic style artwork and reached the US Top 10, performing better than Muscle of Love. However, the band’s 1974 feature film Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper (consisting mainly of 1973 concert footage with ‘comedic’ sketches woven throughout to a faint storyline), released on a minor theatrical run mostly to drive-in theaters, saw little box office success. On March 5, 1974, Cooper appeared on episode 3 of The Snoop Sisters playing a Satanic cult singer. The final shows by Alice Cooper as a group were in Brazil in March and April 1974, including the record indoor attendance estimated as high as 158,000 fans in São Paulo on March 30, at the Anhembi Exposition Hall at the start of the first ever South American rock tour.