Outrageous concert theatrics and notorious publicity stunts aside, what made the Alice Cooper group an iconic combo was their well-crafted, world-class songs — bold and brave pop/rock anthems that spoke directly to the troubled youth of the post “flower power” era. Their lyrical themes often were dark. Crisp and clever, their signature-style humor typically was missed by the establishment. Yes, the Alice Cooper group members laughed all the way to bank. And the joke clearly was on “the man.”
Issued originally on Frank Zappa’s indie Straight Records label, the first two Alice Cooper group records; Pretties for You (June 1969) and Easy Action (March 1970) owned an abundance of circus freak allure, yet they lacked the hooks necessary to garner a faithful global flock. However, that would change in short order when the band’s third studio set, Love it to Death, arrived in stores worldwide via Warner Bros. Records 50 years ago next week (March 9, 1971).
“Love it to Death is quintessential Alice Cooper. Without that album and Bob Ezrin’s work as the band’s producer, some may say Alice Cooper would have faded away.”
Budding 21-year-old producer, Bob Ezrin (KISS, Pink Floyd), would prove to be the much-needed (and rather unlikely) taskmaster who would whip the Alice Cooper group into Olympian-like shape — transforming the glam-inspired prog enthusiasts (afflicted with stylistic ADD) into a well-groomed, laser-focused hit machine — a point proven by the record’s appealing opening track, “Caught in a Dream.” Penned by guitarist Michael Bruce, the riff-driven number reveals a brash rock band on the brink of stardom.
The path for Love it to Death’s platinum success was paved four months prior to its release when “I’m Eighteen” was dropped in advance as the lead-off single. A group collab creation, the song’s brooding music provided the perfect backing track to the spot-on and transparent lyrics depicting the late-teenage experience during the days of Nixon & Agnew, Donny & David and Rowan & Martin — resulting in a surprise party crasher on Casey’s Countdown. Five decades later, the song remains one of rock’s most endearing and recognizable anthems.
“As the first album produced by Bob Ezrin (in the band’s long partnership with the studio legend), Love it to Death helped to fine-tune the distinctive sound that would make Alice Cooper one of the most artistically influential and commercially successful American bands of the 1970s.”
With shock rock poster boy frontman, Alice Cooper seemingly at the wheel, the band’s legendary ride was a brief international excursion. In fact, by 1974, after five chart-busting LPs, the wheels would fall off the Alice Cooper bandwagon. In the aftermath, Cooper (the guy) would go on to achieve and maintain massive success as a solo artist. But it was the music created by the Alice Cooper group that has made the biggest and most long-lasting impact on future generations of rock artists and pop culture in general.
The irreverent humor and honest vocals of Cooper (the guy) combined with Bruce’s songsmith talent, the lead guitar skill of the late Glen Buxton and the rock-ribbed swagger of bassist Dennis Dunaway simply provided too much pork for just one fork. However, described best as a glammed-up U.S. version of Keith Moon, it can be argued that drummer Neal Smith was the true rock star of the Alice Cooper group.
“Love it to Death, our 3rd Alice Cooper group album, encapsulated all the elements that became the blueprint for our band’s success with disenfranchised teens. It had it all, controversy, censorship, grim dark theatrics, heavy rock and our teen alienation anthem and first mega hit ‘I’m Eighteen.’”
and founding member
of the original
Alice Cooper group
(Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 2011)
Few bands of the day could play the cock-rock card quite as convincingly as the Alice Cooper group. And to that, “Long Way to Go” and “Is it My Body” were two of the record’s cockiest. A completely crazed, often awkward, and yet (somehow) wonderfully cohesive cocktail, Love it to Death blurred the lines beautifully between Saturday matinee horror show and Sunday morning go-to-meetin’ — an observation substantiated by Dunaway’s nine-minute epic “Black Juju,” Smith’s “Hallowed By My Name,” Cooper’s “Second Coming” and the record’s most chilling standout, “Ballad of Dwight Fry.” Then, with something of a sly wink, the roller coaster ratchets back safely with a peculiar remake of the sunny 1962 Rolf Harris single, “Sun Arise.”
A striking black and white package, the album cover alone screamed, “Hey, kids! We-ain’t-the-Osmonds (or Three Dog Night)!” And it was embraced by legions of dysfunctional misfits around the world. Half a century later, Love it to Death remains relevant — a timeless glam/punk 101 audiobook.
Love it to Death Track Listing:
1. Caught in a Dream (3:10)
2. I’m Eighteen (2:59)
3. Long Way to Go (3:04)
4. Black Juju (9:14)
5. Is It My Body (2:34)
6. Hallowed Be My Name (2:30)
7. Second Coming (3:04)
8. Ballad of Dwight Fry (6:33)
9. Sun Arise (3:50)
Running Time: 36:58
Release Date: March 9, 1971
Record Label: Warner Bros