Review Summary: A pure, classic rock and roll extravaganza that was far ahead of its timeLepreCon Presents: Rock Legends
Legend In Focus: Alice Cooper
Part Eight: It's Your Fucking Nightmare!!!
In 1974, the talented Alice Cooper band decided to call it a day, citing personal and creative differences as the reason for their fragmentation. This was, for the most part, true as singer Vincent Furnier wanted to make their extravagant stage show, for which they had become so famous, even more unorthodox, whereas the rest of the band wanted to focus more on the music that had given them their artistic credibility. When the other members began new projects, Furnier decided to do likewise and continued the name Alice Cooper, adopting it as his own although for all intents and purposes this was now Vincent Furnier gone solo. Teamed up once again with the legendary producer Bob Ezrin, Furnier brought along a plethora of musicians, including the backing band of former-Velvet Underground vocalist Lou Reed, to come along and give him a hand with his most ambitious project yet, the result of which being the 1975 classic, Welcome To My Nightmare
The Welcome To My Nightmare Lineup Was:
Vincent Damon Furnier AKA ‘Alice Cooper’- Vocals
Dick Wagner, Steve Hunter & Gerry Yons- Guitars
Prakash John & Tony Levin- Bass guitars
Whitey Glan & Bee Badanjek- Drums
Bob Ezrin & Josef Chirowski- Sythesisers, Keyboards
Welcome To My Nightmare
was the first solo outing for Vincent Furnier, now going by the Alice Cooper moniker himself, but in many ways it was not altogether dissimilar to records already released by the Alice Cooper band like School’s Out
and Billion Dollar Babies
of just a few short years before. Before becoming a hard rock band, Alice Cooper began as a trippy psychedelic act with a highly unorthodox stage show that released two critical commercial flops of albums before taking on a variety of new influences and putting out a string of interesting, technical and often theatrical records that set them apart from their contemporaries, each one a brave step into deeper musical waters. However, Welcome To My Nightmare
is not a huge step forward at all. What we have here is more a refinement of what made the classic Alice Cooper band’s albums so deep and unique. It’s all here: attitude, eeriness, technicality and twisted humour, all brought together into one hell of a rock and roll extravaganza. The winning production skills of Bob Ezrin are once again utilised to their fullest, never sacrificing the raw rocking appeal in favour of a squeaky clean sound.
As well as being without his former band, Cooper’s new project was made all the more ambitious by the fact that it was a concept album, something that the band had touched on in the past by revolving albums such as School’s Out
around the themes of rebellion and social anarchy, but never quite making the songs follow a particular storyline. Welcome To My Nightmare
is exactly what it says on the cover, a journey through a string of nightmarish situations in the mind of a child-turned-serial killer by the name of Steven. For the majority of the album, the listener sees things from Steven’s viewpoint, not learning the name of the character they are inhabiting until much later on, when the viewpoint changes to a more external perspective as they realise perhaps the whole experience is not as much a dream as they initially believed.
The album’s title track starts off simply as a predominantly bass-led number, much akin to later Doors’ material, with Furnier greeting the listener in a Jim Morrison-esque baritone, possibly in tribute to his late friend and Doors frontman. However, halfway in, the music explodes into an art rock song much in the vein of classic David Bowie, only with Furnier adopting his signature snarl that no doubt influenced the vocal style of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, amongst others. The dominance of brass and synthesisers gives way to a cracking guitar solo, pulled off with as much gusto as heard on any Alice Cooper album beforehand.
The theme of prostitution is visited on Devil’s Food
, ended by a monologue by Vincent Price (who we would later hear on a certain title track of the best-selling pop album of all time…), acting as a tour guide discussing the highly potent venom of the Black Widow spider, descending into insanity which leads into the following track, fittingly titled Black Widow
, suggesting we bow down to a mass killer/rapist known as the ‘Black Widow’.
is very sleazy and cabaret in style, a brief departure from the rock workings of the album thus far, narrating the vile urges of mankind and the hit ballad Only Women Bleed
visits upon the theme of spousal abuse, no doubt brought on by an experience of Steven’s youth. We see exactly how messed-up this child’s mind is when we get to Cold Ethyl
, a story of a man who shares a necrophilic relationship with a woman he keeps in his freezer. It is this twisted sense of humour that would come to dominate many Cooper records to come, and would be as much a source of controversy as his purposefully offensive stage shows.
Towards the end of the record, Steven ‘wakes up’ and realises that he has committed murder. Although he is captured and incarcerated, he breaks free as documented in the album’s closing track Escape
, and it is left up to the imagination of the listener what sort of madness and debauchery Steven gets up to from then on. Although this is the only concept album of Cooper’s revolving around the Steven character, the story is paradoxically left open-ended despite being rounded off very well. This could be an indication, despite the fact that the album is over 30 years old, that the character of Steven may be revisited in the future, given that he has in fact been referenced in several albums since.
Like the Alice Cooper band albums before, Welcome To My Nightmare
was a very innovative and complex album far ahead of its time, when the musically simple and lyrically obnoxious punk movement was gaining massive popularity. Despite this, Cooper managed to keep himself in the public eye, no doubt because of his hugely theatrical and morbidly offensive stage act inspired by the storyline of this album that made up the tour that supported the record. It was clear from here on out that Alice Cooper was out to warp the face of rock as he saw fit, proving hugely influential to later acts in rock and metal but also staying relevant, even if that meant changing styles briefly. However, as it stands, Welcome To My Nightmare
is Alice Cooper’s finest and most focused album, quite an achievement given that it was his first, and certainly rivals Billion Dollar Babies
for the title of best record under the name of Alice Cooper. An absolutely essential record for all rock and metal fans, Welcome To My Nightmare
has stood the test of time very well and remains a classic rock and roll journey.
To Be Continued In Part Nine: Alice Cooper Goes To Hell...