Alice Cooper began the ’80s with a new look and new sound, trying to catch up and with new wave of bands like The Cars, who used synths and had a fresh modern sound. He would release 4 albums during this period until 1983 when he finally, out of a record contract and album sales and exposure at an all-time low, took leave from the music business for a few years. He had gotten back in to substance abuse over this period (see the documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper), and would later recall that he had no recollections of making the latter 3 albums he did during this era – dubbed his “Blackout” era. He’d cease touring after the 2nd album, and there’d be little promo for the last 2 albums. He did however produce 1 top 40 single, and a number of other fan favorites and underrated gems during this phase. When I became an Alice fan, around ’83-’84, Alice was no where to be found in the press – there was nothing in the old Circus and Hit Parader magazines I bought back then, as Alice had disappeared from the pubic eye. Strangely I purchased these LPs in the mid- ’80s at local convenience stores; in the times when the Avondale had a small rack of deleted albums for 99 cents or $1.99 – a good deal back then, considering what some of these go for now. Of the 4 I immediately loved Dada – my favorite from this era, but never really got into Special Forces, never liked the sound of the album, tho’ it had it’s moments. That was the last album Alice toured on back then, and I can recall seeing a few of these shirts in High School.
With 1980’s Flush The Fashion, Alice’s band consisted of Davey Johnstone [Elton John, who’d joined Alice for the previous tour] on guitar, and Canadian keyboard player Fred Mandel [who joined Alice’s band in ’77 and was also on the the Alice Cooper Show album] . These 2 co-wrote most of the album’s original material with Alice, while the rhythm section included drummer Dennis Conway and bass player John LoPresti [who’s previous credits included a few Melissa Manchester albums, and the short-lived band ‘China’ with Davey Johnstone]. Producer Roy Thomas Baker was hired to help bring Alice’s sound in to the ‘new-wave’ age, as Baker had been known for his work with Queen and The Cars, and also produced Foreigner, Journey, and BeBop Deluxe. Alice would also change his image from the old scary ghoulish Alice to a modernized punk-like Alice with new make-up and his hair tied-up.
Flush The Fashion would include 3 outside tracks, 2 of which were singles – “Talk Talk”, a cover of the 1966 hit by The Music Machine [I’ve seen recently that the original AC band demoed this early on as well], “Clones” – penned by American David Carron [ex Gulliver], as well as “Leather Boots” [penned by American musician Geoff Westen]. “Clones” would be a top 40 hit, the only hit from this period, as he wouldn’t have another charting single til 1989. The song also drew comparisons to the Gary Numan hit “Cars”, which was on the charts at the same time. The album itself, clocked in at under 30 minutes [pretty damn short], with most of the songs being short punchy tunes dealing with modern issues and problems, featuring plenty of synths and a new attitude. “Pain” was used in the movie Roadie – which Alice starred in, along with Meat Loaf, with Alice and band performing it [still wearing his black eye make up]. Other favorites on Flush The Fashion included “Nuclear Infected” and “Model Citizen”, a short but energetic album. On the ensuing tour Alice was unable to perform at the CNE in Toronto [later citing an asthma attack], and a riot broke out when the news was delivered from the stage, resulting in injuries, arrests, and over 100 grand in damages.
For the next album, Alice kept up the new image, and with his health at the time, making it all seem scarier [indeed he looked bad on TV appearances at the time]. Special Forces featured a new band, and was produced by Richard Podolor who had produced bands such as Iron Butterfly, Blues Image, Three Dog Night, and Steppenwolf, and the new recording band featured Duane Hitching on keyboards and as co-writer of most of the songs [ex Steel, New Cactus Band, Thee Image] , Mike Pinera on guitar [ex Blues Image, Thee Image, New Cactus Band], Eric Scott on bass [ex Flo & Eddie, PM], drummer Craig Krampf [ex Flo & Eddie, and numerous album credits including Paul Stanley, Kim Carnes, Randy Meisner], and guitarist Danny Johnson [ex Derringer, Axis] . Although there was a few singles from this album, it flopped badly, and would be the last album that Alice promoted via tour til 1986. It does have a few good songs such as the opener “Who Do You Think We Are”, “You’re A Movie”, and “You Look Good In Rags”, but there’s a few odd choices such as the remake of AC’s “Generation Landslide”, and a cover of the 1966 hit by Los Angeles band Love [which was issued as a single from Special Forces]. The first single was the synth pop “You Want It You Got It”. The back cover also lists the track “Look At You Over There [Ripping The Sawdust From My TeddyBear” – which was left off of the album and later turned up [as a demo] on the box set The Life And Crimes Of… For me this record ranks at the bottom of Alice’s solo albums. One great thing from this era is the 2020 Record Store Day release of Live At The Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, recorded in February of ’82. Following this there was also the 12″ EP titled For Britain Only, which included the song “For Britain Only”, plus 3 live tracks from the Glasgow show, and….released in the UK only!
For 1982’s Zipper Catches Skin, Alice retained Hitchings, Scott, Pinera, and Krampf, and also playing on it were drummer Jan Uvena, guitarist John Nitzinger [Bloodrock, Nitzinger], guitarist Billy Steele [ex Jambalaya, w/ Erik Scott, and sessions]. Dick Wagner also returned to contribute to the songwriting on a few tracks, and play, but would leave before the album was done due to the sessions being a “drug induced nightmare”. Alice & Erik Scott would co-produce the album, with everyone [save for the drummers] contributing to the songwriting. Alice was even credited on keyboards as well! An odd album cover with the lyrics being printed continually across the front and a bloodstain highlighting the title amongst the words. Despite this being recorded at a dark time in Alice’s coke days, and it receiving almost 0 promotion [well there is that 1 commercial you can find on Youtube!] and not evening breaking the Billboard Top 200 Album chart, I thought this album was an improvement, and should’ve done better. Lots of humor here and some cool hooks and memorable songs – “Zorro’s Ascent”, “Make That Money [Scrooge’s Song]”, and the hilarious “I’m Alive [That Was The Day My Dead Pet Returned To Save My Life]”, as well as the play on ’80s slasher films “Tag, You’re It”. A different take] of “I Am The Future” [written by Gary Osborne and was included in the movie “Class Of 1984” and Lalo Schifrin, best known for his TV themes] was also issued as a single, as was “I Like Girls”, which featured guest Patty Donahue [vocals, from The Waitresses] – neither single did anything. But regardless, I like this album, a fun listen!
Returning to record in Toronto [nearby] for the Dada album, released in September of 1983, Alice was reunited with Bob Ezrin and Dick Wagner, and there’s a very short list of personnel with Ezrin, Wagner and Canadian musician Graham Shaw handling most of the playing [plus a few guests on a few tracks]. Produced with the use of modern technology – the Fairlight programming, along with lots of keyboards, synths, This album is another lost gem in Alice’s solo catalogue’; perhaps his most underrated!? It included the hilarious “I Love America”, which was issued as a single in the UK, as well as darker and heavier cuts like “Scarlet And Sheba” and “Pass The Gun Around” – which features one of Dick Wagner’s most outstanding guitar solos [an album and song song he would cite as favorites in a later interview]. Another fun album to get into, with a great flow from track to track. Other favorites include the comical tale of “No Man’s Land” and the creepy ballad “Former Lee Warmer” [this has also been referenced as a nod to Alice leaving his record company – ‘Formerly Warners]. I played the Hell out of this album when I got it, and though it’s not really heavy [musically], it still sounds great today. Again, being Alice’s last in his Warner Brother’s contract, it was totally forgotten as soon as it came out – with no singles in North American, and absolutely 0 promotion.
In bad health, Alice would take a few years off and sort out his personnel demons and his health before making a major comeback, retiring the early ’80s Alice & that persona. He’d rarely talked about the period [or remembered], and rarely played any songs from it. It’s a hit or miss period with many longtime Alice fans, who either love a lot of the forgotten gems in this era or who totally brush it off forgettable. For me, I think there’s plenty to dig into and appreciate from this period.
*These 4 albums were reissued by Rhino, on colored vinyl in 2018.
A Top 10 Of Early ’80s Alice:
Pass The Gun Around
Former Lee Warmer
Who Do You Think We Are
Make That Money
I Love America
Tag, You’re It