Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No More Mr. Nice Guy – The Inside Story of the Alice Cooper Group

As anyone who knows me or has read this blog well knows, I am a huge, huge Alice Cooper band fanatic and have been since I first heard “(I’m) 18” when I was well below that age. Their combination of terrific r’n’r tunes and wild stage antics, outrageous clothes and love of b-movie horror films spoke directly to me as a youngster and still to this day! I never cared for any of the member’s work after the band broke up, but the few years of the group’s existence provided some very exciting times for any r’n’r enthusiast.

So, when I discovered this book, I naturally had to have it. Michael Bruce was the main (though certainly not sole) songwriter of the group and was responsible for some of the most memorable songs and their biggest hits. He also was a fine rhythm guitarist (who could throw in some mean licks now and again) and his haunting keyboards added to the eerie sound of the band.

Bruce is not a natural writer or even story-teller – he tends to repeat himself now and again and jump around a bit – but he is a font of information and, with Billy James, tells the terrific tale of this incredibly unique and talented band. The book is small, though, and he does almost rush through some periods – as always, I wish there was more details on songwriting and studio recordings – but he tries to interject funny anecdotes throughout.

Starting with the guys’ different high school bands - he seems to remember the names that they all used even after 40 years or so! – he tells of joining the existing Spiders with Alice (Vincent Furnier), Dennis Dunaway and Glen Buxton (drummer Neil Smith joined later) and claims to be the one who got them writing original material. This is not much of a stretch as he had already been writing for other bands and, as I said, he wrote most of this group’s hits.

Michael tends to forget to include little details in telling the story – such as where something is taking place! – but if you go along with him, it all falls into place eventually.

This autobiography is filled with fantastic photos – many that I, at least, had never seen before. The pix of the band as garage rockers alone are worth the cost of the book! Archival fliers, contracts and even band Xmas cards are fun items that fill out the story.

Bruce is a little bitter regarding the break-up of the band and the fact that he was not able to stay in the spotlight. Added to the fact that he made some bad financial decisions and somehow lost most of his money makes this fairly understandable. I wish that he and the other guys had been able to remain popular, as Alice did in his solo career, but his legacy is something to be supremely proud of. As of the writing of this book (early ‘90’s), he was starting to play again with a re-vamped Billion Dollar Babies and sit in with some early punk’n’roll groups.

This is a story for fans, really, not the casual listener, and don’t expect a master writer, but it is a good romp through the history of one of the best r’n’r bands of all time! I wish nothing but the best for this man and all of the rest of the group. Of course, since this was released, Glen Buxton has passed away, but the others have occasionally had one-off reunions and hopefully will do so again.