Alice Cooper

#922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

RECORD STORE TALES #922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

A long time ago, in a constitutional monarchy not far away, prices were lower.  The despised goods and services tax (GST) kicked in January 1, 1991.  This federal tax added a 7% levy to your average purchase.  In the before-fore times, in the Canadian province known as Alberta, there was no such thing as a “sales tax”.  What you saw on the sticker was what you paid.  It was an exhilarating time and place to be.  The GST wrecked that, but our last trek out west before the hated tax kicked in was nothing short of glorious.

School was out for summer, and I quit my part-time job packing groceries to hang out at the cottage and take a special trip to Calgary.  It was time for a visit with cousin Geoff, formerly known as “Captain Destructo”.  The most important things to do on any trip were two-fold:

  1. Pack appropriate music for the journey.
  2. Buy music on aforementioned journey.

I had just received two albums that were brand new to me from the Columbia House music clubSchool’s Out, by Alice Cooper, and Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake.  As my newest acquisitions, they had to come along.  I also brought Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare which I was recently obsessed with.  Finally, I carried enough cash from my job that I had just quit, to buy as much music as I could find.  Stuff that none of the stores in Kitchener had in stock.

The clear memory of driving through the mountains with School’s Out blasting in my ears brings a smile to my face.  While some moments were undeniably weird (“Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”), I couldn’t believe how catchy the album was.  I still can’t.  Alice Cooper records were not necessarily designed to deliver catchy songs.  They were twisted, and School’s Out was like a Twizzler.  Regardless, “Gutter Cat” was entertaining while being unforgettable.  I couldn’t wait to share it with my best friend Bob.  He loved cats!  Another track that took me by surprise was “Alma Mater”, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.  The fact that I’d be graduating in a year was scary.  But the roaring “Public Animal #9” just made me sing along.  I also dug “Blue Turk” although I had no idea how to categorize it.  To me it sounded like something from an old musical from days gone by.  Here I was discovering this ancient music for the first time while the Rocky Mountains zipped past me in the back seat of a minivan.  I like to appreciate moments like that.  I just stared out the window while Dennis Dunaway buzzed my ears with bass.

Next up was Whitesnake.  I still love Come An’ Get It; it’s probably my overall favourite Whitesnake.  A few songs don’t click, such as “Girl”, but lemme tell you folks — “Child of Babylon” is another one of those songs that you just have to  experience while driving through the Rockies.  Bob and I were slowly discovering old Whitesnake.  He was the first to have Saints & Sinners, but I was the first to have Come An’ Get It.  It was something of a “blind buy” for me, since I didn’t know any of the songs.  By the end of the trip, I’d already love “Wine, Women An’ Song”, “Come An’ Get It”, and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”.

Two favourites in the making, it was already turning into a memorable vacation.  I enjoyed shopping at corny gift shops.  I bought some goofy round sunglasses with flip-open lenses.  Alberta is dinosaur country, and so I bought a casting of a Tyrannosaurus tooth.  At another gift shop I bought a totem knick-knack.  I remember Geoffrey and I climbing the modest mountains around the hoodoos at Drumheller, and finding a cave near the top where we paused and caught some shade.

When we hit the Calgary Zoo, Geoff showed us how to put coins on the train tracks to be crushed into minature copper and nickle pancakes.  They had a little train that took tours of the park.  It ran on a regular schedule so we always knew about when we should put the coins on the track.  I had heard that copper guitar picks were the best, but they were hard to find, so I crushed a couple pennies.  I turned them into guitar picks once we got home.  We didn’t crush anything more valuable than a dime, but sometimes you’d lose the coin if it went flying off the track.  (Incidentally, you can’t derail a train with a penny, that is a myth.)  We could tell the conductor knew what we were doing and was getting annoyed, so we cut it out.

When we finally hit a music store in a Calgary mall, I was elated.  I was always on the lookout for singles, and here I found a few notable ones.  Aerosmith’s The Other Side EP was an easy “yes”.  It had a number of remixes that, while not great, were exclusives.  It also had something called the “Wayne’s World Theme” live.  What was this “Wayne’s World”?  I knew not, but it wasn’t on the album, so I was happy enough.

Poison were hot on the charts with their brand-new album Flesh & Blood.  Bob was already raving about the album, and one song he pointed out was “Valley of Lost Souls”.  I found the cassette single for “Unskinny Bop” which included this song and an instrumental pretentiously called “Swamp Juice (Soul-O)”.  I never particularly cared for “Unskinny Bop”, but it was the current Poison hit, and “Valley of Lost Souls” was as good as advertised.  I also located Jon Bon Jovi’s solo single “Blaze of Glory”.  I didn’t know it yet but this single had some slightly edited versions of the album cuts — another exclusive.

The purchase I might have been happiest with was a re-buy.  Although it seems ridiculous that at age 18 I was already re-buying albums, it had begun.  My cassette of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny was shite.  For all intents and purposes, it only had one channel.  I owned Rocka Rolla on vinyl, but didn’t really have a good way of playing it and making it sound decent back then.  I knew there was a cassette on Attic records with both albums on one tape, and I found it in Calgary.  I was glad to finally have a copy of Sad Wings that I could properly listen to.  I even gained new appreciation for Rocka Rolla on those mountain drives.  “Caviar and Meths” sounds amazing drifting through the mountains.

Not only did we find some cool stuff we couldn’t easily locate in Ontario, but we paid no tax.  Since Alberta had no provincial sales tax, everything we were buying, we were buying cheaper!

I wanted a cowboy hat.  We went shopping for them, but I was having a hard time deciding and then Geoffrey told me about an Alberta saying.  Something about “everybody in Alberta has an asshole and a cowboy hat.”  Either that or “every asshole in Alberta has a cowboy hat.”  Same difference.  Either way, I was dissuaded.

Geoffrey could be exhausting and I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and listen to some new tunes, so I was granted a couple hours of privacy.  We traded tapes back and forth for listening.  My sister Kathryn had the new single for “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” by Cheap Trick so I listened to that while she borrowed my Poison.

Here’s a funny detail.   For the car trip with Whitesnake and Alice Cooper, I can remember being on the left side of the vehicle.  For Rocka Rolla, I seem to remember sitting on the right.  The view was always great.  Nothing like Ontario.  The air was different, and even the weather was unusual to us.  People left their doors unlocked, we were told by Uncle Phil.

Auntie Lynda spoiled us and took us on all these day trips; it was fantastic.  It was the last great summer holiday.  I know I kept a journal of the trip, which seems to be unfortunately lost.  Great trip though it was, I looked forward to coming home and seeing my friends.  Showing off my new purchases and sharing my new music.  The flight home was uneventful and we arrived late at night and exhausted.  I didn’t sleep much that night — I had recordings of WWF wrestling matches to catch up on.  The last great summer holiday was over, but never forgotten.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Classicks (1995)

ALICE COOPER – Classicks (1995 Sony)

Here’s a bargain basement perennial that you may have missed but might want to reconsider. If you like Alice Cooper — specifically the five year span of 1989-1994 — then this compilation is for you! If you collect Alice Cooper — specifically rare live tracks that have been released on VHS but mostly unavailable on CD — then this compilation is for you!

Classicks isn’t a particularly bad CD, but its limited focus means limited appeal.  Sony only had the rights to a smidgen of Cooper albums so they made due with what they had.  That meant the albums Trash, Hey Stoopid and The Last Temptation, and the home video Alice Cooper Trashes the World.  Of those releases, only The Last Temptation is really given any kind of critical acclaim today.

Classicks begins promisingly enough.  “Poison” is indeed a classic, thanks to that lush Desmond Child vocal production.  The hooks never stop, but “Poison” is the only bonafide classic on the Trash album.  Nothing else comes even remotely close, though “House of Fire” (written by Bon Jovi for New Jersey) has its moments.  Missing is the ballad “It’s Only My Heart Talkin'” with Steven Tyler cameo.

Hey Stoopid‘s guest-laden title track lead single was phenomenal, if not quite as awesome as “Poison” from TrashHey Stoopid was a bit tougher in stature than Trash, and a couple more singles can be found here:  “Love’s a Loaded Gun” and the absolutely massive “Feed My Frankenstein”.  You can thank Wayne and Garth for that one; there is no other way that song was going to be a hit in 1992.  But it was, and you can quote every word of that Wayne’s World scene.  I know you can.

The material from The Last Temptation has stronger bones but not as many candy-coated hooks.  Three tracks total:  smoking first single “Lost In America”, ballad “It’s Me”, and the epic Chris Cornell duet “Stolen Prayer”.  While all three are good ones, “Stolen Prayer” is truly special.  Chris (who wrote the track with Alice) was in peak voice and when he lets it rip at the end, hold on!  An acoustic-electric classic, worthy of far more attention than it gets.

The rest of the CD contains live versions from Trashes the World, all oldies that Sony didn’t have access to otherwise.  The lineup here features some of the guys you saw in Wayne’s World, such as Al Pitrelli & Canadian Pete Friesen (guitars) and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.  Tommy Caradonna and the inimitable Jonathan Mover are the rhythm section for these tracks.  All tracks have those telltale 80s guitar accoutrements.  “Under My Wheels” is rendered a bit faster than usual, but the guitar solos shred.  Likewise with “Billion Dollar Babies”.  “I’m Eighteen” is slower and brooding.  Alice’s opening rap to “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a gas, although the song’s played a little heavy handedly.  “Only Women Bleed” is reliable, and “School’s Out” is “School’s Out” is “School’s Out”.  “You better know this one,” as Alice says.

Tacked on at the end is Alice’s cover of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix, not to be confused with his cover of “Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  This B-side (to “Love’s a Loaded Gun”) wasn’t the best B-side available (that would be “It Rained All Night”) but at least it’s full of energy.  Whoever that is on guitar (Stef Burns?) rocks.

It’s obvious from the tracklist that this album was just Sony trying to cash in.  Cooper’s contract must have been up.  They tossed in the six live tracks to lure in any collectors who wanted them on CD rather than VHS.  Classicks can often by found brand new in the $5 range — pay no more than that.

2/5 stars

Gallery: A closer look at Alice Cooper and Japanese import unboxings

This week’s live show included some cool unboxings.  Here is a closer look at the three new arrivals at LeBrain HQ.

#1 Dokken – The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 Japanese import.  Old unreleased demos polished and finished for release.  This baby has a bonus track called “Going Under”.

#2 Accept – Blind Rage Japanese import.  2014 studio album.  “Thrown to the Wolves” is the name of this Teutonic terror’s bonus track.

# Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” 7 inch picture disc single.  Great to finally have this new Covid-related recording on a physical format.

 

Adventures in Epilepsy – Live LeBrain Train with Guests

Episode 30 – Adventures in Epilepsy

A few technical difficulties with the Facebook feed, but a good show all around.  A more personal show this time, if you ever wanted to know how epilepsy can change lives, then you’ll want to check this one out.  No more concerts, no more movie theaters — such is the new reality that my wife lives in.

But we did more than just talk about epilepsy, much more in fact.  Unboxings, books, and guests — it’s all below.

The live stream feed is much choppier on Facebook so I encourage everyone to watch on Youtube from now on.  The Youtube feed was solid.   People on Facebook were reporting freezing video, so in an effort to fix that, I stopped the feed and started over.  That’s why there are two Youtube videos below.

  • I started with some cool unboxings — Japanese imports and vinyl.  Go to 0:05:10 of the first video to see some metal goodies and rarities.
  • For the start of the epilepsy show, go to 0:18:25 of the first video.  It continues at 0:07:15 of the second video.
  • Old pal and author Aaron Lebold came on to talk about his own history with epilepsy, and his new book Genocide at 0:41:15 of the second video.
  • Kevin Simister aka Buried On Mars stopped in at 1:06:35 of the second video to talk about crappy Amazon shipping and to do a CD unboxing.
  • And finally Rob Daniels came in at 1:20:45 of the second video to hang out, talk music, and his own show Visions in Sound.  He has lots of fun planned for October!

Thanks for watching the LeBrain Train episode 30!

First video – start of show

Second video – continuation and conclusion

REVIEW: Nita Strauss – Controlled Chaos (2018)

NITA STRAUSS – Controlled Chaos (2018 Sumerian Records)

Nita Strauss became a household name touring the world and playing lead guitar with Alice Cooper.  Her natural ability and charisma ensured that the next question would be “when is she putting out a solo album?”  In 2018 Strauss released her entirely instrumental debut Controlled Chaos, playing everything except drums and keyboards.

Her choppy rhythm on “Alegria” soon gives way to extremely melodic (and fast) lead work.  Strauss’ talent seems to be taking a melody and making it as exciting as possible with only six strings.  There are shades of Yngwie, Joe and other assorted big-namer instrumentalists without sounding like any specific one.  The weakness is unfortunately the drums (by Josh Villalta) which are robotic and flat.  “Our Most Desperate Hour” sports blurry fast drum blitzes that should be exciting but instead sound artificial.  Worst track:  “Mariana Trench” due to long stretches of bland double bass.  Fortunately this album is more about the guitar.  Lots and lots of guitar.

Track after track, Nita blazes a tapestry of technique.  Her guitar creates moods — tension is in the air.  But she also does excellent ballads.  “Here With You” is the first.  Guitar instrumental ballads are a thing unto themselves.  She creates a powerful presence on “Here With You” with layers of guitars working together.

“The Stillness at the End” is a an examination of one of Nita’s techniques: densely layered guitars in harmony.  Here she mostly forgoes speed in favour of building up the melodies.  Keyboards are used sparingly, such as the intro to “The Quest” which goes full Yngwie in dragon-hunting mode.  But ballads like “Hope Grows” might give us a better look at Nita’s inner workings.  The sparse arrangement lets you really hear the feeling in her playing.  She has an excellent sense of composition, knowing exactly when to throw on some emphasis.  Indeed, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the ballads are the best tracks.

“Lion Among Wolves”, “Pandemonium 2.0” and “The Show Must Go On” all have their own guitar thrills to enjoy.  “Pandemonium” stands out due to an excellent outro guitar melody.  And if you’re wondering, “Hey, is ‘The Show Must Go On'” the old Queen song?  Indeed it is, featuring Nita sharing the stage with a cello (Tina Guo).  Great choice on which to end the album.  The cello solo is freaky.

Controlled Chaos is a good debut.  The drums are a sonic stumbling block.  As far as playing, composition and entertainment, Nita delivers the goods.  The songs could use a little more variety to give them album some texture, but there is plenty of room for Strauss to grow as her career is just going to get bigger.

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits (1974)

ALICE COOPER – Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits (1974 Warner)

Picture this:  a kid, just turned 17.  An older uncle named Don Don.  Recording tapes off each other in the summertime.  I didn’t know much of Alice Cooper.  “Teenage Frankenstein”, “The Man Behind the Mask”, and “I Got A Line On You” were the songs I knew best.  I heard a bit of a live version of “I’m Eighteen”, and a Krokus cover of “School’s Out”.  That’s all I knew.  But my uncle had Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits in his tape collection, and I had a blank tape.

I recorded Greatest Hits on one side of a 90 minute cassette.  (Eventually I taped Trash on the other side.)  My impressions at that young age were mixed.  The music sounded old fashioned.  Not at all like his 80s stuff.  While some songs (“Desperado”) flat out lost me, after a couple listens, other tunes started to jump out.

Some of the elements that appealed to me were the lyrics.  “She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice, I said ‘listen baby, you really wouldn’t understand.'” (“Be My Lover”.)  “The Reverend Smith he recognized me and punched me in the nose.”  (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”.)   Of course, “Elected” too — that goes without saying.  Simple, comedic and effective lyrics.

The huge orchestration behind “Hello Hooray” hit me where it counts too.  I grew up on soundtracks and orchestras, so anytime a band used a big bombastic arrangement like that in rock song, it immediately appealed to me.  Even then I was aware of Bob Ezrin from his work with Kiss.

My favourite song on the whole thing was “Teenage Lament ’74”.  What is it about that song?  The old-fashioned jangly rock and roll?  The unforgettable “What are you gonna do?” chorus?  Although it’s fallen by the wayside since, “Teenage Lament” is still an Alice Cooper triumph of triumphs.  On the cassette version, it had a place of honour — second song, side one, right after “I’m Eighteen”.  I couldn’t figure out all the words but I got the jist.  I still love what I perceive to be its old-fashioned sound.  Alice Cooper didn’t need to be heavy to be awesome.  I was learning this.  None of Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits would be considered “heavy” by the standards of the time when I first heard it (1989).

“Is It My Body”, “Under My Wheels”, and “Billion Dollar Babies” were the next songs to slowly reveal themselves to me.  “Muscle of Love” and “Desperado” were the last ones to enter into this new Alice love affair.  Before long, they were all memorized.  Then it was time to start collecting the albums!  Billion Dollar Babies seemed like a wise choice, since I liked so many of its songs on Greatest Hits.  And that’s how a greatest hits album is supposed to work.  It is meant to whet the appetite and make you want more.

Today Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits has been supplanted by more recent, more complete greatest hits discs, remastered for the modern age.  That’s fine and well, but Greatest Hits works better as a first Alice.  The track order, the more concise running time (41 minutes), and of course the classic cover art made this something special.  It’s historic as it was the very last product released by the original Alice Cooper group before Vincent Furnier went solo.  Also worth noting:  all tracks were remixed by Jack Richardson, but you probably won’t even notice.  Completionists, pay attention.

Want an awesome first experience with Alice Cooper?  Follow my lead and check out Greatest Hits.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – El Paso County Coliseum – The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980

ALICE COOPER – El Paso County Coliseum: The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980 (2016 Zip City)

At 80:33, the Alice Cooper Texas Broadcast CD release by Zip City is additional proof that you can indeed squeeze more than 80 minutes onto a CD!  The Flush the Fashion tour presented a whole slew of tracks that were rarely if ever played again.  Broadcasts of tours such as this are more than just curiosities to fans who already have all the official live releases.

An instrumental snippet of “Elected” precedes opening number “Grim Facts” from the current album.  It’s not the most outstanding song from an uneven album, but it does have a nice choppy guitar riff and solo.  Then it’s the familiar, slinky bassline that opens “Go to Hell“.  Alice’s vocal is a little erratic but of course you have to remember he’s moving around on stage, playing a part while trying to sing.  The audio is close to official live album quality, with very little excess noise.  From the same album, “Guilty” is a treat.  It’s one of the increasingly fewer rock-and-rollers that Cooper recorded after the original band split.  Alice can’t quite hit the note from the chorus hook, but that’s live music for you.  Better than an overdub recorded six months later in a little studio in another state.

Flush the Fashion boasted some really excellent tunes among the filler, and “Pain” is one of them.  Live it doesn’t punch as hard, but Alice delivers a passionate vocal.  “Talk Talk” is one of the new Alice tunes that took him into a Cars-like New Wave direction.  Filler for some, treasure for others.  Not as good as “Pain” for certain.

The first seriously classic dinosaur oldies rolled out are “I’m Eighteen” and, oddly enough, “Gutter Cat Vs. the Jets”.  Pouring on the melodrama, “Eighteen” is one for the record books, a top-notch version better than some of the official ones.  “Gutter Cat”, though?  What an odd one to pull out of the hat, and as soon as that bouncy bassline and quirky keyboard drop, we’re jumping up and down.  The arrangement’s been slightly modified from the School’s Out original but we’re just glad to hear it.

The set bounces back between old and brand new, and up next:  “Clones”, probably the undisputed best of the new Alice tunes and the only one that could be considered a hit.  Screams fill the air as soon as that synth riff hits.  A tight, feedback-laden version is rolled out in under three minutes.  Then it’s a bit of filler (“Nuclear Infected”) before they revert back to the oldies with “Billion Dollar Babies”/”I Love the Dead”.  Some blistering guitar work on “Billion Dollar Babies” would have you thinking this version was from a far earlier vintage.  Slicker than a weasel indeed!

Alice takes a break while the band do a long jam to some riffs from Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.  When Alice returns it is with an excellent rock & roll version of “Dance Yourself to Death”, far better than the Flush the Fashion original.  One dig at John Travolta snuck in, and from this point forward the Alice Cooper show is all about the classics.  The unmistakable “Only Women Bleed” provides a musical respite with understated drama.  Back to the rock with “Road Rats” from 1977 (OK, not that old by contemporary standards, but definitely of an earlier era).  The ode to roadies is seldom played but shouldn’t be.

“Sick Things”, “Is It My Body”, “Black Widow”, “Elected” and “School’s Out” are the final five, and yes that means Alice neglected a few hits.  There was no “Hello Hooray” nor “Welcome to My Nightmare”.  It doesn’t seem like anybody would have gone home dissatisfied.

The sound quality changes and improves partway through this CD, and a look at the actual setlist for this show reveals why.  Alice played “I Never Cry” that day between “Pain” and “Talk Talk”, and didn’t play “I’m Eighteen” until closer to the end.  He also apparently opened with “Model Citizen”, absent here.  He didn’t play “Billion Dollar Babies” or “I Love the Dead” at that show, but here they are.  That means this CD is not a single complete gig, but has been edited together from additional sources.

Given the rarity of most of the these tracks (many of these were the first time they were ever played live), buying this CD is a slam dunk win for any serious fan.  For the casual, you will hear a slew of well recorded Cooper classics and plenty of songs you won’t know but may end up loving.  It’s like a win-win.  Shame it’s not a full single show, but it’ll have to do for now.

3.5/5 stars

Rest in Peace Uncle Don Don

My Uncle Don was the only rock n’ roller in the family.  When we were kids, we called him “Uncle Don Don”.  Our cousin Geoff already had an Uncle Don (my dad), so my mom’s brother became Uncle Don Don.  It’s just much simpler for kids if everybody has a different name.

Uncle Don had curly, flaming red hair.  Those Scottish roots.  In the old days he wore it long.  Come summer, he’d be at the cottage in nothing but a pair of old cutoff jean shorts.  Whether he was playing badminton with us, or just drinking a beer with the adults, he was always there with the jean shorts.

I can reveal now that it was Uncle Don who inspired a portion of Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

“Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these ‘little known facts’ would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, ‘Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.'”

Uncle Don was the very uncle who told me that Helix were once a country band.  That was him.  No shirt, football and that moustache!  Flaming red.  And jean shorts.

As I got older and into classic rock, we started to connect a little bit.  We were closer in the late 80s and early 90s.  He used to come over to the house and borrow tapes off me so he could record them.  He liked my Zeppelin and my Deep Purple.  From him, I recorded Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits — my very first Alice.  That happened in the summer of 1989, and I had no idea what to expect from Alice.  I also have a fond memory of us hanging out at the beach one afternoon, just the two of us.  It was a wavy day in August 1992.  I wonder if he wore the jean shorts that day too?

As the years passed, Uncle Don became more reclusive.  I had not seen him in many months.  He was not well.  Cancer was slowly starting to take him.  He knew he was going, and he knew he didn’t have many days left.  At least we had time to prepare.  My mom and aunt, and especially my grandmother, will miss him very much.  Uncle Don was the “baby of the family”, born much later than his two older sisters.  In many ways he had to live with being the “baby of the family” for his whole life.

Uncle Don passed away this afternoon at Freeport hospital in Kitchener.  As a family, we are all relieved that he is no longer in pain.  It is going to take time to process these feelings.  I worry about my grandmother, who still lived with him.  She is 95.  I spoke to her just yesterday.  She is prepared to go on without him, but I worry all the same.

There was nobody else in the family with long hair, listening to Alice Cooper.  It was nice having somebody else with the same tastes.  I thought a bit about what song he would have liked for this post.  I thought about “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, but I think I need a song for me this time. From Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, it’s “Teenage Lament ’74”.  The song that jumped out at me immediately as something really special.  The song I played over and over again, trying to figure out the words.  The song that just inexplicably connected with me.  I thought it was neat that I was going into my teens, listening to the music he listened to in his teens.  I started collecting Alice Cooper immediately.  Trash was next, followed by Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare.  Thanks for introducing me to Alice Cooper, Uncle Don.  You changed a life.  I will never forget you.

 

What a drag it is,
In these gold lame jeans.
Is this the coolest way,
To get though your teens?
Well I cut my hair weird,
I read that it was in.
I look like a rooster,
That was drowned and raised again.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
I’m going to leave today.

I ran into my room,
And I fell down on my knees,
Well I thought that fifteen,
Was going to be a breeze.
I picked up my guitar,
To blast away the clouds,
Somebody in the next room yelled,
You got to turn that damn thing down.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
Well I’m going to cry all day.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” (2020 iTunes)

ALICE COOPER – “Don’t Give Up” (2020 iTunes)

Thank God for Alice Cooper! 50 years ago, he was considered by the mainstream to be nothing more than an untalented shock rocker. In 2020, he is inspiring people to keep on keepin’ on. He’s got a powerful message for anyone who needs to hear it.

“Don’t Give Up” is the most direct, the most topical and the least “Alice” song that the Coop has ever done. Why the “least” Alice? Because this time he is not playing a character. He’s not telling some horrifying bedtime story. Or is he? “Don’t Give Up” is about Coronavirus and blatantly so.

“Yeah, I know you’re struggling right now. We all are, in different ways. It’s like a new world that we don’t even know. It’s hard to sleep, even harder to dream. But look, you got seven billion brothers and sisters all in the same boat! So don’t panic. Life has a way of surviving and going on and on. We’re not fragile and we sure don’t break easy.”

This single was recorded in home studios.  It’s accompanied by a cool video expertly produced by Canuck Frank Gryner, using footage sent in by fans.  It is so rare for Alice to really make a statement that pertains to current events.  And it is a very specific song; there are no underlying stories or metaphors to untangle.  But when you think about Coop, it’s not really surprising that he came out of the gates so fast with a song like this.  Alice Cooper is a human being that cares about other human beings.  The message is simple:  keep fighting and don’t give up.  Sometimes people need to actually hear the words.

Musically you could call “Don’t Give Up” a power ballad.  It has a very 80’s guitar figure, with Alice speaking his message over it.  The chorus is more modern, with Alice singing as plaintively as he can.  “Don’t Give Up” is unremarkable as a rock ballad, but as a lyrical accomplishment, Alice has forged new ground 50 years on.  He has written some remarkably powerful words.

“Our enemy is a cold, indiscriminate monster.  It doesn’t care if you’re old or a newborn.  It exists to kill.  You and I are nothing to it.  It has no heart or soul or conscience.  Do we fear it? Yeah! Do we cower before it? Hell no! We’re the blood-n-guts human race. And we win.”

The important thing that Alice says here is that it is alright to be afraid.  Look, Alice has fought demons, and if this scares him then there is no shame in feeling fear.  People are being labelled as cowards for wearing a mask in public.   Alice is right — we will win, and we will do whatever it takes to win.  If you’re scared right now, you tell ’em that Alice Cooper said that’s OK.

3.5/5 stars

 

#816: Escape

GETTING MORE TALE #816: Escape

 

Depression is a bugger.   I’m a fighter but even a fighter can’t keep it up all the time.  We all have our struggles.  Mine are usually against myself.

Can’t write.  No words.  No interest in words.  No fresh ideas.  Nothing worth putting down on paper.

So much to do.  No energy to do any of it.

Talked to someone for a bit.  Felt better for a bit.  Wrote something for a bit.  But it was temporary at best.

The couch called.  And them something interesting happened.  I ran across a Youtube video.

“I could use this bit for the Sausagefest countdown this summer,” I thought.  It’s usually best to get the idea down right away before I forget it.

I went to my work station, downloaded some audio clips, recorded some dialogue and started editing.  Had something to eat.  Came back to it.  Tinkered and tweaked.  Listened back.  It’s good; it’s funny.  It just needs some more originality.  Went back at it the next morning and finished it to my satisfaction.  Then I started work on the next one.

In my mind, it was already July.  I closed my eyes and imagined my fellow Festers’ reactions to the bits I was recording.  I was blissfully unaware of the snow coming down outside.  There was no slush on my sidewalks.  Just sun and Sausagefest.  Eyes closed, I pictured the scene.  When are they laughing?  When is the bit dragging?  Tweak and tinker some more.

I managed to escape, if only for a little while.

Escaping to the summer.  To the happy place.  Not just escaping though, but also working on making the 2020 event happen.  An escape, but a productive escape at least.

Paint on my cruel or happy face,
I hide me behind it,
It takes me inside another place,
Where no one can find it.

Escape, I get out when I can,
I escape anytime I can,
It’s all escape, I’m crying in my beer,
Come on, let’s escape, just get me out of here.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t get me right,
I’m not like you are,
When I get home from work at night,
I’m blacker and bluer.

So I escape, I get out when I can,
I escape anytime I can,
It’s all escape, I’m crying in my beer,
Escape, just get me out of here.

But where am I running to?
There’s no place to go.
Just put on my make-up,
And get me to the show, yeah, escape.
Yeah, what are you waiting for?

My doctor said, just come around,
And you’ll be taken care of,
And while he ran my problems down,
I stole his mascara.

That’s how I escape, I get out when I can,
I escape anyway I can,
I escape, I’m crying in my beer,
Let’s escape, just get me out of here,
Escape, let’s get out while we can,
It’s escape, anyway we can,
Come on, let’s escape,
Nobody wants us around here anyway.