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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Alice Cooper album written in a mental asylum

In the late 1960s, Alice Cooper embodied every parent’s worst nightmare. As the band cultivated their first fans on the circuit, they made it a habit to create the most grotesque stage show they had ever seen, featuring Cooper dismembering baby dolls before being killed at the end of every night. While Cooper was living life on a high, it was only a matter of time before the rock and roll lifestyle caught up with him.

Throughout the first few years of the band’s career, though, Cooper never claimed to hit the drugs all that hard. When first getting picked up on Frank Zappa’s record label, Cooper only had a drinking habit, known for indulging in booze every chance he could. Although he may have kept up a natural buzz throughout most of the 1970s, his taste for excess was matched only by his penchant for writing massive hooks.

Across albums like Love It To Death and Killer, Cooper provided the perfect retort for what the commercial bands were making, moulding himself into the ideal rock and roll villain. Although the tickets for his shows were selling in droves, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the band started to tire of Cooper’s antics.

After recording the album Muscle of Love, the group figured it was time to part ways, eventually working on their projects and leaving Cooper as a solo act. Rather than returning to square one, Cooper doubled down on the theatrics, collaborating with Bob Ezrin to create the ultimate horror rock album, Welcome to My Nightmare.

The album would become one of the biggest successes of Cooper’s career, but he was starting to lose his battle with the booze. Growing worryingly thin, Cooper would make it a habit of throwing up blood on tour until his wife and Ezrin convinced him to get some help. Instead of the traditional rehab centres, though, the singer’s rehabilitation process took place inside a psychiatric institution, being shell shocked that he would be in the same straight-jacketed environment he had written about on songs like ‘Ballad of Dwight Fry’.

Having time to reflect, a newly sober Cooper reemerged, ready with a new collection of songs informed by his time in confinement, which would become his next album, From the Inside. Working alongside Elton John’s longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, Cooper created one of the most revealing concept albums of his career, talking about different scenarios that may or may not have happened to him on tracks like the title track and ‘The Quiet Room’.

Of all the songs on the record, the most intimate track would come in his tribute to his wife, ‘How You Gonna See Me Now’. Realising how much time he had spent with a buzz, Cooper’s love song was about his fear of coming back home and not knowing whether his wife would like him once he was newly sober.

After cleaning up his act, though, Cooper would emerge much more vicious, creating songs that dipped their toes into new wave on albums like Zipper Catches Skin and Dada. While Cooper would later have to deal with an unhealthy addiction to cocaine later on, From the Inside was the first look at the first shock rocker deciding to come clean finally.

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