SickthingsUK: The Last Temptation

Alice's last new release for Epic Records was also one of his best albums ever. The superb cover art promised something special and Alice delivered a great collection of songs telling a story of temptation and deliverence which was also illustrated over three comic books, the first of which came wrapped with early copies of the record. High points include 'Sideshow', the down and dirty 'Bad Place Alone' and the epic 'Cleansed By Fire'. Classic Cooper.


June 6th 1994 (UK)/July 12th 1984 (US)

Track listing

  1. Sideshow (Cooper, Smith, Brooks, Norwood, Wexler, Saylor)(6:29)
  2. Nothing's Free (Cooper, Wexler, Saylor) (5:01)
  3. Lost In America (Cooper, Wexler, Saylor)(3:53)
  4. Bad Place Alone (Cooper, Wexler, Saylor)(5:04)
  5. You're My Temptation (Cooper, Blades, Shaw)(5:09)
  6. Stolen Prayer (Cornell, Cooper)(5:39)
  7. Unholy War (Cornell)(4:10)
  8. Lullaby (Cooper, Vallance)(4:28)
  9. It's Me (Cooper, Blades, Shaw)(4:39)
  10. Cleansed By Fire (Cooper, Hudson, Dudas, Saylor) (6:13)

Musicians

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Stef Burns - Guitar, Vocals
  • Greg Smith - Bass, Vocals
  • Derek Sherinian - Keyboards, Vocals
  • David Uosikkinen - Drums (from 'The Hooters')
  • Chris Cornell - Vocals on 'Stolen Prayer' and 'Unholy War'
  • Dan Wexler - Guitar on 'Lost In America'
  • John Purdell - Additional Keyboards on 'You're My Temptation', 'Lullaby', 'It's Me'.

Sleeve Notes

Produced by

  • Andy Wallace (1,6,7,10)
  • Don Flemmin (2,3,4)
  • Duane Baron and John Purdell (5,8,9)
Recorded at:
  • Music Grinder, Hollywood and Sony, Santa Monica (1,6,7,10)
  • Record One, Sherman Oaks, CA and Sony, Santa Monica (2,3,4)
  • Devonshire, North Hollywood and Music Grinder, Hollywood (5,8,9)
  • Additional guitar on 'Lost In America' recorded at Chaton Studios Phoenix, Arizona.
Concept by Alice Cooper and Neil Gaiman
Album Cover: Dave Mckean
Photography by Dean Karr
Comic illustrations by Mike Zulli

Album Notes - (Detailed release information)

In January 1993 'Metal Edge' published a news story about the forthcoming album: "Alice Cooper, who at press time was awaiting the December arrival of his third child, will enter the studio January 2nd to begin tracking a presently untitled concept album that tells the tale of a spider-like demon trying to entrap an innocent young boy. Neil Gaiman, who writes the 'Sandman' comic books, worked on the storyline with Alice, and his musical collaborators include Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Damn Yankees' Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades, and (if schedules can be worked out), Gary Cherone of Extreme. Alice hopes to have the members of his 'Hey Stoopid' touring band play on the record, depending on their availability. A summertime release is planned."


Alice and Neil Gaiman.

Luckily for them they didn't say which summertime, as it was another 18 months before the album would finally hit the shelves. Why it took so long is something of a mystery. Part of the problem could have been contractual. By the time 'The Last Temptation' was finally released Alice would technically be signed to another record label, Hollywood Records. What happened was his close friend Bob Pfeifer, the man who had signed him to Epic and paved the way for the success of 'Trash', had left the label and moved to Hollywood Records, a Disney-owned company. Alice, his contract almost up with Epic anyway, wanted to go with him and the offer was there. However he still owed Epic one more album and delivered 'The Last Temptation', certainly the best of the three Epic albums but arguably also the least commercial. While Epic did a reasonable job, they knew they had no future with Alice and so it's been suggested they were less than enthusastic about the project.

During the early 90s Alice had begun talking more about his religious views and in fact privately his involvement with religion had grown a great deal. It's maybe going to far to say Alice was "born again" as he had always had strong religious views, stemming from his father especially, but it's safe to say it was having a growing effect on him. You can see that effect on 'The Last Temptation' which has several overtly religious themes. The album is a morality play (as were many Alice stage shows in their own way) with 'Steven' being tempted by the devilish figure of the 'Showman'.

When he started working on the album Alice had a general idea of where he wanted it to go, but didn't really have a storyline to tie it all together, so he contacted Neil Gaiman, one of the hottest names in comics at the time, for help. Gaiman flew to Phoenix and the pair sat down to bash out the basic story.

"My head swam with snakes and swords, top hats and black-rimmed eyes. Alice sometimes talked about Alice Cooper in the third person. "Alice wouldn’t do that". I found this very comfortable: Alice Cooper the person is his own affair; Alice Cooper the character is something else again. He's larger than life."

One key source of inspiration was Ray Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' in which a carnival comes to town with the promise of making their wishes come true, something that was used for the album."

Once they had the story worked out Alice begun writing the songs with Dan Wexler, and old friend from 'Icon' who lived not far from him in Phoenix. Together with Bob Pfeifer they gradually put together the new material, with additional writing sessions with Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades from 'Damn Yankees. The final element was two songs submitted by Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. Cornell was a rising star in the 'grunge' music scene which was at it's height at the time. Alice wanted to tap into some of that sound and get away from the over-produced songs of the previous two albums. Having Cornell on the album would also help his street-cred no end.

Talking to 'SciFi Weekly' in 2001 Neil Gaiman recalled one story during the making of the album:

"He wrote the songs, I wrote the story. I was there for some of the songwriting, but my most vivid memories are of a storm coming in and knocking out the hotel power, and so sitting out on the balcony, watching the lightning, while Alice told us about the night he met Elvis."

The album seemed to take ages to complete although it could be deceptive. Just because it took eighteen months between announcement and release doesn't mean Alice spent all that time recording. In fact it's more likely he was simply off doing other things, spending time with family and playing golf. When the first single 'Lost In America' finally arrived on May 16th Alice was already out on a promotional tour which included appearances on 'Top Of The Pops' in the UK and a signing session in London with Gaiman. The single did well in Europe reaching #22 in Britain but doesn't appear to have been released in the US. A follow up single, 'It's Me', reached #34 but again wasn't released in the US.".

The album was a big success in the UK reaching #6, his third top 10 album in a row, but in the US it couldn't get above #68. There was considerable publicity in the UK when it was released including TV and radio appearances which certainly helped, as did the comic book.


The free comic book included in initial copies of 'The Last Temptation'.

Initial copies of 'The Last Temptation' came with a 'free' comic book written by Neil Gaiman with covers by Dave McKean and interior art by Mike Zulli. This wasn't some flimsy 8 page leaflet as had been seen before, but a proper full length comic, published by the biggest comic company in the world... Marvel. The same comic book was later made available alone through comic shops but with a different cover. Issues two and three, completing the story, appeared over a very protracted period of time, so long in fact that people wondered if the last issue would ever arrive! Still later, all three books were compiled as 'The Compleat Alice Cooper' trade paperback (and have been collected a few times since). This version included some additional text and sketches. All were published by Marvel Comics. When the album was released there was also talk of a video game but this never happened.

The working title for 'The Last Temptation' was 'Along Came A Spider' but the story was much the same. The album was pretty much finished before the 'The Last Temptation' title was used. Alice later used the working title in 2008.

Songs written by Bob Ezrin and Dick Wagner were demoed for the album at a very early stage of production. Other songs written but unreleased included 'Invisible Strings', 'Blood Brother' (which may have become 'Bad Place Alone'), 'I Dare You', 'Best Friend' and 'Born Guilty'. None of these rough demos have ever been released.

The Album was released as a limited edition vinyl LP in Europe, but this was not available in the US. In Japan, it came as a double CD set, the second CD containing live recordings from Electric Lady Studios, New York on the 'Hey Stoopid' Tour. The songs included were:

  1. Sick Things (3:02)
  2. Only Women Bleed (1:31)
  3. Wind Up Toy (3:09)
  4. No More Mr Nice Guy (2:20)
  5. Billion Dollar Babies (2:50)
  6. Poison (5:01)
  7. Hey Stoopid (4:23)

Producer Don Fleming, who worked on the 'The Last Temptation', was the singer with indie-rock band Gumball and produced various alt. Rock bands like Sonic Youth and Hole.

'Unholy War' and 'Stolen Prayer' were written by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. 'Unholy War' was released as a promotional single to radio stations in the US sometime before the album was released but was never released as a commercial single.

The 'Lost In America' video shot at Chaplin Stage in Hollywood during May 1994.

Alice appeared on UK show 'Top Of The Pops' (and a couple of others) co-hosting the show and performing 'Lost In America'. The drummer on 'Top of the Pops' was a guy from Long Island, NY named Charlie Viagas, a close friend of bassist Greg Smith, who was still playing with Alice at that time. When Greg found out that Alice was planning to hire a "local" guy to mime to the track on the show (Only the vocals were live) he told Alice and the Management about a drummer friend who was planning a vacation to London, and would be available to do the show. They agreed, and he performed with the band that one time.

The Cover

Arguably the best cover art Alice has ever had, the cover of 'The Last Temptation' is by Dave McKean, a long time collaborator of Neil Gaimen who had worked on the album story with Alice. McKean was mainly known for his comics work, especially his work on the 'Sandman' covers and graphic novels like 'Violent Cases' and Arkham Asylum', and was one of the most sort after artists in the business. Much of his work was far from normal comic art, involving collage, real objects, digital art and sculpture to make a very distinctive style.


The Japanese text on 'The Last Temptation' cover.

The Japanese characters on the cover of 'The Last Temptation' do have a real meaning. It's an old poster for a Japanese sideshow. The poster is made up of three sets of characters. Each set is read Oriental-style, in columns from top to bottom and from right to left. In other words, the first character is the blurry red one in the upper right corner (A), then B, then C, then D at the start of the next column, and so on.

The red characters A-F are read "Sando tenran no ei o tamawaru" which literally means "Honored by being viewed by the Emperor three times." This is a stock cliche that used to be used by sideshows in Japan and often seen in old movies where a sideshow barker shouts things like "Step right up and see the marvels that have amazed the crowned heads of Europe!" The Japanese expression has the same flavor.

The next set of characters G-J are read "sekai muhi," which means "nothing like it in the world".

The third set K-M is read "Dai kijutsu" and means something like "great magic", "fantastic sleight of hand", "stupendous illusions" etc. (Thanks to Steve Carter for the explaination).

'The Last Temptation' Live

There was no tour to support 'The Last Temptation' although Alice did mention plans for one a few times in interviews around the release date. A reason for the non-tour could possible be put down to record company politics. As Alice left Epic just after the release of 'The Last Temptation' it's possibly unlikely they were going to help finance a tour, and new record company Hollywood had no product to sell so neither were they!

He did do a promotional tour during May and June of 1994 visiting the US, Europe and Australia, for TV Appearances and in-store signing sessions, some with Neil Gaiman.

When Alice returned to playing live in 1995 he included a few songs from the album. In 1995 he was offered a short tour of South America and accepted. The three shows (two in Brazil, one in Chile) featured a full set with limited thearics. 'Feed My Frankenstein' used the table effect from the previous tour, and 'Gutter Cat vs. The Jets' had the gang fight as in previous years. Sheryl Cooper played the nurse in the show and Brian Nelson a doctor. The band was a mixture of old friends from recent years with Paul Taylor switching from Keyboards to guitar (which he had sometimes played on tour previously from his keyboard riser) but saw the arrival of new drummer Jimmy Degrasso who would play with Alice for some years after.

The new songs added were 'Sideshow', 'Lost In America', 'It's Me', and 'Cleansed By Fire'. The order of songs changed slightly each night and 'Sideshow' was dropped by the last show. 'It's Me' was only ever played at these shows.
Over the next few years 'Lost In America' and 'Sideshow' (as an opener) would be played frequently. 'Nothing's Free' and 'Cleansed By Fire' were played back to back during the late 90s tours. After 1999 only 'Lost In America' would ever be played again and is often a part of the setlist right up to today.

The Performers

  • Alice Cooper - Vocals
  • Stef Burns - Guitar
  • Paul Taylor - Guitar
  • Jimmy Degrasso - Drums
  • Greg Smith - bass
  • Derek Sherinian - Keyboards
  • Sheryl Cooper - The Nurse
  • Brian "Renfield" Nelson - The Doctor

Setlist

  1. Under My Wheels
  2. Billion Dollar Babies
  3. I'm Eighteen
  4. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  5. Desperado
  6. Sideshow
  7. Lost In America
  8. It's Me
  9. Cleansed By Fire
  10. Go To Hell
  11. Instrumental (Steven, Devil's Food, Black Widow)
  12. Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets
  13. Feed My Frankenstein
  14. Only Women Bleed
  15. Welcome To My Nightmare
  16. Ballad of Dwight Fry
  17. School's Out
  18. Hey Stoopid
  19. Elected