I have a theory that this record was recorded amidst a pile of beer cans in a basement with no access to natural light. Caught in this dream of mine, the amplifiers are turned up too loud and the band aren’t even sure what they’re playing. Black light posters ring around the sweat filled room and the air is as thick as the sheet metal on the fender of a ‘70 Chevelle. A young Vince Furnier primps and pumps his fist to a crowd that wouldn’t show up for a couple years. When the sun arises and they play back the tape, the masterpiece that is Love It To Death by Alice Cooper surprises even the band.
Speaking of surprises, this record contains their first hit - I’m Eighteen. Remember that one? It’s got that really sad reference about lines forming on a guy’s face and hands. Even as a kid I thought it was weird that some teenager was getting wrinkles. Ah, but that line about having a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart. Well, that’s heady stuff for heavy rockers. Almost poignant. This record contains searing guitar work, heavy pounding, thumping, thudding and wailing. And numerous religious references. Specifically, Christian. Listen and you’ll see what I mean. Though with songs like Hallowed Be My Name and Second Coming even the thickest heads will get the idea there’s something beneath something here. I remember seeing an interview with Mr. Alice Cooper once where he said that the theme running through Alice Cooper records was that there was Evil and there was Good and don’t choose Evil. Good advice, that.
There’s a song here called Ballad of Dwight Fry. In that one song you get a straight jacket, weight loss, a missing father and a hook and riff explosion that most rock bands would kill for. There’s also the preposterously awesome Is It My Body. There are no wasted songs on this record. It might just change your life. And I’m no fan of hyperbole.
Only in America could there exist a rock ‘n’ roll Horatio Alger story like this one. Mr. Alger, of course, being a long dead collector of Alice Cooper records. In any case, let’s get into why this album is so important.
The Alice Cooper story began a couple years earlier with the sound of no hands clapping to the release of the band’s first record - Pretties For You. It’s a great album but it’s not like Love It To Death. It’s more psychedelic and artsy. Their next record was called Easy Action and to me it’s the link between their first record and the heavier buzz-saw sound of Love It To Death. With Love It To Death things started to ferment and the band saw some real success. They’d have much more success in years to come with the albums Killer, School’s Out, and Billion Dollar Babies but the formula started to kick like an electric mule on Red Bull with the release of Love It To Death.
Alright, let’s take a short break for trivia. In 1971, where would your local record store flunky file a record by Alice Cooper? In the “C” or “A” sections? Answer? How ‘bout both! It was a trick question, freaques! If the aforementioned flunky clerk knew what he was doing he’d file it in “A” section. Huh? Well, it’s because “Alice Cooper” isn’t a person. Or at least he wasn’t a person way back in the late 60s and early 70s. Nope. Alice Cooper was a group of five hard rockers that were long on talent and silver clothing and short on scissors. This group was made up of real humans with real names like Vincent Damon Furnier on vocals, Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce on guitars, Dennis Dunaway on bass and Neal Smith on drums. After a few years of success (and even more beers) Vincent Furnier worked up the nerve to take the name of the group as his own name thus becoming the person Alice Cooper. Mr. Alice Cooper to you.
Here’s the important part. Americans, I implore you. In this election year, there’s one thing more important than voting. Buying this record. So, drop your socks. Pick up your car keys. Skip out of work and run to your local record purveyor and purchase this twelve incher. Same goes for you American Samoans. With one exception - drop your banana (even us xenophobic Americans know you don’t own socks!).
For weirdos only: By now if you’re following my unusual brand of record reviewing, you’ll note that I must have something self-important and/or self-indulgent to say about a record if I include a photo of the record label. In this case I’m bragging a bit that I own a first pressing of Love It To Death as evidenced by the pinkish Straight label. Sure, I also own a Warner Brothers copy of the record too, but it’s these first pressings that sound almost criminally powerful. When I bought this copy at a local clothing resale shop (see, there is hope!) a friend of mine who’s more of a record weirdo than me told me I’d throw out my Warner Brothers copy as a phony replica of the real thing on the Straight label. He may have been exaggerating but it does sound better. The first pressings also contain the naughty cover before it was airbrushed at the request of nervous corporate execs over at Warners. There’s nothing naughty about it at all, really. But I guess people thought the old thumb through the zipper trick was an inch too far and they did away with it when Warner Brothers bought the rights and reissued the record in 1971. Have fun weirdos. Keep smiling!
Ted Nugent Bites Into And Eats The Beating Heart Out Of America
Strike while the iron’s hot I say. Ted Nugent seems to be hot all over America again. I’m not sure why this time. Having long ago given up on mainstream media (I get most of my news from Trouser Press and Creem Magazine), I can only surmise that all this watercooler talk about Ted Nugent must be about one thing – his liberal use of guitar savagery! America, I’ll never figure out how you work, but I love you. By the way, so does former President Jimmy Carter who, though being a small man, has a big heart for this country. And one suspects, a big love of Ted Nugent’s music.
Within Ted Nugent’s oeuvre, this particular album – Tooth, Fang & Claw – is actually credited to Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes. It came out in The Year Of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy Four and it fills an interesting niche. That niche being the Middle Ages between the Amboy Duke’s psychedelic late 1960s and early 70s chugging ooze and the late 70s guitar-as-shotgun solo music assault on the senses that became “Ted Nugent” the man. And, not surprisingly, the band. My thinking is that by 1974, Ted Nugent still liked the name Amboy Dukes and thought it was helpful to him on his journey to becoming the Motor City Madman. He appears to be right.
Any way you slice it, this album is a heavy rocker. Some of you who may not be familiar with this period of Ted’s work might dismiss it as overly sentimental or light-hearted. It isn’t. It’s got a loud, kerranging, crunching approach not without humor and a soft supple side. Now that you’re intrigued, let’s dive into the tracks on the album.
Lady Luck leads things off. No it’s not about gambling. It’s about the Virginia Slims generation. You’ve come a long way, baby and Uncle Ted doesn’t want you to forget it. I think this track is written as a gift to Gloria Steinem. Living in the Woods is exactly what you think it is – a romantic story about Ted’s upbringing by mother wolf and father bear. The first side of this record ends with a long instra-mental and it’s called Hibernation. I challenge any of you to sleep through this one! It gives your insides a kind of primordial body shake. You’re almost afraid to flip the record to hear side two.
Do it anyway. Something amazing happens. The second side begins with another non-vocal workout. This one’s called Free Flight and it’s sensational. I think it shows off Ted’s sensitive side as it dips and ascends into rock ‘n’ roll inner-space. I think it’s about the history of American altruism but how can you tell when there are no words? Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. The next cut – Maybelline – was written by Chuck Berry as an ode to modern cosmetics. Nugent’s version is a weird interpretation. But worth hearing I think.
The Great White Buffalo deserves its own paragraph. It has nothing to do with the Dustin Hoffman movie - Little Big Man. You’ve heard it somewhere. You just forgot about it. America, come home to The Great White Buffalo. It was a concert favorite for years and I think it’s about an albino buffalo that looks like Edgar Winter but I can’t be sure.
Sasha is the meandering and beautifully toned acoustic-electric-mellow rocker your mom never knew Ted Nugent had in him. But he did! Now you can now laugh in your mom’s face! No Holds Barred is hard to categorize. I guess I’d call it a mounted gun for firing heavy projectiles type song. It closes out this long player and it’s a good finisher. It’s got plenty of moments where you think it might end but doesn’t. A fun-loving romp of an album that comes highly recommended.
So wash down your double cheeseburger with a can of beer and get out to your local record store to score this rock ‘n’ roll mutation.
For weirdos only: The Amboy Dukes, Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, and Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes are tricky to follow. There are any number of albums, compilations and collections of different incarnations of these bands. While I might not get this right to the letter of the law, think of it this way. If the band is called The Amboy Dukes, the music was most likely recorded between 1967 - 1969 and is largely blues-based psychedelia that’s first rate (Journey To The Center Of The Mind being their most famous single). Anything called Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes or Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes is probably a heavy rocking affair that lives down around the corner from Ted’s hard-rocking stuff that ruled the FM airwaves in the late 70s. While right thinking people these days concern themselves with Ted Nugent’s “boorish” behavior, this writer finds his guitar work to be boarish in the best possible way. Keep smiling, weirdos.
No way. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll kick to the skull. Just the way I like it. Fact is, the first track – Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – kicks you in the head and then stomps your solar plexus after you fall to the ground shaking like your grandma’s bundt cake shaped lime jello.
I wanted to hate this slab of wax from 1968 – The Bob Seger System’s first LP – based on my experience with 1980s truck commercials drenched in MOR rock music from Bob Seger. Thing of it is, when you hear that much MOR rock music over and over all day long you begin to loathe it.
But there’s nothing to loathe in the grooves of Bob’s first outing as a rocker. The worst that can be said about this record is that some of the cuts are a bit hippy dippy (“Gone” comes to mind).
But when the Bob Seger System nails it – “Tales Of Lucy Blue”, “Down Home”, “Ivory”, “White Wall” and the title track – they really hammer it in. If Vice President Biden were to ask me to describe this album in terms he’d understand, I’d probably say it was musculoskeletal psychedelic rhythm ‘n’ blues with a dollop of country folk thrown in to scare the crap out of you.
And, that’s what this record did for me. It scared the crap out of me. Because there’s a lot to love about it. And I wasn’t ready to love Seger. There’s thudding, pounding, hammering, screeching and a few moments where you stick your head out the window to escape the smoke and breathe in some of that sweet, cool Motor City air. I love those things in a rock record. A rock record that sounds like Detroit in 1968.
I can actually imagine UAW workers listening to this record as they pounded together a car with some serious curb weight. Sensational. And that my friend, is factual.
For weirdos only: Allow me to get on a teensy weensy soap box for a second. A close look at this record would lead the uninitiated to think I dropped $5.69 for this LP at Laury’s Records. A great deal by me. A real close look will reveal a “Clearance $.50” sticker top right. That’s right, weirdos. Yours truly scored this slab of wax a mere two weeks ago at a used book store for half a buck. Shrink wrap intact. Sure, it’s an early 80s reissue. But 50 cents? Mint condition. It boggles the mind. Talk about an inflation beater! That’s twelve full inches of artwork (Kinda naughty in this case if you look close. Shame on you Capitol Records!) with eleven songs carved neatly into two sides of a vinyl story created by someone desperately trying to tell you something they think is important. Try finding a music file at a used bookstore that can duplicate this action. Go ahead, try it. Take that, digital!