A custom figure of Lemmy Kilmister by ‘Elvis 1976’ (or Sébastien Bontemps’ if you prefer…)
If you read Dangerous Minds on a regular basis then you know that from time to time myself or one of my intrepid colleagues enjoy spotlighting various action figures based on bands like Crass or perhaps a poseable version of Al Pacino’s portrayal fictional cocaine-gobbling drug lord Tony Montana from Scarface. If you dig these kinds of posts then I’ve no doubt that you will soon be coveting the custom action figures by Brussels-based artist Sébastien Bontemps who works under the moniker “Elvis 1976.”
Bontemps’ interest with action figure customization started with a Joker figure released by DC Comics in the late 2000s and though his exceptional creations are generally “one-offs” it does appear that the talented artist sells his figures from time to time. You can find out how to purchase one by contacting the folks over at One Sixth Warriors for more information.
If you’re more of a movie memorabilia kind of collector I’ve no doubt that Bontemps’ highly detailed take on the most famous mohawked member of Lord Humungus’ Marauders from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the completely badass crossbow-wielding Wez will make your head spin. Images of some of my favorite inhabitants of Bontemps’ ultra-cool world follow.
Alice Cooper and the 30-foot tall Alice balloon, 1975
According to rock and roll legend, in late August while on a press tour in the UK, avid golfer Alice Cooper got a spot at a major tournament in Scotland at a course called Glen Eagles. At the end of the match in what may be one of the coolest moments in heavy metal history, Cooper got to present the trophy to the winners—who included Christopher Lee. Let that sink in for a minute before we move on to the subject of this post, the epic Macy’s Parade-sized balloon of Alice that followed him around Antwerp, London and Australia in 1975.
Alice Cooper, his excellent mustache, and the giant Alice balloon, August 30, 1975
The Alice Cooper balloon taking a ride on the Ferry Prince, floating by Big Ben and the House of Parliament in 1975
The Alice Cooper balloon floating up, up and away, September, 1975
Used to advertise gigs during the Welcome to my Nightmare tour, the Alice balloon was around 30 feet tall and clad in all white (a nod to the white tuxedo Cooper wore during the tour for the 1975 album Welcome to my Nightmare). Alice’s massive helium-filled face was, of course, painted in standard Cooper corpsepaint style and there’s even ballooney hair on top of its head. If there is a heavy metal artifact that is cooler than a 30-foot balloon of Alice fucking Cooper, I do not know what it is.
I realize that I’m blogging about these cards just a week before Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I’m too late to the game on this one, but maybe they can be rushed delivered? Anyway, here they are in all their glory… heavy metal heroes Valentine’s Day cards! For those who, you know, don’t want to get all mushy-gushy on the holiday.
You get nine different metal heroes that come in a set of 27. The set of cards sell for $15.00. Get ‘em here.
The guillotine used during Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies tour in 1973
Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith will be auctioning off some of his career memorabilia including what Smith says is the guillotine used during the tour in support of Billion Dollar Babies in 1973. Nice.
Neal Smith’s mirrored drum kit
Other items of note in the auction held by Heritage Auctions which is set to begin sometime in early February are Smiths’ mirrored drum kit that he used during the Billion Dollar Babies tour, and a load of glammy clothing Smith wore on stage in the late 60s and early 70s. Some of my favorite items from the auction follow.
‘Tis the Season folks and as I’m getting ready to roll off Dangerous Minds for a week, I wanted to share some choice photos of famous folks dressed up like our savior, Santa Claus or in some cases, just hanging out with jolly old Saint Nicholas.
Marc Bolan as Santa Claus
I really never get tired of pursuing the Internet for vintage images of celebrities and musical icons doing stuff that we all do, but I think this post is a doozy. I had all but forgotten about that time Nancy Reagan sat on Mr. T’s lap (who was dressed as Santa) at the White House during Christmas in 1983. Didn’t you?
From icons like Frank Zappa to Marc Bolan, even John Waters being confronted by Santa as he’s trying to steal a rib roast, and Ginger Rogers looking downright Cockettish in a Santa beard, I’ve got your Christmas covered in photos that are funny, touching and simply weird. Which is exactly how I like to roll. Merry Christmas, Dangerous Minds readers and thanks for digging us this year.
Nancy Reagan and Mr. T at the White House during Christmas, 1983
Wait until you see the one of a young Johnny Thunders, after the jump…
During the opening sequence of this documentary on the Canadian music industry from 1973, The Rolling Stones rip through “Jumping Jack Flash” as the crowd at the Montreal Forum go wild. Mick Jagger struts across the stage, before dousing the audience with a bucket of water and handfuls of rose petals—why? I dunno, each to their own, I suppose…
Not to be outdone, Keith Richards plays his guitar as if each chord struck will bring pestilence, plague, death and disaster down on some faraway land. Richards plucks at his guitar with great gothic dramatic posturing—while in the background Mick Taylor plays the tune.
By 1973, the rock ‘n’ rollers of the early 1950s were middle-aged, mostly married with kids. The new generation of youth who filled their place were long-haired, turned on, tuned in, many believing that music could change the world. Where once rock had been about having a good time, now the feelings it engendered were the driving force for political change. Pop music made the kids feel good—and that feeling was how many thought the world should be.
Well, it never happened, as music—no matter how radical—is in the end… entertainment. Those who took their political education from twelve-inch vinyl platters were quickly disappointed and soon awakened by pop’s utter failure to liberate the world, bring peace and harmony and all that. Nice though this idea certainly was, it was all just a pantomime—like Keef having fun hamming up his guitar playing.
Of course, the music industry is a far more sinister business than this—as this documentary Rock-a-Bye inadvertently points out. From the start, our choice of music was manipulated by long hairs with no taste in fashion as shown by their suits and ties and ill-fitting tank tops. These men picked the records that received the necessary air time to guarantee their success—thus making billions for the music industry. As Douglas Rain quotes one cynical record plugger in his commentary, who claimed if he played the British national anthem “God Save the Queen” on the radio often enough it would be a hit. The youth were only there to be manipulated and sold product—plus ça change….
This is a good illuminating documentary and apart from The Stones, there are performances from Ronnie Hawkins (plus interview), Muddy Waters and Alice Cooper. There’s also an interview with Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin’ Spoonful who lets rip a four-letter word (mostly bleeped out) tirade on the state of music in the 1970s. What Yanovsky forgets is that music is a business and only the amateurs and the rich will play for free.
A book signing at a Dallas record store last night turned into a surprise reunion concert of the original Alice Cooper band. The reported 200 people in attendance got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the best bands that ever existed.
What the attendees there for the signing didn’t realize was that Alice himself was on deck.
Reports are still coming in, but as we’ve been told, no one knew what they were in for. One attendee posted to Facebook: “Alice’s unannounced walk on took the roof off the building, and our brains.”
Photo by Bucks Burnett via Facebook
The short set consisted of “Caught in a Dream,” “Be My Lover,” “Eighteen,” “Is It My Body,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels, “and “School’s Out.” Michael Bruce sang on “Caught in a Dream” and then Ryan Roxie joined on lead guitar for the rest of the set, starting with “Be My Lover.”
Photo by Bobby Beeman via Facebook
Photo by Bobby Beeman via Facebook. “What an amazing night. The whole thing was like a dream.”
The rest of us get to be jealous of what those lucky folks witnessed last night. Here’s crossing our fingers that there will be more similar appearances in the future for Alice’s best band.
We assume more video will be seeing the light of day at the speed of Internet, but for now we have found this from last night. We’ll update this with more video and information as it comes in.
Man, the fuckin’ ‘70s… It’s no secret or surprise that teen magazines’ content started to skew a bit more adult in that decade, mirroring significantly more permissive times, but I was floored by the August, 1974 issue of SPEC, a sometimes quarterly, sometimes bimonthly, typically more pin-up heavy special publication of 16 Magazine. While 16 tended to keep details of teenybopper stars’ sexual lives obscured in favor of probing questions into Bobby Sherman’s favorite (sorry—FAVE, always fave) color or David Cassidy’s fave dessert, SPEC offered up a Grand Funk “Be Our Groupie” contest, a ridiculous shirtless crotch-shot centerfold of Rick Springfield, and an advice column addressing how to touch a guy if you want to turn him on, fittingly written by a gentleman named “Rod.”
And as if to prove that clickbait is nothing new, here’s what ultimately grabbed me:
OK, I was curious what I’d need to do to marry an Osmond, too…
It speaks volumes about values dissonance over the decades that that could be printed at all, let alone on the COVER of a magazine, let alone the cover of a magazine for junior high and high school girls. And not even JUST on the cover:
Sooooooo I’m still confused—is Alice Cooper or is he not a fag? We’ll have to refer to the ridiculous interview to find out:
SPEC: People say all kinds of things about you. Alice: I know, I know.
SPEC: So what’s the story, Alice? Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you bisexual? Which? Alice: Oh, I’m straight. I’m attracted only to members of the opposite sex—girls, that is.
SPEC: But you have a girl’s name, you wear all that make-up. Don’t you expect people to get the impression that you’re not straight? Alice: Well, I have a girl’s name, but that’s kind of a goof. And lots of men who perform wear make-up—that’s a theatrical tradition, it has nothing to do with sexuality. And I do not attempt to look like a girl, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m not a transvestite—I don’t imitate women. Did you ever see a woman who looked the way I do? If one did, she’d really get called a weirdo!
SPEC: Nevertheless, we get all these letters saying “Alice s a fag!” I’m sure you get them too. How do you account for that? Alice: To some extent, I must admit, we do encourage that impression. But I’m not a “fag”—you know I don’t like using that word because it’s insulting to gay people.
SPEC: What impression do you encourage? Alice: Oh, you know, bizarre, kinky, neither-here-nor-there. But I never went out of my way to lead people to believe that I was actually homosexual. After all, make-up and costumes have nothing to do with homosexuality—the only pertinent behavior is whether or not you’re attracted to people of your own sex.
SPEC: I understand you’ve been criticized by people in the gay liberation movement for exploiting homosexuality and making fun of it. Alice: I’m sorry they feel that way, but there are a lot of gay people who don’t mind what I do also. It’s all in fun, and it’s certainly not meant to be malicious in any way whatsoever.
SPEC: Don’t you think a lot of your fans want to believe that you’re gay? Alice: Yes, I know they do. Isn’t it curious? They’ll read this interview, and they’ll say “Bull! We know he’s queer!” Nothing I could say or do could convince them that I’m not.
SPEC: Why do you think that is? Alice: I figure it probably makes these kids feel far-out to think that they can dig a performer who’s supposedly gay. I think it’s groovy of them.
SPEC: Would you admit it if you were homosexual? Alice: Of course, and I wouldn’t just admit it, as if it were something you’re supposed to conceal. I’d just be it. I’d be natural about it, and I don’t see where it would be very much different for me, except I’d be making it with men instead of women.
SPEC: Aren’t you even just a little bit bisexual? Alice: You mean do I mostly like girls, but do I like boys sometimes? No, I only like girls, but if I could have chosen my own sexuality, I think I might have chosen to be bisexual.
SPEC: Why is that? Alice: It would give me twice as many people to pick from!
SPEC: Do you really mean that? Alice: Sure—I think in the future everyone will be bisexual. And everything would be so much simpler then—you’d just make love with anyone you liked, and it wouldn’t matter what sex they were, and maybe it also wouldn’t matter what color they were, or what age, or anything, except that you liked them.
That’s a way better chat than you were expecting, no? Me too. I’ve conducted a fair few interviews and I can’t imagine in a million years bluntly asking someone if he or she is gay, and Cooper handled that all really well—especially for 1974. It goes on for a bit longer, with a lot of silly, if period-appropriate, shockrocker gobbledygook about pansexuality as a panacea for social ills blah blah blah. What’s transcribed above is the worthy stuff.
Here’s some more rare ‘74 vintage Alice—a mimed version of the Billion Dollar Babies cut “Sick Things,” from a short-lived TV mystery series called The Snoop Sisters. They were actually NAMED “Snoop” AND they were snoops, you guys. Why did that not last?
The incident that made Alice Cooper a household name was captured on film by D. A. Pennebaker, the director of Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop. It doesn’t appear in Sweet Toronto, Pennebaker’s documentary about the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why it ended up on the cutting room floor. Let’s say it’s not long on “good-time rock and roll” vibes.
Like me, you’ve probably seen the split-second clip of Alice throwing the chicken into the Toronto festival audience dozens of times, but it’s a different story in the context of the actual feedback-soaked bacchanal. The climax of the set Pennebaker captures on these thirteen minutes of film is so violent, so unsettling and so totally deranged in 1969 terms that you can forgive witnesses for thinking the bird was ritually sacrificed, or deliberately shredded by the band as a Dadaist outrage.
Getting Alice Cooper on the bill at this festival was a coup for manager Shep Gordon, whose unlikely career in showbiz is the subject of the entertaining documentary Supermensch (now streaming on Netflix). As Alice and Shep tell the story, the manager turned down an offer for 30 percent of the festival’s profits, instead opting to book Alice for a nominal fee of $1. In exchange, Shep’s clients got the slot in between the festival’s two headliners: John Lennon, in his first performance without the Beatles, and the Doors. From Supermensch:
Alice Cooper: Sixty thousand people. We go on, and it’s great. We’re tearing the place up, and the feathers are going, and I look down and there’s a chicken onstage. The only person that could’ve bought the chicken was Shep, because nobody in the audience would bring a chicken to that concert. Nobody would say, “OK, I got my keys, I got my tickets, I got my chicken.”
Shep Gordon: I thought, “Let’s have a live chicken, it would be fantastic.” I threw it out at him.
AC: I took the chicken and tossed it, thinking it had feathers, it should fly. Well, it didn’t fly as much as it plummeted.
SG: Everybody went wild.
AC: The audience tore it to pieces.
SG: They threw it back at him. They threw back wings, and legs, and heads came flying back up on the stage. And then I saw blood, so I turned my head ‘cause I faint when I see blood.
AC: Next day in the paper, “ALICE COOPER RIPS HEAD OFF CHICKEN AND DRINKS THE BLOOD.” What should have been incredibly horrible press for anybody became the thing that put us on the map. Now we could do anything we wanna do!
Alice throws the bird at 11:38, but you’ll miss nearly all of the actual mayhem if you fast forward. The song they’re playing at the beginning, often called “Freak Out Song,” is a version of “Don’t Blow Your Mind” by proto-AC band the Spiders. It’s nice to learn that Alice was a fan of The Prisoner.
‘When You’ve Heard Lou, You’ve Heard It All’ Lou Rawls advertising career covered insurance and booze.
Musicians have long depended on patronage from the rich and powerful to sponsor their careers as artists. As far back as composers such as Haydn or Mozart, who earned his keep with a string of patrons starting with Prince-Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg. It’s the same today with pop stars taking the cash offered by brands like Coke and Pepsi to pay for their tours or alimony or undisclosed bad habits.
While some stars promote things they believe in—guitars, charities—there is always a longer list of those who would sell out for some unbelievably low rent shit—Rod Stewart pimping shoes, Elton John peddling pinball, the Yardbirds shilling toiletries. Occasionally, there are those who are smart enough to use the brand to sponsor their ambitions, like Lou Rawls who sold Budweiser but used the brand to sponsor his telethons. Neat, but not all of the following are in that category.
When Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck sold perfume in sexist sixties ads: ‘She’s among the Yardbirds. She goes for groups. They go for her. She has her own group too. Named after her. Miss Disc. A very ‘in’ group indeed…’
Late 1960s, Dave Brubeck attempts to convince the gullible to buy Sears-Kenmore products in ads for magazines like Better Homes and Gardens.
Rod the Mod was once famous for his sartorial elegance, but here he is dressed as if Walt Disney puked on him.
More mighty musos shilling for money, after the jump…
Beat Club was the German TV show dedicated to rock performance that later became Musikladen (Music Store), a show we’ve featured here at DM many times. I don’t know exactly what kind of acid they put into the performers’ (or the producers’) drinks, but this compilation, known as “The Crazy World” (and originally released on a Laserdisc) is totally out-o-sight and generally kicks ass. Enhancing all the rockin’ are a lot of groove-tastic green screen effects. The visuals on this show were almost as mind-bending as the audio.
The Three Faces of Vliet
The music is tuneful and heavy, all around. I’d scarcely heard any Flo & Eddie, but they hang right in there with the rest of them. I was prepared not to dig the Slade number much, but it rocked. Everything on this compilation rocks, even the otherwise sprightly number by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
They really don’t show music like this on TV anymore, like ever. I’m not sure people can even make music like this any more, maybe the iPhones are slowly sucking it out of us. Hmmm. I’m open to hypotheses.
I could hear this playing in the other side of the house on my wife’s computer. “It isn’t?”
Oh, but IT IS: Mr. Dante Fontana of Mod Cinema has posted this clip of fab German bandleader James Last and his Orchestra performing an indescribably great medley of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine,” “Children Of The Revolution” by T-Rex and Alice Cooper’s anthem to juvenile delinquency, “Schools’ Out.”
How lucky are we that this clip exists in the world: The James fucking Last Orchestra playing a decidedly UN-IRONIC (but truly incredible) big band version of Hawkwind’s greatest hit in 1973??? I mean, for that alone, sign me up, but throw in T-Rex and Alice Cooper covers in this style, too? That’s a party. A voodoo party.
Dig the fashion-forward stripey shirt and tie combo on some of the band members. That look takes “power clashing” to a whole new level. Makes it into an art form.
I approached the news of Super Duper Alice Cooper with some trepidation. That story has been told to death, hasn’t it? I feel like I’ve seen a gazillion VH1 shows about the rise and fall of Vincent Furnier, misfit preacher’s son from Phoenix who became the most outrageous rock star of the era… or maybe it was just the same one over and over again?
The dramatic arc of fame and fortune followed by Cooper’s debilitating drinking problem and his subsequent comeback as the “godfather of heavy metal” oldies act and happy family man is one we’re all familiar with. Still, there is much to love about Super Duper Alice Cooper, which I enjoyed much more than I expected I would.
The filmmakers, Scott McFadyen and Sam Dunn, call their project a “doc opera” and it’s a nicely textured mosaic of archival footage, live performance, TV talk show appearances and the like. What we don’t see are any contemporary interviews with any out-of-shape old rockers—and that includes Alice Cooper himself, who is in great shape at 66—as is now the fad with music documentaries. The interviews are audio only and frankly, I prefer it when rock docs are made this way. You want to see rock stars in their prime, when they’re old it’s just an annoying reminder that you’re getting old too, I suppose, but it really does elevate productions like this to a higher level. There’s an (effective) framing device of the Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde element to the singer’s personality that was clever, but not too clever. Overall I liked it quite a bit and give Super Duper Alice Cooper high marks.
I watched with my wife and there’s one part that shows the media of the time seeming kind of confused about what Alice Cooper stood for. She laughed about the notion of parents thinking this stuff was in any way dangerous and I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, they put out three albums’ worth of songs celebrating death and dead babies and all kinds of morbid things with a pretty straight face. Naturally it came off like some kind of freaky death cult to parents just a few short years after ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’!”
The biggest revelation in the film is that Alice Cooper had a major coke problem, a habit that he indulged in quite heavily in the early 1980s (long after he’d dried out from booze) hanging around with lyricist Bernie Taupin (who only agreed to be interviewed for the film on the condition that Alice’s coke problem be addressed). Everybody knows Alice Cooper was a drunk, but even when he was looking fucking insane (if not literally moments away from death) when Tom Snyder interviewed him, who ever heard of Alice Cooper freebasing cocaine? They kept the lid pretty tight on that, but it all comes out in Super Duper Alice Cooper.
WHEN is someone going to post the full “Levity Ball” clip on YouTube?
On December 7, 1973 Alice Cooper had the opportunity to meet one of his personal idols and favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, at a party on the eve of the Billion Dollar Babies/Muscle of Love holiday tour. During this hectic but successful period in his career, Alice partied like, well, a rock star, and hung out with unexpected celebrities like Liza Minnelli and Ronnie Spector, who both sang back-up on his group’s Muscle of Love album, not to mention Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley and porn star Linda Lovelace. That’s not even counting his hard-drinking “Hollywood Vampires” crew from the Rainbow Bar, which included Keith Moon (“Keith was like a battery that never ran out. It got to the stage with Keith where I’d hear he was in town and hide somewhere because I couldn’t face another bender.”), John Lennon, Micky Dolenz from The Monkees, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr.
That night Vonnegut promised Alice a signed copy of his new book, Breakfast of Champions and Alice was thrilled when the promise was actually fulfilled. He said:
When you meet famous people, they always say they’ll send you stuff and they never do. But Vonnegut sent the stuff down and I was so thrilled. I sent him all our albums and T-shirts and posters. I’m a Vonnegut fan forever.
Alice always named Vonnegut as his favorite author, listing him as such in the tour program for his 1977 Lace and Whiskey tour. It’s not surprising that he enjoyed Vonnegut’s similarly dark humor. In particular he loved Vonnegut’s masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five, still citing it as his “desert island book” on BBC 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2010. It was reported in the mid-‘70s that he was up for the role of Bunny Hoover, a gay lounge piano player at an Indianapolis Holiday Inn he described as “the kind of guy you hate the minute you see him,” in Robert Altman’s movie adaptation of the book, presumably with Vonnegut’s approval. While that would have been truly awesome, the project fell through. The movie wasn’t made for another twenty-six years, and then it was without Alice and Altman (and some would argue, Vonnegut!)
When asked by The Quietus about his recurring character “Steven,” Alice mentioned Vonnegut’s influence:
I used to read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut and when I’d read all the Vonnegut books I realized there was a character [Kilgore Trout] that always ran through the books. He was sort of this character that just kept showing up. For no apparent reason and no apparent connection to the story. And I kind of liked that. So Steven, he’s a mystery to me too but I like throwing him in. I like throwing Steven in whenever I can so that when people go “Where is Steven?” I can say “He’s right there.” He’s kind of like a spirit, an Alice Cooper spirit.
The new film Super Duper Alice Cooper is released tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment. Expect a review here in the coming days.
By far the majority of artist-run record labels exist as mere vanity imprints, releasing an album or two by the musician/would-be entrepreneur him/herself, and that’s that. Noteworthy exceptions are certainly around—Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and Null Corporation, Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe, and Jack White’s Third Man are a few artist-run labels that have achieved significant successes.
An early example of such an artist using his own label to bypass the strictures of major label deals is, unsurprisingly, the iconoclastically independent-minded Frank Zappa. In the late ‘60s, when Verve Records inexplicably missed their deadline to re-up Zappa’s contract, he and his manager Herb Cohen used that leverage to establish their own production company and label, to retain creative control, and to release artists they favored. The labels they established were Straight Records and Bizarre Records. Between them, in a mere five years of existence, the labels released albums by Lenny Bruce and Wild Man Fischer, and now-immortal recordings like Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and Captain Beefheart essentials like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
Tom O’Dell’s 2011 documentary From Straight to Bizarre tells the labels’ story in detail, through interviews with Pamela Des Barres, John “Drumbo” French, Sandy “Essra Mohawk” Hurvitz, Kim Fowley, Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway and the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, among many others. YouTube user Treble Clef has broken the feature-length doc into short chunks for your piecemeal viewing convenience. There’s a lot of illuminating stuff herein, so please, enjoy.