1975 - 'Flash Fearless vs The Zorg Women Parts 5 and 6
This album features two Alice performances, 'I'm Flash' (S.Hammond/D. Pierce/B. Pierce) and 'Space Pirates' (S.Hammond/D. Pierce). It also featured many other stars including John Entwistle (The Who), Maggie Bell and Justin Haywood (Moody Blues). Alice's vocals were recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Bob Ezrin while the rest of the album and Alice's backing tracks were recorded in England. Alice also doctored the lyrics a bit.
This album has been re-issued on CD by RPM records but both of Alice's tracks are available on the 'Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper' box set.More Information
The Alice tracks feature the following musicians:
- Robert A. Johnson - Lead Guitar
- Johnny Weider - Guitar
- John Entwistle (The Who) - Bass
- Bill Bruford (Yes/King Crimson)- Drums
- Justin Hayward (Moody Blues)- Acoustic Guitar
- Kenny Jones (Small Faces/The Who) - Drums
- John Entwistle (The Who) - Bass
- Nicky Hopkins - Piano
- Keith Moon (The Who) - Long John Silver
- Steve Pettican - Slide Guitar
The CD liner notes:
Sometimes an LP's credits can be confusing as they are enlightening. In the case of the disc you are currently holding, many of the performers within are household names, but there's little information around to indicate exactly how such a stellar project came about, and just what the original plans were."Flash Fearless" was definitely planned as a proper stage musical as well as an LP: the sleeve notes credit the record as "A Scratchy Records Production for Chrysalis Records Limited in association with Intergalactic Productions and based on the stage musical to be produced by Weston Gavin." ("Flash" did make it to the stage with Gavin in the title role, albeit not for another six years...but we're jumping the gun a little here.)
Then there's the comic book, given away free with the LP (and reproduced here, as much as is possible on a CD!). Whether this, largely the work of one Paul Sample, was the original inspiration for the project or done later isn't clear. However, as the entire musical is based in the comic book genre (one review accurately described it as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" meets "Flash Gordon"), it must be regarded as an integral part of the project, if only to provide the plot of the musical which you'd hardly pick up from the songs themselves.
So who were the people responsible? Dave Pierce and Steve Hammond, two Canadians (although both were based in England at the time), were the prime movers. Pierce was responsible for writing the comic book and lyrics, with Hammond concentrating on the musical direction. Hammond had formerly been a guitarist for Fat Mattress in their later days(around 1970), a band best known today for its Hendrix connections (ex-Experience bassist Noel Redding was a founder member of the band and Hendrix appeared on their first LP - all before Hammond's time, however). A 1981 biography tells us that Hammond's songs have been recorded by Metal Ticket, Chris Farlowe and Eric Burdon.
The biography of Pierce is even more impressive: "he is a veteran of 150 plays, television shows and films in the USA, Canada, England and France. He has provided lyrics for the BBC, London's Royal Court Theatre, five albums and innumerable singles."
Although these two formed the nucleus of the project, three other people were also involved in its composition. Dave's, erm, relation/spouse. Bonnie assisted with the lyrics on "I'm Flash" and "Blast Off". Fellow Canadian Rick Jones assisted musically with "Country Cooking" and "What's Happening". (Jones was also stationed in England at this time, and according to his biography had his own show on BBC TV for ten years - any ideas, readers?!) Thirdly, one Terence Hillyer wrote the music for "Sacrifice", a gentleman about whom nothing is known.
The project came together in 1974, and a deal with Chrysalis Records was struck."Executive producers" for the LP were John Gaydon and Alan Siefert, although whether this relates to the stage musical side of things rather than the LP isn't clear. (Gaydon of course was the "G" of EG Records, home to King Crimson,Roxy Music etc.)
The producer for the album was John Alcock, at the stage perhaps best known for his production duties on the second and third solo LPs by Who bassist John Entwistle ("Whistle Rhymes" and "Rigor Mortis Sets In"). [In fact Alcock apparently WAS Entwistle under a pseudonym]. More importantly the duo had just finished recording Entwistle's fourth LP, "Mad Dog" just prior to "Flash Fearless" and three other musicians from those sessions (Eddie Jobson, Graham Deakin and Doreen Chanter) along with Entwistle himself re-appeared here.
Rather than use rigid line-up for the LP (which might not have been possible, given that the LP was recorded over three months), Alcock chose a floating line-up, including no less than three top drummers for example. The cast list was in fact quite impressive, and the budget for the LP must have been pretty generous. The cast included the following:
JOHN ENTWISTLE (bass) was the only musician involved on every track on the LP (apart from one short synth reprise). It would seem this LP followed directly from the "Mad Dog" sessions, and the "Special thanks to the Ox" credit on the sleeve would indicate that Entwistle was an early choice and important part of the project. He also sings lead on "Let's Go To The Camp".
ALICE COOPER (vocals) sings lead on two tracks, "I'm Flash" and "Space Pirates". Obviously well-known, following his Number one hit 'School's Out' among other hits, this particular project fell between his LP for Warners - 'Muscle Of Love' and his first for Anchor - 'Welcome To My Nightmare'.
ELKIE BROOKS (vocals). Elkie was also between contracts. Having split Vinegar Joe (on Island) at the end of 1973, she was soon to join A&M as a soloist to great acclaim later in 1975. Her role in "Flash Fearless" is somewhat confused, having sung her first song "Trapped" as Dulla of Flash's crew and the second as the leader of the Zorg Women - i.e. the enemy! She could have been the star of the album if she hadn't been given such a low position in the mix.
JIM DANDY (vocals). The lead singer of Black Oak Arkansas, a band who meant little in the UK, but were phenomenally successful in the States. Sings lead on "Country Cooking" and "Blast Off".
JAMES DEWAR (vocals). Not a household name, but at this time Dewar was familiar to rock audiences as bassist/vocalist for the Robin Trower Band (another Chrysalis act). He made his breakthrough as bassist for Scots band Stone The Crows before their split in 1973. Sings lead on "What's Happening".
MADDY PRIOR (vocals). Best known for her work as front person with Steeleye Span, another band in the Chrysalis stable. She makes a nice job of the country-ish "Georgia Syncopator" here (despite sounding very like Carly Simon), although she seems to be taking on the role of Dulla, played earlier on the LP by Elkie Brooks!
FRANK MILLER (vocals). Frankie's career these days is fairly low-key, but during the mid-'70s he was widely tipped as the next big thing - a gruff-voiced blues singer of not inconsiderable talent. He cut six albums for Chrysalis during this period - hence his ready availability to tackle the somewhat dodgy "Supersnatch"- and had two or three big hit singles, of which "Be Good To Yourself" is perhaps the best remembered today.
KEITH MOON ("Long John Silver"). Presumably dragged into the project by Entwistle, albeit only in a cameo speaking role during "Space Pirates" (what else?). Ultimately his contribution was mixed so low that it's hard to see why they bothered, particularly as he had to be recorded specially in Los Angeles.
JUSTIN HAYWARD (guitar). A long serving member of the Moody Blues. Hayward's atypical blues riffs here are a highlight of the record. At the time of recording this, he was working on his album with Moodies Bassist John Lodge, "Bluejays". In addition to Hayward and Lodge, "Bluejays" also featured KIRKDUNCAN (piano) and GRAHAM DEAKIN (drums/percussion), both of whom appear on this CD. In fact, it was probably through Deakin (who in turn had appeared on the recent John Entwistle LP) that Hayward became involved. Hayward later appeared on two more concept albums: Chrysalis' "The Eye Of Wendor" LP (now on RPM), and the highly successful "War Of The World", his contribution, "Forever Autumn", making the Top 10 when released as a single.
BILL BRUFORD (drums). Has recently seen King Crimson split up, having left Yes especially to join them. Regarded then as now as one of the best drummers in the business. Surprisingly (apart from a brief period with Genesis), he would not re-enter the limelight until the release of both his first solo LP "Feels Good To Me" and the debut of all-star band UK, both in 1978.
CARMINE APPICE (drums). Having risen to prominence with US band Vanilla Fudge, Appice was at this time the drummer in supergroup (Jeff) Beck, (Tim) Bogert (also from Vanilla Fudge) and Appice. Again, respected as one of the best drummers in the business.
KENNY JONES (drums). Then in the Faces, although that band soon fell apart when Rod Stewart's solo career became too big to combine both careers and guitarist Ron Wood joined The Rolling Stones. This LP features the first example of Entwistle and Jones as a rhythm section, which of course would become a fixture when Jones joined The Who on the death of Keith Moon.
NICKY HOPKINS (piano). A man who needs no introduction, having played with just about everybody from the Rolling Stones and The Who downwards. His death in 1994 was a sad loss to rock music.
Other musicians featured included ROBERT A. JOHNSON (guitar); JOHN WEIDER (ex Animals/Family) (bass); EDDIE JOBSON (Roxy Music) (strings); MIKE DEACON (ex Suzi Quatro, then with Kiki Dee, later in Darts!) (piano); MICK GRABHAM (Procol Harum - a Chrysalis band) (guitar); JIM FRANK (harmonica); CHICK CHURCHILL (Ten Years After - a Chrysalis band) (keyboards); HOWIE CASEY (respected session musician going back to Liverpool's Howy Casey & The Seniors) (Saxophone); STEVE PETTICAN (errm...) (slide guitar); THUNDERTHIGHS (1974 hit single, but best remembered for "doo doo doos" on Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side") (backing vocalist); LESLEY DUNCAN and CHANTER SISTERS (respected vocalists) (backing vocals).
"Flash Fearless" was recorded between 1st October and 31st December 1974 at London's Chrysalis Studios, although three contributions had to be recorded in America; those of Alice Cooper (New York), Jim Dandy (Memphis) and Keith Moon (Los Angeles). These sessions were produced by Bob Ezrin (then a familiar collaborator of Cooper's, and later to work with Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd amongst others.)
By the time the album was released, the order of the material had still not firmly been established. "Blast Off", featured early in "Part 5" of the booklet, appeared on the "Part 6" side of the LP for example, and most other songs moved around within their act. "Georgia Syncopator" was absent from the booklet, suggesting a last-minute addition. The booklet in turn featured two songs (one in each act) for the Queen of the Zorg Women not on the LP. Considering the booklet makes more sense in terms of lateral development, it's not clear why the order was changed.
"Flash Fearless" was released in the United States in February 1975 (CHRYSALISCHR 1972), followed by a UK release in May (CHR 1081), complete with the aforementioned 12-page comic book which explained the plot. The booklet was additionally given away free in the UK with the weekly paper NME as a promotional tool (and in record stores - though why I should have kept my copy for 20 years having never heard the album is one perhaps only a psychiatrist scan answer - rpm editor). The US album carried a different track to the UK release - "Supersnatch" (which replaced "Georgia Syncopator"), although nobody we've asked can remember the reason for the switch. The US track has been restored here in what we believe is the most appropriate place theme-wise.
With its all-star cast, the LP could hardly creep out unnoticed, but it ultimately failed to sell in large quantities. Perhaps it might have helped had a single been taken from the album, but none was released to the general public. Instead, a promo single (CHRYSALIS CHS 2069) "I'm Flash"/"Trapped" was issued to interested parties, complete with a special picture sleeve. Although there was never a follow-up LP (or even a prequel featuring Part 1-4!),the album did indirectly provide the foundation for a further LP on Chrysalis. Although the first Mandala band LP (released shortly after "Flash Fearless") had been an actual band affair (and produced by John Alcock, chosen by Chrysalis following his work on "Flash Fearless"), the follow-up album "The Eye Of Wendor" was another "various artists" concept LP, even featuring a couple of the same guests, Maddy Prior and Justin Hayward. (This LP has also - coincidentally -since been reissued on CD by RPM (RPM 105).)
Presumably the relative lack of success for the LP put paid to immediate plans for the stage version, and its main protagonists moved to other things, Dave Pierce and Rick Jones formed the country-rock band Meal Ticket, who had some success with their two LPs for EMI ("Code Of The Road" and "Three Times A Day",both 1977) and one for Logo ("Take Away", 1978), following many prestigious support spots and touring globally.
Flash and his crew, however, still weren't quite dead and buried yet. Although the details of his "chip shop" era (y'know, working with Elvis) are sketchy, Flash did make a comeback in 1981 - albeit with one or two name changes, possibly for contractual reasons. In March of that year, "Captain Crash Versus The Zzorgwomen [sic] Chapters 5 & 6" opened as a musical at Richmond's on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Steve Hammond took on the role of Musical Director (as well as in-house guitarist and narrator), while a couple of familiar names appeared in the cast: Dave Pierce played Swede and Rick Jones took the role of Zilch. (Bonnie Pierce, whose lyrical 1975 contributions were removed, was relegated to "Slide Projector Operator"!)
The credits now listed Dave Pierce as the sole lyricist, with the music credited to Steve Hammond, Rick Jones and Weston Gavin (who played Captain Crash). The song list had changed quite substantially since the initial album, having expanded to almost twice its original length. Only two songs are familiar from Part 5, although Part 6 scores higher with 4 songs from the original intact. The new list ran as follows:
PART 5: I'm Crash (Crash) Trapped (A.S.S. Crew) Heart Shaped Box Of Chocolates (Dulla) A.S.S. Anthem (The Crew) Hi Fellas, What A Nice Surprise (The King) It Takes All Kinds To Make A Galaxy (Zoftik) I Could Love You So Good (Zilch)
PART 6: I'm Crash (Crash) Beaver Fever (Zuk) Raspberry Lipstick (Crash) The Georgia Syncopator (Dulla) Let's Go To The Chop (Zzorgs) Goodbye Is Putting It Mildly (Zilch) Sacrifice (Zzorgs)
Unfortunately, the work was not well-received, gaining a particularly stinging review in "Variety":
"If any mercy is left in the world, there will not be a chapter seven follow-up to "Captain Crash..." This show is an uninvolving space adventure spoof thattries desperately to be clever in every way but never comes close. Saturday night several in the crowd seemed aware of that and made an intelligent decision- they left at intermission. Pierce...has concocted a book that can best be described as a flat version of "Rocky Horror" meets "Flash Gordon". His lyrics are mostly trite, sub-standard attempts...Steve Hammond, Rick Jones and Weston Gavin are credited with the music, which is neither offensive of interesting. The cast never really has a chance with what they're given to work with..."
Following this, Flash/Crash was last seen in hyperspace looking for a rare type of galactic hair-gel, leaving only this LP as his testament on earth. And while said product isn't in itself earth-shattering, it's a pleasant enough ride, and a sober reminder that twenty years on, such grandiose recording would be nigh-on impossible.
Tim Joseph (January 1995)
"I met John Entwistle after a solo show he put on at the old 86 street club in Vancouver B.C. Canada. He was at the time touring for a new album which never was released. This would have been around 1989 or 1990. Anyway I met him out back as he was leaving to get on his tour bus. I asked him for a autograph and when I handed him my copy of flash fearless he seemed very surprised, and asked how I got it. I told him I bought it at a used record store. He told me that he did not remember this album being release. After seeing the album he became very nice and wanted to talk a bit. I asked him who John Alcock was, he replied that was him and was his name on any album he produced. I also asked who were thunder thighs, (female backing vocals). He said they were just some sluts (his words) that hung around the studio."
(Gerry, November 2006)
1978 - 'Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band' - Movie Soundtrack
Alice appeared in this 1978 movie version of the Beatles' 'Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band' which also featured The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and Aerosmith. He played the character of 'Father Sun' and performed 'Because'. This song featured backing vocals by the Bee Gees and can be found on the movie's soundtrack album. The films is also now available on DVD after being unavailable for many years.
At the time the film was made Alice was in hospital recovering his alcoholism and had to get a special pass out to appear in the film, on the condition he returned immediately afterwards to resume treatment, which he did. Of note is that this is one of the few professional appearances with Alice sporting a moustache.
The song was included on the 'Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper' box set.More Information
The movie version of The Beatles classic album was produced by Robert Stigwood, founder of RSO Records, who had earlier produced the hugely successful 'Saturday Night Fever'. The Beatles' former producer, the legendary George Martin, served as musical director, conductor, arranger and producer of the film's soundtrack album and this was a main reasons that Alice, a huge Beatles fan, wanted to do the film.
The film also featured a steller group of actors and musicians including The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, George Burns, Steve Martin, Frankie Howard, Donald Pleasence and Paul Nicholas. The Bee Gees especially were at the height of the career riding on the back of the 'Saturday Night Fever' soundtrack while Frampton had just had the biggest selling live album ever, 'Frampton Comes Alive'. In addition to the main cast the film also featured a wealth of cameo appearances including several of Alice's old acquaintances including Wolfman Jack, Rick Derringer, Dr John, Tina Turner and Johnny Winter. He also likely met Marcy Levy on the set, who a few months later he would duet with on 'No Tricks'.
Everything about the project looked set to make it a huge box office hit but it wasn't to be. When the film opened on July 21st 1978 ticket sales were terrible and the film only took $20.4 million against it's budget of $13 million. Reviews of the film were almost universally bad with the New York Times reporting that "musical numbers are strung together so mindlessly that the movie has the feel of an interminable variety show. While it may have been conceived in a spirit of merriment, watching it feels like playing shuffleboard at the absolute insistence of a bossy shipboard social director. When whimsy gets to be this overbearing, it simply isn't whimsy any more." Newsweek called it "a film with a dangerous resemblance to wallpaper".In July 1998 the Phoenix New-Times ran an amusing interview with Alice, via email, about his involvement in the film:
New Times: How many days of shooting were involved for your part as Father Sun?
Alice: It was a three-day shoot including time to record the track. The crazy thing about it was that I was in the hospital at the time undergoing treatment for alcoholism. They arranged for a three-day pass for me to leave the hospital to do the filming.
New Times: Did anyone working with you on the film or the set voice the opinion that this movie was going to be a bomb?
Alice: Not at all. Robert Stigwood was coming off the success of 'Saturday Night Fever', and the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton were huge.
New Times: Did you feel it would be a bomb?
New Times: Was the moustache you sport in the film a preemptive strike at damage control?
Alice: They wouldn't let me have razor blades in the hospital. Too many crazy people running around.
New Times: Did you attend the première in New York City?
Alice: Yes. The Beatles were suspiciously absent!
New Times: Do you believe that business about a Sgt. Pepper curse and that everyone's chart success was immediately impacted by it, even George Burns' film career?
Alice: I had a hit single the year after.
New Times: Do you feel bad that there isn't a 20th-year re-release of the film, à la Grease, and if there was, would you go to that première?
Alice: Who even knew that it was 20 years besides you!!!
New Times:: Was '..Pepper' a worse film than the Village People's 'Can't Stop the Music'?
Alice: Who even knew that there was a Village People movie besides you!!!
New Times: Could a cast of dancing and singing midgets have saved Pepper from disaster?
Alice: Maybe Steven Spielberg could have pulled it off.
New Times: Did the experience of the movie affect your enjoyment of Beatle music?
Alice: That could never happen.
New Times: Was George Martin a sympathetic producer?
Alice: He was great. When I did the first take of the song, I did it in my best John Lennon impersonation. George said it was fine, but then told me to do it like Alice Cooper would do it. He seemed really happy with it.
1980 - 'Roadie' - Movie Soundtrack
Alice had a relatively major role in this movie which also featured Meatloaf and Debbie Harry. Alice performs three songs in the movie: 'Road Rats', 'Pain' and a short part of 'Only Women Bleed, and is backed by Todd Rundgren's band Utopia. 'Road Rats' and 'Pain' both appeared on the soundtrack album and are arguably better then the normal Alice album versions. Both tracks later appeared on the 'Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper' box set. 'Only Women Bleed' appears in the movie only.More Information
The film was inspired by the song 'Road Rats' from the 'Lace and Whiskey'. It's the story of a guy (Meatloaf) who is a real wizz at fixing things, and his girlfriend who wants to travel to see Alice in concert. Meatloaf ends up saving the day by fixing the stage equipment and allowing Alice to perform.
Although Alice appears in the traditional make-up, you can see the formations of his new 'Flush The Fashion' persona. It was felt it would be better to use the traditional Alice Cooper look in the movie, probably so he was easily recognised by the general public.
After the sound check scene, when everyone is bugging Alice backstage, Sheryl Cooper plays the blonde that is nagging him.