Random Thoughts: Alice Cooper, Rolling Stone and Hindsight

Firstly, a confession: today’s post was originally going to be a rock song review of Sixx: A.M.’s latest single “Gotta Get It Right“. I had the whole thing saved and written out nicely, ready to be re-drafted, until WordPress decided to forget all that and reverted my post to an original, much leaner draft. I don’t have the enthusiasm to write the whole thing out again (I barely even remember what I wrote), so just pretend that I wrote a stunningly insightful and breathtakingly witty review for you that ended with a score of 4 out of 5 that everyone everywhere agreed with. That happened now, as far as I’m concerned. Also, save your drafts. S’very important.

So instead today I’m just going to write for a little while about Alice Cooper until I get bored. I’ve recently been listening to his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare out of order to try and re-appreciate the songs on their own terms – it’s a trick I learned with Megadeth’s Youthanasia (an album I didn’t think much of before but would now put up there with some of their best stuff) a little while back . As expected it’s working a treat: I’ve got a few songs to go but I’m just completely taken aback by how good this album is. I’m also trying this technique out with other Alice songs and, I have to say, it’s much easier to appreciate “Is It My Body” when it’s not following the lumbering nine-minute snoozer “Black Juju”. But yeah, Nightmare out of order reveals itself to be a twisted, theatrical masterpiece, and given the concept one that could have easily made for a surreal Seventies film adaptation, like a shock-rock Tommy.

There’s a certain smugness to be felt, though, while reading the contemporary Rolling Stone review, which makes laughably off-the-mark assertions about Cooper’s ambitions and constantly refers back to his previous records, as if an artist should only ever be defined by what they start out doing. It only really serves to prove that this weird notion that rock stars should only make rock and roll records and never try anything new is as old as the rock and roll itself. As good as they were, the Alice Cooper band were seriously losing steam by the mid-Seventies; by going solo Cooper unleashed his artistic side and, as Welcome to My Nightmare keeps proving, it was the best decision he could have made. With all the other lame reviews Rolling Stone have put out over the years, including savaging Zeppelin and Sabbath in their halcyon days, it makes me wonder whether they’ve ever got it right – or indeed, given their warm review of the latest chapter in Maroon 5’s sellout years, whether they ever will.

One particular hidden gem of the AC catalogue, in my opinion, is “Man with the Golden Gun” from 1973’s Muscle of Love. The track was originally written for the James Bond film of the same name but, apparently, was either turned down at the last minute or was never up for consideration in the first place, depending on who you ask. Lulu was eventually picked to sing the John Barry-composed title song, generally considered to be one of the worst Barry ever wrote (something even he seemed to agree with). I’ve given it a listen and, though not terrible, it’s far too syrupy and safe for Bond (mind you, the film doesn’t exactly have a good rep either), whereas Cooper’s effort just feels like a 007 song.

Anyway, I had to share this (see below): it’s the Man with the Golden Gun intro sequence with Alice’s song played over it. Anybody else think they sync up really nicely, especially how the credits seem to match specific flourishes and changes in the song? Obviously it’s all a coincidence – had Alice’s song actually been chosen, who knows where they would have gone with the sequence? – but it’s still pretty striking. Again, hindsight serving Mr Cooper well. There’s probably a lesson in all this somewhere.

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