Saturday, March 8, 2008

Alice Cooper -- "Under My Wheels" (1971)

For about five years, Alice Cooper had the rock world in the palm of his hand and then dropped it. He had one of the most unsung talented bands around -- lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Mike Bruce, drummer Neil Smith, and bassist Dennis Dunaway all co-wrote songs and performed admirably complex arrangements and riffs that basically made the "classic" Alice Cooper period of the early through mid 70's.

Once Cooper started hooking onto the musical trends of the day in order to break out, the rock world slowly started losing its fascination with the man who wore lots of mascara and was famous for outrageous stage shows featuring snakes and ghoulish props. Cooper went into the ballad business, breaking the Top 40 with "Only Women Bleed" and "You and Me" and his rock cred just faded.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Cooper's humorous and satirical lyrics were clearly understood by his fans, while the parents and local authorities were purely focused on his off the wall visuals. Playing up their image as outlaws with a taste for kitschy horror movies, Cooper was fortunate to have an ace producer, Bob Ezrin, and that amazing band of his.

No matter how many times Cooper pleaded he was a "regular guy" who plays golf on the weekends, he pioneered the blend of bad taste, theatrical antics and great glam rock music, which would influence many metal bands to come. I can still here some of that T. Rex "Jeepster" sound during that period.

Killer was the first of a run of three huge records for Cooper (the others being School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies). "Be My Lover" was a very close second to "Under My Wheels" as my album favorite, its three chord riff underscoring Alice's tale of a talkative groupie who wants to know why the singer's name is Alice ("I said listen baby, you really wouldn't understand").

"Under My Wheels" has a grab you by the collar opening, alarming guitar chords, Smith's rumbling tom toms, pause and then Cooper belting out:

Telephone is ringing
You got me on the run
I'm driving in my car now
Anticipating fun
I'm driving right up to you, babe
I guess that you couldn't see, yeah yeah
But you are under my wheels
Why don't you let me be.

Did he actually run over his girlfriend? Does he want to run over his girlfriend?

It's right up the guitar neck in a typical blues progression of A-C-D-F, Smith's drums prominently hitting every nuance of the arrangement. Cooper's songs were more produced then one would like to remember -- "Under My Wheels" had a horn section as it drove on, and they peaked with bombastic power on Billion Dollar Babies. Yet, this was prime air guitar central because Cooper's arrangements had these stop and start nuances, often using the electric guitars as counterpoints and countermelodies.

Despite the sloppy camerawork during Buxton's solo, here is that raw army of Gibson SG's and Cooper himself in 1971 doing a live version on the UK program "Old Grey Whistle Test." Of special note: Dennis Dunaway's 5,000 piece drum kit and the glammy shiny outfits they are all wearing with all kinds of things hanging off them.

No comments: