Category Archives: alice cooper

Lost Hits of the New Wave #15

“Mama” by Genesis

Much like attempts we have talked about before where traditional rock acts tried to ape the new wave sound for their own purposes (like Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick), we have Genesis with “Mama.”

The song, released in the summer of 1983, and later followed by the self-titled Genesis album (also known as the ‘shapes’ album) represented a change in the band’s sound, and a lean toward more progressive, mainstream, and yes, some might say new wave music. Most notable is the use of synthesizer, reverb and lead vocalist Phil Collins’ voice as a percussive sound itself.

Genesis was an art rock band that had been around forever, and had never been radio friendly, at least not outside of old school FM radio and college music heads. Former lead singer Peter Gabriel as a solo act had been making in-roads with the new wave crowds, so perhaps this spurred the rest of the band to give it a shot.

Genesis quickly became pop music as the decade wore on, Collins becoming bigger as a solo star himself.

Dark Shadows 2012

Dark Shadows ~ When I first saw the trailer for this new version of Dark Shadows my thoughts were, “Oh boy, here’s Tim Burton raping another piece of my childhood, just like he did with Batman, Willy Wonka, Planet of the Apes, and tried to do with Superman.” To an extent, I was right, but if I’m absolutely honest, having seen the film, there’s also a lot of love and homage in there too, right next to the blatant disrespect and mockery.

The story for those who don’t know is that of Barnabas Collins, cursed by an ex-lover, also a witch, to become a vampire in the 18th century, imprisoned, released and awoken in the 20th century. This was the basis for the last few years of the late 1960s/early 1970s ABC soap opera cult classic “Dark Shadows.” Tim Burton, a supposed fan of the series, has decided to remake it as a camp comedy horror drama, emphasis on the camp and the comedy. Not that “Dark Shadows” wasn’t camp, mind you, it was, it just wasn’t planned to be. Like all good camp, it took itself deadly serious. That’s not the case here at all unfortunately. Often, as with most of his films, what’s funny to Tim Burton is rarely funny to everybody else.

All the good zingers are in the previews, so don’t go in expecting much more. That said however, in between all the failed jokes are tons of in-jokes and Easter eggs for fans of the show. Tim Burton may have disrespected the TV series, but he certainly did know it backward and forward. He does streamline and he does change many details, but still the love is evident. It’s when he tries to make fun of it and fails that fans and non-fans alike will cringe.

I dislike Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins quite a bit. As he sometimes does, it seems as if he made up a character in a improv class and then built a movie around it. Depp might be better off getting together and making movies with that Borat guy rather than raping my childhood with substandard remakes of old soap operas. He does have Jonathan Frid’s speech patterns down however. I have to give props to Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Julia Hoffman for the same reason. Her voice is perfect, but her over the top dye job alcoholic drag queen version of the doctor not so much. Fans of the show will laugh their asses off at her, it’s both hideous and hilarious.

Another of my favorites, Jackie Earle Haley is cast brilliantly as groundskeeper Willie Loomis (and yes, I bet that’s where “The Simpsons” got the name from). He is one of the highlights of the flick, both dramatic and comedic. Don’t blink or you will miss the two second cameos by surviving cast members of the soap opera – Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, and the recently late Jonathan Frid – as guests at the ball/happening with Alice Cooper.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty pedestrian for a role she wanted so badly, but she doesn’t have much room to act next to the scene-eating Depp. Same for one of my faves Jonny Lee Miller and newcomer Bella Heathcote – not enough room. I would have loved to have seen more of them, but such is the way of the soap opera. Speaking of over the top scene-stealing, Eva Green from “Camelot” is just absolutely crazy town as Barnabas’ nemesis Angelique. It’s almost as if the actors got drunk and played make-believe as their characters at some points. Also, much like 1989’s Batman, Burton is unable to come up with an ending so it feels like he starts pulling ideas of out his butt. Seriously, the last twenty minutes of this movie are insane, and not in a good way. It’s almost unwatchable.

The problem is that it’s not all bad, and that this really could have been a good movie, and not just that, a good movie, a respectful remake, and it didn’t have to resort to low brow comedy. The credits sequence in the beginning, set to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” with Victoria Winters coming to Collinsport, is so ABC telemovie that not only would Dan Curtis (creator of “Dark Shadows” as well as more than a few movies of the week) would have been proud, but I was half-expecting to see Kim Darby, Kate Jackson, or Karen Black make an appearance.

There was a lot of stuff to love set amongst the comedic ruins of this flick. I loved both the inside and the outside of Collinwood, the town of Collinsport they built on the set, including the Blue Whale. The bit with Alice Cooper, which in the previews appears to be a one note joke, turns into brilliance by the inclusion of “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” as background for a couple scenes.

All in all, except for the last quarter of the movie, I did enjoy it. It’s not “Dark Shadows,” it’s not the cult classic gothic soap opera of my youth, but I did laugh, I did smile, and I still have my memories. Worth seeing for the curious, the fans, and for those with no point of reference whatsoever. I just would have rather seen the movie it could have been, as opposed to the one it is.

Don Kirshner 1934-2011

One of America’s greatest music producers, and a driving force in popular music for decades, Don Kirshner, passed away yesterday from heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 76.

I think it’s sad that there are probably generations who don’t even know his name, or if they do, it’s because of late night infomercials, or they think he’s a character Paul Shaeffer played on “Saturday Night Live.” Of course they are other generations, before the advent of MTV, who know the man and his contributions.

Kirshner was instrumental in starting the careers of numerous songwriters in the 1960s with his “Brill Building” school, where friend and producer Phil Specter also worked. ‘Graduates’ included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Howard Greenfield, and Gerry Goffin. Together they scored dozens and dozens of hits, before they went on to have careers of their own, while Kirshner himself started several record labels and moved on into television. Known as “The Man with the Golden Ear,” he was one of the folks who created the Monkees, as well as the cartoon Archies, both groups prefabricated, and he also discovered many ‘real’ music acts as well like Bobby Darin and Kansas.

Kirshner was also a 1970s fixture on Sunday late nights with his legendary “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” There he introduced many acts to America for the first time like Prince, Blue Oyster Cult, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, the Sex Pistols, Alice Cooper, Rush, Linda Ronstadt, KISS, Ted Nugent, David Bowie, and the Ramones, just to name a few of the hundreds who appeared on the program. The series, which ran from 1973-1981, was notable for being live and not allowing acts to lipsync, a widespread curse of the 1970s. We didn’t have MTV, we had Don.

We have lost one of the true geniuses of the music industry, he will be missed.

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Lost Hits of the New Wave #7

“Stop This Game” by Cheap Trick

The above video is from an old Italian music TV show. The song, from the 1980 album All Shook Up. Like with Alice Cooper and “Clones (We’re All),” this represented a marked change in the traditional Cheap Trick sound, aping the now more popular New Wave sound.

The song and the album were enough to put off the fans who had made Cheap Trick rock gods with their Live at Budokan album. Personnel changes kept the band from putting out a complete album for too long, and the Budokan heat had cooled. The fans were divided, rockers thought they were pop, and poppers thought they were rock, and in the end, they were screwed.

That wasn’t all that led to Cheap Trick’s downfall. Some say it was the Beatles curse, after Budokan they were dubbed the new Beatles, especially in Japan. That usually kills a band. It didn’t help that Cheap Trick themselves were huge Beatles fans, doing various covers like “Daytripper,” “Magical Mystery Tour” and even a mash-up with John Lennon of his “I’m Losing You.”

And then there were the plagiarism claims. Listen to their early 1980s pop ballad “The Flame” next to Spirit’s “Nature’s Way” if you don’t believe me. Even the above tune, “Stop This Game,” borrows a few rifts from KISS’ foray into disco and new wave, “I Was Born for Lovin’ You.”

Now, I don’t mean to bag on Cheap Trick. I still have a place in my heart for them. This song, as well as “Reach Out” from the Heavy Metal soundtrack, and “On Top of the World” from the classic 1978 album Heaven Tonight are among my favorite guilty pleasures.

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Lost Hits of the New Wave #6

“Clones (We’re All)” by Alice Cooper.

This is notoriously the New Wave song from Alice Cooper, trashed at the time as cashing in and selling out to popular music, the album “Flush the Fashion” is now considered something of a lost treasure. It was one of my faves of the time even though it disappeared quickly. I remember it being in the nightly ‘top five at ten’ on WPST for a week or so.

Selling out or not, the tune is vintage Alice, and fits it perfectly with his repertoire. Alice was the monster guy when I was in elementary school, and was now the scifi guy with this comeback while I was in junior high. Do you hear the Gary Numan “Cars” vibe in there? I like it.

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