Billion Dollar Babies

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Billion Dollar Babies
Studio album by Alice Cooper
Released February 25, 1973
Recorded The Galecie Estate, Greenwich, CT, The Record Plant, New York City, and Morgan Studios in London,
August 1972 - January 1973
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock
Length 40:51
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Bob Ezrin
Alice Cooper chronology
School's Out
(1972)
Billion Dollar Babies
(1973)
Muscle of Love
(1973)

Billion Dollar Babies is the sixth studio album by American hard rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1973.[1][2] The album became the best selling Alice Cooper record at the time of its release, hit number one on the album charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and went on to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album was well received by such critics as Robert Christgau, Greg Prato of allmusic, and Jason Thompson of popmatters, but Rolling Stone gave the album only two and a half stars.

Songs were recorded in both the state of Connecticut and London, England. Lyrics cover topics and themes such as necrophilia, the fear of dentists, horror, and sexual harassment.

Recording and production[edit]

Drummer Neal Smith has said that the album can be traced back to the song "Caught in a Dream" from the album Love It to Death. The first recording sessions for the album took place in Greenwich, Connecticut in a mansion called the Galecie Estate. To achieve certain vocal sounds and echos, microphones were run through rooms of various sizes and a greenhouse. Others sessions were held at Morgan Studios in London, where singer Donovan contributed to the album by singing on its title track. The album was produced by Bob Ezrin with Gerry Lyon as assistant in New York, Connecticut and London.[3]

Guitarists, Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, both used Gibson SGs for the album.[3] Two more guitarists, Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, were also featured on the album to help cover for Buxton who at the time was suffering from substance abuse.[4]

Lyrical themes and subjects[edit]

The album's title comes from the fact that Alice Cooper and the band were surprised about their success. Cooper related: "How could we, this band that two years ago was living in the Chambers Brothers' basement in Watts, be the Number one band in the world, with people throwing money at us."[5] The title was also later used as the name of the group Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, and Michael Bruce formed after Alice Cooper band had split up.[6] Cooper says "The whole idea behind the Billion Dollar Babies album was exploiting the idea that people do have sick perversions."[7]

Alice Cooper, who wrote the majority of the album's lyrics, cited Chuck Berry as a key influence on his writing.[3] "Hello Hooray", the album's opening track, was written by Canadian singer/songwriter Rolf Kempf and was previously recorded by Judy Collins. The band wanted their version of the song to sound like "Alice Cooper meets Cabaret."[8] The album's third track, "Elected", is a rewrite of an earlier song by the band entitled "Reflected".[1] "Raped and Freezin'" has been called a "hilarious and gorgeously catchy" take on the idea of sexual harassment by PopMatters's Jason Thompson[9] "Unfinished Sweet" is about visiting a dentist with sound effects recorded by Gerry Lyon.[9] The title track was co-written by Reggie Vinson (credited on original pressings of the album as "R. Reggie," i.e., "Rockin' Reggie Vinson"), who had played guitar on and performed vocals for School's Out.[10] Donovan described the song as a "horror story song".[11] The album's closing track, "I Love the Dead", is a tongue-in-cheek song about necrophilia.[12]

Touring[edit]

Alice Cooper performing live during the Billion Dollar Babies tour.

After the album was released, the band embarked on a tour which broke the United States box office records previously held by the Rolling Stones and included a scheduled 64 concerts in 59 cities in 90 days. The gross revenue of the tour was anticipated to be close to $20 million,[13] but only about $4 million was achieved.[3]

Cooper hired magician James Randi to design effects for the show, and Randi traveled with the tour to supervise and coordinate the effects. Randi even played a role in the stage show as "The Executioner".

The live performances featured Cooper wearing a dress with fake blood stains at the crotch, tearing apart baby dolls, attacking mannequins, and being decapitated by a guillotine.[14] Cooper has said that the mutilation of the dolls symbolize child neglect.[15] Between 40 and 50 people were employed and 26,000 pounds of equipment were used.[16] In preparation for the tour, two semi-trailer trucks carried a wide variety of props including a dentists drill, four whips, a surgical table, six hatchets, 33,000 program books, 300 baby dolls, 22,000 sparklers, 58 mannequins, 280 spare light bulbs, 1,000 patches, 6,000 mirror parts, 14 bubble machines, 28 gallons of bubble juice, and 250,000 packages of bubble bath.[6]

Reception and influence[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Creem B+[17]
PopMatters (Favorable)[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2.5/5 stars[18]

Billion Dollar Babies was commercially more successful than Cooper's previous albums; it went to No. 1 in both the United Kingdom and United States.[13] The album's singles "Elected", "Hello Hooray", "Billion Dollar Babies", and "No More Mr. Nice Guy", all became hits on the Billboard Hot 100.[19] In March 1973 the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and in 1986, it went platinum.[20]

In a contemporary review for Creem magazine, Robert Christgau said that Billion Dollar Babies is Cooper's "most consistent album", even though it lacks a song as strong as "School's Out".[17] In a retrospective review, Allmusic's Greg Prato awarded the album four and a half out of five stars and called it "one of Cooper's very best; it remains one of rock's all-time, quintessential classics."[1] Jason Thompson of popmatters praised the album, saying it was "arguably the original Alice Cooper Group's best album."[9] However, The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) was less positive about the album, giving it two and a half stars and criticizing songs like "I Love the Dead" for being "predictable".[18] Daniel Bukszpan, the author of The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal, called it a "classic" and "arguably the original band's finest offering."[21] In 2005, Billion Dollar Babies was ranked number 283 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[22]

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden stated that it was one of his favorite records. In an interview with SPIN Magazine in 1989, he commented that: “When I was in junior high, every Friday the teachers would let the kids play their favorite records. I brought in Billion Dollar Babies [Alice Cooper, 1973] and they wouldn’t let me play it. They never vetoed anyone’s choice before. It was then I knew that rock’n’roll could scare the fuck out of certain people.”[23] The Norwegian group Turbonegro made a song called "Zillion Dollar Sadist" as a tribute to Billion Dollar Babies.[24] David Byrne of the Talking Heads has said that the album inspired him to write the song, "Psycho Killer".[25]

Swiss industrial black metal group Samael did a cover of the song "I Love the Dead" on their Rebellion EP.

Track listing[edit]

LP[edit]

Side one
No. Title Music Length
1. "Hello Hooray"   Rolf Kempf 4:15
2. "Raped and Freezin'"   Cooper, Michael Bruce 3:19
3. "Elected"   Cooper, Glen Buxton, Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith 4:05
4. "Billion Dollar Babies"   Cooper, Bruce, Smith, Reggie Vinson 3:43
5. "Unfinished Sweet"   Cooper, Bruce, Smith 6:18
Side two
No. Title Music Length
6. "No More Mr. Nice Guy"   Cooper, Bruce 3:06
7. "Generation Landslide"   Cooper, Buxton, Bruce, Dunaway, Smith 4:31
8. "Sick Things"   Cooper, Bruce, Bob Ezrin 4:18
9. "Mary Ann"   Cooper, Bruce 2:21
10. "I Love the Dead"   Cooper, Ezrin 5:09

Deluxe Edition CD bonus tracks[edit]

The 2001 CD reissue includes these additional tracks on a second disc:[26]

No. Title Music Length
1. "Hello Hooray (Live)"   Kempf  
2. "Billion Dollar Babies (Live)"   Bruce, Cooper, Smith, Vinson  
3. "Elected (Live)"   Bruce, Buxton, Cooper, Dunaway, Smith  
4. "I'm Eighteen (Live)"   Bruce, Buxton, Cooper, Dunaway, Smith  
5. "Raped and Freezin' (Live)"   Bruce, Cooper  
6. "No More Mr. Nice Guy (Live)"   Bruce, Cooper  
7. "My Stars (Live)"   Cooper, Ezrin  
8. "Unfinished Sweet (Live)"   Bruce, Cooper, Smith  
9. "Sick Things (Live)"   Bruce, Cooper, Ezrin  
10. "Dead Babies (Live)"   Bruce, Buxton, Cooper, Dunaway, Smith  
11. "I Love the Dead (Live)"   Cooper, Ezrin  
12. "Coal Black Model T (outtake of Slick Black Limousine)"      
13. "Son of Billion Dollar Babies (outtake of Generation Landslide)"      
14. "Slick Black Limousine"   Cooper, Dunaway  

Personnel[edit]

Credits[27]

Chart positions[edit]

Album[edit]

Year Chart Position
1973 US Billboard 200[13] 1
1973 UK Albums Chart[13] 1
1973 German Album Charts[28] 9

Singles[edit]

Year Chart Position Peak
1972 "Elected" Billboard Hot 100[19] 26
1973 "Hello Hooray" Billboard Hot 100[19] 35
1973 "No More Mr. Nice Guy" Billboard Hot 100[19] 25
1973 "Billion Dollar Babies" Billboard Hot 100[19] 57

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Prato, Greg. "allmusic (((Billion Dollar Babies > Overview)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  2. ^ Neill, Andrew; Kent, Matthew (2009). Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of THE WHO 1958-1978. Sterling Publishing. p. 219. ISBN 1-4027-6691-2. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hall, Russell. "Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies: Gibson’s Classic Album of the Month". Gibson Guitar Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Stanton, Scott (2003). The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians. Pocket Books. p. 296. ISBN 0-7434-6330-7. 
  5. ^ Dansby, Andrew. "Alice Cooper ready to bring mayhem to Houston". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Henderson, Alex. "allmusic (((The Billion Dollar Babies > Overview)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Morgan, Jeffrey. "CREEM ONLINE: Marilyn Manson — The Golden Age Of Grotesque". Creem. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Cooper, Alice; Zimmerman, Kent; Zimmerman, Keith (2007). Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's Life and 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict. Crown Publishers. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-307-38291-7. 
  9. ^ a b c d Thompson, Jason. "Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies – PopMatters Music Review". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Fishwick, Marshall William; Browne, Ray Broadus (1987). The God Pumpers: Religion in the Electronic Age. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 150. ISBN 0-87972-400-5. 
  11. ^ Bowe, Brian J. "CREEM ONLINE: Donovan – Molten Truths". Creem. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  12. ^ Waksman, Steve (2009). This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. University of California Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-520-25310-0. 
  13. ^ a b c d Konow, Daivd (2002). Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal. p. 41. ISBN 0-609-80732-3. 
  14. ^ Curtis, James M. (1987). Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954–1984. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 257. ISBN 0-87972-368-8. 
  15. ^ Campbell, Mary (22 June 1975). "Alice Wants To Be Establishment". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 
  16. ^ Sippel, John (29 September 1973). "Travel Costs Acts $20–30 Mil Yearly". Billboard. 
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (August 1973). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 12. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  19. ^ a b c d e "allmusic (((Alice Cooper > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  20. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  21. ^ Bukszpan, Daniel; James Dio, Ronnie (2003). The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. Barnes & Noble Publishing Inc. p. 40. ISBN 0-7607-4218-9. 
  22. ^ [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 99. ISBN 3-89880-517-4. 
  23. ^ Corcoran, Michael (December 1989). "Northwest of Hell". Spin. pp. 41–43. 
  24. ^ Begrand, Adrien. "Turbonegro: Ass Cobra / Apocalypse Dudes – PopMatters Music Review". PopMatters. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  25. ^ Jackson, Blair. "Classic Tracks: Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer"". Mix. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  26. ^ Prato, Greg. "allmusic (((Billion Dollar Babies Deluxe Edition > Overview)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  27. ^ a b "allmusic (((Billion Dollar Babies > Credits)))". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  28. ^ "charts.de". Retrieved 1 June 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player by Elton John
UK number-one albums
24 March 1973
Succeeded by
20 Flashback Greats of the 60s
by Various Artists
Preceded by
Lady Sings the Blues (soundtrack) by Diana Ross
Billboard 200 number-one album
April 21–27, 1973
Succeeded by
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd