Monday, 11 June 2018
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
Released February 1973
Recorded in New York City and London
1973's "Billion Dollar Babies" was the only really big album for Alice Cooper, every parent's bete noire in the early seventies. The supposed corruptor of the nation's youth crammed the album full of largely upbeat rock songs predictably covering taboo subjects like rape, necrophilia, blasphemy, horror and even fear of the dentist's drill. Forgetting all that over the top, showy schlock for a while, this was actually a very good rock album - heavy enough to keep the hard rockers happy but catchy and commercial enough to appeal to the chart rock and "glam" fans. I remember myself and at least three other of my friends had this album, along with "Aladdin Sane", "Mott" and Free's "Heartbreaker". It was extremely popular among teenage boys, it seemed.
The opener, "Hello Hooray" is actually a cover version of a musical show-type song that Alice wanted as a sort of overblown intro to his latest creation. It works too - dramatic and featuring an over the top vocal and some great guitar. "Raped & Freezin'" is tasteless lyrically - "hey I think we gotta live one..." but its Latin-tinged rock rhythms and verses are impossibly catchy. One of my favourites on the album.
My all-time favourite, though is, the first 45rpm single I ever actually went out and bought - "Elected". I can still remember my excitement as I put it on the turntable, lowered the stylus and my Father, surprisingly allowed me to listen to it on his stereo system. It was late 1972, not many people had access to a stereo system. The sound of that introductory guitar riff and the drums booming out was incredible. I was hooked on amplified rock music ever since. I also loved the fact that various media commentators and stuffy Tory MPs loathed Cooper. He would do for me, if only for that. He was pictured on the inner sleeve holding up a distinctly uncomfortable-looking baby complete with Alice Cooper eye make up and a leering Cooper and his band looking as if they are about to indulge in some shocking ritual. Even at fourteen, I knew it was all for show. I couldn't understand why the older generation got so uptight about it.
The title track is another suitably bad-taste song about eating babies or whatever. Never mind, it had a barnstorming drum sound. "Unfinished Sweet" features some agonising "dentist drill" guitar, a powerful heavy riff and traditional rock vocal. It is also has a lengthy instrumental part that features some "James Bond Theme" fashion guitar bits and also a fabulous, dramatic rock finale. It is an enjoyable, preposterous romp, to be honest.
"No More Mr. Nice Guy" was a hit single - a Stonesy/Mott The Hoople riff-dominated rocker about a preacher laying into Alice for his hypocrisy. "Generation Landslide" is probably the most credible, "serious" rock song on the album. Thereafter, though, it is back to shock and show. "Sick Things" plays up the "I'm one evil, sick, twisted whatever" thing for all it's worth, as indeed does the necrophiliac anthem "I Love The Dead", again, all hammed up for shock value. Alice was a bit of a weird artist, but he had an unorthodox, anti-establishment appeal. A sort of punk before punk.