Live set from Alice Cooper’s ‘blackout’ period available as new CD release
Alice Cooper’s life was imitating his art during the late ‘70s as the glam/shock rock icon was acting out in as dramatic and raucous fashion to rival any of his stage antics. By 1978 the ‘School’s Out’ singer had publicly institutionalized himself in an attempt to conquer his alcoholism, which at its height was rumored to exceed two cases of beer and a bottle of whiskey each day. He left rehab in relatively good shape (releasing the album From the Inside as a concept piece about his stay in the New York sanitarium), but soon developed an addiction to cocaine. What followed was a series of projects that became known as the “blackout albums”—a collection of LPs that Cooper claims he has little to no recollection of recording.
The first and “most celebrated” of Cooper’s “blackout” works is 1980’s Flush the Fashion, the artist’s fifth studio album as a solo artist and fourth after returning to Warner Bros. Records. The 10-track LP produced by Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Journey, The Cars) signaled a “major stylistic shift for Alice Cooper; from the trashy hard rock of his earlier years to an edgier, new wave sound,” according to a review by Amazon.com. While it initially alienated some fans, Flush the Fashion eventually became considered one of Cooper’s most overlooked efforts.
Flush the Fashion was Cooper’s best-performing album in three years, reaching No. 44 on the Billboard 200. In addition, lead single ‘Clones (We're All)’ was a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, one of 11 Cooper put on the top overall singles chart between 1971 and 1989. A tour in support of Flush the Fashion took Cooper and his backup band to El Paso, Texas, where he opened the tour on June 4, 1980, at El Paso’s County Coliseum. The concert was broadcast live over FM radio, and many of the songs including ‘Clones,’ ‘Guilty,’ ‘Pain,’ and ‘Dance Yourself To Death’ were performed for the first time in front of a live audience.
Zip City Records is making the 20-song live set available as a single CD release titled, El Paso County Coliseum 1980. Amazon notes that despite his troubles during the period, “Alice Cooper is in as good a shape as ever he was,” delivering a number of classic tracks including ‘Talk Talk,’ ‘I'm Eighteen,’ ‘Billion Dollar Babies,’ ‘Only Women Bleed,’ ‘Elected,’ and ‘School’s Out.’
Since his initial breakthrough as a solo artist in 1975, Alice Cooper has continued to both “thrill and horrify audiences” the world over. He is often credited as being the first performer to combine horror imagery with rock music—an act that’s been replicated by others from Ozzy Osbourne to Marilyn Manson to Slipknot. Cooper, 69, continues to record and tour. In 2010, he released the live album Theatre of Death, which was followed by a downnload-only EP of redone Cooper classics titled, Alice Does Alice.
Cooper reunited with longtime collaborator and renowned producer Bob Ezrin (Kiss, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple) in 2011 for Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to the project the pair unveiled as Cooper’s 1975 solo debut. The album’s 14 brand new cuts spanned multiple genres and featured previous members of the Alice Cooper band as well as a guest artist contribution by pop star Ke$ha. Upcoming live sets find Cooper playing at least 15 U.S. dates during April and May. The singer spends parts of the rest of the year touring Europe and the United Kingdom.
Watch Alice Cooper in a live performance of ‘Clones (We're All)’ from the artist’s 1980 album, Flush the Fashion.
As A Matter of Fact…
* Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948, in Detroit. He formed his first group, the Earwigs, as a teenager growing up in Arizona. Subsequent name changes to the Spiders and Nazz resulted in a pair of local single releases.
* In 1968, a group name change to Alice Cooper was reportedly inspired by Furnier using a Ouija board. He also adopted Alice Cooper as his stage name, and moved to Los Angeles the same year with bandmates Mike Bruce (guitar), Glen Buxton (guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass), and Neal Smith (drums).
* Alice Cooper pioneered a “theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock.” Frank Zappa was the first to recognize the group’s potential, signing them to his Straight Records imprint. The stage show featured electric chairs, guillotines, fake blood, and huge boa constrictors—all coordinated by the zombie-like Furnier—who also created the band’s musical style.
* The band debuted in 1969 with Pretties for You, but the album and a follow up filed to chart, prompting the group to move to Furnier's hometown of Detroit, where the they refined their bizarre stage show. In late 1970, the Alice Cooper contract was transferred to Warner Bros., and work began on a third album with producer Bob Ezrin.
* Alice Cooper broke through with its classic heavy metal sound in 1971 with the platinum-selling Love It to Death and the garage band anthem, ‘Eighteen,’ which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The success enabled the group to develop an even more elaborate live show that made Cooper a top concert draw in the U.S. and abroad.
* The band’s non-stop momentum carried through for three more platinum releases including 1971’s Killer album and the 1972 follow up, School's Out, which went to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The latter also supplied the signature title track that topped the charts in the U.K. and was a Top 10 smash on the Hot 100.
* The album Billion Dollar Babies took Alice Cooper to the top of the Billboard 200 in February 1973, led by the No. 25 lead single, ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy.’ The following November yielded Muscle of Love, but the project failed to live up to its predecessors, and the Alice Cooper band parted ways to pursue other projects.
* Furnier continued on as a solo artist named Alice Cooper, adopting more of a heavy metal sound to go along with his trademark stage props. After releasing a Top 10 compilation of the band’s five Warner albums, Cooper went back to work with Ezrin and released his 1975 solo debut, Welcome to My Nightmare.