ALICE COOPER – ” Billion Dollar Babies ” Released on February 25th 1973

Posted: February 26, 2022 in MUSIC

This week in 1973: ALICE COOPER went top of the US albums chart with the group’s 6th studio release, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, on Warner Bros. Records – it also topped the UK charts in March & was a highly influential album, Produced by Bob Ezrin, it featured the charting singles “Elected”, “Hello Hooray”, “Billion Dollar Babies” & “No More Mr. Nice Guy”; the original Alice Cooper band of Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway & Neal Smith at the height of their powers were augmented in the studio by the guitar wizardry of Dick Wagner & Steve Hunter, while UK singer-songwriter Donovan added background vocals to the title track; Chris Cornell of Soundgarden deemed it one of his favourite records; David Byrne of Talking Heads claimed that it inspired him to write the song, “Psycho Killer”; in 2005, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ was ranked among ‘The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time’..

Looking back at the history behind the incredible packaging of the band’s all-time masterpiece “Billion Dollar Babies.” How did Alice Cooper (the group) celebrate the success of their worldwide smash single “School’s Out”? By mocking their newfound fame and fortune on their next album “Billion Dollar Babies.” And how would they top the elaborate school-desk-&-panties packaging that adorned the “School’s Out” album? With packaging crafted to work as a bi-fold wallet and containing a giant One Billion Dollar bill! Designed by Pacific Eye & Ear, the “B$B” packaging was pure genius. The embossed “wallet” gatefold sleeve was designed to look like it was crafted from snakeskin (of course!) and also contained band pics you could remove and insert into your actual wallet!

Once the wallet-sized photos were popped out of the inner gatefold, you got a wide-open view of the album’s inner sleeve, which is where we are now going to focus our attention…In 1972, British photog David Bailey shot controversial pics of Cooper, wearing only a boa constrictor, for Vogue Magazine; later that year Bailey was invited to shoot pics for Alice Cooper’s “B$B” album.

The shoot must have been a blast. Five hairy degenerates and a baby! Plus machine guns, white rabbits, and a million (real) dollars, as Alice himself tells it: “We brought in a million dollars of real money from Brinks. What you didn’t see in that picture were the two guys with machine-guns who were guarding the money.”

Few people would have predicted, based on the band’s first two albums, that Alice Cooper would become a dominant musical presence throughout the first half of the ’70s. But beginning with their third record, 1971’s “Love it to Death“, the group embarked on a creative run that secured their place among America’s greatest rock bands. Comprised of Neal Smith on drums, Dennis Dunaway on bass, Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton on guitars and, of course, “Alice” (Vincent Furnier) on vocals, the quintet made deep inroads into rock radio, churning out pop-rock anthems like “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen” and “Elected.” Released on February 25th, 1973, “Billion Dollar Babies” marked the apex of the group’s phenomenal rise, securing their place as a musical and cultural force.

“It can all be traced back to the song ‘Caught in a Dream,’ from the “Love it to Death” album,” recalled Smith, speaking in Performing Songwriter magazine. “Back then, we were predicting our future, and “Billion Dollar Babies” was that prediction come true. To go from a time when no one would pay a penny to see us, to having one of the biggest-selling albums ever, for that time … well, we certainly had the last laugh on that score.”

Sessions for the album began at the Galecie Estate, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based mansion purchased by the group following the success of their 1972 album, “School’s Out”. For several songs, the group ran a microphone into an empty greenhouse built with marble floors and glass walls, in order to capture a particular echo effect. Producer Bob Ezrin was central to the proceedings.

The group travelled to England and gathered at London’s Morgan Studios to work on additional tracks. A parade of rock stars converged on the sessions, but only one—Donovan, who shared vocals with Alice on the title song ended up appearing on the finished album. Dunaway regrets that others who were present including Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Marc Bolan, and Flo and Eddie (aka Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of the Turtles) weren’t fitted in somehow.

“It’s too bad we didn’t get more,” he recalls. “It would have been great to have had backing vocals from Flo and Eddie. And Harry Nilsson had an incredible voice. It’s just unfortunate that it was uncontrollable because he was drinking so much. He would fall across the mixing board and knock all the faders out of whack. But then he would stumble out into the studio and sit down at the piano, and his voice and what he was playing would sound incredible. Keith Moon was the same way. Moon was hilarious, but when he sat at the drums he couldn’t even stay on the stool.”

Despite the raucous atmosphere, what emerged from the sessions was a collection of concise, imaginative songs that tempered Alice Cooper’s predilection for the macabre with generous slabs of humour. Smith credits Bruce as the band’s main composer, although he, Dunaway and Ezrin contributed significantly as well. Alice, of course, served as the band’s primary wordsmith.

Michael was the main musical writer in the band, although Dennis and I wrote as well,” says Smith. “Alice would help with melodies and some of the music, but his specialty was really the lyrics. In the case of ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy,’ for instance, Michael wrote the song, and then Alice tweaked the lyrics, and then we went into the studio and arranged it with Ezrin. But it worked other ways, too. Everyone in the band helped arrange songs.

Notwithstanding “Billon Dollar Babies’ macabre themes, Cooper took his lyrical cue from an unlikely source. “My favourite lyricist was Chuck Berry,” he says. “When I first heard something like ‘Nadine,’ or ‘Maybellene,’ I understood those songs told a story. As the lyrics went along, you really got a picture of what was going on. Rife with infectious melodies, catchy guitar riffs and sparkling wit, “Billion Dollar Babies” became Alice Cooper’s most successful album, topping the charts in both America and in the U.K. The record also spawned four classic singles: “Elected,” “Hello Hooray,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and the title track. In the wake of the album’s release, the band undertook their biggest tour ever.

Unfortunately, the rigors of the road, the failing health of key member Glen Buxton who died in 1997, a few weeks shy of his 50th birthday—and a growing divide between Cooper-the-singer and the rest of the group were beginning to take a heavy toll. The band forged on to make one more album, 1974’s “Muscle of Love”, but in the midst of a well-earned hiatus, Cooper opted to leave the group and pursue a solo career.

Comments
  1. My copy of this got signed by Alice in the bank note in ‘91

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