Today’s entry doesn’t really do much to incite the Halloween spirit aside from the persona the man himself portrays onstage and even that is tame by today’s standards and frankly a bit lame in general. Still, I found it appropriate to put an Alice Cooper record on this list, for the sake of posterity.
Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
Admittedly, Alice Cooper had always managed to fly under my music radar when I was younger. Even as a kid I really couldn’t get behind the gimmicky stage performances or any of the band’s who opted to garishly garnish themselves behind layers of makeup. Alice Cooper, Kiss, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot have always been bands I’ve not been able to take seriously but what I grew to appreciate about the artist on display today is the music behind the ridiculousness. Those other bands still suck though.
I was at a record store in my early 30s perusing the used selection when I first heard Unfinished Sweet, the fifth track off this album. When I asked the clerk what the song was I was so surprised that I asked him to replay the album from the beginning. For the rest of my visit I pretended to search through the store’s collection as I took in Billion Dollar Babies with my ear holes. When the music had ended I promptly walked to the other record store to buy the album since the prices are always too high at that first one. Thus began my interest in all of Alice Cooper’s catalog.
The musicianship on display throughout all of their early albums is phenomenal. There are tons of melodies reminiscent of mid-’60s rock bands such as The Beatles and the like while some of the lengthier instrumental sections take on some of the more experimental, abstract elements of Frank Zappa’s material. This shouldn’t be too surprising as Zappa actually helped Cooper and crew get started and as such was an integral key to the band’s success.
Alice Cooper is on this list as one of the first mainstream rock bands to incorporate the Halloween spirit into their onstage persona. I still think it looks utterly stupid and embarrassing, to be frank. Not only that but the music doesn’t reflect the imagery on display in the slightest. What I hear is a band ahead of it’s time in many ways while staying rooted in what made those early rock groups legendary. If anything, the radio singles and gimmicks are the weakest elements.
Songs like the aforementioned Unfinished Sweet, Elected and the absolutely phenomenal acoustic-led Generation Landslide are all killer tracks that break the conventions of boring butt-rock radio. Cooper (Vincent Furnier) sounds better when takes his cues from the book of Zappa rather than that of popular music and the unorthodox way he presents his vocals at times is unusually and impressive.
There is no way you can go wrong with any of Cooper’s earlier recordings and while they aren’t inherently dark or ghoulish in nature, I think one of their albums deserved a spot here. Personally, Billion Dollar Babies was the first of their many albums to truly grab me so I opted for it. I suppose I Love The Dead could be considered a Halloween song if it weren’t for the absolutely silly, Dr. Seuss delivery of the vocals and Unfinished Sweet is a bit spooky because who in the hell enjoys a visit to the dentist?