Cold Cold Coffin

I wrote Cold Cold Coffin in the tradition of dramatic theatrical rock. The story is about love, revenge, and possible misunderstandings between a wealthy husband (played by me) and his young wife (played by Calico Cooper). The film will be the length of the song, but it will be shot in a mini movie style rather than a music video style, therefore we're calling it Rock Cinema. The actual plot is full of surprises, so no spoilers, but I can say that it will take place in a real castle. 

The team chemistry for both the music and the film is as good as it gets. I urge you to help us make this happen by donating to our fundraising campaign, or simply by sharing this link as often as you can. - I'm very excited about this and hope we can make it happen.

Thanks - Dennis

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dennisdunaway/cold-cold-coffin-rock-cinema?ref=project_link

UK Day by Day: Behind the Scenes of the Alice Cooper Reunion Tour

 Photo by Jodie Cunningham

Photo by Jodie Cunningham

Exclusive UK Tour Diary by Dennis Dunaway.

Nov. 6 CONNECTICUT

Ian Hunter attends our rehearsal at Rick Tedesco’s studio in Connecticut. Michael, Neal and I run the set twice with Rick playing Glen Buxton’s parts. We include “Under My Wheels” in hopes that we can add that to our set, even though Alice’s touring band had said they needed it for their set. We rehearse while Ian listens. Afterward, he assures us that we are definitely ready, and Ian’s not one to pull any punches.

 

Nov. 8 NEW YORK TO LONDON

Cindy and I arrive at British Airways at JFK to an unexpected red carpet treatment arranged by a friend of Neal’s named Gregory. Alice Cooper management Toby Mamis calls. He’s also at JFK but his flight would soon depart from another terminal. Cindy and I have champagne and a great dinner before boarding our red eye flight to cross the pond. I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Paranormal album featured on the inflight entertainment.

 Cindy is excited. Photo by DD.

Cindy is excited. Photo by DD.

 

Nov. 9 LONDON

We land at Heathrow International in London and meet up with Toby. The conversation has no lulls as we talk about the success of the Paranormal album and the near capacity sales (so far) for the five upcoming UK shows. Toby has a long illustrious history in the music business, and he’s spewing colorful stories about Blondie, the Runaways, Suzi Quatro, and others as we all board our connecting flight to Leeds.

 

That night - Cindy and I walk through the town of Leeds, which is quaintly decorated for Christmas. There are lots of young people in the streets and plenty of active pubs. Yes, it’s a college town.

 

Nov. 10 LEEDS REHEARSAL

The tour bus picks us up at the hotel. We arrive at the arena and follow the arrows toward the dressing rooms. The excitement really hit’s home as we pass a large poster of The Who. Cindy and I stop to take photos of each other standing next to it. As we continue down the hallway, one by one, we run into the many familiar faces of Alice’s road crew.  The first dressing room has a sign that says Ryan, Tommy, Chuck and Glen. The next says Nita Strauss. They aren’t here. They’re out on the stage working out transitions for their shorter set – shorter because the original group will be playing hits that they would normally be playing. They still won’t give up “Under My Wheels” though.

 The Who. Photo by DD

The Who. Photo by DD

 

Continuing down the hall, we pass the sign that says Alice Cooper. Then we see a sign that says Neal, Michael and Dennis. We get warm welcomes from everyone involved in the tour. The common question is, Can I get you anything?

 

I carry my bass out to the stage, which is as active as a beehive, but the large arena is empty. Michael and Neal are setting up. More people ask if they can get us anything. Our requests are minimal. All we care about is preparing for the show. After a few technical adjustments, Neal, Michael, and I run through our set with Michael singing lead.  Our set will open with a big fanfare into “Eighteen” followed by “Billion Dollar Babies,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Muscle of Love” (with an extended guitar break) and then we will be joined by the YWs (I jokingly call them the Young Whippersnappers) for an all-hands-on-deck grand finale of “School’s Out.” Neal, Michael and I run through the whole shebang. When you play tight, stage volume adds a powerful stamp of validation, and we have a lot of wattage behind us. Ian Hunter was right – we’re ready.

 

Shep, Alice and Sheryl show up. Every face has a big smile. Michael and Ryan review some parts that they had previously sorted out at our surprise shows last May in Nashville. They say they’re ready, so Alice joins us and we run through the set again.

The original group feels at home. A massive stage with elaborate lighting and theatrical props is our invention. It’s what Alice Cooper brought to rock shows. And even though ticket prices far exceed the budget we had back in the glory days of $6.50 a pop, this show, even with it’s advanced technology, still has the same basic elements that we developed back when we first shook the back walls of venues like Madison Square Garden. Yes, a theatrical stage is still our stomping ground. Neal, Michael and I know the task at hand and we’re focused on kicking ass.

Alice has us try the songs in a different order, but Neal explains that, even though we’ll be doing a mini-set, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Muscle of Love” are physical marathons and have to be separated. After trying every other variation, Alice realizes that our original order is the best.

Alice likes to come out singing, and thinks our long intro for “Eighteen” isn’t ideal for that. I say, wait until we finish the long intro and then come out singing. Alice likes that idea.

Shep is concerned about the transition from the guillotine to the OGs' set (Alice calls us the OGs meaning the original guys). We wouldn’t have a curtain to stand behind like we had in Nashville, so now we would simply kill all the lights for the transition. That is fine but Shep’s concern is also about the musical transition. Both bands are brainstorming ideas until it strikes Chuck Garric that “I Love The Dead” ends on an E chord, which will also be the OGs' first chord, so we could all play that chord simultaneously in the dark and the amp inputs can be switched and then the OGs will take over with our big intro, and then the stage will light up with the first note of “Eighteen.” And with that final detail, everybody feels ready for the show, which will happen tomorrow night.

 

Nov. 11 LEEDS

The Tubes open the show. We’ve all been friends since our high school days in Phoenix. Neal was once in a band with their bassist Rick Anderson. And Prairie Prince and Michael Cotton (who was no longer with the band) had designed the original Billion Dollar Babies Tour poster – the beautiful pastel one with the group dancing across America in white tuxedos with gold coins and dripping blood at our feet. Who would have ever believed that two local bands from the same arid desert town would someday be touring the rainy UK together?

 The Arizona Invasion. Photo by Ross Halfin.

The Arizona Invasion. Photo by Ross Halfin.

 

Then the Mission starts playing. Even though I’m hearing their set through speakers in the backstage area while I’m recording an interview with Mick Burgess for Metal Express Radio, it’s easy to tell they have good songs and sound tight.

 

I retreat to the OGs' dressing room, grab my bass and start noodling around. Michael and I each have a small amp. Neal taps his sticks on a coffee table while Cindy hangs up tonight’s stage clothes. We joke around between songs. Nothing serious. Just having fun while easing into it.

 

Through the speakers, we hear Alice and the gang kick-off their set, so we know we have about 45 minutes to get ready.

 

After what seems like a long wait, we find ourselves standing behind the drum riser checking our tuning and feeling like horses in the starting gate. The giant Frankenstein Alice comes off stage and says hi. Its Kyler Clark who has maneuvered this challenging costume around so many times that it has become second nature for him.

 

A loud clunk of the guillotine followed by cheers. That’s our cue. The stage goes pitch dark. Nita and Tommy walk off stage playing the final riff of “I Love The Dead” which ends on the fanfare E chord. I start playing along, nod to them, and make my way out to Neal’s drum riser. Michael and Ryan are also playing the E chord as Neal climbs up to his drums and joins us playing the fanfare. Chord after chord, our dramatic intro builds until we hit “Eighteen” and there seems to be an explosion of stage lights and cheering. I walk out to the front of the stage. Soon after, Alice is beside me and the show is in full throttle.

 

It’s a wonderful feeling, being on stage in front of an appreciative crowd. The exchange of energy is tremendous.

 

 Cindy in The Pit. Photo by Andy Michael.

Cindy in The Pit. Photo by Andy Michael.

I look down into the Press Pit and see Cindy beaming.

 

Yes, we’re following the well oiled, and very talented, machine of Alice’s touring band, but England hasn’t seen us since we stormed Europe in 1972. The historic rarity gives us the edge. But what could top the YWs followed by the OGs? Both bands together for the finale!

 

And that combination of musicians is a blast. Their arrangement of “School’s Out” with a segment of “Another Brick In The Wall” and Alice introducing everyone is the perfect ending of the show. Thrilling really, and the final bows are heartwarming.

 

At the after-show meet and greet, Mick, the guy that I had done the interview with earlier, introduces me to his son and daughter. I ask them how old they are. Mick says they’re twins. He looks at the time on his phone and says, “In less than a minute, they will be 18.” I grab Michael and we sing “Eighteen” to them as they turn 18.

 Leeds. Photo by Mick Burgess whose twin kids turned 18 that night.

Leeds. Photo by Mick Burgess whose twin kids turned 18 that night.

 

And now this long overdue adventure is in full swing. We’re stepping onto a fancy bus for a four and a half hour drive to Glasgow.

 

Nov. 12 GLASGOW

There are 4 double decker buses on the tour. One bus is for Alice and Sheryl, half the YWs, and Shep Gordon. Our bus has Glen Sobel, Nita Strauss, road managers David Dividian and Toby Mamis, the OGs, and Cindy. There is also a bus for the hard working road crew and another one for the most amazing catering service imaginable.

 

Our bus looks like a slick disco with mirrored ceilings that we keep bumping our heads into. There’s an upstairs lounge area with a screen for movies, but you have to keep the volume low because it’s near the sleeping quarters. Even the lighting in the sleeping area suggests silence. Each curtained cubby is surprisingly comfortable for one person, so I choose a bunk directly above Cindy’s bunk. Here's a Tip for a Tour Bus - sleep with your feet heading down the road so a sudden stop won’t break your dumb-ass neck.

 Cozy sleeping quarters. Shhhh! Photo by Cindy Smith Dunaway.

Cozy sleeping quarters. Shhhh! Photo by Cindy Smith Dunaway.

 

If you hang out downstairs, you can be louder and you can enjoy a generous selection of sandwiches, fresh fruit, candy, and booze. These days the OGs are fairly conservative drinkers while Glen Sobel and Nita Strauss are more like regulars at the local health club. They seem to be very aware of touring longevity via healthy choices. In fact they razz Toby about there being too many bowls of tempting candy on this particular leg of the tour.

 

Toby gives us a choice; to be awoken at 6:30 a.m. to go to our hotel rooms, or to stay on the bus until the afternoon sound check. Nita says she prefers to stay on the bus. But the irony of a glamorous tour bus is that the bathroom strictly forbids anything non-liquid. So it will be the hotel for us!

 

I remember being in Glasgow in ’72. The band walked into a local pub and a fight broke out. But it wasn’t because of the way we looked. It was over a football-Soccer game. And after our concert, a rowdy crowd charged our limo. They were banging on the roof and rocking the limo back and forth with us inside. We couldn’t see out of the windows due to the total eclipse of crushing bodies.

 

But this is now. The band gathers in the hotel lobby while the bus idles outside ready to take us to the venue. Ryan, Tommy, Michael, and Shep are here. Then unexpectedly, I notice Little Steven Van Zandt in a far corner of the lobby. He’s on the phone but acknowledges me so I give him a thumbs-up. He soon comes over and I thank him for playing Paranormal on his Underground Garage show on Sirius XM. He says he plays it because it’s a great album. Shep invites him to our show but he says his band Little  Steven and the Disciples of Soul will be playing a gig tonight as well.

 

The SSE Hydro Arena is very wide as was the arena in Leeds (and the arena in Nashville for that matter).

 

We arrive at the venue and everyone follows the signs that point to catering. The selection of food isn’t just good it’s wonderful. I love the way the catering ladies say grrrravy with lots of r’s. Shep joins Cindy and I at our table. We talk about the food, the tour, the success of the Paranormal album, and we have quite a few laughs about the early days. And Cindy being Cindy, of course, busts his chops a bit about this reunion being so long overdue.

 

There will be no sound-check tonight, or for the rest of the tour, but the guy in charge of the stage monitors will be watching us for any needed tweaks. The sound on stage is a completely separate mix from the PA mix that the audience hears. Plus the OGs are using traditional floor monitors rather than in-ear monitors like the touring band has. Everything sounded pretty good at the show in Leeds, but I was having a hard time hearing Neal’s bass drums so the monitor guy says he will make Neal’s bass drums and snare louder in my floor monitor tonight.

 

Toby comes into our dressing room and says that Alice wants the OGs to stay on stage after the full cast bow so that we can take our own separate bow. And he says that Alice will mention Glen Buxton at that time rather than between songs like he had in Leeds.

 

And once again, we play a tight set. And from the front row all the way up to the nosebleed seats, the crowd has a powerful energy. We sail through the set, despite it still being hard for me to hear Neal. But it was close enough so I didn’t bother to signal the monitor guy.

 Rowdy crowd in Glasgow. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski   

Rowdy crowd in Glasgow. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski

 

 

Alice’s idea for the final bow works out great, and the mention of Glen Buxton gets a rousing reaction.

 

After a quick toweling off and a celebratory drink with Neal and Michael, we go out to meet fans, many of whom we’ve met in person before, and some we know through social media. They assure me that they could hear Neal’s drums loud and clear out front.

 

Soon after that, we’re back on the tour bus hanging out with Glen Sobel, Nita, Toby and David. Everyone is texting while the conversations flow. Cindy asks if I want my take-out container of food from the Grrrravy Ladies? And once again Nita asks why this tour has bowls of candy everywhere? She says its always tempting us, so we’ll eat it, and we don’t want to. Her tone is more like an ironic observation than a criticism.

 

This is a far cry from the Glory Days of Alice Cooper, when the quantity of beer was the only thing anybody cared about. But that was then, and this is now, and even though tomorrow will be a day off, professionalism is the priority for everyone on this tour.

 

Sleep. 6 hour drive.

 

13 November BIRMINGHAM

Wake up! it’s 6:30 a.m.! The disheveled looking rock zombies that are shuffling off the buses and into the hotel aren’t too tired to fire off a few squinty-eyed wisecracks.  This will be the only day off during the tour, so after catching a few more z’s, Cindy and I take in some sights around town, then return and prepare for my pre-arranged book signing event at Swordfish Records. Months ago, I had asked Omnibus Press if they could arrange some book signing events. We knew the tour schedule would be very tight but we managed to fit in this book event and a second one at Crypt of The Wizard records in London for the day after our show at Wembley.

 

By pure coincidence, tonight Blondie will be playing at the same venue that we’ll be playing tomorrow night. A few weeks ago, I had played at a Marc Bolan 40th Anniversary Show at the City Winery in New York City. The amazing lineup of musicians included Clem Burke of Blondie. So I texted Clem and he put Cindy and I on the guest list. And luckily, the Swordfish event was near the arena and was scheduled to end early enough for us to make the Blondie show.

 

Going by social media responses, the book signing promises to be a gathering of friendly faces. Fans have come from afar to see the original Alice Cooper reunited on stage. There is Ingo and Silli Geirdal of the amazing Icelandic band DIMMA, Chris Penn who had hosted the Alice Cooper group reunion in Dallas, Paul Brenton from Canada who had organized the Glen Buxton Memorial Weekends and raised fan donations for Glen’s Tombstone, Patrick Brzezinski who is an exceptional photographer from France, Lisa Torem and Phil Solomonson, who are a very cool writer and photographer from Chicago, and Andy Michael who is well known in Alice circles, just to name a few.

 

Cindy and I arrive at Swordfish extra early. Nobody’s there but the two owners! Oh no, I think. Too short of notice! Not enough promo! Nobody likes me and it’s all my fault!

We tell the owners we’ll be back soon, and we head around the corner for dinner. By the time we return, a crowd has gathered. Swordfish supplies drinks and there are lots of smiling faces. I sign books and collectibles and the record store is pleased with the turnout and the after-hour sales.

 At Swordfish Records with Dylan Hillerman of Portland, Oregon who does a show called Shock Opera about the Alice Cooper group with an all female cast. Yes, that's Chris Penn of Good Records in Dallas, Texas in the red jacket. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

At Swordfish Records with Dylan Hillerman of Portland, Oregon who does a show called Shock Opera about the Alice Cooper group with an all female cast. Yes, that's Chris Penn of Good Records in Dallas, Texas in the red jacket. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

 

Blondie is a New York band so Cindy and I feel at home at their show. The band is tight, they have lots of hits, and Clem is an exceptionally great drummer. Following the show, we go backstage and are very surprised to see their manager is an old friend, John Dubuque, who used to book The Flying Tigers for Neal and I in the 80’s.

 

Back at the hotel, Cindy and I find a secluded table in the bar and have drinks with some friends from various countries that are following the tour.

 

14 November Still BIRMINGHAM

So now it’s our turn to play the arena where, just last night, Cindy and I had been audience members.

 

As usual, I make the rounds to hang out in the other musician’s dressing rooms, respecting Nita and Sheryl’s privacy of course. The Tubes bassist, Rick Anderson, hangs out in our dressing room a lot. His quirky sense of humor keeps us laughing. For this tour, The Tubes are wearing white jumpsuits on stage, although Fee would change to play the Quay Lewd character. So Rick is wearing his white jumpsuit, but he’s also wearing a white chef’s hat. He says it was the only white hat he could find.

 

Toby introduces us to a photographer named Jodie Cunningham. He says she always gets great shots. Cindy confides in me that she is concerned about the extra high stage because Jodie is petite. Cindy decides she will guard Jodie against the rush of other photographers.

 Photo by Jodie Cunningham.

Photo by Jodie Cunningham.

 

So far, each night has felt like the tightest yet. And we are remembering how to avoid the dangers of a theatrical stage. For instance, after the show, people were asking me if the crutch was planned? What? I didn’t know what they meant. They said Alice had flung his metal crutch backwards into the giant toy box, and I had ducked just in the nick of time to avoid getting my head taken off. I assured them that I wouldn’t be standing behind Alice during “Eighteen” again.

 

We got to the tour bus and found a new driver. What happened? The substitute driver says the regular driver’s kidney had burst, and he is in hospital.

 

During the drive back to the hotel, I bring up the crutch incident, which triggers an exchange of war stories about the foibles of being on stage with the character called Alice. Tommy says Alice gets carried away sometimes. He held his hand up to the side of his face and says the dude poked me with the sword hard enough to draw blood. Nita says her very first time on stage with Alice included trying to play a guitar solo while Alice yanked her hair. We all agreed that any drawn blood or any scars was our badge of honor. I say, try doing the show in a feather storm while ducking projectiles from a hostile crowd. Tommy brings up our legendary show in Toledo with the M-80s and rioting.

 

The next town is fairly close so we spend the night at the hotel.

 

15 November MANCHESTER

We’re all enjoying a beautiful day drive through the English countryside. We see lots of cows and sheep.

Last night, Alice, Sheryl and Shep drove to London for a personal appearance at an event and will be meeting us back in Manchester.

 

The Manchester Arena was the site of the God-awful terror attack in May, and, now that six months have passed, it seems like business has gotten back to usual, but sad memories and caution still linger.

 

Neal and I are faithful to the parts that we hashed out many years ago, and whenever we vary anything, which is rare, we know what the other is going to play before it happens. We don’t even have to look, although, to be safe, Neal always gives obvious cues. The rest of us do as well. And of course Ryan gets all of that. Moving around the stage, sharing a mic without bashing into someone, kicking maracas out of the way, or dodging that crutch, while knowing which guy to look at for each cue, is the nature of the beast.

 Manchester. Photo by John Wood.

Manchester. Photo by John Wood.

 

We have a breakthrough for the monitor mix. We add Neal’s drums to the side monitors and, for the first time, I can hear him loud and clear. Now I really feel like we’re on a roll. And yet another exceptionally great night of theatrical rock.

 

Four and a half hours to London.

 

16 November WEMBLEY

 

Tommy, Ryan, Nita, Chuck, and Glen Sobel form a huddle in the backstage hallway, they each reach one hand into the center of the circle. Alice puts his sword across the top of their hands while Chuck calls out an energizing pep talk. They cheer and march off toward the stage. An older security guy is watching the hoopla. I tell him that our band just says its time to play, and we go to the stage.

 

Neal, Michael, and I are every bit as enthusiastic as they are, but we have to play it cool… like the Jets in West Side Story. For me, it has something to do with the late Glen Buxton being with us in spirit. Glen, who died of pneumonia in 1997, was our fiery rebellious guitar slinger, and he was too cool for school, as he liked to say.

 

Michael and I walk through the cold backstage area where the empty trucks wait for their after-show loading. We follow the flashlights up the dark ramp up to the stage and the loud excitement of the full arena. The crew is bustling about behind the giant curtain where the audience can’t see them, but they all take time to greet us, and they all ask if we need anything. These are the unsung heroes of this massive traveling operation.

The varying temperature messes with our metal strings, so Michael and I check our tuning while Neal has a chat with the drum tech. I know my bass isn’t “hot” so I can warm up by playing along with “Ballad of Dwight Fry” without being heard.

 

Even though Alice and the touring band have set the bar very high, when it comes to delivering a live show, nothing has changed, the OGs are wired to get out there and kick some ass, not so much to prove any points, but because it’s fun.

 

The guillotine blade slams down with a clunk.

 

The stage darkens and the final dirge of “I Love The Dead” begins. I carefully make my way across the dark path behind the drum risers, stepping over cables, lighting effects, and pyro pods until I reach the far side of the stage where I can barely see Sheryl marching past with her perfect dancer’s posture and the defiant sassy attitude that she’s developed for her crazy nurse character. She’s a real pro and the perfect wife for Alice. Nita and Tommy walk up next to me while concentrating on playing their guitar parts in the dark. I begin playing along with them and make my way out to the front of Neal’s drum riser. Ryan and I nod to each other and smile. Neal cues the intro, and once again, for the fifth and final show of the reunion tour, when “I’m Eighteen” starts, the stage lights explode into brightness and I walk out toward the spine tingling welcome of thousands of cheering fans.

Alice appears in his shiny gold snake print suit and sings, lines form on my face and hands, lines form from the ups and downs. I look down into the photographer’s pit directly in front of the stage and I see Cindy smiling and rockin’ out. It’s easy to see that she’s proud of all of us, especially her brother and me. It feels like all the planets in the universe are aligned.

 Alice with the dreaded crutch and Neal thundering through the stage monitors. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

Alice with the dreaded crutch and Neal thundering through the stage monitors. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

 

The chorus hits and I do my signature kick, even though it now has a distinct hint of me doing a parody of myself. The ole kick sure isn’t over my head like it used to be, certainly not nearly as high as Sheryl Cooper’s above the head kick. But my heart is still in it all the way.

 

I walk over to Michael’s side of the stage and Alice joins me to egg on Michael’s lead guitar break. I yell yeah, as Michael bobs his head up and down and smiles. His guitar tone cuts through the wall of stage volume like an ice pick.

 

We play another round so Ryan can take the lead. Everyone is doing his own specialized part, but it all has to work together as one. And when everything is cooking, add the bonus of crowd energy, and yes the planets are aligned.

 

After we milk the ending, and the audience is cheering, I look up at Neal, who I know is already watching to make sure that everyone is ready. Then he kicks into his iconic drum intro for “Billion Dollar Babies” which seems extra significant in front of the gigantic backdrop featuring the gold coin from the Billion Dollar Babies album cover, which Shep had contracted Ernie Cefalu of Pacific Eye and Ear fame to make specifically for this tour. Ernie oversaw the cover art for many iconic albums including Billion Dollar Babies.

 

But now I’m concentrating on my “Billion Dollar Babies” bass part that demands focus and energy. Never the less, things pop into my brain, like back in 1972 when I watched Alice and Donovan record their dual vocals on the same microphone at Morgan Studios outside of London. And again, I think about all of the years that have flown by where I’ve missed out on this experience. And how much music we’ve missed out on creating together. It’s a void that’s finally being filled with gratitude.

 

We’ve gotten to Neal’s drum break, which requires a precise count for my bass re-entry… and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom… nailed it, and were back into the blistering groove. Alice comes over to me and I smile, which is something I never would have done in our sinister stage image days. Alice stays in character though. But I know he’s genuinely having a blast.

 

I watch Neal for the ending, which requires a quivering bass slide on a round wound string that’s only properly executed when you smell burning flesh. Then we do a snap ending that we call, stronger than dirt - because the melody is reminiscent of an old TV jingle.

 The Platinum God. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

The Platinum God. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski.

 

Then Michael and Ryan come together in front of Neal’s drum riser and start playing “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” The crowd cheers. Alice had once asked Roger Daltry why he chose this song to sing on Humanary Stew: A Tribute To Alice Cooper. Roger told Alice that he could relate to it more than any other Alice Cooper song. Alice told him that it made sense because we copped the opening riff from “Substitute.”

 

And now this arena is filled with that same uplifting feel.

 

I walk across the stage and Alice is walking toward me with his white shirt covered in stage blood. He reaches out and grabs my shoulder. We do a tight spin around each other and continue on our way. This isn’t a rekindled friendship. We were the Ferris Bueller’s of Cortez High School, and nothing will ever change that.

 

Alice whips his cane up and down in time with the guitar riff. Then Neal does a thunderous drum fill, waits with his arms skyward, and then plays another big fill, which I follow with a slow bass slide. The song kicks in. As the chorus approaches, out of the corner of my eye, I look to see if Ryan is going to sing on the same mic like he had on previous nights. But he’s over near Neal so I can tell that he’s not planning to sing this time around. Michael is nailing the high notes so we have it covered.

I move to center stage and play a melody of high bass notes. Cindy is still rockin’ out in the photographer’s pit. She makes Alice Cooper songs seem easy to dance too.

 Cookin' up a storm at Wembley. Photo by Christopher Daniels.

Cookin' up a storm at Wembley. Photo by Christopher Daniels.

 

Cindy designed and made most of the stage clothes for the original Alice Cooper group. Her sparkly sequins and metallic fabrics inspired the glam era. Tonight I’m wearing a vivid red jacket that she designed. One side has black spider web lace with the red showing through, and several three-dimensional silver glittered spiders crawling up the lapel. And behind my right shoulder is a very large silver beaded spider.

 

And rays of light shoot across the arena whenever the spotlights catch the crystals and mirrors on my Billion Dollar Jazz Bass, which is a Fender Custom Shop exact replica of my original 1970 bass. I’m using RotoSound strings RS 66RD 35-105. The pickups are passive but they have an aggressive growl, especially through Chuck Garric’s amp, which is usually battling to hold it’s ground in the middle of three loud guitar player’s.

 Ray of light bouncing off the Billion Dollar Jazz Bass. Photo by Mark Bentley.

Ray of light bouncing off the Billion Dollar Jazz Bass. Photo by Mark Bentley.

 

Hearing Neal’s drums in the side monitors is energizing. He’s an amazing drummer and his parts are perfect for these songs. And like in the glory days, the name Alice Cooper is painted across one bass drum head, and on the other bass drum, it says Neal Smith.

I cross the stage to sing the last double chorus with Michael. We share the microphone with the casual confidence that comes from playing songs a billion times.

 

We start “Hello Hooray” but soon Michael and Ryan pull our surprise on the audience and jump right into the opening riff of “Muscle of Love.” We chose this song because Michael always sounds especially great on it. It’s another physically demanding song for Neal and I. I mean it just requires us to stick to the task without any drumstick twirling or high kicks.

Alice leans into me and points to the upper balcony. I respond by looking to where he’s pointing but I keep my mind on my bass parts. Everybody in the balcony sees him pointing and is waving at us. This is a standout moment. This whole thing began with an idea in our teenage heads, and here we were, 53 years later, looking at packed upper seats. Sure, Alice solo, with his world class musicians, has kept this all going year after year, but it’s still the high school kid’s concept of incorporating artistic ideas into a band, and the Alice Cooper group’s theatrical ideas and songs, that continues to make it work.

 

“Muscle of Love” drops into a guitar jam section. It’s got a Yardbirds style rhythm and therefore feels natural for all of us. Neal and I are locked in and things are cookin’. As always, Alice’s gestures make it obvious that he knows every variation in the arrangement. He is a master performer with a bigger than life charisma. He’s well aware of that, but he’s also one of those rare people that can talk to anyone in the world and make him or her feel like a friend.

The song has a strong ending that is like a rubber-stamp validation that it was played tight. That is providing it is played tight. And it was.

 

 With the great Chuck Garric. Photo by Cindy Smith Dunaway.

With the great Chuck Garric. Photo by Cindy Smith Dunaway.

Now for the show’s crème-de-la-crème! Chuck, Nita, Tommy, and Glen Sobel come back out as Glen Buxton’s iconic guitar riff of “School’s Out” fills the arena delivered by four guitar maestros. The stage lighting is over the top celebration feel. Giant balloons bounce out. Some go beyond the stage and get batted around by a sea of hands. Alice expertly wields his fencing sword and jabs the ill-fated ones that get too close and they burst in a puff of smoke and confetti. We’ve all been forewarned about where not to stand when the pyro goes off, some comes showering down in sheets of glowing embers, and others just go kablooie.

 Pullin' out all the stops. Be careful where you stand. Photo by Rock It Pool.

Pullin' out all the stops. Be careful where you stand. Photo by Rock It Pool.

 

The arrangement includes a section of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” which Bob Ezrin also produced, and which Bob also used kids to sing background on the studio recording.

Then we lower our volume while Alice introduces each musician. He starts stage right with his touring band. Their introductions are down pat from doing hundreds of shows. Then Alice doubles back and introduces the OGs. The cheers get louder as he introduces Michael as the songwriter, Neal as the Platinum God, and me as the surrealistic bass player. Nurse Sheryl marches out and mock-stabs Alice in the butt. He introduces her and she does a courtesy, a very high kick, then marches off stage with her sassy attitude. Then when Alice says, and playing the part of Alice Cooper, the musicians stop playing, and with only the sound of roaring approval, Alice says, ME. Then we all come back in playing the big ending.

 

The final bow includes all of the musicians. It’s fitting that we’re all together. They’re all nice people. Each and every one of them has gone out of their way to make this a very cool experience for us. We all take a few bows, and then they leave and the original Alice Cooper group take another bow. Alice says, this one’s for Glen Buxton and the crowd noise is overwhelming.

 Neal Smith, Ryan Roxie, Michael Bruce, Alice Cooper, Nita Strauss, Dennis Dunaway, Tommy Henriksen, Glen Sobel, and Chuck Garric is around somewhere. Photo by Jodie Cunningham.

Neal Smith, Ryan Roxie, Michael Bruce, Alice Cooper, Nita Strauss, Dennis Dunaway, Tommy Henriksen, Glen Sobel, and Chuck Garric is around somewhere. Photo by Jodie Cunningham.

 

Knowing this is our final night (after tonight, the tour will proceed without us), and not having heard anything definite about any future dates, causes a billion thoughts to fly through my head. How many emotions can you have at once? Roll every emotion into one and magnify it times ten. I guess I could just say, it’s been a blast!

Future shows depend on fans convincing promoters and management that they can make more money if we are included. But if this is our final show, I know that, because of the Alice Cooper group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and because of my book Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures In The Alice Cooper Group shedding light on the collaborative importance of our history, and because Neal and I have spent years of hard work behind the scenes to make this reunion happen, and because Bob Ezrin and Shep Gordon agreed… because of all of this, the original group has reclaimed our legacy.

 

 

 

 

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Eighteen Eighteen 1/8/18

Pretties for You reached #110 on the Billboard charts, but it’s quirky style hadn’t set the world on fire like we – Alice Cooper - had hoped, so we collectively decided to write songs in a more relatable style.

Easy Action was recorded in a hurry, and had signs of our new direction but hadn’t had proper time to fully blossom.

We had a notorious reputation through our association with Frank Zappa, and by word of the “Chicken Incident” at the Rock and Roll Revival in Toronto, but something was missing - a hit single.

By the time Bob Ezrin saw us at Max's Kansas City in New York, Michael had already spearheaded the development of songs including "Caught in a Dream," “Ballad of Dwight Fry” and "I'm Eighteen." Neal had written “Hallowed Be My Name” and I had written "Black Juju" as a vehicle for making the Alice character more relatable.

As for a hit single, we knew that the majority of record-buyers were teenagers, so that was our target audience.

Glen, Michael, Neal, Alice, and I had become friends as high-school teens so we knew what we were talking about as we took turns singing improvised verses to the chords that Michael had come up with.

It took a while for us to hone the song into the stage arrangement that would convince a young wanna-be producer, Bob Ezrin, to help our managers, Joe and Shep, land us a major record deal. But with that done, the first thing Bob did was to help us trim the fat from our arrangement down to a concise AM friendly version that we recorded for the Love It To Death album at RCA Mid-Atlantic Studios in Chicago.

“I'm Eighteen" was released and soon became the most requested song in the history of CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The station’s powerful transmitter reached most of Canada and throughout mid-western America.

Years later, Disc Jockey Rosalee Trombley, known as "The Girl With The Golden Ear," told me that she started playing the song because she loved the lyrics. She could relate to them, and so could teens everywhere.

The group known as Alice Cooper was officially on the map.

What is your fav I'm Eighteen memory? Share in the comments, below.


DD

Alice Cooper's Album, Paranormal, is officially released July 28

PARANORMAL is like 12 great episodes of The Twilight Zone,” laughs Alice Cooper, “each song tells its own twisted little tale.”

Yes, the inimitable King of Shock Rock is back with his first album of original material in six years. It’s a weird and wonderful collection of guitar-driven delights, but what else would you expect from the composer of beautifully warped classics like “Under My Wheels,” “I’m Eighteen” and “Billion Dollar Babies”? 

Read More

Press Coverage: May and June 2017

Here are some of our favorite articles, interviews, and reviews from the last two months:

dennis-dunaway-alice-cooper-tpac

Bandit Lites recounts the Alice Cooper concert at TPAC from the perspective of a lighting designer.

Penny Black Music reviewed the Alice Cooper reunion set at TPAC and Music Biz 2017.

They also interviewed Cindy Smith Dunaway on how she created the glam rock look that defined the Alice Cooper brand.

The Rocker Dad podcast spoke with Dennis about Alice Cooper, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!, and Crohn's disease.

Want to know Dennis's top eight favorite rock and roll songs? Gruelmokey has the list.

Know Your Bass Player picked one of Dennis's basslines as one of rock and roll's greatest. Find out which one.

The Classic Rocker reviewed Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! What a thrill that it's reaching new readers.

 

Alice Cooper Reunites Original Band for UK 2017 Tour

Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith will tour UK with Alice in November 2017

On May 14th, 2017 following Alice Cooper’s customary execution via guillotine on stage at his Nashville concert, fans were treated to something rarely seen since 1973. The stage went dark and original band members, bassist Dennis Dunaway, guitarist Michael Bruce and drummer Neal Smith reunited to perform a five song mini-set of their classic hits with Alice.

This followed the recent announcement that his forthcoming album – Paranormal, out July 28th on earMUSIC – will include two new recordings written and recorded by the original line-up (“Genuine American Girl and “You And All Of Your Friends”).

Now, Alice announces that the three members of the original Alice Cooper band will join him on tour in the UK, returning to these shores 46 years after they first shocked and enthralled us on their historic 1971 tour.

 Original Alice Cooper Band Reunites in Nashville, TN. Photo by Kyler Clark – CerealKyler Photography

Original Alice Cooper Band Reunites in Nashville, TN. Photo by Kyler Clark – CerealKyler Photography

In Nashville, they were joined by current band member Ryan Roxie filling in for the late Glen Buxton on guitar. The band ripped through “I’m 18,” “No More Mr Nice Guy,” “Muscle of Love,” “Billion Dollar Babies” and then closed with “School’s Out,” bringing back current band members – drummer Glen Sobel, bassist Chuck Garric, and guitarists Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen for a grand finale.

Original Alice Cooper Band Reunites in Nashville, TN. Photo by Kyler Clark – CerealKyler Photography

And they enjoyed it so much that they decided to bring the show to the UK.

Alice says, “When the original band broke up in 1975, there was no bad blood. There were no lawsuits — we had just burned out the creative process. We had gone to high school together and had recorded something like five Platinum albums in a row. We were never out of sight of each other for 10 years. Everybody just went their own way. Neal, Dennis and I always stayed in touch. Mike disappeared for a while and Glen Buxton passed away in 1997, which was a big blow.

 Alice Cooper Reunion at Music Biz 2017 in Nashville, TN

Alice Cooper Reunion at Music Biz 2017 in Nashville, TN

“But last year Neal called me up and said, ‘I have a couple of songs.’ I said great, bring ‘em over. Then he said Mike was stopping by, so I had them come to my house and we just worked on a few things for a week. Then Dennis called up and said, I got a couple songs. So, I thought, hey let’s do this! When you listen to the record, it just fits right in.”

The next logical step is to rekindle their friendship, doing what they do best – performing as one the greatest live rock bands in history.

Original Alice Cooper Band Reunites in Nashville, TN. Photo by Kyler Clark – CerealKyler Photography

For more information visit www.alicecooper.com

Alice Cooper, plus The Mission and The Tubes presented by AEG live in the UK, November 2017:

11th – Leeds – First Direct Arena

12th – Glasgow – The SSE Hydro

14th – Birmingham – Barclaycard Arena

15th – Manchester – Manchester Arena

16th – London – The SSE Arena, Wembley

 

Ticketshttp://po.st/AC17Tckts

VIP: Alice is offering several VIP packages at www.alicecooper.com, including meet and greet and a backstage tour.

AEG Live are offering pre-show packages, available at: http://po.st/AC17Tckts