Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW! SNAKES! GUILLOTINES! ELECTRIC CHAIRS! (MY ADVENTURES IN THE ALICE COOPER GROUP) by Dennis Dunaway and Chris Hodenfield (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2015)

Is 2015 thee year of Alice Cooper what with me getting hold of that boffo OLD SCHOOL Cee-Dee comp and this steaming autobio written by the group's bass guitarist and star in his one right Dennis Dunaway? Maybe so, and even though Alice has been milking his long gone fame for all it's worth these past fortysome years and the rest of the band has unfortunately fizzed away into the cheap motel room club circuit they sprang from, Alice and company have always received perennial play here at the BLOG TO COMM orifices!

And with good reason too. As I have said before somewhere the Alice Cooper group never should have made it as big as they did because hey, Ameriga just wasn't cozying up to hard rock freakshows during the early-seventies reign of Cat and James T hisself! They were the kinda guys who you think woulda been moving from city to city trying to eke out a living while leaving maybe one self-produced single behind, a band to have been forgotten about until some anal-retentive stroon like myself read about 'em in some crinkled rockmag and began writing 'em up as if they were some grand missing link in the birth and development of Third Generation Rock! Naturally most of you readers would think I was yanking your chain with all of this over-the-top hype that I was dishing at'cha, but as usual you would all realize just how right I was in the first place!

But Alice Cooper made it and HUMONGOUS-like too, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that these ozobs were part of that same late-sixties/early-seventies hub of rock activity that gave us the likes of the Velvets 'n Stooges 'n Flamin' Groovies 'n Deviants that had many a suburban slob crawling through the flea markets of the tri-state area trying to find a forgotten bargain and for mere pennies at that! Yes, without Alice doing "Eighteen" would we have had Rocket From the Tombs' "So Cold", or without "Yeah Yeah Yeah" the entire Electric Eels output? I should say not, and in fact I could go out on a limb'n say that if there ne'er were Alice Cooper YOU dear reader would undoubtedly be listening to Vicki Carr right now you sudzy low-class rented apartment chain-smoking beer sotted excuse for a welfare recipient you!

Dunaway's telling of the Cooper tale is snat smart---something us fans woulda loved to've read during the group's heyday only it's safe to spill the beans now because hey, in 2015 what is shocking? Not that there are that many sordid sagas to spill, and a good portion of 'em have been brought up in earlier books and interviews and such. But let's just say that SNAKES!... reinforces everything we know and presents it in a nice li'l package that's a breeze to read if you're in one of those Sunday afternoon plop yourself down 'n do nothing moods like I'm always in.

A lotta the sagas/fables etc. are reinforced, others are clarified. The Max's Kansas City story we've all heard where Alice got arrested on-stage for saying "tits" turns out to be him getting scolded by club owner Mickey Ruskin for allegedly saying the naughty word. The Alice's Cookies idea that Frank Zappa had  where their first album would consist of a bunch of singles (one source said those hip pocket flexi discs they used to sell) stored in a can was indeed true, though Zappa's manager Herb Cohen nixed that one for cost reasons. The time Pink Floyd stayed with the Nazz at their Los Angeles abode is also brought up (and yeah, Syd was the crazy diamond even then!) as was the one where Alice threw the chicken into the audience and had the ASPCA picketing him show to show. Even the way the group got the "Alice Cooper" name via the spirit of a doomed Salem witch via Ouija Board is debunked!  It's true that most of the facts presented are things we've already known and digested, but the way Dunaway embellishes everything you don't mind reading about it once more because he seems like an even more real kinda guy than you ever did!

But it is a great read, esp.  if you (like me) are of the opinion that the real second generation of rock began in the mid-sixties with the mop top rock explosion and lasted until around 1981 when the high energy bulldozer of music petered out thanks to the failure of underground rock to make notable inroads into teenage Amerigan desires. Beginning with the garage band days of the Earwigs/Spiders, the typical mid-sixties teenage stories that are presented remind me of when """""I"""""  was living back then as a mere turdler thinking that those teenage kids I saw were sure having fun and boy couldn't I wait to grow up! Those early singles do attest to the garage band roots Alice Cooper retained throughout their run and the stories that Dunaway tells are just as true to the real spirit of mid-sixties teenbo Amerigan suburban slob living as those Greg Shaw reminiscences and Jay Kinney cartoons would lead you to believe.

Of course the days of stardom are what really'll get you all glowing inside, from the early years when Zappa was first all rah-rah over these guys before quickly losing interest to the appearance of Bob Ezrin who the group met at the Max's gig (he thought the song "I'm Eighteen" was really "I'm Edgy"!) to the big albums and megastardom and maybe not-so eventual big fall when MUSCLE OF LOVE came out and barely got a yawn. It's all here, and if you were the kinda kid who thought that Alice along with T. Rex and the Raspberries were the best thing to happen to your early-seventies AM radio boy will you guys really eat this 'un up like a long-forgotten box of Kellogg's Space Food Sticks. As for you gals, after giving this one your eyeballs you might even be tempted to put up a poster of a unicorn flying over a rainbow in your bedroom, right next to the David Cassidy one that is.

Yeah it was co-written with ROLLING STONE's Chris Hodenfield (never a top-ranking rock scribe in any book I've come across) but since the guy helped break Cooper with an early STONE exclusive  he was obviously best suited for this job. It was a cut and paste from Dunaway's own words anyway, and besides Lester Bangs is long gone, Richard Meltzer never was a fan and maybe they couldn't have gotten hold of Metal Mike Saunders for all I know!

But hey, it's a boffo read and one that kept me going through some rather boring times here on the BLOG TO COMM front. A must have for you early-seventies metallic mongers out there who are still able to rub your two brain cells together, and before I forget howzbout a big hefty thanks to Tom Gilmore for pitching a promo copy my way! Now that I've saved the XX amounts of bucks it would have taken to buy this I can spend it all on the necessities of life, like even more Alice items! As I've always said, it pays to be thrifty other'n when you're using other people's money!


Papa Jon said...

Did you ever check out “No More Mr Nice Guy: The Inside Story of the Alice Cooper Group” by Michael Bruce? That is a good one and came out at the same time as Zoot Horn Rollo’s book about being in the Magic Band (and both co-written with Billy James). Another good Alice book is Steve Demorest’s quickie drugstore/cash in paperback for Circus Mag publications right after Billion Dollar Babies came out. Some great photos and early AZ history stuff.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Check BLACK TO COMM #22 (the Alice issue) for my review of NO MORE MR. NICE GUY.