Once More, Mr. Nice Guy

Reminted Billion Dollar Babies recalls a time when Alice Cooper ruled the world and didn't have to become the 34th president to do it

Cooper:The very first version we heard was a demo tape, actually. Rolf Kemp was a crippled guy from Canada and he was a friend of Bob Ezrin's. I was listening to it as the opening of the show and this was perfect. It had the kind of feel of "Send in the Clowns." I was thinking of it in a much bigger electrical way, but I loved the grandness of it. The funny thing was we never took outside material. We wrote everything. We took it and made it Cooperesque. In the end, we probably did write half of it but gave him all the writing credits. People always want to hear that song, that's how lasting it is.

Ezrin: It's beautiful. You've got to remember the times. It's a little hippie-ish. Judy's version was like "Let the show of my life begin." It had nothing to do with the show itself. But in my mind, it could. I believed it was a way to open our show.

When Collins sang, she was a mere spectator. "So I will sit and act so prim/And I will laugh when this thing begins." This wouldn't do for a showman like Cooper, who opted to stand "strong and thin" and scream, "God, I feel so strong" over a fadeout that sounds like cannons blasting. Circus magazine once intimated that the noises on the coda were the sound of some arcade games Cooper had installed in the studio.

They're only in it for the money: The Alice Cooper Band poses in full Billion Dollar Babies regalia.
David Bailey
They're only in it for the money: The Alice Cooper Band poses in full Billion Dollar Babies regalia.
Cooper: "We were so popular it was undeniable."
Cooper: "We were so popular it was undeniable."

Ezrin: I don't remember what's on the end of the track. Then again, it was the '70s.

"Raped and Freezing"

What would've been a strong contender for a single on anyone else's album served as filler between two killer tracks, but what filler! Alice has the seduction tables turned on him by a little old lady from Santa Fe. With a few nips and tucks, it's a brisker "Be My Lover" minus one consenting adult.

"Elected"

Released six months in advance of the album as a quick follow-up to "School's Out," "Elected" also tied in beautifully with the '72 presidential race, where anyone who never lied to ya seemed like a viable candidate. Like "Hello Hooray," it was a radically reconstructed version of an older tune, this time from the band's back catalogue, as the track appeared in an early version on their debut, Pretties for You.

Cooper: We couldn't let that one go because we'd already had a huge anthem. We saw the election coming and thought, "We'll just tap into the 'Elvis for President' thing. We'll make it 'Alice for President' because I was the only one who could ever make that work. People say we came very close. I'm sure all the freaks wrote me in. But who'd want that job?

Ezrin: It was, "Why don't we run Alice for President as a joke?" We had "Reflected," and we said, "Why don't we just change the words?" Well, we can't exactly just change the words, but it was a good starting point. The idea came first and the song was built to suit it. And what an amazing track that is. Listening to the tape recently, I was reminded what a wonderful record that was, how well-crafted. The only thing that I regret to this day is the mix, which I could've done a better job on. I just felt it could've been punchier and I could've had the vocals up more. In general, I could've made it sound ballsier.

Cooper: We made a small little film to go with the song. We didn't have really any place to play it. We didn't have any MTV, there wasn't even a Midnight Special or In Concertat that time. I consider "Elected" to be the first short video and Welcome to My Nightmare the first long full-length studio video.

On the "Elected" video and the Billion Dollar Babies sleeve photos, Cooper is seen without the trademark eye makeup. Perhaps a subliminal bid for respectability, so that Cooper might carry the South?

Cooper: Right. I don't know why we did that. Probably forgot to put it on. I don't think there was any conscious effort not to wear the makeup. I think we were in England and we forgot.

Brian Nelson: You were drunk. (Laughs.)

Cooper:Brian wasn't there to say, "Put your eye makeup on and take your watch off."

"Billion Dollar Babies"

Another Cooper trademark -- kicking off a song with a minimal amount of instrumentation. Many of Cooper's creepiest cuts feature Dennis Dunaway's isolated bass (a technique which made Jane's Addiction's first album seem rather Cooper-esque). On this track, the drums begin things all by their lonesome.

Ezrin: Very often, we'd start with one instrument and go from there. It was a device for making our songs theatrical and powerful and constantly growing in size. It was a way to be able to kick off a rock song and still have tons of punch left to come. If you started with everyone blasting, you had very little room to grow.

Cooper: That was written off one of Neil Smith's drum riffs. Rockin' Reggie Vincent was a guitar player friend of Glen's and mine, and he came up with a couple of riffs on the song so we gave him credit on it. We were basically calling ourselves Billion Dollar Babies, you're throwing all this money at us and we're still babies. We have no idea of what we're doing.

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