Champions Of The Lunatic Fringe (The Godfatherecords G.F.835)
The Forum, Los Angeles, California, USA – May 11, 1973
(73:09) Hello Hooray, Billion Dollar Babies, Elected, I’m Eighteen, Raped And Freezin’, No More Mr. Nice Guy, My Stars, Unfinished Sweet, Interlude I, Sick Things, Dead Babies, I Live The Dead, Interlude II, School’s Out, Under My Wheels, God Bless America (outro)
Back in the late 60s and early 70s Alice Cooper was a band, not just the name of the lead singer and arguably the pinnacle of the band’s success was most certainly the landmark 1973 Billion Dollar Babies. I know some older guys I see at record conventions and the most of them are big fans of this era in Cooper history. They all say the original band was one hell of a live act and after even though I never saw them I must agree, Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce on guitars, Dennis Dunaway on bass and Neil Smith on drums made up what is considered this classic line up. Buxton was unable to tour with the band and guitars on the tour and this live recording are by Mick Mashbir.
The recording from the LA Forum is a very good soundboard. The sound is well balanced and clean but is not as bright and crisp as some. And although it has a fault or two along the way, it sounds great when turned up loud and during my first run through my 9 years daughter sang along to “Schools Out”. I looked in all my Hotwacks books and online and I found it in trading circles but does not appears that it has been booted before. This should be a first then and from the repetitive nature of a lot of the Cooper boots I saw a most welcome addition. Of course fans know that there is some live material out there from the tour as you have the deluxe edition of the record with a second disc of mostly live tracks and a live video / DVD called Good To See You Again, all were recorded live over two dates in Texas in late April 1973.
Such was the strength of the new material that 8 of the albums 10 songs made the set list. The recording picks up with the first notes of “Hello Hooray”, Alice in character immediately as he spews the lyrics, becoming the twisted leader of this freak show. The audience are very low in the mix but can be heard screaming in adulation. From the songs catchy melody rises the opening riff of “Billion Dollar Babies” that sounds incredibly evil, Bruce plays some great wah solo. Hard to believe that Donovan sang background vocals on the original version. A direct stab at the American leadership “Elected” is superb, the band play a straight forward and tight version and one can imagine that it was like a battle cry for the disenchanted youth of America. The band flows effortlessly into “I’M Eighteen” from Love It To Do Death. Alice changed some of the lyrics to “I gotta get out here, been drinking whiskey…” to great effect, his vocal tone just has a messed up and no care in the world tone. The rhythm section of Dunaway and Smith lay down a rock solid foundation for the rest to hammer over; Alice throws a bit of Don McLean “American Pie” for good measure as the band drive the nail into the faded American dream of the 50’s.
“This next song is dirty, you’ll love it” is Alice’s introduction to “Raped and Freezin”. When you first see a title like this one has to wonder what kind of sick song is this? It’s actually a good time rocker about being drunk and going home with the wrong woman, and home is south of the border, a live one indeed. The band flows effortlessly into “No More Mr Nice Guy”. They play with a certain swagger as they were weaned in their most embryonic stages by the MC5 and their contemporaries The Stooges, all of which share their Detroit roots. Alice shows attract all sorts of people, there is an intellectual section and the band play dedicated to them, “My Stars” from Schools Out. The song features some great acceding keyboards from Bob Dolin and Dennis Dunaway’s bass has a nice thick sound propelling the band to a great 7 minute version of the song. Alice talks of getting a tooth pulled, obviously tongue in cheek as they go into “Unfinished Sweet” and the band’s ode to trips to Dentists and laughing gas.
The band takes a breather as an interlude is performed before the craziness beginning with “Sick Things” and followed by the insanity of “Dead Babies” from the Killer record. The song does not need visuals but is certainly expanded by them; Alice playing with the small dolls and mannequin pieces is just incredible. The song itself owes a definite homage to The Beatles. It all culminates with a simply wonderful “I Love The Dead” and he must pay for his indiscretions and is led to the executioners guillotine. About 3:32 to 4:10 there is some tape warble, it does clear up not to the quality of the rest. The quality returns to normal as the band returns with “Schools Out” and really start jamming, extending the song to over 12 minutes. Alice baits the audience for insults and clearly says Los Angeles so its validity is certain. There are numerous adjectives, many not need repeating and Alice incites the craziness to maximum effect. The standard encore song for the tour was “Under My Wheels” where Nixon would make an appearance and the group would proceed to beat the hell out of him so the song title was pretty much correct. “God Bless America”, where else could a rag tag group make it to the big time and a fitting outro and end to a fabulously played concert.
The packaging is typical Godfather trifold with many live pictures of Alice in his white top hat as well as other posed pictures with interesting liner notes. This is a minor bitch but the title lists it as the Alice Cooper Band yet there is only one picture of the group itself and no mention of them individually in the liner notes, a small yet glaring omission for this Hall Of Fame group. All in all an excellent release by Godfathers of a true musical innovator, I for one would love to see more.