It took the original Alice Cooper group a few records to get their footing, but they would achieve this on their third record, ‘Love It to Death’, which served as the culmination of all of the brightest elements from the first two records. However, it was their next record, ‘Killer’, released the same year as ‘Love It to Death’ in 1971, that would capture the band at their absolute best. Many rock critics debate which record is superior. It’s close. Nevertheless, between ‘Love It to Death’ and ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ three records later, it’s safe to say that this band had an influence on virtually everything that would come afterwards. Alice Cooper can be seen and heard in everything from black metal to synth pop.
This record takes off charging right from the start with “Under My Wheels”, one of the band’s biggest hits. The song is seeping with a rough, rebellious American strut that is just too visceral to convince yourself that you’re above its charm. Following the feel-good next track, the band takes us to something truly bizarre. The strange, avant-garde journey that is “Halo of Flies” is something of a true masterpiece. Described by Alice as an attempt to make a King Crimson-esque progressive rock epic, this bizarre tale of a SMERSH-type organization (look up your history) is something quite unlike anything else at the time or since (outside the Melvins, who have been known to play it live). After this, we get the Jim Morrison tribute “Desperado”. Jim Morrison was good friends with Alice and, as Alice would put it, his “big brother”. You can practically feel Jim’s unchainable spirit being conjured through Alice’s voice. Although this is a Morrison tribute, parallels have also been made between the song’s narrative and Robert Vaughn’s character from the “The Magnificent Seven”.
You can’t discuss this record without talking about the highlight of side two and one of Alice Cooper’s most controversial tracks to this day, “Dead Babies”. Seen upon its release as vile, disgusting, and tasteless, it nonetheless has an incredibly potent social message and is one of the great anti-child abuse statements in all of popular culture. The only vile, disgusting, and tasteless thing about this song is that there existed the necessary source material to write it in the first place. Even so, this is one song that painted Alice Cooper as the enemy of civilization. The negative publicity, of course, only made the band that much bigger and more popular. It was sensationalism at its most gloriously decadent and chaotic. In our desensitized world that has seen the likes of Cannibal Corpse and other bands of their caliber come and go, perhaps it’s difficult to understand how big of an impact Alice Cooper had. Lest we forget, it’s because of them that the extremity of a band like Cannibal Corpse was ever made possible.
It goes without saying that this is one of the most influential records in the history of popular music. The future of the music industry was flowing through Alice Cooper at this time (as well as David Bowie) and the press with all of their anti-Alice propaganda were only feeding into the band’s hands. They had planned it that way all along and that is only part of the reason why they will go down as one of the most important bands of all time. Love them or hate them, Alice Cooper put out what is arguably the single greatest record of all time with this release. It’s an unstoppable record by a band that was unstoppable at a time when the conventions of the music industry were being turned upside down by this incredibly transgressive band. Never will there ever be another Alice Cooper group.