ALICE COOPER’S ’80S ALBUMS REISSUED ON COLLECTORS’ CHOICE
December 9, 2009
Final three Warner Bros. albums — Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and Dada — released at the inception of punk and new wave
As Alice Cooper entered the 1980s, the emergence of punk (which in turn owned a debt to him) revitalized his sound and material, steering him away from the overblown albums of the late ’70s and back into the raw, nasty rock ‘n’ roll which, along with his gothic-horror stage show, brought him his initial fame and fortune. On January 12, 2009, Collectors’ Choice will put three oft-overlooked albums in Alice’s catalog — Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and Dada — back in print. Catalog of Cool author, Luxuria Music DJ and musicologist Gene Sculatti wrote the liner notes for the reissues.
Alice Cooper, of course, originated as a band fronted by Vincent Furnier, who himself became known as Alice Cooper. With a debut album released on Frank Zappa’s Straight Records label (Pretties for You) in 1969, the band soon broke into the mainstream with hits like “Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” on albums like Love It to Death, Killer, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies and Muscle of Love. By the mid-’70s, Alice (the singer) and the band had parted ways. Alice the singer continued to release albums, abetted by musicians from Lou Reed’s band including guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, with Wagner remaining a creative partner on into the ’80s.
Alice Cooper’s hard-edged rock help set the stage for the late ’70s punk movement. And in turn the punk movement proved influential on Cooper, whose ’80s albums reflect that ethos, returning to the basics of rock ‘n’ roll from his more theatrical forays in the mid- ’70s.
– Special Forces: Cooper’s 15th album, released in 1981, alludes to the artist’s guns-and- ammo fixation at the time. Punk and its cousin new wave were urgent, stripped down, sped up, unsentimental forms and Cooper responded admirably to the challenge. Appropriately, the album contains a cover of Arthur Lee & Love’s “7 And 7 Is,” plus a hard ‘ n’ fast live reprise of “Generation Landslide” from the Billion Dollar Babies album. Included are “Vicious Rumors” with its buzzsaw guitar, and the new wave-ish “You’re a Movie,” which namechecks Hannibal, Alexander the Great and General Patton. In addition to guns and warfare, the album’s other theme is Cooper’s fandom of Count Floyd, the cheesy host of Monster Chiller Horror Theater on SCTV in the early ’80s, best represented here by “Skeleton in the Closet,” with minor key harpsichord. “Prettiest Cop on the Block” was co-written with former Elton John bandmate Davey Johnston, and the DEVO-tinged “You Want It, You Got It,” co-written by Eric Kaz. Finally, the album contains a bonus track, “Look at You Over There, Ripping the Sawdust from My Teddybear,” not included on the original vinyl configuration.
– Zipper Catches Skin: The title’s enough to make you wince (especially if you’re a guy) and that brand of humor permeates this 1982 album which ranks as one of the most ambitious (and funniest) of Cooper’s career. Continuing to refocus on sharp-edged guitar rock, he does so here in an early-’80s big production mode. The album includes the new- wavey “I Like Girls,” the relentless “Remarkably Insincere,” and the Knack-meets-AC/DC- esque “Adaptable (Anything for You).” Dick Wagner, known for his work with Lou Reed and various “solo” Alice Cooper albums, co-wrote “No Baloney Homosapiens” and “Make That Money (Scrooge’s Song).” The reissue contains the bonus track “For Britain Only,” which first appeared on the Rhino Records anthology The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper.
– Dada: For Cooper’s 14th album and final effort for Warner Bros. Records, producer Bob Ezrin — who’d helmed every Alice Cooper long player from Love It to Death through 1977’s live Alice Cooper Show — was back on board as was guitarist Dick Wagner. Whether credited to their time apart or simply the luck of the draw, this 1983 release was a musical if not commercial success. The third key player on Dada was Graham Shaw, who programmed keyboards and percussion (the sleeve credits noting that “the drums are not drums but computer drums embellished with some live drumming”). “Enough’s Enough” utilizes a disjointed pop structure channeling elements of the Beach Boys and Queen, while Cooper’s delivery in “Dyslexia” recalls the jerky rhythms of the Talking Heads. Dada’s longest (seven minutes) track, “Fresh Blood,” finds Cooper procuring a “sanguinary feast” for his pet vampire.
Dada represented a conclusion and a fresh start for Cooper as the artist retired from music for three years. He re-emerged in 1986 with successful MCA Records debut album Constrictor, flanked again by Ezrin and Hunter.