Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Alice Cooper—
Easy Action


Released 1970 on Straight
The Seth Man, May 2000ce
1970 was the year people really started talking about Alice Cooper. Their live appearance in the film “Diary of A Mad Housewife” and immortalisation in the D.A. Pennebaker film of their Toronto appearance captured their wayward watermelon/chicken/feathers’n’flour flinging and earsplitting feedback freakout perfectly, enough for the stage manager to announce breathlessly, “Alice Cooper: a group of the future!” after they ended their sonic assault via their early Spiders track, “Don’t Blow Your Mind.” How were they to know that they were on the verge of getting it on?

All the aberrations of the Coopers’ first album became relegated to fewer tracks here on their second and last outing for Straight by Neil Young producer David Briggs, who excommunicated most of the extended freak-outing to the two longer tracks, possibly in the hope of clearing the field for hit single candidates. “Mr. And Misdemeanor” is a double entendre-d sleaze out with uncharacteristic slide guitar, bumping and grinding as Alice refers to “pretties for you” with more stop and start that was such a large part of their arrangements on that platter. And it continues throughout this LP, interrupted by occasional single hopefuls. “Shoe Salesman” sees Briggs trying to tone down their weirdness further with having the Coopers uneasily adopt a country sound over his piano. But “Still No Air” has an opening straight off of “Pretties” with swirling Cipollina/SG guitar arpeggios, resplendent with a “West Side Story” vignette they’d later reprise on “Gutter Cat vs. The Jets” on “School’s Out.” “Below Your Means” is the first side’s last and longest song, the title taken from the last sung line “I’ve got the sheets below your means” as they proceed to instrumentally jam out for the rest of the track with jerky arrangements and further Quicksilver send-ups and post-garage punk splunge that made “Pretties For You” such a bumpy ride to damage-land. It’s got one of the longest fadeouts in rock I can recall off the top of my head (even longer than Cat Stevens’ “Foreigner Suite” and that’s a LONG time.) Of course, once it’s faded into silence, a quarter of a minute passes before -- WHALLOP -- guitar, bass and drum throw six huge punctuation marks out at you right before trailing off into the inner groove, in case you were lulled into a stupor sleep by their damaged instrumental jam-out.

“Return Of The Spiders” starts up with engine-gunning snare rolls, furious Dunaway bass riffs executed at breakneck pace and a guitar riffing out the organ on “Sister Ray” as Alice snarls: “Well, stop, look and listen…” Buxton and Bruce proceed into fuzztone and they flog it out to a full stop, only to restart it all over again. “Laughing At Me” is where the early Quicksilver/SG sound Buxton and Bruce dug so much reappears once more, and although laid back, hints at a musical direction they would explore more fully on their next two albums. “Refrigerator Heaven” is the greatly named, cryogenic mini-epic, a phased treatment piece with twin scratch-ola guitars similar to their later “Yeah Yeah Yeah.” It’s great they stuck it on the box set, as it’s a freakin’ classic. “Beautiful Flyaway” follows, all dainty and solemn, crossfading into “Lay Down And Die, Goodbye”, an echoed, bubbling voice intoning: “You are the only censor: If you don’t like what I say, you have the choice...you can turn me off.” On the sleeve, “Lay Down And Die” preceded “Flyaway”, so perhaps this “warning” was added by the producer at the last minute, not wanting to be associated with the whole shebang ending on an elongated, rampaging, freak outing note. Which it does, anyway. They take their Nazz 45, add six minutes in the middle of proto metal ramming of amps, guitar delay boomeranging and just plain, sheer noise. There are even a few synthesizer trills added as more interstellar transmitting goes on, Buxton and Bruce stretching their guitar necks and Y-fronts into a twist as it cartwheels back finally into the ‘song,’ for the merest final minute of the track.

A group of the future, indeed.