Described as “The first doc-opera” by its creators and distributors Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn and Reg Harkema, this ambitious (and at times fragmented) blend of rock opera, documentary and animation comes just this close to biting off more than it can chew as far as effectively telling what is surely one of rock’s most intriguing tales: that of a preacher’s son by the name of Vincent Furnier, who transformed himself into one of rock’s most decadent, daring, unique and ultimate rock stars: Alice Cooper.
Although I personally take umbrage at the film’s claim that Cooper was “the most outrageous rock star of his generation” there is no question that he was indeed right up there in the top ten, and was a true trailblazer for many a seventies teenager like myself who was eagerly looking for a rock star who was every bit as potent a performer as he was a crafter of truly first-rate songs.
For my older sister’s generation, it was enough to be a fine performer. However, by the time that my generation came to the forefront in the 1970s, it simply wasn’t enough to sustain a devoted audience. For many, it did not even merit them a parting glance from either the music critics nor the record-buying/concert-going public.
What made this preacher’s son-according to Alice Cooper original drummer Neal Smith-something mighty special was that he was ‘the total package’:a consummate performer, excellent song crafter, fine musician, terrific ‘team player’ and-to the everlasting gratitude of his bandmates-an astute and cunning businessman.
“Vincent was always looking out for the band’s welfare, both artistically and financially” remembers Smith. “All of us walked away from that band financially comfortable as well as artistically gratified, and Vincent was a major reason for that happening. When I look back now and see how many of my musical peers are still struggling financially when they should be millionaires, I stop and thank Vincent for his excellent business savvy.”
In summary, Smith observed, “I’m proud to have had an important role in creating some of rock’s most iconic albums. I’m especially proud of “Billion Dollar Babies.” For that too, I thank Vincent for the great care he took in every facet of the making of that classic album. His lyrics for that album in particular were just amazing, as was his harp (harmonica) playing! From its recording in the studio to its jacket cover artwork, no detail was too small to escape his attention.”
To fully appreciate Smith’s awe and gratitude of Cooper’s savvy and attention to every detail of his career and art, this film is essential viewing for every Cooper fan on the planet. Until I watched this, I didn’t even begin to understand what a phenomenal change-in such a short time-that Cooper had to undertake from his humble beginnings as a “misfit” teen in the (then) unsophisticated city of Phoenix to his metamorphosis into one of rock’s most enduring, seminal artists. Is it any wonder, the film asserts, that this teenage Dr. Jekyll’s transformation into a rock and roll Mr. Hyde damn near killed him.
Ultimately, this film does a good job of telling its tale of just how those two opposite characters-Vincent and Alice-battled for possession of each other, and how they finally came to rest at peace; co-existing within the single mind of one Vincent Furnier.
The Deluxe Edition features the full film on DVD and Blu-ray, a second DVD consisting of previously unreleased concert footage (shot at Montreal University in 1972) and a rare gem: a CD of Cooper’s dazzling performance at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival. Take it from me, the CD of that 2009 performance alone merits buying the Deluxe Limited edition!
Overall, my only genuine complaints are that the 1972 concert footage is poorly edited, the result of which is that not one song is presented in its entirety. The other serious error is the failure to present Cooper’s entire career in music as well as radio. He has done some amazing work since 1986, and all of it merits inclusion here.
All of these goodies come together in an LP-sized, sturdy box that’s complete with a glorious, sixty page, hardback photo book that makes this a sweet deal; especially at Amazon.com’s current reduced price of only $59.99!
DVD MONTREAL 1972: 1) Be My Lover 2) You Drive Me Nervous 3) I’m Eighteen 4) Is It My Body 5) Dead Babies 6) Killer 7) Long Way To Go 8) School’s Out 9) Under My Wheels
CD MONTREUX 2009: 1) It’s Hot Tonight 2) No More Mister Nice Guy 3) I’m Eighteen 4) Feed My Frankenstein 5) Acoustic Solo 6) (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side 7) Dirty Diamonds 8) Vengeance Is Mine 9) Halo Files 10) Welcome To My Nightmare 11) Only Women Bleed 12) Steven 13) Dead Babies 14) Ballad Of Dwight Fry 15) Devil’s Food / Killer / I Love The Dead 16) School’s Out 17) Billion Dollar Babies
Previously on the LA Beat: