Thursday, July 16, 2015

Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway with Chris Hodenfield

Anyone who knows me knows that the Alice Cooper band is one of my all-time favorite groups and
one of the most influential on my musical career, such as it is. I was never able to take things quite to the extreme that they did, but their style – musically and visually – was always in my mind. Dunaway was the band’s incredible bassist, whose moving, melodic lines helped propel their songs, which he helped to write and arrange. Here he tells the story of the group, starting with their teenage years (I assume his childhood was reasonably normal) where he met Vince Furnier (later to be named Alice) and formed the bands that would eventually become Alice Cooper.

I always love hearing/reading the stories of the early days when the bands are just figuring out what they are doing, from what instrument they decide to play to what type of music and what bands influenced them (there’s a funny tale of opening for the Yardbirds and doing all of their material before the British band’s set – which, naturally, was mind-boggling and humbling) and what kind of places they play and on & on. These pre-stardom days are the days that all of use struggling musicians can relate to and I am fascinated by how they handled it and what they went through.

And Dennis certainly has stories galore! Tales of band members coming and going, vans crashing and somersaulting, girls (the GTO’s were important in their Los Angeles career), other bands (Doors, Love, Buffalo Springfield, just to name a few) and on and on. Of course he goes through variations of fables told before by others, with his point of view being just a bit different , as he talks of the time spent on Zappa’s Bizarre/Straight Records (Pretties For You and Easy Action), chickens, feather pillows, festivals, meeting Bob Ezrin, tightening up the sound and having a smash hit with “Eighteen” and then “School’s Out” and then the dissolution that started to take place during the recording of the Billion Dollar Babies album.

He doesn’t dwell on the post-superstardom days, but does give an overview of the ensuing years and talks of the musical projects he has done, including his current group, Blue Coupe, with the Bouchard brothers from Blue Oyster Cult. The induction of the Alice Cooper band into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is the final chapter, fittingly so.

Dunaway and Holdenfield do a terrific job of bringing these exciting r’n’r times back to life – Dennis is obviously intelligent as well as talented and has a gift for remembering details. An excellent telling of a wild adventure!