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It'a all in the luney tune ...

01:00 Mon 08th Apr 2002 |

Q.� Can you recommend an Alice Cooper album < xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

A.� A good entry into the world of Alice is the School's Out album, which contains his best-known song, and biggest hit single.

Q.� Is the single a good indicator of the album as a whole

A.� This is actually a (gulp!) 'concept' album, and it was written and released at a time when concept albums were one of the most derided art forms on the planet! It may seem a strange career move for a garage band who had played dirty rock and roll and created an instant parent-baiting image, courtesy of some of the longest hair ever seen on stages and album covers, and that's before we even get to what Alice looked like.

Q.� Can you tell me a bit about the band first

A.� Certainly. Alice Cooper�- the band, as opposed to its lead singer�- was a band of reasonably typical rock and rollers, singing about teenage problems, girls, parents, and other teenagers, that kind of stuff. The band began to explore the deeper and darker recesses of its imagination with their third album Love It To Death. The mined this particular seam further with release number four, Killer, which contained material that proved shocking even for the hardened hacks and high school kids who bought it. The track Dead Babies caused suitable outrage, which was doubtless the idea, with its lyric about drug addict parents neglecting their offspring, and including a chilling sound of a baby wailing�- it was actually a synthesiser, but that in no way detracts from the cold image it projects. Alice Cooper were about shock and outrage, they knew their audience, and its parents, and they went for both, hitting their targets with enviable accuracy.

The kids adored the band's schlock-horror panto dame image and sleazy songs, the parents feared for their offspring, and petitioned politicians to get them banned. The time was right for�a concept album, as long as the concept was something the audience would understand. So what better than high school, and the end of innocence

Q.� So came School's Out.

A.� Indeed it did, and it sold millions. The title track loses no time in its gleeful evocation of kids who not only hate school, they despise it, and Alice Cooper are happy to provide an anthem for them to sing their frustrations at the tops of their adolescent voices. It was a hit single and put the band on the map. It was also the beginning of the time when the band would cease to be a band in total, and become a singer with backing musicians, but for now, the whole gang was playing along, and it worked very well indeed.

Q.� The title track sounds quite poppy, in a sleazy rock and roll type way�- what's the rest of the album like

A.� After the title track winds down, literally, the band drop the cosy sing along cartoon nature of the song, and head into the alleys and gang territory that you always hoped they'd inhabit. Alice shows his preferred vocal style from the outset in Luney Tune�- "I slipped into my jeans, looking hard, and feelin' mean ..." ... and the way he spits and slides all over his vocal, you just know he's not someone you'd mess with, but that's ok because he's the leader of your gang, his gang, our gang, so no need to worry.

Gutter Cats versus The Jets takes the West Side Story theme and adds a twisted Top Cat on drugs twist to it, including a musical street fight at the end, before it swings into a cabaret number, with saxophones no less, Blue Turk closed side one of the vinyl version at approaching six minutes. If you wanted some depth and substance to go with the Alice Cooper image, then this track gave pause for thought.

The 'second side'�- this was the early 70's�- kicks off with My Stars, but the strangest thing happens on Alma Mater, which follows the bar room boogie growl on Public Animal #9�- Alice gets emotional!

Q.� Does this mean the brag and bluster of the rest of the album takes a back seat

A.� It does�- Alice name checks his and the band's high school�- Cortez, but drummer Neal Smith wanted his school included as well, so Camelback High School gets a mention too. The song wends it countryish way around the mixed emotions of leaving high school, and Alice's plaintive "I hope you guys don't forget me or nuthin' ... "� probably caused a few lumps in a few throats in the teenage bedrooms of America.

The Grande Finale track is instrumental, and composed by the whole band, including producer Bob Ezrin who was the catalyst that moved the Alice Cooper band out of the juke joints and into the stadia where they remain.

Q.� Wasn't the packaging a little unusual

A.� Aaah, the good old days of vinyl albums, when you got something worth opening! In this case, the album sleeve folded into a little school desk, and inside was the album, lovingly enclosed in a pair of paper panties. Just the thing to give your parents a fit of the vapours, which was the whole idea of course. It was tame compared with the detachable 1971 calendar that came as part of the Killer sleeve, featuring a photograph of Alice hanging by the neck on a gallows!

Q.� So this is a good album to start exploring Alice Cooper's material.

A.� It is, because it captures the band at the top of their roller coaster�- later than the early raw 'learning' albums, earlier than the cynical 'made it' albums which followed, this is Alice Cooper at their best�- still a band effort, still innovative enough to sound fresh after repeated plays, and if you bought a vinyl copy, you could always leave those panties lying around your room to get a reaction, and that is still what rock and roll is all about after all.

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Andy Hughes

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