By Jason Wellwood
When rumours started to fly that the original Alice Cooper group was going to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Alice and his ‘team’ decided that it was time to put something out to commemorate that original period of time. It would have been easy for them to slap together another Alice Cooper compilation, maybe tag in a rare live track and leave it at that. Thankfully, Alice opted to not do that and put together one of the best box sets a fan of the original band could ever ask for! Spread out over four CDs, a DVD, a 12” vinyl, a 7” vinyl, a hardcover book and several replica and picture inserts, the original Alice Cooper band is represented here in a way that only the super-completest and possibly the band themselves, has ever seen. All of this in an incredible package that, honestly, had me drooling the minute I read about it! See, the box isn’t just a ‘box’, much like the 1972 album, School’s Out, this package came in a school desk, deeper and heavier duty than the original, of course but a desk none the less. I was also excited to note that nowhere were the original songs represented as they were on album. No compilation disc of ‘greatest hits’, no tracks shoved in amongst the demos and rough recordings, this was obviously put together for the hardcore fans.
Watching the DVD, it’s great to see the remaining original members together again and talking about the old days. You can see the light in their eyes get a little brighter, and the smiles get bigger when they talk about the shenanigans that went on, the relationships they built and the music they created together. There are some unfortunate gaps in the interviews, and at one point it’s just Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce without Alice in the room, then another point has Alice and Bob Ezrin without the others but this is explained later on by Bob. The set was put together rather rapidly and the interview footage was shot ‘on the fly’, some of it being lost along the way with no time for reshoots. It’s unfortunate, but honestly, the DVD with the interview footage, old television footage from Detroit and the wistful memories of Glen Buxton, is almost worth the price of admission itself.
The four CDs included in the set bring together a whole lot of interesting tidbits, interviews and live shows from the original line up. Disc 1 and 2 feature old radio ads (which are hilarious), demos of early songs, many of which feature completely different titles and lyrics (of particular note: ‘Tornado Warning’, a song about tornados in the desert which would later morph into ‘Desperado’ on the Killer album), outtakes from the School’s Out children’s choir, and some live shows from early on in the bands history. It’s amazing to listen to the progression of this band who had so much talent but were too focused on being ‘arty’ to channel their subversive music into something more palatable for the youth of the 1970s as they rapidly become masters of the three-minute hard rock classic (thanks Bob!). CD 3 features interviews with the band, new and old, some of which you can see on the DVD, but here it’s expanded upon, some of which I’d never heard before and actually contradicts the ‘someone brought a chicken, so I threw it back out but had no idea it wouldn’t fly’ line Alice has been using for years. Mind you, as you get in to the interviews with the band, you can see that they were very hip to the idea of playing with the media so, your guess is as good as mine as to which story is true! Disc 4 contains a live bootleg of a show on the 1971 Killer tour, also represented on the 12” but the CD contains more tracks. Both however sound incredible for a 1970’s bootleg! Finally the 7” is a replica of the original single that the Nazz put out in 1967 which actually took them to the top of the charts in Arizona.
Also in the set is a sixty page, hardcover, yearbook style history of the band featuring a pile of candid and unpublished photos as well as information and the ‘story’ of the band told by journalist Lonn Friend. Again, there is a little repetition here, but the little nuggets of inside information are fantastic. Five art prints are included, featuring old advertisements for the band and the full artwork for the Greatest Hits album, as well as a replica ticket stub, set list, and tour program.
There are some pieces missing that I would have loved to have seen, maybe some more footage in the DVD, perhaps a little more insight into the dissolution of the original band, or more rare clips but really, for putting this together in a matter of months, it’s an incredible package. I know that it’s something I will go back to often and I’m sure I’ll find something new every time. There is a lot to this set and it’s hard to digest it all in a few days, though I did my best! This definitely is not for the casual ‘I only know the hits’ fan, but if you think the original band is where it’s at and still play Pretties for You on a regular basis, then you will love this limited edition box. If you can still find it, that is.