Many great bands in the early’70s released 2 albums in the same year, many would release 2 very important & classic albums in their catalogue early on and many did it more than once. 1971 just might’ve been the greatest year in what’s now deemed ‘classic rock’ [or maybe 1972?]. But like a number of other bands Alice Cooper would release 2 legendary albums in that same calendar year [as did Uriah Heep, Yes, and Grand Funk]. Following the success of Love It To Death, Alice Cooper’s 4th album – Killer, would be their 2nd with Bob Ezrin for Warner Brothers, released in November of ’71.
The album’s red cover featured a shot of Kachina, the boa constrictor Alice would use on stage, which belonged to [drummer] Neal Smith. The creepy lettering was a nice touch too; done by Dennis Dunaway. Killer’s packaging originally came with a fold-out 1972 calendar picturing Alice hanging [as he would in the live show]. The calendar would come with subsequent reissues over the next few years.
Killer included 8 tracks, and featured 2 hit singles – “Under My Wheels” and “Be My Lover”. Guitarist / keyboard player Michael Bruce would have a hand in writing every song, notably the 2 hits – which were also the first and 2nd tracks on side one. “Under My Wheels” [co-written with Dennis Dunaway and producer Bob Ezrin] would kick off the album, and would feature horns and strings arranged by Ezrin, as well as include an uncredited solo from Rick Derringer. “Be My Lover” followed, a rock tale told from the guitarist point of view, presented in a sort of cabaret act. These 2 tracks would remain the band’s live show, and would become highlights of Aiice’s live shows throughout this solo career. The snake almost always appears during “Be My Lover”. The band members shared credit on the epic “Halo Of Flies”; clocking in at over 8 minutes. The song left room for the band to stretch out musically in this dramatic heavy progressive number, about a spy organization. Interestingly, “Halo Of Flies” would be issued as a single in the Netherlands almost 2 years later, where it became a top 10 hit, and it would also be a top 20 hit in Belgium [as an import!].
“Desperado” closed out side one, the first of three tracks co-written by Alice and Michael Bruce. It’s a ballad Alice has claimed to have penned about Jim Morrison [although Alice has also said it about the character Lee played by Robert Vaughn in The Magnificent Seven…now I gottta watch this movie] It would be the B-side to “Under My Wheels”, but would also make the band’s Greatest Hits compilation a few years later. This too would become a live favorite, appearing in Alice’s solo live show for many tours to come. Ezrin would add moog and strings to these tracks as well.
Side two opened with the frantic “You Drive Me Nervous”. It’s a short blasting rocker about a troubled teen. I love the recording on this one – that drum sound, the riff and guitar throughout this, and Alice’s aggressive tone, screams, and voice changes. This is followed by “Yeah Yeah Yeah” [a pretty forgettable title, really]. It would be the B-side to “Be My Lover”, and featured Rick Derringer as well, and Alice on harmonica.
The album takes a dark turn on the last 2 tracks, first the band credited “Dead Babies”. A morbid tale of a neglected child who perishes from eating too many aspirin. The song was actually one of / or The first] to focus on child abuse and neglect. That track fades out [with yelling from a trial] and in fades the title song, another co-written by Bruce and Dunaway. It is the tale of a killer, and features one of the best guitar breaks the band ever did. The song would be performed at the end of the band’s live show, with Alice being hung for the finale. Alice would bring back the “Dead Babies / Killer” saga in his 1987-88 tour.
The songs from Killer still make up a major part of Alice’s live show, with “Under My Wheels” almost always being the encore. Killer always appears in the top 5 of Alice Cooper albums [band and solo combined], though I’d bet diehard Alice fans put this in the top 2. I love all those Alice Cooper albums from Love It to Death to Muscle of Love, but I gotta say Killer is probably the best album as far as there being no filler and the actual near-perfect flow of the thing, and more so for the band individually – Michael Bruce’s best album as a writer, Dennis Dunaway playing on this album is outstanding – he drives a number of the songs Neal Smith’s drumming, Glen Buxton’s guitar leads, and Alice’s vocals that fit the character and emotion of each song. A killer album, really.