Classics: Alice Cooper Band's Billion Dollar Babies (50 years)

by Zane Ewton

"Let the lights grow dim. I've been ready."

By 1973, the Alice Cooper band earned a reputation as sick deviants poisoning the minds of American youth. And they were paid handsomely for doing so.

On an upward trajectory thanks to rock classics like "I'm Eighteen," "Under My Wheels" and "Schools Out," plus a depraved and theatrical live show, Alice Cooper was a band in the spotlight and ready for what would be their commercial and critical peak - Billion Dollar Babies.

With the help of Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper crafted a mythical image on par with other rock and roll gods of the day. Jimmy Page was exhuming the Loch Ness monster through arcane rituals in a Scottish castle. Keith Richards vacationed in Sweden to have his blood replaced, not unlike an oil change every few thousand miles.

An outlandish public persona is a wonderful thing to have in rock and roll. But to make it last, it's all about the songs.

In his biography, Cooper explained how Bob Ezrin put the band through a musical bootcamp in the lead up to the band's third album, Love it to Death. The producer wrenched what would become the Alice Cooper sound out of five weirdo kids from Phoenix, Arizona.

With each successive album, the band rocketed to lucrative infamy - a thread drawn through the making of Billion Dollar Babies. This record would be the apex of the Alice Cooper band, before leading into its demise after the Muscle of Love album later in 1973.

It would be hard to blame anyone for being tired and burned out after churning out three of the greatest rock records in two years. Alice Cooper, the guy, regrouped with Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975 and a solo career that's rolling to this day.

There were a lot of inputs shaping the Alice Cooper band, some obvious on listening to Billion Dollar Babies - horror movies, old Hollywood, cabaret, Detroit garage rock, The Yardbirds and The Who, American culture and its seeming demise in morality. All of that and not to mention a wicked sense of humor.

Moms and dads never see the humor. Do they? They also didn't see that Alice Cooper wasn't scary, it's the world they saw and reflected that was scary.

Cooper's lyrics on Billion Dollar Babies come with a winking nod of, "I agree, all of this is ridiculous." Best captured with one of the best known songs, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." A social pariah, he can't even go to church without the reverend punching him in the nose.

"Raped and Freezing" flips sexual harassment on its head, leaving Alice naked and alone in Mexico. "Elected" casts Alice as the next president of the United States, and not a terrible alternative to what was currently available. "Generation Landslide" poked back at the hypocrites. "I Love the Dead" may be the most catchy sing along about necrophilia to date.

On the back of Billion Dollar Babies, the tour broke box office records across the U.S. and solidified what would become Cooper concert staples such as the guillotine.

Alice Cooper has lived many lives in the 50 years since Billion Dollar Babies, but one thing remains certain - he's coming to your town soon with a new record and a truck full of toys to delight you and disgust your mom. God bless her.

"Ready as this audience that's coming here to dream. Loving every second, every moment, every scream."

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