Songs You May Have Missed #733

Alice Cooper: “The Quiet Room” (1978)

I wanna pull on your coat about another unfortunate music trend: the distillation in contemporary culture of the music of artists of past eras into a song or two.

Journey has become, for many under tha age of 30, “Don’t Stop Believin'”. The great career of Neil Diamond is summed up in the three minutes and twenty-one seconds of “Sweet Caroline”. Styx is reduced to “Renegade” and “Come Sail Away”. Johnny Cash? “Ring of Fire”.

And Alice Cooper is known by too many young music fans solely for “School’s Out”.

One day this blog will seek to remedy that properly.

In the meantime, give me a minute on my soapbox to tell you Alice had a span from 1975-78 in which he charted inside the top twenty no less than four times with ballads. These were:

“Only Women” (#12 in 1975)

“I Never Cry” (#12 in ’77)

“You and Me” (#9 in ’77)

“How You Gonna See Me Now” (#12 in ’78)

That’s four consecutive Alice Cooper albums with a ballad as the lead single–all top 20 hits

Far from the one-dimensional shock rocker the decades have folded him into, Alice Cooper should be reappraised as one of the foremost purveyors of pathos of the latter half of the 70’s.

If that don’t suit you, that’s a drag.

1978’s From the Inside LP, which Alice co-wrote with long-time Elton John sideman Bernie Taupin, is a concept album inspired by Alice’s battle with addiction. If it’s not one of his best albums it’s certainly one of his most personal and self-reflective.

The single “How You Gonna See Me Now”, is the heart-tugging deliberation of a man forced to spend time away from his family and wondering if he’ll be welcomed back when his time of institutionalization ends. A man questioning whether the pieces of his life will still be there to put back together.

Taupin’s lyric is deliberately ambiguous enough to lend itself to interpretations of criminal incarceration, a stint in rehab, or a stay in a sanitarium. It’s a tender, affecting and these days very much overlooked song.

“The Quiet Room” is another animal. No such ambiguity here. The protagonist is clearly, in the jargon of the day, in an insane asylum. And the material plays to Alice Cooper’s performative strengths, alternating in schizophrenic fashion from tender verses to unhinged choruses.

Alice Cooper is a brilliant singer actually, and sings in a variety of voices when a song calls for a variety of moods (or even multiple personalities on songs such as “Years Ago” and “Ballad of Dwight Fry”).

Okay so this may or may not send you back to listen more closely to Alice Cooper’s 70’s records. My main point is: the guy was a versatile and talented songwriter, one of the era’s best, and there’s a heck of a lot more to him than “School’s Out”.

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