For decades now, Alice Cooper has been turning heads and making headlines with his highly theatrical stage antics. But as this list of the most underrated Alice Cooper songs demonstrates, sometimes that can make people forget just how much great music he's made.
Whether with the original Alice Cooper Group or as a solo artist, Alice is a true American original. As with any icon who's been around as long as he has, the big hits and millions of albums sold only tell part of the story. Buried within Cooper's impressive (and still growing) catalog are many hidden gems. We salute the man, the band, and the entire concept of the one and only Alice Cooper by unearthing a few of our favorites here ...
"Lost In America"From: 'The Last Temptation of Alice Cooper' (1994)
In the late '80s and early '90s, Alice Cooper returned to the charts with the albums Trash and Hey Stoopid. Their glossy hard rock sound fit in well with the Ratts, Motley Crues and Poisons of the era, but didn't always fully satisfy old-school fans. Thankfully, on Cooper's 1994 album The Last Temptation Of Alice Cooper, a more raunchy rock and roll sound was put back into place. Lost In America harkens back to the grittier style of '70s Coop, without sounding like a total throwback. With it's killer riff rock action and some amusing, yet profound lyrics, this song captures the teenage rock and roll spirit in full.
"The Black Widow"From: 'Welcome to My Nightmare' (1975)
With 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare, the Alice Cooper Group were no more, but Alice Cooper the solo artist was in full force. This hit album carried Alice even further into the public consciousness. A guest narration from the legendary Vincent Price gives the perfect introduction to this twisted tale. The song is a powerhouse hard rocker with the Coop in total command, and as the drama unfolds, the slightly demented sounding chorus fits the mood of the lyrics perfectly.
"Caught in a Dream"From: 'Love It to Death' (1971)
With their 1971 album Love It To Death, Alice Cooper (the band) found their footing. They moved to Detroit and began to focus on a more straight ahead, dirty rock and roll sound. Nowhere was that more evident than on the album's opening track, "Caught In a Dream." Taking the best brash elements of '50s and '60s rock and roll, and dressing it up with their own distinct style, Alice Cooper made one of the greatest albums of the new decade. Cooper has always been underrated as a lyricist, but lines like "I need everything the world owes me – I tell that to myself and I agree" show off a one-of-a-kind twisted sense of humor. Sadly, released as the follow up single to "I'm Eighteen," "Caught In a Dream" went nowhere, only hitting No. 94 on the Billboard charts.
"Beautiful Flyaway"From: 'Easy Action' (1970)
Buried deep on the band's second album Easy Action, "Beautiful Flyaway" is another anomaly in the Cooper catalog. The sprightly piano driven song sounds like an odd Beatles or Kinks outtake with its extremely poppy melody and arrangement. In fact, most might not even recognize this as Alice Cooper, but if you listen closely you'll recognize the group putting their own distinctive stamp on the genre.
"Luney Tune"From: 'School's Out' (1972)
A hidden treasure on the classic School's Out album, "Luney Tune" tells the tale of insanity, or possibly just a bad dream. "I can't find the exit, I stopped looking for doors / I'm swimming in blood, like a rat on a sewer floor" sings Alice amidst a barrage of loud guitars. The mid-song orchestration comes in as a surprise, but adds just the right dramatic element to the tune. It's classic Coop.
"Black Juju"From: 'Love It to Death' (1971)
Unknown to many is the fact that the early Alice Cooper and the early Pink Floyd not only shared the concert stage (Alice Cooper were still known as the Nazz at the time – not to be confused with Todd Rundgren's combo) but they also shared a similar jumping-off point musically. There is no denying the similarities between Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Black Juju." A concert highlight, "Black Juju" is an epic tour de force found on the 1971 Love It to Death album. Taking those Floydian elements and mixing it up with some Doors-like drama makes for one of the band's most haunting moments.
"Public Animal #9"From: 'School's Out' (1972)
With the 1972 album School's Out, Alice Cooper really hit the big time. The title single hit the U.S. Top 10 in early summer while shooting to No. 1 in England and staying on the charts for 12 weeks. The album was somewhat conceptual, with various references to school and teenage situations, such as the characters in the lost gem of the album, "Public Animal #9." The Stones-like song is full of swagger and spirit as Alice spits out the lyrics as only he could do. "She wanted an Einstein but she got a Frankenstein" remains a classic line, while the guttural vocals at songs end are both humorous and menacing.
"Living"From: 'Pretties for You' (1969)
Pretties For You, the debut album from Alice Cooper, is probably the most overlooked and debated album in their catalog. Even among diehard fans, there are those who hate it, and those who – forgive us – love it to death. Others still have, sadly, never even heard it. Taking the band's garage rock roots of Yardbirds style raunch and mixing it up with elements of early Pink Floyd, Pretties For You is a chaotic and psychedelic wonder. "Living" was released as a single and, obviously, went nowhere. It's too bad. This fuzzed out rocker sounds ready to derail in the best way possible at any moment, and is truly a lost classic.
"Generation Landslide"From: 'Billion Dollar Babies' (1973)
Billion Dollar Babies certainly rates as one of Alice Cooper's finest albums. Hits like "Elected" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" were brilliant singles that pushed Cooper deeper into the American psyche. However, let us direct your attention to side two of the album, where we find this brilliant, underrated slice of rock and roll. The acoustic guitar-driven rocker surges along as Alice delivers some of his best lyrics ever, sung with appropriate venom and attitude.
"Halo of Flies"From: 'Killer' (1971)
"Halo of Flies" is like a mini-symphony. The dramatic and theatrical arrangement of the song is simply electric. Its long instrumental intro plays out like an overture of sorts until the Coop makes his appearance. Intriguing lyrics and slashing electric guitars collide while the triumphant rhythm section of Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway drive it home. It has all the pomp and circumstance of more theatrical songs like "Dead Babies" and "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," but the arrangement and overall style is more daring and complex. Simply put, the Alice Cooper Group remain one of the great unsung rock and roll bands of all time, and "Halo of Flies" sounds as stunning now as it did decades ago.