One of the most successful bands of the early 1970s was the Alice Cooper Group. From their initial formation in the mid 1960s as the Spiders and their first album release in 1969, through their break-up in 1974, the Alice Cooper Group were successful recording artists and created grand, theatrical concerts.
The single, “Elected,” was featured on their million selling and number one chart album, Billion Dollar Babies. I am reviewing this album, just in time for election season.
Billion Dollar Babies was their sixth album release, and second to last group album before they disbanded. It was produced by Bob Erzin (Pink Floyd, Kiss, Deep Purple) and was recorded in the U.S. and London. Engineers included Jack Douglas (Aerosmith) and Robin Black (Jethro Tull). The sound and production was first-rate.
The band had enjoyed a number two chart album with School’s Out from the previous year, a very musically tight, concept album. The song, “School’s Out” was the biggest chart single for the group, an anthem for kids everywhere. The entire album plays like a mini rock opera, angry, high energy guitar action, the songs blending thematically from one to the next. Alice might have been the face and voice of the band, but these guys could rock. The shocking imagery of the band and their concerts rightfully scared parents, but the songs were easy to engage rock, songs you wanted to hear again and again. School’s Out had more of a jazz-rock feel, Billion Dollar Babies is more operatic.
Billion Dollar Babies is a grander project, songs with more complex arrangements and sonic landscape. “Elected” was a great follow-up to “School’s Out” as a radio-ready song. It was easy to see that Alice was going beyond the rock idiom and perhaps the boundaries of the group. After the next album, a bit of a letdown, the band would be no more and Alice was a solo act.
The song, “Elected,” rings even truer today.
I’m your top prime cut of meat, I’m your choice
I wanna be elected
I’m your Yankee Doodle dandy in a gold Rolls Royce
I wanna be elected
Kids need a savior, don’t need a fake
I wanna be elected
We’re all gonna rock to the rules that I make
I wanna be elected
Good evening Mr. & Mrs. America and all ships at sea
The candidate is taking the country by storm
I never lied to you, I’ve always been cool
“Hello Hooray” (Rolf Kempf) 4:15 A great beginning to the show, since a Cooper Group album really was a show. Quite a vocal performance for Cooper. The music is a big production, an Erzin specialty.
“Raped and Freezin'” (Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce) 3:19 Shift immediately into a guitar-riff song that bounces along. A great guitar tune. Regrettable song title though.
“Elected” (Cooper, Glen Buxton, Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith) 4:05 Kudos to the band, great guitar riff, driving bass and drums. Like Meatloaf would do later, there’s a bridge in the song where Cooper breaks from singing to recite some lyrics more as a character in the song. Ezrin beefs up the backing with horns and other instruments.
“Billion Dollar Babies” (Cooper, Bruce, Reggie Vinson) 3:43 One of the hardest rocking song on the albums, the guitars sounded touch then. Cooper multi-tracks his vocals to come out of each channel.
“Unfinished Sweet” (Cooper, Bruce, Smith) 6:18 Just the band, no big production touches (except for the sound of the dental drill) or orchestra. The song, when it kicks into instrumental gear, briefly brings in the “James Bond Theme” on guitar. This is like a suite of song sections welded together.
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” (Cooper, Bruce) 3:06 That familiar guitar riff. Another single release, infectious melody and chorus. Even clean for AM radio. Three minutes of smokin’ good rock and roll.
“Generation Landslide” (Cooper, Buxton, Bruce, Dunaway, Smith) 4:31 A group composition, incorporating acoustic guitar. The guitars and thumping drums sound like Doobie Brothers or Aerosmith. Of course, Alice, sounds like Alice.
“Sick Things” (Cooper, Bruce, Bob Ezrin) 4:18 Erzin gave this the orchestral touches, on top of the slow burning band that comes in later in the song. Every parent’s nightmare to have their kid listening to the lyrics of songs like this. Ezrin would take this soundscape to Pink Floyd for The Wall.
“Mary Ann” (Cooper, Bruce) 2:21 An old fashioned sounding song, with ragtime piano accompaniment. Cooper’s vocals are in deep echo.
“I Love the Dead” (Cooper, Ezrin) 5:09 Piano provided by producer/co-writer Ezrin, a slow, creepy melody. Cooper sounds like he would on his first solo release Welcome to My Nightmare. Very campy than scary tune. The song changes tempo and direction several times before turning into a traditional sounding with orchestral backing toward the fade out.
My only criticism is the production is over the top at times, almost schmaltzy and dripping in theatrics. The songs where the group relies on it’s own musicianship to carry the melodic load are the best. This was a talented band, not needing additional players or too much orchestral. Credit to the band for grand ideas and moving out of the traditional rock structure.
Cooper played with a lot of musicians after the ACB broke up, but never had a more talented group of musicians around him. For the time they were together, this band rocked, and scared the hell out of a lot of parents.
The Alice Cooper Group
Alice Cooper – vocals, harmonica
Glen Buxton – guitar
Michael Bruce – rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Dennis Dunaway – bass, backing vocals
Neal Smith – drums, backing vocals