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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #290  (Vol. 6, No. 41) This edition is for the week of October 10--16, 2005.

Haunted Pinellas, Part 2
 by William Moriaty and Lisa Clardy
"A History of Violence"
 by Mike Smith
Alice Cooper
 by Terence Nuzum
My Life in the "Church"
 by Dylan Jones
Echo and the Bunnymen Return From Siberia....Stellastarr* Harmonizes With Copy Protection....John Peel Day....Paper or Plastic Medicine?
 by Vinnie Blesi
Welcome Back....Are You Kidding Me?...Movie Notes....God I Hate Her....Thanks....Call Him KashYYYK/American....Where's The WB Frog?...The Answer Is....You're Out....Passing On....Jaws: The Story, Part 37
 by Mike Smith
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Alice Cooper

I could think of none better (save The Cramps) to cover for the month of October than the master of disaster, the shaman of shock rock, the slimy, greasy, the creepy, Alice Cooper. Naming himself after a hanged witch, Vincent Furnier became Alice Cooper. Sporting a backing band that was metal and punk at the same time, Cooper's band along with The Stooges were the epitome of the Detroit sound. Dirty, sludgy, evoking car factories and violence. Cooper added shocking stage shows involving decapitations, bats, ghouls, and everything else associated with horror. His heyday was '71-'75 and that is what I am covering here. I'm ignoring the albums released under Zappa's Straight Records label as they weren't really representative of the band. So to get you prepared for the Halloween season, as Alice would say, "Welcome to my nightmare..."

Love It To Death (1971)
From the opening lines "Well I'm runnin' through the world with a gun in my back tryin' to catch a ride in a Cadillac" you just know that this is Detroit rock and it's just gonna floor you. And it does, as the next song "I'm Eighteen" with its slow chug and torn vocal-cord yelps prove. The band had already started bringing in the creepy crawleys with "Black Ju Ju", a Screamin' Jay Hawkins-like rocker, but for now only the lyrics really conveyed images of horror, as apparent in "The Ballad of Dwight Frye", while the music was still only hard rock. But rock it does; how many rock albums really contain guitar riffs as great as those heard on "Is it My Body"? For now the band was still simply a hard rock act who more often than not aped Deep Purple, but come next album, their personalities would be set in stone......

Killer (1971)
"Dead babies can take care of themselves, Dead babies can't take things off the shelf, Well we didn't want you anyway". With those lyrics, the band we now know was finalized. While "Be My Lover" was still radio-friendly rock, Cooper brought out the blood on this one. "Halo of Flies"... whether it's about the devil or what lyrically, who knows? But musically, it creates the sparse guitar lines and atmosphere that would be a staple of goth rock in the '80s. "Desperado" a western ghost tale and "Killer" a lament for a murderer make this album one of the most harrowing and creepy of the '70s, while "Dead Babies" became a blueprint for Marilyn Manson years later.

School's Out (1972)
Besides gracing us with the best anthem for teenage delinquence and vandalism, "School's Out", Alice Cooper gives us his violent take on West Side Story and Blackboard Jungle. He also starts showing his perchant for more Broadway-sounding vocal stylings he would later use. While the band mostly drops the dread and reverts back to the hard rock of Love It To Death, there is still a numb violence permeating the music that while it doesn't evoke horror, it certainly reminds one of bloody teen exploitation films like "The Warriors".

Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
Roll out, Roll out
With your American dream and its recruits, I've been ready.
Roll out, Roll out
With your circus freaks and hula hoops, I've been ready.
Ready as this audience that's coming here to dream.
Loving every second, every moment, every scream,
I've been waiting so long to sing my song
And I've been waiting so long for this thing to come.
Yeah - I've been thinking so long I was the only one.

Finally realizing he was America's obsession with death and cheap horror films rolled into one to create our own David Bowie, Cooper unleashed bloody kewpie dolls, vaudeville, cheap sex, violence, everything else he had been saying and made his masterpiece. From the creepy rape victim confession on "Raped and Freezing", slimy politicians on "Elected", sex doll molesting creeps on "Billion Dollar Babies", to "I Love the Dead" a tale of necrophelia, the band's image was cemented in gravestone. No More Mr. Nice Guy. He meant it.

Muscle of Love (1973)
OK. So they released their ultimate album of sleaze and sickness. The follow-up must be even worse right? More sick more vile? Unfortunately, no. Instead they add boogie piano "Crazy Little Thing" and brass "Hard Hearted Alice". There are some interesting gems though like "Muscle of Love" obviously an inspiration to Danzig and the James Bond title theme that the Bond producers rejected "Man with the Golden Gun" (they chose a silly disco version by LuLu instead). Not the follow up it should've been, it still shows the band at its rocking best.

Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)
Parting ways with the band Alice goes solo and finally brings the glitz and gore of his Broadwayesque horrors alive on wax. The title track kicks things off perfectly before "Black Widow" and "Some Folks" with their vaudeville finger-snapping set to lyrics about evil women and self-mutilation set you off into Cooper's most twisted compositions, "Years Ago", "Steven", "The Awakening", and "Escape"--a mini rock opera seemingly about an abused child who stays regressed and murders his wife . All that and a guest spot by Vincent Price who intros "Black Widow".

So we all know what happened: a lanky youth from Florida ripped off Cooper and made millions and then continued to rip off every topic Cooper dealt with such as high school fights, necrophelia, and even Cooper's gruesome stage shows. But he fell by the wayside as did his albums.

Alice Cooper's music lives on. A document to a time when horror films, explotation, and devil-may-care abandon ruled for outsiders. This was punk. Rock. Metal. And pure nightmares. So there it is, Alice Cooper's greatest era from '71-'75. Enjoy the horror show.

"The Audio Philes" is ©2005 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.