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Often referred to by Alice Cooper as his ‘blackout’ albums, four records released by the fledging rock star in the early 1980s were dismissed by critics, overlooked by fans and all but forgotten by the artist who recorded them.
Having slipped from the commercial heights of his 1975 masterpiece Welcome to My Nightmare and suffering ill-health due to his excessive drinking, 1978′s From the Inside had charted his stay in a sanatorium and promised a return the abyss for Cooper, but it wasn’t long until alcohol once again begun to dominate his life.
‘My relapse put me back in the fog. As a result, I made four albums I hardly remember writing, recording or touring on: Flush the Fashion in 1980, Special Forces in 1981, Zipper Catches Skin in 1982 and Dada in 1983,’ he explained in his 2007 memoir Golf Monster. ‘You’ve heard of lost weekends – well, those were my lost years. I ambled through those albums and tours in a foggy haze.’
Many were ready to write off Cooper as a has-been, with one album after another failing to find the same kind of success or acclaim that his mid-1970s output had achieved. ‘I’d come to the apex of my drinking career, and I was finally at that lowest rung on the ladder,’ he told Classic Rock in 2011 while promoting his latest album Welcome 2 My Nightmare. ‘I got to the point where the doctor says, ‘If you drink any more you’re going to die.’ I had to deal with that, and then I took a year to decide, ‘Am I ever going to come back and be Alice?’ because I didn’t know if Alice existed in a sober world.’
In a new interview with Guitar International, Cooper discussed his fall from the grace in the early 1980s: ‘There is that moment in anybody’s life especially a rock ‘n’ roll guy where you are living minute to minute and album to album. Even though you get really big this year, next year it doesn’t mean anything. You’re only as good as your last album.’
He continued, ‘I got to a point where we made three or four albums in a row that didn’t do anything. My real fans loved those albums, but they were so experimental and different from Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out which were both number one and Welcome to My Nightmare which was in the Top five. Those were the albums that were huge. Then I had four albums and they were cool but non-existent. I think in that period of time from a career point of view, I said I’m never going to make another hit album again.
‘Trash came after that and it sold 5 million copies. As soon as I got sober all of a sudden things got okay again. It took me going into a hospital and getting sober before I made another hit album.’ Released in April 1980, Flush the Fashion was Cooper’s twelfth studio album and fourth as a solo artist following the demise of his eponymous group several years earlier. Despite the inclusion of the modest hit Clones (We’re All), which saw Cooper embracing the new wave scene, the album failed to reignite the spark in his career, while each of the three subsequent records proved less successful than the last.
‘I can tell you everything about Billion Dollar Babies, The Last Temptation or Welcome to My Nightmare, but albums like Flush the Fashion were a blur; Lace and Whiskey wasn’t exactly in focus,’ he told Billboard in 1999 while promoting the four-disc retrospective The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper.‘There are the three or four albums that I did where I was Ray Milland (who won an Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic in 1945′s The Lost Weekend). I don’t remember writing or performing or recording; I just remember moments of saying, ‘That’s a good idea.’ But even in my worst state, I had good taste.’ Despite reaching the bottom of his abyss with 1983′s underrated DaDa, Cooper returned three years later at the peak of the hair metal scene with his long-awaited comeback Constrictor and the song He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), which had been released to promote the horror sequel Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
But it would not be until 1989′s Trash and the hit single Poison that Cooper would finally rival the success and acclaim of his early work. While songs from his ‘blackout’ albums were included in the aforementioned box-set, they have yet to be remastered and released in a similar fashion to his more revered work. ‘I would actually like to go back and re-record those three albums because I never really gave them their due,’ he admitted to The Quietus in 2009. ‘I love the songs – I just don’t remember writing them. My subconscious was writing some pretty good tracks!’