Dennis Dunaway's Daughters' First reactions to reading Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!
From Chelsea Dunaway:
I just finished reading my Dad's book, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!, and I have to say, it was completely unexpected.
How many times have I said, "Dad, we've heard this one before!" as he's started a story? Probably a billion. It must have paid off because I hadn't heard any of the stories he tells in this book. Sure, I'd heard the gists of each tale, but I'd never heard them in their entireties.
The perspective is of a member of the Alice Cooper band amidst the earliest moments of "Well, why not?" ... When the band was just a group of guys hanging out. It's the perspective of one of a group of best friends being very aware of the uniqueness they are creating, and how big of a thing they hold in their hands. It's the perspective of one guy watching everything shift, much like one of the Dalí paintings he'd studied with those best friends, outside of their grasp.
I have heard these stories before, but I've never seen them happen. This book is more than recollected memories piled onto pages; it's a ticket to sit passenger on a road trip through rock history. I laughed, I sighed along at the magic, sure I gagged a little (apparently my Mom and Dad had S-E-X?!), but I also sincerely weeped like a baby at heartfelt moments.
If you are an artist, if you are a music freak, if you enjoy touring the past, if you love artfully-told stories, if you need inspiration, or if you just need a little summer reading since School's Out ... please treat yourself to this book.
I couldn't be more proud of my Dad. I've seen this book from the days when it was just an idea being tossed around, up until the intense excitement of its release, and I can't wait to see the literary world light up with the chaos and glitter that this book will bring.
Spread the word!
From Renee Dunaway:
Yesterday, I finished reading my dad's book: Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! What an experience. Did you get your copy yet? I'm eager to hear what you think of it.
I hesitated to start it. It took me a few weeks after receiving my advanced copy to peel the cover open. Why this delay? I think I was afraid. Afraid that after all these years of him working so diligently on it, and reviewing book deals until the right one came into fruition, that the book would be fluffy. Or poorly written. Or a dry date-and-time chronology of the milestones of Alice Cooper, able to be navigated only by fans who knew the music and history well.
Snakes! Is none of those. What a THRILL to be quickly ushered into the story by a clear voice. The diction is so polished that I was easily able to divorce myself from it being the father that I know, and rather a warm, witty, rock and roll narrator telling me a tale over drinks. I felt like I was walking through Glen Buxton's house, gabbing with Vince Furnier in art class, and jamming with Neal Smith in the desert.
Objectively, the book is an easy-to-read page turner that brings readers along to experience Alice Cooper's formation, transformations, and resurrections first-hand.
As you know, I've heard much of this musical mythology many times over, growing up around my dad and his friends. However, even though I'm mildly familiar with some of the Alice Cooper music and history, never before have I understood why certain stories were important. By reading Snakes!, I have far more comprehension of my family's young adulthoods. Perhaps it's because when my parents and uncle Neal dive into nostalgia, they would do so with a verbal shorthand, omitting painful sentiments of betrayal that underlie the second act of the book, redacting just how hard they partied, and muting pride that they should feel for having been so tenacious and creative.
I cried twice in the book, near the end, upon Glen's death. Now, I had spoken to Glen on the phone when I was a tween. I had never met him in person, but he was very kind. Told me about the kids he was teaching music to, and some old stories about my parents. I've also heard fans at the Glen Buxton Memorial Events speak of his guitar playing and how much it meant to them. But, I never cried at any of these moments. It's a mark of a strong, candid memoir to move me to weep at the retelling of events of which I myself lived in proxy.
Be prepared for sex and drug scenes: more than I had imagined (my threshold is low, though--would you want to read about your parents' escapades?). The 60s and 70s were known for free love, and the party scenes in Snakes! made me realize how drastically different my mom and dad's young adulthoods were from mine. The book paints the scene of each house the band shared, and the constant, informal party that other people imposed on them. The narration sounds like it was mostly fun. So why did my parents raise me with such social restrictions when I was growing up? Even at college, I found inspiration but was never one to make libations and celebrations a staple of my time there. Perhaps my parents had nothing when they were in their twenties (and thus, nothing to lose). They hadn't tasted success yet. They hadn't experienced the volatility of a career dependent on others. I, on the other hand, grew up with their cautionary tales of how you can give your all to something and build it up enough to make a massive, glittery mark on international culture, and nevertheless be dropped back to ground zero. My parents worked hard to save up and assist with college tuition for me, and I was terrified of building up a career and having it fall down. How could I avoid it? You bet that I only skipped a single class at college, and I didn't squander much coin or brain cells on alcohol. Drugs never had an appeal for me since its glamor was lost in meeting several of my parents' friends who lost some of their cognition to overuse of drugs. Not to mention that my parents were ill for my teen years, and I learned to cherish my health and never wanted to abuse it with substances.
But I digress. Let's see ... my favorite parts? Without spoiling?
I loved visiting teenaged Glen's house for the first time. The many scenes of the band goofing off then stumbling on an idea to integrate into their show. The terrifying anarchy of an early bike gang festival. The first signs of skepticism in managers' intentions (sad and infuriating, obviously, but told earnestly). The feeling of butterflies in my own stomach as I turn the page to find out if Alice Cooper got that record deal. My stomach dropping as the narrator feels the loyalty of his best friends disintegrating. The fist-in-the-air victory of delayed recognition, when it had seemed that all accomplishments were forgotten in the ebbs of time.
You know that I wouldn't recommend reading Snakes! if I didn't really love it. I rarely make time for reading books these days (I've drifted far from my AP English and Writing Minor years), and I get cranky if a story doesn't hold up. Also, I don't think you have to know much--or anything!--about Alice Cooper or rock history to enjoy the ride of Snakes! Pop on my dad's Spotify playlist as a soundtrack, and let the journey begin ...
I'll see you at one of his upcoming book release events!