Alice Cooper was in a long forgotten rock opera with members of The Who, Roxy Music & Moody Blues

Around 1974, Alice Cooper fully morphed from a group’s name to that of a solo artist. While Cooper’s fellow bandmates moved on to various solo ventures—guitarist Michael Bruce working on the album In My Own Way and drummer Neal Smith recording Platinum Gods—Cooper planned his own solo extravaganza Welcome to My Nightmare set for release in 1975. He was drinking heavily and getting a “buzz on” with the likes Harry Nilsson, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon, John Lennon, and lyricist Bernie Taupin. This little group of legendary drinkers was known as the “Hollywood Vampires” due to their nocturnal drinking habits at bars and clubs along Sunset Strip in L.A. Being slightly inebriated might explain how Cooper became involved with a space-age rock opera called Flash Fearless and the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6.

The title alone should have been fair warning that this might be a tad sub-par compared to his own classic work but something or someone—if only Cooper could remember exactly what or who?—led the singer to sign-up for the starring role as Flash Fearless. Perhaps it was the host of big name artists who were also happily roped into the project like the Who’s John Entwistle, who played bass on every track; or maybe boozing buddy Keith Moon who had a minimal speaking role as pirate Long John Silver; or perhaps Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues who played guitar; or maybe Elkie Brooks formerly of Vinegar Joe who (rather confusingly) sang vocals as both Flash’s crew member/girlfriend Dulla and head of the evil Zorg Women; or maybe Eddie Jobson of Roxy Music, or Jim Dandy, or Frankie Miller (who didn’t appear on the US album version), or Bill Bruford, or Kenney Jones, or Maddy Prior, or any of the highly respected talents who gave their name and time to the album.

Flash Fearless and the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6 was the brainchild of Canadian songwriters/musicians Steve Hammond and Dave Pierce with contributions from Bonnie Pierce, Rick Jones, and Terence Hillyer. The musical was a parody of those 1930-style film serials like Flash Gordon. Pierce had been toying with the idea of a space-rock musical since around 1970 when he was writing songs in Canada with Rick Jones. Described as a “nostalgic musical of the 24th-century,” Flash Fearless   “follows the soft-porn adventures of a spoof 1940s sci-fi superhero, Flash Fearless, on a planet inhabited by a race of Amazons, the Zorg Women’ who keep men enslaved and milked them for their seminal fluid. The story seemed a neat fit to the mood of the time with the hit musical The Rocky Horror Show, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Glam Rock, the spoof sex movie Flesh Gordon, and even the Who’s star-studded misfire production of Tommy with the likes of Peter Sellers and Rod Stewart in the cast.
Flash Fearless and the Zorg Women Parts 5 & 6 was recorded in London and Los Angeles (Cooper’s tracks) in 1974 and released to much fanfare in 1975. This included a full-color comic strip published in the NME. Entwistle described the album to Melody Maker as “a breath of fresh air in rock music.” Fuck knows what the Ox was breathing in before but this wasn’t fresh air. It was great talent and production in search of good material. The album bombed.
More of Alice Cooper, John Entwistle and ‘Flash Fearless,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
10:04 am
‘Gang War’: Incredible 1982 rock opera is finally being released and we have a preview + interview
12:21 pm

Frederick Michael St. Jude
In 1977, a small label out of Ft. Lauderdale, Soul Deep Records, released the debut LP by one Frederick Michael St. Jude. Here Am I was conceived as a commercial album, and though it didn’t make the Billboard charts, as was hoped, it did eventually earn a cult following thanks to St. Jude’s unique take on pop music. His distinctive vocal quiver, reminiscent of Bowie, Ferry, and Jobriath, sits atop a varied set of catchy tunes. Some songs are bleak and futuristic, others show a country influence, while a couple of tracks conjure up the drama found in musical theater.
Here Am I
Not long after Here Am I was released, St. Jude visited the office of his label, only to discover Soul Deep had closed its doors and the owners were nowhere to be found. Luckily, St. Jude was able to salvage the Here Am I master tapes, as well as those for his in-progress second album, from the company’s dumpster. Inspired by the circumstances, he set aside the songs he had written for the Here Am I follow-up, and went about composing material for a bold new project, a dystopian rock opera about gangs. Though an album’s worth of material was recorded and an abbreviated version was released on a 1982 EP as Gang War – A Rock Opera, the remainder of the recordings were shelved. Subsequently, St. Jude began pursuing other endeavors, such as magazine publishing and acting, including multiple appearances on an now iconic ‘80s TV show.
Gang War ad, 1982
Advertisement for the EP
In 2013, the Chicago-based record label Drag City re-issued Here Am I,  and they’re about to unleash Gang War, which means Frederick Michael St. Jude’s rock opera will finally be released in its entirety.
Gang War
Cover art by Frederick Michael St. Jude

After the introductory, opening theme sets the stage, it quickly becomes apparent that Gang War isn’t exactly about gangs, but is a metaphor for the personal and professional struggles of life. St. Jude incorporated an interesting amalgamation of styles for the album, as the songs bring to mind glam rock titans, Bowie and Bolan; the softer side of Led Zeppelin; the futuristic, dystopian imagery of Gary Numan; and anthemic arena rock by the likes of Styx, Queen, and REO Speedwagon. It’s funky, punky, and rocks with a fist in the air. It’s quite a record.

Here’s our interview with Mr. St. Jude, which was conducted via email.:

What was your creative vision for Gang War?:

Frederick Michael St. Jude: With me, it all begins with strumming chords on the guitar, to be truthful. I had just changed the strings on my Giannini twelve-string and began the initial “break-in” them a stretch, when the series of chords I was playing just sort of clicked. I was overwhelmed with a melody line and the lyrics just came crashing in. We are talking about the main theme song now [“Gang War Theme”]. By the time I was finished, I sat there, stunned. I had been writing songs for years and most came pretty effortlessly, but this…this amazed me. It didn’t take a thud to me head to realize I was onto something important. Especially once I realized it was more than just a song. It was more of a prophecy. From that point on, I was in high gear and the songs just came ripping in. The year was 1982 when this miracle all took place. I say miracle because I am still stunned at how all of it fell into place. I don’t know if Gang War is my “swan song”...I am still writing and recording with my co-producer, Norman Titcomb via computer, but it will certainly do until that “swan song” (if any or another) gets here.

Read more and hear a song from ‘Gang War’ after the jump

Posted by Bart Bealmear
12:21 pm