From the Stacks

From Robbo’s Stacks: Alice Cooper – Killer

AC Killer 001

Robbo is back with another tasty Alice Cooper confection from his collection:

That wicked little psycho is fully awake. Alice Cooper’s Killer was released November 1971, just nine months after their breakout album, Love It To Death. In less than a year producer Bob Ezrin had taken the boys and helped create a masterpiece. He even co-wrote two of the songs on the album.

Unlike the band’s previous album, Killer doesn’t feature the band members on the front cover. Only the head of Kachina the boa constrictor is present, her tongue flicking against a red-orange background. Kachina was the first boa Alice used on stage and was owned by drummer Neal Smith. The deranged looking band name and title text was actually written left-handed by right-handed bassist Dennis Dunaway. It’s dangerously worrisome and my favorite Alice Cooper album cover.

If there is one album that sums up what Alice Cooper is all about, it’s Killer. Hit and runs, espionage, gunslingers, deceased infants, executions. It’s all here. Killer peaked at #21 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Its first two tracks, “Under My Wheels” and “Be My Lover”, were released as singles. They reached #59 and #49 respectively on the singles chart. And speaking of which…

“Under My Wheels” – the first single from Killer. It doesn’t take long before you reach 4th gear. And what a way to start off the album. Your mistress calls and keeps bugging you about meeting, but you can’t go out. Your wife isn’t feeling well and needs your support. So what do you do? You go for quick drive and run your girlfriend over, of course. Sigh. If it were only that simple.

“Telephone is ringing.
You got me on the run.
I’m driving in my car now.
I got you under my wheels.”

 

All of the songs on Killer were written by at least two band members, except for “Be My Lover,” which was written by guitarist Michael Bruce. It’s simply about when he went into a bar and happened to have a drink or two, well, maybe three, with a girl he had just met there. A very catchy tune, “Be My Lover” even has a few do-wop background vocals that blend in so well that you can almost see the rest of the band snapping their fingers and singing nearby while the couple talk in the bar.

“She asked me why
The singer’s name was Alice.
I said, ‘Listen, baby,
You really wouldn’t understand.”

 

At 8:22 minutes, “Halo Of Flies” is the longest song on the album. Now get this – I love me some Alice. This song is one of my absolute favorites. Credited to the entire band, Michael Bruce has said “Halo Of Flies” is about “spy type” stuff because the James Bond films were very popular at that time, but also adds that it was really written to showcase the talent of each band member.

“The elegance of China,
They sent her to lie here on her back.
But as she deeply moves me,
She’d rather shoot me in my tracks.”

 

“Desperado” is said to be a tribute to Jim Morrison, who had died just four months before the release of Killer, but also inspired by the western The Magnificent Seven. “Desperado” is classic Alice. Here he is gunslinger bedded down with a prostitute to whom he tells a little of his long outlaw life. He’s one of those sad characters who is trapped and can’t get out. He knows he can not be anything else than what he is. It’s too late and he fears the end is near. “Desperado” is a remarkable song, one of the band’s best. It also includes one of my favorite song lyrics –

“I’m a killer, I’m a clown.
I’m a priest that’s gone to town.”

 

“You Drive Me Nervous” is the first track on side 2 of the album. It was originally titled “You Drive Me Crazy,” but Michael Bruce thought that title was a bit too cliché. The hardest rocker on the album, “You Drive Me Nervous” is about a young man dominated by his overbearing parents. This song could easily be the theme song for countless teen rebellion movies. I think Jim Stark would appreciate it.

“You’re out of the state.
You’re thrown in jail.
You ain’t got the bread
To pay the bail.
Your mom and papa come up and says,
“Honey, where’d we fail?”

 

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” proves that the harmonica can really make a song rock. Alice himself does the honors here. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” is another good rocker that to me seems to be about a pimp who has taken in a girl for his business. He also likes to sample his wares, but eventually has to show the new employee just who’s boss. Maybe you get a different take on it, but that’s what I’m hearing.

“You can be my slave
And I’ll be a stranger.
We could be in passion;
We could be in danger.
Take you off the street,
Put you under my wings.
Yeah, you could pull my leg
Or anything…”

 

“Dead Babies” is another song credited to the entire band. Just the title caused a lot of controversy when Killer was released. And even today if you didn’t know what the song was about, you’d probably think it was a really sick song. You’d be wrong. “Dead Babies” is actually about child neglect. It’s about those people who shouldn’t have children, and what can happen when they do. You might know or at least have heard of some of these people. They’re the same people who shouldn’t even be allowed to have pets. But of course when that evil Alice performs the song on stage, the devil gets the best of him.

“Little Betty ate a pound of aspirin.
She got them from the shelf up on the wall.
Betty’s mommy wasn’t there to save her.
She didn’t even hear her baby call.”

 

And now we close with the title track, “Killer”. It’s where Alice gets his comeuppance. On stage during this tour the evil one was hanged by the neck until he was dead, dead, dead. “Killer” is performed by the criminal himself with the typical selfish and blame-someone-else attitude of the many convicted. Unfortunately for poor Alice the gavel of justice is louder than the violins of sympathy…

“I came into this life,
Looked all around.
I saw just what I liked
And took what I found.
Nothing came easy,
Nothing came free.
Nothing came at all
Until they came after me.”

As said earlier, Killer is my favorite of all the Alice Cooper album covers. And though their other albums may contain more of my favorite songs, Killer is also my favorite Alice Cooper album. There’s a lot of different things going on within it. At first glance they may not seem to be related at all, but the meaning of the word “killer” can be taken and used many ways. Overall it has to do with some kind of loss, whether it’s given or taken. Though some of the songs are more serious than others, in all of them I find that loss, that killer. But on the other hand, it could just be because I like snakes.

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