SickthingsUK: Welcome To My Nightmare

Alice's first solo album highlights both his love of the macabre and musical theatre. Designed as the soundtrack to a TV special and the forthcoming tour, the album moves between the hard rock of 'Black Widow' to the jazzy 'Some Folks' effortlessly, creating what for many is Alice Cooper's greatest album. Along the way 'Steven' is one of the all time classic Cooper epics and 'Only Women Bleed' a delicate ballad that rises and falls to great effect. Many fans moan about the absence of the original group, but with material and performances this strong is hard to fault anything else. Essential.


March 1975

Track listing

  1. Welcome To My Nightmare (Cooper, Wagner)(5:19)
  2. Devil's Food (Cooper, Ezrin, Kelley Jay)(3:38)
  3. The Black Widow (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin)(3:37)
  4. Some Folks (Cooper, Gordon, Ezrin)(4:19)
  5. Only Women Bleed (Cooper, Wagner)(5:59)
  6. Department Of Youth (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin)(3.18)
  7. Cold Ethyl (Cooper, Ezrin)(2:51)
  8. Year's Ago (Cooper, Wagner)(2:51)
  9. Steven (Cooper, Ezrin)(5:52)
  10. The Awakening (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin)(2:25)
  11. Escape (Cooper, Fowley, Anthony)(3:20)

Musicians

Welcome To My Nightmare
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Acoustic Guitar: Dick Wagner
Guitar: Steve Hunter
Bass: Tony Levin
Clarinet: Jozef Chirowski
Drums: Johnny (Bee) Badanjek
Devil's Food
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitar, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Organ, Vocals: Jozef Chirowski
The Curator: Vincent Price
Backing Vocals: Gerry Lyons, Michael Sherman
The Black Widow
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars: Steve Hunter
Lead Guitar, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Johnny (Bee) Badanjek
Keyboards: Jozef Chirowski
Piano: Bob Ezrin
Backing Vocals: A Cast Of Thousands
Some Folks
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitar, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Lead Guitar: Steve Hunter
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Piano (Tack): Bob Ezrin
Piano, Vocals: Jozef Chirowski
Backing Vocals: Michael Sherman
Only Women Bleed
Vocals: Alice Cooper
High Strung Guitar: Steve Hunter
Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Electric Piano, Vocals: Jozef Chirowski
Department Of Youth
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars: Steve Hunter
Guitars, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Keyboards, Vocals: Jozef Chirowski
Backing Vocals: David Ezrin, Michael Sherman, The Summerhill Children's Choir
Cold Ethyl
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Lead Guitar (opening), Guitars, Slide Guitar: Steve Hunter
Lead Guitar: Dick Wagner
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Organ: Jozef Chirowski
Years Ago
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Acoustic Guitar: Dick Wagner
Harmonium, Synthesizer: Bob Ezrin
Harpsicord: Jozef Chirowski
Mom: Trish McKinnon
Steven
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars: Steve Hunter
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Piano, Vocals: Jozef Chirowski
Backing Vocals: Dick Wagner, Michael Sherman
The Awakening
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitars: Dick Wagner
Guitars: Steve Hunter
Bass: Prakash John
Drums: Whitey Glan
Piano: Jozef Chirowski
Electric Piano (Fender Rhoads) Bob Ezrin
Escape
Vocals: Alice Cooper
Guitar: Steve Hunter
Lead Guitar, Vocals: Dick Wagner
Bass: Tony Levin
Drums: Johnny (Bee) Badanjek
Organ: Jozef Chirowski
Backing Vocals: Michael Sherman

Sleeve Notes

Produced By Bob Ezrin
Recorded at:

  • Soundstage Toronto by Dave Palmer and Jim Frank
  • The Record Plant East and Electric Lady New York by Ed Sprigg, Dave Palmer, Corky Stasiak and Rod O'Brien
  • A&R Studios, New York by the incredible Phil Ramone
Arranged by Bob Ezrin and Allan Macmillan
Graphics Concept and Design: Pacific Eye And Ear
Illustration by Drew Stuzan
Photography: Bret Lopez

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

After the 'Billion Dollar Babies Holiday Tour' at the end of 1973 the Alice Cooper band finally took a break after years of non-stop touring and recording. Michael Bruce and Neal Smith wanted to record solo albums, against the advice of manager Shep Gordon who warned them that if they did Alice would likely go and record his own. The musicians were adament and so it came to pass that Alice headed to Toronto with Bob Ezrin and started work on what would become 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.

Much has been made of the suggestion Shep Gordon planned it all from the start. After all it's easier (and more profitable) to deal with just one artist then five. The band had always been a democracy, with all aspects of the music and show needing a majority vote to happen. This was probably one of the reasons why Michael and Neal wanted to stretch out and do their own albums. Albums they would have full control of and not have to run through the committee. Michael especially wanted to show his songs without the interferance of Alice and Bob Ezrin, who he felt would constantly twist the songs away from his original vision, to make them more 'Cooper-esque'. Both also probably assumed their fame as members of the biggest band in America would see that their albums would sell reasonably well and show them as talents in their own rights. All these things were perfectly reasonable, but they had missed one vital ingredient. Alice was undoubtably the face of the band, with many people already assuming that Alice Cooper was a solo act. He was the face on the magazine covers. He was generally the voice in interviews, and even a cursory look at news articles from the early 70s showed Alice Cooper being refered to "he" rather then "they" more often then not. Outside the loyal fanbase Alice Cooper was a person, not a group.


Hollywood Billboard advertising 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.

However I think the change from group to solo artist was more organic then that, and there were many reasons contributing to it happening when it did. The solo albums were certainly a major part of it, but there was also the issue of Glen Buxton. Glen by this stage was less than engaged by what the band were doing. His health was poor and his playing at times eratic, but no one wanted to fire him from the band he co-formed. He was their high school friend and they natually felt a great deal of loyalty to him. By effectively leaving the band Alice avoided the problem completely.

Alice has often suggested that the band no longer wanted to do the theatrics, while he wanted to make them big and better, but the band refute that completely. It was just something easy for Alice to say to the press when asked (and at the time the band were never asked). Of course there was also the huge success of 'Welcome To My Nightmare'. Alice, Bob and Shep had full control over the project and in turn reaped the full rewards that were split just three ways, meaning more money for all three. So there was far more to it then some masterplan to seperate Alice from the band. Even while working on 'Welcome To My Nightmare' the plan was still to regroup afterwards for the next group album, but when the '...Nightmare' tour was announced the writing was on the wall.

In an 1976 interview with 'Record World' Bob Ezrin recalls the genesis of 'Welcome To My Nightmare' as the soundtrack to a movie:

"[For '...Nightmare'] we weer first writing for a film, then we were writing for a TV Show. It fell apart as a result of some differences between people who were on the production end. We were brought in because Alice was to have been one of the two main characters and we were to have done the soundtrack. So we began work on those as soon as we got the script. We began to structure some things for Cooper, and for the character he was playing, in music well before they had even secured production rights. We were just cruising along in good faith, and the group of people putting the film together ended up being like a tower of babel and things just started falling apart. The next thing we knew we were sitting on seven or eight good songs, or song ideas, based on a theme tha was no longer important to us. Then we did the TV show and, because we started to get up against the wall time-wise, tailored some of the material we had written earlier for the film to the 'Welcome...' concept".

Anyway, we were also experimenting with different types of rhythm sections for Cooper and with different approaches to rock and roll music for Cooper, because for the first time we weren't limited by what we could do - Not by the players, not by the writing, not by anythng or anyone. We could use any musicians e wante to use as long as we could afford to pay them. We just tried differend things. 'Welcome...' was an experimental record for us, being the first solo Cooper album, and being the first time Cooper and myslef had ever put something together in our heads before it got to the studio."

'Welcome To My Nightmare' was promoted as the soundtrack to the TV special, which allowed Shep and Alice to use a loophole in their contract with Warner Brothers Records and sign a deal with Atlantic Records who released the album in the US (it was on Anchor in the UK). Atlantic, while technically owned by Warner Brothers, was a major label in it's own right and autonomous. Warners were not happy to see their golden goose flying off to a rival. They fought to get him back in time for follow-up 'Goes To Hell'. It was all record company politics really, but likely helped Shep negotiate a better deal for future Alice solo albums when they returned to Warners the following year. Years later Warners obtained the rights to the record anyway.

When recording the album Bob Ezrin brought in most of the band he had assembled for Lou Reed 'Berlin' album, on which he had worked in 1973. Seasoned professionals, he knew they would do exactly what they were told with the minimum of fuss. Hunter and Wagner of course both worked on the original band albums as well so were already familiar to Alice and in Wagner he found the perfect new writing partner.

Of course Alice's life went through another major change in 1975. One that would have a huge effect that lives on to this day. During the tour he met a young dancer, hired to perform in the show. Her name was Sheryl Goddard. They fell in love, married the following year, and have been together ever since.

In 2002 the album was remastered and released with 3 bonus tracks, the TV Special versions of 'Devil's Food', 'Cold Ethyl' and 'The Awakening'. There was also a DVD-A version of the album which featured alternate mixes of all the songs by Bob Ezrin.

In 2011 Alice and Bob Ezrin recorded a follow-up album called 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' which featured musicial references to the original album and an updated version of the original's album cover.


Alice and Vincent Price on the set of 'The Nightmare'.

According to one document the Vincent Price monologue that bridges 'Devil's Food' and 'The Black Widow' had it's own seperate title: 'Jolly MacAmbre, Tour Guide at the Pasadena Palace of Insects'. According to IMDB Alice initially met Price on the set of Daniel Mann's 'Journey Into Fear' around July 1974 (released August 1975). Alice was there to talk about ideas for what would become '....Nightmare' with director Mann and was introduced to Price who was there working on the film. When Price showed up at the studio to record his vocals he shocked onlookers by arriving in a Hawaiian shirt and striped pants. Alice Cooper commented that the horro legend looked "like Ronald McDonald." While Price only has one monologue on the album, in the TV Special he has a much larger part. He also turned up to perform his part live at one show in Lake Tahoe. Unfortunatly no footage of the event exists.

Dick Wagner on 'Only Women Bleed':

"I wrote all the music for ['Only Women Bleed'] in 1968 when I was still with The Frost, and it had completely different lyrics. Then, when Alice and I sat down and began writing for the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' record, I played him that song, and he agreed that the lyrics weren't that good. So we wrote new lyrics, and he had this title, 'Only Women Bleed,' so that became the song."

Alice has said in interviews that he gets a lot of inspiration from the TV, including 'Only Women Bleed'. The title came from something that someone said on TV that sounded like "only women bleed" but wasn't. The song is, of course, about domestic violence. The women bleeding due to being beaten. Of course the mainstream press didn't (and sometimes still don't) bother to understand the words and often jumped to the conclusion that sick, deprived Alice was talking about menstruation. Dropping the word 'blood' from the title of the single didn't seem to help

In an interview, Alice said that the voices heard in the background of 'Years Ago' was some old audio footage of a supposed exorcism.

In an episode of YouTube series "Ask Alice" Alice explained where who he thought 'Steven' was:

"I didn't know who 'Steven' was until I had used him in four or five albums. I got the idea of using him through four or five albums from [author] Kurt Vonnegut using 'Kilgore Trout' through all of his novels, and I said "I need a character ilke that". Then I started realising that 'Steven' is the seven year old boy who lives in all of us. He's the little boy who's scared of the dark. He's afraid of what's under the bed... but he can't wait to see what it is. I think he's that seven year old boy that never dies, or never should die, in you. He's what keeps you young. Girls? I don't know.. you probably have a Brenda... or a Sally..."

'Escape' was originally written by The Hollywood Stars and recorded by them in 1974 [YouTube] for an album that wasn't actually released until 2013. Alice re-wrote the words for the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' version but kept the chorus. The Hollywood Stars also wrote Kiss' 'King Of The Night Time World' for the Ezrin produced 'Destroyer' album around the same time.
Writers Mark Anthony and Kim Fowley sued Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive because his song 'Down The Line' sounded like 'Escape' (Alice was not involved as he only adapted the lyrics). They settled out of court and Bachman added their names to the publishing on his song.

An concert film was released, also calleed 'Welcome To My Nightmare', featuring the full 'Welcome To My Nightmare' show recorded live at Wembley in 1975. Unlike many early Alice Cooper film projects this one has been reissued multiple times, the best of which was the first Rhino Records DVD release which included a brilliant and funny commentary track by Alice and his personal assistant/archivist Brian Nelson. Unfortunatly this was only available in the US and all other releases omit the feature.

'The Nightmare' TV Special


The original VHS of 'The Nightmare' and the 2017 DVD.

'The Nightmare' was the visual accompliment to the album, the first of it's kind, featuring film clips for each of the albums tracks plus the old band classic 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry'. It aired on US Television (ABC 11:30 EST 25th April '75) to great acclaim, although nowadays it looks rather dated and cheap (it wasn't!). The film features Alice and horror superstar Vincent Price, performing his role as 'The Curator', together with various dancers. In 1976 it won an Emmy for 'best video tape editing'.

It was filmed in Toronto, Canada and Alice had 40 cases of 'Budweiser' beer shipped in when he discovered it wasn't on sale locally.

The version of 'The Ballad Of Dwight Fry' is actually the original instrumental track with a new, probably live, vocal by Alice.

Around 1984 'The Nightmare' TV special was finally released on VHS by Warner Home Video, just when the home video market was starting to open up. Due to this it became eligible for a Grammy that year, and was indeed nominated, but lost out to 'Duran Duran' who were the current big thing. Alice attended the awards ceremony that year and presented with Grace Jones (Feb. 28th `84). Original video copies quickly disappeared became extremely rare. The film wasn't officially available again until August 2017, when it was finally re-released on DVD, coupled with a slightly edited version of the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' Wembley concert film ('Department Of Youth' is cut from the live film, although it's still listed on the back cover and on the DVD menu!).

Most of the songs on the TV special are slightly different to their album counterparts. Often the differences are minor, but in some cases there are different or additional lyrics, or instrumentation. Some of the lyric changes like 'Only Women Bleed' were due to TV censor rules. It wasn't X-rated material but it was still 1975. Others where probably changed "the fun of it" (just too actually make it a separate vehicle for the video) and possibly to tell the story of the better (as in 'The Awakening'). - paraphrasing Brian Nelson, 1997

'Welcome To My Nightmare' Live


Alice and friend on stage 1975

The 'Welcome To My Nightmare' stage show was huge. Part rock show and part broadway production the new stage included towers, spider webs, a toy box and an oversized bed which slid out onto the stage. It also included a revolutionary projection screen which had slits cut in it, allowing Alice and the dancers to jump in and out of pre-recorded film footage projected behind the band. No one had seen anything like it before, certainly at a rock concert.

The new album was performed in full, interspersed with a few band classics which were cleverly bookended by versions of 'Years Ago'. 'Some Folks' featured Alice and the dancers performing in skeleton costumes illuminated on the dark stage by fluorescent lights. 'Black Widow' had two spider's hanging from a rope web and attacking Alice. He serenaded Sheryl on the bed before she danced across the stage where he caught her and killed her, only for her to magically transform into a full size dummy he could throw around for 'Cold Ethyl.
Possibly the most memorable effect was the giant cyclops costume used for 'Steven' although it's severly limited range of movements could be comical, especially when seen on film later. Alice attacked it and evetually cut of it's head. 'Escape' saw Alice and the dancers jumping in and out of the magic screen perfectly timed to match up with their filmed counterparts.
The band was on fire, and contrary to some detractors they were not hidden away. Certainly at some points you couldn't see them because of various props, but most of the time they were in full view and their names were also listed on posters, programmes and in the press. Hunter and Wagner even took stage front for an extended guitar "battle" during 'The Black Widow'.

The show was produced and choreographed by David Winters, who had played the part of 'A-Rab' (NOT 'Action' as Alice has said) in the 1961 movie of 'West Side Story'. He got his big break choreographing the dance moves for Elvis Presley in 'Viva Las Vegas'.

The tour was due to visit Australia for the first time but dates were canceled after the Minister of Immigration effectively banned Alice from visiting the country. He declared "descriptions I have been given of his performances indicate that they are primitive and barbaric". He had apparently been informed that show included the mutilation of dolls, birds and animals. "This sort of peformance is sick. I am not going to allow a degenerate who could poewrfully influence the young and weak-minded to enter this country and stage this sort of exhibition". Of course the show didn't feature any of that, which just goes to show how gulible some politicians can be, not to mention lazy for not bothering to check his information. Alice finally got in Australia in 1977 and played the full '...Nightmare' show without issues.

That wasn't the only problem the tour faced though. In September the whole troupe was detained at Munich airport over a local hotel bill. Alice claimed the hotel was trying to charge them for staying two nights when they were only there one night, and when they refused to pay the hotel claimed they had taken towels, rugs and shower curtains from their rooms as well. They were removed from their chartered plane while the police searched. In the end they paid the $840 just to get out of Munich. Afterwards Alice swore he would never play Europe again, Britain excluded. In fact he didn't actually return until 1982 although the two facts probably aren't realy connected.

As well as filming the Wembley shows for the concert film several shows on the tour were recorded and transmitted on radio including Los Angeles and Paris.

During the tour the band traveled on the ACII, a F-27 Electra Jet with the name 'Alice' painted on the side.

At the Vancouver show Alice fell off stage near the start of the show, suffering six broken ribs and a lacerated scalp. The news reported:

"The opening number featured four dancers costumed in dream sequence finery and Alice writhering on a metal bed. The dancers were supposed to be locked in a large toy box at the end of the number but, as Alice slammed the lid shut, the box turned over and sent him sprawling between the stage and the guard rail. With his head bandaged and ribs taped, Alice tried to carry on with the performance but gave up after 30 minutes. He was taken to hospital."

The Performers

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Dick Wagner - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Steve Hunter - Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Prakash John - Bass, Backing Vocals
  • Penti 'Whitey' Glan - Drums
  • Jozef Chirowski - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
  • Sheryl G. Goddard - Dancer
  • Robin Blythe - Dancer
  • Yuichi Sugiyami - Dancer
  • Eugene Montoya - Dancer

Setlist

  • Welcome To My Nightmare
  • Years Ago - No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Years Ago - Billion Dollar Babies
  • Years Ago - I'm Eighteen
  • Years Ago - Some Folks
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Devil's Food
  • The Black Widow (with guitar battle)
  • Steven
  • Welcome To My Nightmare (reprise)
  • The Awakening
  • Escape
  • School's Out
  • Department of Youth