The End of the Band – Part 3
THE OTHER STUFF – FOR NOW
The original ‘Alice Cooper’ was a band of five musicians. They ceased to exist, as a unit, after their short South America tour in 1974. The reasons for the split have been debated for many years among fans and the truth of the breakup for one fan will not match the truth of others. There wasn’t one simple reason for the end, but a mixture of events and conditions that dissolved the band at their peak. It’s been suggested that Shep Gordon wanted to deal only with Alice so as to split the money only two ways. It’s been suggested that Alice didn’t want to return to the band and face Glen Buxton’s health problems…and maybe his own? It’s even been said that Alice “fired” the band which is totally untrue…as he couldn’t, they were equal partners. Or that Dennis, Neal, Michael, and Glen quit – they didn’t! Theatrics? Glen’s problems? Solo work? Life does not exist in a vacuum.
If you are interested in more details than I have presented, (of course you are!) please read Dennis Dunaway’s book or Michael Bruce’s book for their views on the breakup. Of course, some of Alice’s books also touch on the subject as well. I understand that Shep Gordon has an autobiography coming out in September of 2016….thus another view. Someday Neal may become an author. Cindy?
The above published materials all have varying takes on the ending of the band, yet all do seem to agree that the band needed, and agreed to take, a break after the Muscle of Love Tour. They all touch on the accumulated STRESS and FATIGUE factors that built up due to excessive touring, along with turning out five albums in less than four years. Add in that these five guys had to live and work in close proximity to each other all that time. They needed a break. Mick Mashbir, when asked in 1998, noted the need for the band to take a break after Billion Dollar Babies when asked about the state of the band at the time.
One thing I won’t delve into here is the role management played in the demise of the band and what role it had (if any) on separating Alice from the other four members. A lot of stuff has been brought up over the years about this situation – both by fans and by band members. I’ve heard some stories myself. However, a lot of it is based on speculation and circumstantial evidence. What occurred along that line, I was not privy too, so I leave it to those that were there to have a final say on this subject – or not. The music industry was and is a cut-throat business…and I admit to getting a feeling of fancy knife work. Yet, what was done is done…..and much like trying to relive Glen’s life – this part of band’s history won’t be relived and re-done either.
Ah yes…the book.
The Bob Greene book, Billion Dollar Babies.
A very popular book back in the 1970s. Even gets mentions today as a forerunner of the “ride along with the band” genre. Of course, in some areas of the Alice Cooper community, it did not receive such accolades. (See autographed inside cover above). A lot of talk has swirled around Mr. Greene’s book and how he portrayed the band during his stay with them during part of the Billion Dollar Babies Tour. Many have claimed that the stress caused by the things “revealed” in this book were among the reasons the band dissolved. Some fans have gone as far as claiming that the book was a “set-up” by Shep Gordon and Greene to help drive a wedge between Alice and his band mates. However, while the band members disliked what Greene published, they have not directly said that they felt Gordon master-mined such a scheme. Dennis even stated in his book, Snakes, Guillotines, and Electric Chairs, that Shep talked to Greene to persuade him to not make the book too negative.
Sadly, much of what Bob Greene wrote has been taken as gospel. Even in recent interviews, band members are asked to respond to things written in a book that is now over forty years old. Hopefully the published books by Dunaway, Cooper and Bruce (and maybe Smith, in the near future), will wash away some of the negativity raised in this book.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bob Greene, his writings and his life story….he can be easily Googled. However, I would like to suggest an article written about him, from about thirteen years ago, which tells his history AND gives an insight into his writing style. Very illuminating – especially for those of you easily duped into believing all that is written. The article is entitled, “The Saga of Bob Greene” By Marcia Coburn And Steve Rhodes.
Here is a little excerpt for those not wanting to delve too deep:
“The trouble was, in public comments Greene made it clear that sometimes he did not believe what he wrote . He was just finding an angle that would make a good column-draw attention, promote his career. He mixed candor and calculation so shrewdly that, looking back over his work, it is impossible to tell when he is being honest and when he is just reaching for effect. But the devastating events that have unfolded are beyond questions about his work.”
I think THIS passage pretty much defines Greene’s style and his intents:
“In 1972, after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Greene published a striking column that secured his reputation nationally. “It took this one night to make us know” what it is to be a Jew, he wrote.”
“Rabbis were quoting it (the sentence in dark print above) in High Holiday sermons,” recalls Feder. “That’s how big it was. It seemed to be deeply personal, deeply felt.”
Apparently, it was not. In the mid-seventies, Greene returned to Northwestern to talk to students. The appearance was well attended – Feder was among the students eager to hear Greene speak. Alan Rosenberg, who today is an assistant features editor at The Providence Journal in Rhode Island, was also there. Rosenberg looked up to Greene, and he was curious about the 1974 column that Greene had written about President Gerald Ford pardoning Nixon. “It was so extreme in its emotionalism,” recalls Rosenberg. “It was very virulent-‘We got this guy Ford and the one thing people had wanted of Ford was that he must not pardon Nixon. And now he’d gone and done that and now he’d have to pay.’ I had wondered if Greene had felt that angry when he wrote it, and when it was time for questions, I asked him.”
Greene said no, he had not felt that way. “He said that he had sat down and thought about what he should say. And that that was the way he normally conducted his business-calculate what the right reaction was, what would make a good piece.” Then Greene went on to tell the story about how he had written his column about the Israeli athletes. He said he had been watching TV and having a drink when he heard the news about the murders. And the thought that had crossed his mind was, If I handle this right, I could be famous.
“It seemed so ethically bankrupt, to have this wonderful forum and to just calculate it, to weigh it, and to say what you think would bring you to prominence,” says Rosenberg. “I could never look at him in the same way again.”
Feder corroborates Rosenberg’s story. “Greene said he didn’t really feel anything. It was all just a device that he knew would resonate with people. It made us feel like we had been taken in.”
OK….my opinion. From what I have heard from multiple sources: Greene’s main focus while writing his B$B book was to hang (score) with the groupies. If you read the article I suggested, this was not an unusual theme in Mr. Greene’s career…. in fact it eventually lead to his downfall. ”Chicago Bob’s” schtick was basically – ‘write what would sell’. Did he make stuff up? I don’t know…. but I can imagine this guy stretching the truth, seems like part of his M.O. It seems a damn shame that this book was one of the very few sources of information about the band for years and years. This, and whatever came out of the Alice camp.
Currently “I’m Changing Arranging” (the Marmalade version)
Some more odds and ends about the break up.
Guitar World Magazine. Originally Published 2008. From article entitled “Babies on Fire” by Jaan Uhelszki
Gordon: The band fell apart after the following album [Muscle of Love], but I don’t think Glen’s inability to perform had anything to do with it. He wasn’t significant in the breakup at all. It’s a classic story: Alice was getting the attention and the band started resenting it. On paper one would say they should’ve thanked him for doing all the press. He would work eight, 10,12 hours a day, seven days a week, doing publicity, while they would just play a show. Alice would have to do hours of interviews every day that there was a show and then hours after the show. The guys would show up and play and then go party. The money got split equally, but they just couldn’t deal with the fact that he was famous.
Smith: At the end of the Billion Dollar Babies tour, all the press was talking about fucking Alice, and there was nothing about the band. It was slowly going in that direction, and it was becoming more and more and more apparent. There was one time during the tour where I was in the limo and somebody told me to get out of the car because it was Alice Cooper’s limo. They’re lucky I didn’t stab ’em.
Cooper: The Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out tours really exhausted us. We couldn’t take a break because we were riding this gigantic tidal wave. We should’ve stopped for a while, but in those days, you didn’t. You did two albums a year and you toured all the time. We went right into recording Muscle of Love, which was an okay album, but there was something missing.
Were we aware of the irony that we were falling apart just as we reached the top? No.
Honestly, everything was day to day. Nobody sat around and thought about tomorrow. We were all overdoing everything, but there was a certain brilliance in that.
Mashbir: During the Billion Dollar Babies tour, everyone was living out their rock and roll dreams. The real cracks showed up later in the year during the Muscle of Love Christmas tour.
Dunaway: After the Billion Dollar Babies tour, we immediately recorded Muscle of Love and did another tour. Then we took a year off because Michael had some great songs that he wanted to record that weren’t appropriate for the Alice Cooper group, and that was understandable. It was a good time to take a break anyway, because we had been driven into the ground.
Bruce: I remember doing an interview with the Hartford Record, and the reporter said, “We hear that Alice is breaking up the band.” I had no idea and said, “No, no, no, it isn’t true.” It took me some time to wipe the egg off my face.
We didn’t know that the band was over for a long time. We were just naive about it. We took some time off, and then we just never got back together. There was never any talk about not doing the band. After a while, we tried to contact Shep, but nobody ever returned our calls until Neal finally got through. He was the one that told us that Shep said Alice didn’t want to work with us anymore. That’s what happened. We were fired. And I think Shep could have done more to hold it together. He just let it fall apart, and then he picked up the pieces that he wanted.
Gordon: It’s funny, because Alice always comes off as the villain in this piece. We begged. I mean, twice Alice said, “Guys, listen, we agreed that we weren’t going to break up until we were all millionaires. That was our deal. And with all of these solo projects, you are now breaking us up. Understand that if you take all this time away from the band, I may not be here when you come back.” He didn’t fire them; they actually fired Alice!
Alice was so loyal to them, because he realized when we made the decision that the band would be called Alice Cooper and he would be called Alice Cooper that they were going to get lost in the wash.
(Presented – ‘As Is’)
Disclaimer: Except for the quoted interviews by band members, some of what is written above are just my thoughts and opinions. I have no first hand knowledge of events and I am sure there are many out there that know more than I do on this subject – INCLUDING the four surviving members of the original band. So…if you disagree, that is fine. Don’t blow a gasket. Read Dennis’ or Alice’s or Michael’s books (maybe Neal’s someday) and go with their views….they know best.