The ’80s were tough years for many veteran rock stars. For every ’70s icon like Bruce Springsteen who achieved an artistic breakthrough during the new decade, a dozen dinosaurs floundered about, looking for a new sound that would keep them relevant. Not all were as embarrassing as Jefferson Starship’s “Out Of Control,” but many were.
This isn’t a phenomenon that’s unique to the ’80s, by the way: Elvis would have been as out of place at Woodstock as A Flock of Seagulls would have been at Woodstock 2. The marketplace changes, and if you don’t change with it you risk being the old guy wearing a rat tail and a bola tie. So we can’t really blame musicians for trying something new commercially, even if it does mean that Uncle Ted signs up for Damn Yankees, nor should we blame them for trying something new artistically.
One of the most successful reinventions of the ’80s was Alice Cooper’s “Clones (We’re All),” a track clearly influenced by Gary Numan’s cold, mechanical sound.
The track works so well for a couple of reasons. The Alice Cooper character was already full of dark menace, so a dehumanized dystopia wasn’t much of a stretch for the singer. That wouldn’t have mattered, of course, if the song itself wasn’t catchy. Sure, it’s dated now, but it’s dated in a “belongs to the era” way as opposed to a “well that was embarrassing” manner.
“Clones” appeared on Flush the Fashion, the first of four albums that Cooper recorded at the height of his alcoholism. What you hear (and in the case of the video above, see) is the sound of a man knock knock knocking on heaven’s door. Fortunately he survived, and almost 40 years later Alice is sort of the last man standing.
This one will cost you about five bucks online, but I’m guessing that if you find it in your local record store’s bins it won’t be priced higher than two dollars. Happy hunting.