Thanks to his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I pulled out my old vinyl copy of Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death and confirmed: It’s about fucking time.
I’m one of those “Alice Cooper is a band” supporters, the kind of fan who understands that theatrics are only half of the equation. The other half is a raw outfit of musicians who made those theatrics frightening.
But the scare tactics were pretty badass. On one occasion, I used the gatefold sleeve of Love It To Death in a “haunted house” my cousins and I made in my bedroom circa 1977. The picture was just a close-up of Alice’s eyes in that spider leg mascara, but it gave the room a frightening feel along with my scientifically accurate plastic skull with removable skullcap.
We made a dollar in quarters that night at my parents’ house, so thank you Alice Cooper for making my amateur haunted house a financial success.
And thank you for making Love It To Death, the album that finally put the morbid spin on the entire Alice Cooper band after two records of uncomfortable weirdness. Alice’s third hones in on the aggression while a young Bob Ezrin places everything in its place in the mix, including instruments that weren’t prevalent on the previous records.
But even though there’s a piano in the back of it, “I’m Eighteen” is nothing but raw, irrational angst. You’ll swear you never heard a trace of them. With those three syllabic power chord bursts of boy-into-man birthday, “I’m Eighteen” would have become the first song you ever learned on a guitar, if “Smoke On The Water” had never been written.
Love It To Death is the reason I hate Kiss. The moment I learned of them, this record had been in my youthful heavy rotation long enough that I knew Alice Cooper had started the entire heavy, theatrical rock thing a few years earlier. I also knew, at that young age, that Alice Cooper had done it much, much better.
And Ezrin, producer of Kiss’ Destroyer, did his best work with Alice Cooper, too. The camaraderie began here, and it’s his efforts that help make the creep factor obvious, even without a visual guide. He brings the weird out during “The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” particularly when Alice promises to bring back all of the playthings to his little girl – the moment he gets out of the loony bin – “even the ones I stole!”
I also think Ezrin is responsible for the ironic Theremin on “Sun Arise,” a cheeky nod to “Good Vibrations.”
But the best one is “Black Juju,” where Ezrin directs Alice (the man) to damn-near stop the entire track to silence, before jamming a hot poker up his ass to make him scream “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” before the end reprise.
It was the most terrifying thing that this young boy had ever heard at the time, and it’s still creepy enough to give me a few more chills some four decades later.
And Love It To Death is still good enough to wonder why Alice Cooper hadn’t made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a bit sooner.
Video: Alice Cooper – “Black Juju”
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