Vincent Damon Furnier had little success with his band, from which he copied his later stage name, until the producer Bob Ezrin became aware of him.  Ezrin produced, among others, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd, Kiss or Deep Purple and was known for using new techniques. Together with him, Furnier  and his band released two albums, including Billion Dollar Babies, which became one of Alice Cooper’s most successful longplayers as a number 1 album in the USA, UK and the Netherlands. In total, there were four singles, including one of Cooper’s most famous numbers, which should not be missing at any concert today: “No more Mr. Nice Guy”. The album has a long way behind it, because different elements were recorded in different studios. Different effects were created by walking through different rooms with microphones, which produced different echoes and sounds due to their size, furnishings and design. From Connecticut, where these effects were captured, they crossed the pond to London, where they recorded a major part of the disc. Unfortunately, guitarist Glen Buxton had  quite a drug problem that jeopardized the recordings. Without further ado, Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter  were hired  and Mick Mashbir for the subsequent promotional tour for the new album.  Cooper himself emphasizes again and again that Million Dollar Babies was a change, also for himself and the songwriting. It has always been his goal to tell stories with his songs, which is quite difficult in three and a half minutes. He was very influenced by Chuck Berry, who did exactly what Cooper  wanted to achieve  with “Nadine” or “Maybellene” and tried to implement on the new album. His intention was above all humorous songs, often with black humor, sometimes also small dramas. The cover was designed like an expensive purse made of green snakeskin, the first pressing provided with an oversized 1 trillion dollar note, rounded corners and the trillion dollar coin depicted in embossed print. In the flip cover there are also individual photos and pictures with perforated edges, so that you could cut them out. Behind it hides the slot for the vinyl, which is stored in a printed inner sleeve. If you would separate out the pictures, you would  see the band photo of the inner sleeve directly when unfolding. Musically, Alice Cooper  brought ten new songs on the album, which were also partly groundbreaking for the further career.

Starting with “Hello Hooray”, written  by Rolf Kempf and originally recorded by Judy Collins. The intention behind it was a separate version of the number, which marked a change within the band. From the original hard rock image, the  horror cabaret was born, which Furnier underpinned on the following tour with his outfits and a disturbing stage show. “Hello Hooray” was the second single release of the album and seems strangely boring, slow and little corresponding to what you were used to from the band so far and know today. However, it would be the perfect soundtrack for a Tarantino movie that famously likes to create movies around songs and could show one of its infamous shooting scenes. “Raped and Freezin'” is one of those ludicrous stories that Furnier tells. Sexual harassment the other way around, carried out by a Bible-believing nymphomaniac, suffered by a shy hitchhiker who at some point, somewhere in Mexico, is naked, freezing and helplessly confused. “Elected” was the first single that appeared as a small foretaste almost half a year before the album. This is a rewritten version of “Reflected”, which was heard on the debut Pretties for you from 1969. What can initially be  generally interpreted as a courtship song of  a courtier quickly makes it clear that all further interpretation is obsolete, because it is exactly about what the title promises: the election and being elected by the people as the head of America. The election promises, the colorful, glorious future, the subservient world, the knowledge of all the problems in all parts of the country – and in the end the bitter truth that the chosen one personally does not care at all. It is a frighteningly topical and above all timeless song that does not only apply to the USA. You might expect a freaking, angry sound, but you won’t hear more than downright lovely guitars and a screaming Cooper. He seems tame and maybe this disgust, this anger and this narrated ignorance of the high animals only work if you imagine the stage show. If you listen closely, you can see a short, small similarity to the interlude of “School’s Out”.

Title track “Billion Dollar Babies”, the fourth single release, is a love song to the dear money, just that trillion dollars – or rather to the doll, the baby, which you still see today with the song on stage, at some point losing his head and now even darker than in the 1970s? Actually, it’s supposed to be a sung horror story, in my eyes Cooper  can do it better. This bizarre love and the meetings in the attic are a bit reminiscent of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman. Away from all this, “Unfinished Sweet” is an instrumental piece that indeed seems a bit unfinished. After two-thirds there is the story – of Halloween, candy and the doc – who has seen the movie, will  remember Charlie and the chocolate factory, the fantastic Christopher Lee as a dentist and strict father of  Johnny Depp, who forbids his son everything sweet and finally leaves an immense fear of dentist and teeth,  which only the adult Charlie can face. But Furnier goes further in his song and refers to de Sade, who will live in the described mouth that night and torment him. The  author, known as the Marquis de Sade,  stands for sadism and sexual deviation, which is satisfied by tormenting others. So not exactly the best song before a visit to the dentist, but at the same time lyrically wonderfully fitting into this dark horror world of the band. It is perhaps the most famous number of the album and one of the songs that are still played today at concerts and on the radio: “No more Mr. Nice Guy” was the third single, released in 1973. Behind this is the horrified reaction of his mother’s church community to the stage shows and the appearance of the originally so well-behaved, well-behaved Vincent Damon Furnier. He is no longer Mr. Nice Guy, but has changed a lot. At the same time, the second verse deals with the narrow-mindedness of the social environment of the parents, who suddenly found themselves as outcasts in front of closed doors. Cooper makes clear his aversion to this stuffiness  in “Generation Landslide” by laughing at these good, God-fearing mothers and fathers who close themselves off to life and raise their children to be obedient puppets. It sounds like an ordinary, well-behaved song that is played on Sundays after church, at the dance tea, with harmonica, while the ladies sip their coffee and distribute the homemade cakes. “Sick Things” is a somewhat controversial song. He seems sublime by a ponderous rhythm, the entry of the king, who passes between the people who adore him. Some say it’s simply about the worship of the things that have such an important place in our lives, others see a metaphor here and interpret the sick things  as the fans of Alice Cooper. Be that as it may, the thing drags on, drags itself along laboriously,  and perhaps makes clear through this tenacious progress how much the lyrical ego is attached to these things and cannot get rid of them against all reason. “Mary Ann” is the shortest song, just over two minutes long, dominated by the piano, strolling with almost gentle vocals. In the end, it turns out that Mary Ann is a transvestite. It is meant to be humorous, especially in the combination of the following “I love the dead”, which is clearly about necrophilia.

The conclusion of the album once again brings up the intention behind it quite well. Sarcastic and gloomy, Vincent Damon Furnier  tells his stories, which represent a change in his music and his personality. In 1974 he adopted the band name as his stage name.  Billion Dollar Babies is an important album for the band, which should build on the success of School’s Out  and at the same time mark a clear change in content and appearance.  Alice Cooper becomes a horror  show on stage, a dark horror cabaret, peppered with hidden and very open references to dark literature, dripping with sarcasm and aversion to conventional stuffiness. The connections, whether consciously or accidentally, to the genre of Black Romanticism, think of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe or Mary Shelley, are clear and shape the music. Nor can one avoid a connection to Alistair Crowley , who wrote equally darkly, black-humorously and destructively.  Billion Dollar Babies does not convince with brute basses, heavy, catchy rhythms and unforgettable hooks, but lyrical subtleties, with the first tentative attempts to tell stories, shortys that create an oppressive heaviness in an average of three minutes. The music can really work through a good knowledge of the lyrics and even better through the elaborate stage show, which Alice Cooper has continued to develop over the years.

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies
1. Hello Hooray
2. Raped and Freezin’
3. Elected
4. Billion Dollar Babies
5. Unfinished Sweet
6. No More Mr. Nice Guy
7. Generation Landslide
8. Sick Things
9. Mary Ann
10. I Love the Dead

>> click here for German original version <<