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!