The Alice Cooper Band was once a record holder for having both a number one in America and in The United Kingdom at the same time. At a time of release, this was almost unheard of, especially after receiving such unfavorable reviews by Rolling Stone Magazine. While among the 70-city tour embarked by The Alice Cooper Band, their peaked release, Billion Dollar Babies continued to soar and create one of the most ambitious, but also timeless pieces of Rock and Roll history.
Starting off with just a group of a musical ensemble of around 16-different musicians to achieve the complete sound of Billion Dollar Babies, also included was the immense stage presence that The Alice Cooper band had built for themselves. Not only did they act as world class musicians, but they combined a theatre-like aspect attached to their show and created a larger than life presentation that included whips, snakes, baby dolls, make-up, dentist drills, and even a guillotine that would repeatedly chop lead singer, Vincent Damon Furnier, better known as Alice Cooper’s head off.
While the band had humble beginnings, starting and running with five original members, Vincent Damon Furnier (Alice Cooper), Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar and keyboards, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and last but certainly not least, Neal Smith on the percussion aspect. Their sixth studio album, Billion Dollar Babies was the best selling at the time of the release, and had different tricks in the way that it was recorded. While in Connecticut, The Alice Cooper Band recorded in various locations around a mansion in Greenwich to capture the vocal echoing and it is an interesting aspect that went into recording that could be simply manipulated through electronics today. Though, as The Alice Cooper Band marched on, nothing could prepare the world for what Billion Dollar Babies would bring.
Drawing back the curtain, Billion Dollar Babies opens with “Hello Hooray,” a track that at first glance has nearly nothing to do with The Alice Cooper Band that so many audiences had first identified them as. It did nothing to discuss the dead, nothing to discuss the strange, but instead acts more as a wonderful introduction to the beauty that follows behind the madness. Alice Cooper has such an iconic voice, and his charisma behind every lyric is an additional piece that only builds to the lovable style of The Alice Cooper Band. The instrumentalists that back Cooper up are one of a kind and have such an incredible amount of connecting power when playing, creating these giant sound sets that are entirely larger than life.
It is only until the second track, “Raped And Freezin’” where The Alice Cooper Band can achieve this comedic style that follows more of a catchy approach to rape and death. While if taken out of context, the track can seem incredible ill-mannered and downright distasteful, but truthfully the track combines slick guitar work and an overarching theme of a grand approach to an incredibly touchy subject. The various switch-ups that the band displays can really lighten the mood and create more jokes or laughs rather than cries of misery. The Alice Cooper Band acts as one flowing motion on Billion Dollar Babies almost taking no real breaks and showing no signs of truly slowing down until the bitter end. It is incredible to see exactly how Billion Dollar Babies can change from a song that includes lyrics like “Alone, raped and freezing, Alone cold and sneezing,” to then transitioning into a track about becoming “Elected, Everyone in the United States of America.”
Alice Cooper, the lead singer as stated before has an immense amount of charisma that follows this larger than life ego, on the track “Elected,” Cooper brings about the comical side to greed and corruption within politics. He can appeal to the people and really get in touch with the personal side. “Kids want a savior, don’t need a fake. I wanna be elected, We’re gonna rock to the rules that I make, I wanna be elected.” While a group of bravado-style horns can blast out patriotic notes that sound similar in “Hail to the Chief.” Imagining someone like Alice Cooper running the country, rolling in a “Gold Rolls Royce,” saluting the country that he has taken by storm is an idea that now does not seem like it is so far away.
As the last shouts of Cooper can be heard, the self-titled track, “Billion Dollar Babies” turns onto the spotlight and contains percussion work by Neal Smith that is instantly recognizable with the way that he utilizes the snare, bass, and tom drums in such a manner that acts as a progressive piece to launch the rest of the instruments into one glorious crash. As the track continues on, Alice Cooper sings the chorus, “We go dancing nightly, in the attic while the moon is rising in the sky. If I’m too rough tell me, I’m so scared your little head will come off in my hands.” Alice Cooper is not singing alone however as Donovan provides off-kilted vocals that can almost echo Coopers usual candle lit, gothic horror style of singing. There is also a guitar solo completed by Steven “The Deacon” Hunter who also played with the likes of Lou Reed, Aerosmith, and even Peter Gabriel.
Using the multi-talented artists and bringing in guest artists greatly aided Billion Dollar Babies as it brings in more creative minds to collaborate on single ideas and truly combine them to become the best they can possibly be. With the following track “Unfinished Sweet,” The Alice Cooper Band describes the horror of the dentist and paranoia with near blinding guitar riffs, a 007-esque style of solo, and multiple sequences of breakdowns and build-ups where Cooper’s vocals can almost be read as wincing or distant cries. This is also prevalent for the track, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” where Cooper describes a simple man, who “used to be such a sweet, sweet thing, Til’ they got a hold of me… I got no friends cause they read the papers, they can’t be seen, with me.”
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” opens with a small, but impactful guitar solo before coming into the main riffs of the track where it almost can be a replica of a 50’s doo-wop track, if it ran into the circus. Not entirely chaotic, but still has enough flare to be a complete radio-hit when first released and was one of the three tracks that became a Top 100 Hits on Billboard. For a character like Alice Cooper to be released upon the public and to become such a wonderful success through his music, even while containing “cats clawing eyes…” and being punched in the nose by reverends.
The instrumentals of Billion Dollar Babies are just as important as the lyrical aspect and create these different settings for the stories that Cooper can sing about. The track “Generation Landslide” has a section that discusses war and its true horrors. While being depicted, the band is sporadic and creates drastic changes to simulate the chaos that is war, only to completely switch on the next tracks, “Sick Things,” “Mary Ann,” and “I Love The Dead,” where The Alice Cooper Band completely hit a brick wall and decide to go for more of a trance-like state with their final act.
“Sick Things” is more of a minimalist, almost droning track that uses atmospheric sounds and a large amount of bass work to paint this dungeon of a setting where Alice Cooper can sing, “Sick Things, my things, my pets, my things. I love you, Things, I see as much as you love me, you things are heavenly when you come worship me. You things are chilled with fright for I am out tonight.” The instrumentation slowly begins to build and becomes a full-fledge power-struggle between the horns, percussion, vocals, and the eventual guitar solo that begins to flood in and creep from the unexpected corners of the track. The track then continuously segues into “Mary Ann” which is more of a piano sonnet that features Alice Cooper displaying his true love to “Mary-Ann, I’m really crazy about you, do what I can. I just can live without you, Mary-Ann.” It is a simple track with only piano and vocals that eventually begins to pick up more and more momentum until it becomes a piano slug-fest where the keys are incredibly weighted, but also have a cheering tone that quickly vanishes and turns into the last track of Billion Dollar Babies.
“I Love The Dead” is similar in style to the last two tracks as it combines both a graceful rise into a rushed waltz, but takes aspects of “Sick Things” in the way it covers a haunting style. Only a sudden guitar-rush and piano getting the keys hammered makes it clear that “I Love The Dead” is more of an experimental track that tries so many different ideas and they all click so well together and create not just a laughable track with incredibly dark humor, but an actual masterpiece of instrumentation that can turn on a dime, making death seem humorous and fun again. Cooper delivers a stunning performance and The Alice Cooper Band creates a grand finale of cymbals crashing, guitars ringing, horns blasting, and vocal cries of “I Love The Dead” reigning on.