ALICE COOPER – School’s Out at 50

OK, so I’m a few months late on this one… At some point or another over my years as an Alice Cooper fan – any of the original band’s 5 albums from from 1971 to ’73 has been my favorite, at least for a brief time. School’s Out – the album, may not top the fan polls as much as Killer or Billion Dollar Babies, but it is a tough call for me. Heck, I love Muscle Of Love as much as any of them, so for me to rank them depends on the day of the week, I guess. School’s Out – the album was preceded by “School’s Out” – the hit single. The song would reach #1 on the UK charts, top 10 in numerous others, and it would be the album’s only single! But it wouldn’t be the album’s only classic. And I’ve often wondered if the album would’ve been better served with a follow up single(!?), as there was no shortage of great choices. But as the music business moved so fast back then, the next single would be “Elected”, recorded for the US election campaign.

The album opens with Glenn Buxton’s most recognizable riff (and most iconic in AC’s catalogue) to the title track. And despite the AC band having a number of signature songs (there’s about a half dozen that Alice has always kept in his live show) – “School’s Out” is #1 with the masses, and one that can’t be covered (yeah, a few have tried, but.) School’s Out also featured “Luney Tune” (from Cooper & Dunaway) and “Public Animal #9” (Cooper & Bruce), both classic AC rebellious teen anthems that I think would’ve made excellent singles.

Anyway, following “Luney Tune” on the first side is “Gutter Cat Vs The Jets”, credited to Buxton, Dunaway, Bernstein & Sondheim . The ‘Gutter Cat’ section of the song is the tale of an alley cat, that features one of the greatest bass intros on a rock album and is a driven by Dennis Dunaway’s bass performance before it makes a change, and the band breaks in to the ‘Jets’ theme from West Side Story! The West Side Story bit ends just as the band rolls in to “Street Fight”, a short instrumental based on bass, drums, along with bottles smashing, yelling, cat’s meowing… all put together more so for theatrical purposes (stage show). The first side ends with “Blue Turk”, which though it was penned by Cooper & Bruce, this chilling classic, which I seem to think is about necrophilia (anyone?) is a very jazzy number, very different in sound and performance highlighted Dennis Dunaway’s bass playing that drives this slowly along, as well as Alice’s excellent vocal, and a trombone solo from Wayne Andre, which went uncredited! A shame as this trombone performance is most unique on a rock album, and is a major highlight on this album, IMO. “Blue Turk” is a hidden gem amongst Alice Cooper’s (original) catalogue.

Side 2 opens with “My Stars”, credited to Cooper and Bob Ezrin, who plays piano on this one, and brought in Dick Wagner to play guitar on this one. It’s an interesting track, a good side opener, with a few changes, though I’m not sure what the heck it’s about. As previously mentioned, I think “Public Animal #9” would’ve made an excellent single, it’s a great rebellious teen anthem, with Alice delivering words on bad deeds he’s done, and is ‘proud to be Public Animal #9’.

In contrast, “Alma Mater”, from Neal Smith is a ballad that reflects on his time in school making mention of pranks, teachers, high school…. nicely delivered by Alice with effect, sounding like it’s being sang into the telephone. As that track fades out “The Grand Finale” fades in, an instrumental closing number that is pretty dramatic, full of horns, and a tip to West Side Story in the end, ending with a ‘pow’; credited t the band, as well as Ezrin, Bernstein, and American tv/ Disney movie songwriter Mack David. A fine ending to this album, tho I always felt like this album was short a (real) track.

School’s Out came in a fold-out desk cover, designed by Craig Braun, which opened up showing a report card, band photo, cartoons, pencils, etc.. The desk cover concept had been used a year prior to AC, by British band Hotlegs (designed by bandmembers Goldey & Creme) on their album Thinks: School Stinks. With the School’s Out LP came a pair of women’s paper panties, which got the record seized (after it’s first print) due the panties not passing a Flammable Fabrics Test upon arrival (having been imported from the UK). As relayed in Dennis Dunaway’s book, a planned panty drop on the band’s Hollywood Bowl show from this era went sideways when panties dropped from Helicopters were blown away from the show in and landed on rooftops of nearby houses! Dunaway also brought out pink paper panties at promotional stops for his book.

From CashBox Oct, 9 ,’72 Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” on Warner Bros has run into trouble from Mrs. Mary Whitehouse, Secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association. She has sent letters to the BBC and education authorities complaining that the lyrics are capable of sparking off increased violence in schools this autumn. The single now topping the U.K. charts and published by Carlin Music has now passed the quarter million mark earning itself a Silver Disk.


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