April 4, 2019
The story behind the Alice Cooper band reunion that won best documentary short at Phoenix Film Festival
By Ed Masley
It was supposed to be a book signing for Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway's autobiography, "Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group."
Which would've been a cool enough event for any fan of Cooper's early work with the bandmates who entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 on the strength of such classics as "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out."
But the owner of the Dallas record store where Dunaway's signing was scheduled to happen – Chris Penn of Good Records – had chosen that date in October 2015 for a reason.
He knew Cooper had the day off from touring in Texas.
And as Penn explains in the documentary/concert film that made its world premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival, picking up best documentary short in the bargain, "Alice knows where the good golf courses are in Dallas."
That's how Penn managed to pull together a headline-grabbing reunion of the four surviving members of the legendary group whose 1973 U.S. tour in support of the chart-topping "Billion Dollar Babies" album broke box-office records held by the Rolling Stones – Cooper, Dunaway, guitarist Michael Bruce and drummer Neal Smith.
"I was gonna go sign books and do a Q&A on my own," Dunaway says. "And then we found out that Alice was going to be in town and have a day off, so Chris asked if Michael and Neal would be interested in playing and we ended up turning it into this massive event around the book signing. Now here we are in 2019, releasing the film of it."
'Alice Cooper: Live From the Astroturf'
The concert, as captured in “Alice Cooper: Live From the Astroturf," starts with Bruce on lead vocals for "Caught in a Dream." Then, Cooper makes his entrance with guitarist Ryan Roxie of his touring band and joins his former bandmates in a raucous trip down memory lane, from "Be My Lover" to "I'm Eighteen," "Is It My Body?," "Under My Wheels," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "School's Out" and "Elected."
“It was very spontaneous, I thought," Bruce says. "In a record store packed with people who didn’t really know what was happening. They showed up and we played. And they were blown away. Neal and Dennis and I were scheduled to be there for the signing and then after, we got up on stage. That's when it started getting crazy and magic.”
Even though they hadn't played together for a while, Bruce says, "It's always fun. It's like putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes or getting on a bicycle. You don't think about it. You just go with it."
It's a stellar performance and the sound is great. Or as Dunaway says, "Not bad for no rehearsal and having not played those songs in quite a few years. The night before, Neal, Michael and I got together and made sure the amps were working and stuff. We ran over some stuff, but we were trying to focus on the technical things, making sure all the microphones were the volumes we wanted and all that. It was more like a soundcheck than a rehearsal, but you know, it’s not like we haven’t played those songs before."
They hadn't done "Elected" in awhile, though. Roxie, who was filling in on guitar for the great Glen Buxton, who died in 1997, talked them into doing that one.
"We hadn’t played that in a million years," Dunaway says. "Neal said he hit the first crash on the opening chord of the song. Then he said to himself 'What happens next?'”
Dunaway laughs, then adds, "But it came out great. For one thing, we were all just having such a blast and things fell into place. As soon as you hear Neal start playing and Michael and Alice and everybody. Ryan Roxie was great, too. He sat in for Glen. But as soon as you hear the original sound and all of the parts being played the way they were written, it makes things kind of fall into place naturally."
Other Alice Cooper reunions
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame singer/songwriter Alice Cooper (3rd from left) with original band members Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce backstage during Music Biz 2017 - Industry Jam 2 at the Renaissance Hotel on May 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images)
That show led to other opportunities for Cooper's former bandmates, including two reunion tracks on Cooper's latest album, "Paranormal," a U.K. tour and an industry event in Nashville in 2017 (which led to Cooper also having them onstage to take part in the encore at his Nashville concert).
"We did five cities in England, including 14,000 people at Wembley," Dunaway says. "That’s the first time we played Wembley since 1972, when we stalled the flat-bed truck with the picture of Alice with only a snake keeping his humility in order, the photograph that Richard Avedon did. We had this giant photograph. And then the truck accidentally broke down right in the intersection in one of the busiest intersections in London and we sold out Wembley in one night."
The original members went their separate ways after "Muscle of Love" in 1974. Cooper launched his solo career a year later with "Welcome to My Nightmare."
The four surviving members reunited in 1999 at the second Glen Buxton Memorial Weekend at CoopersTown in Phoenix and played Cooper's Christmas Pudding with Steve Hunter on guitar in December 2010 at the Dodge Theatre.
"When we were rehearsing for that in Phoenix, they came in and stopped us from rehearsing," Dunaway recalls, "to announce that we had been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the next night, when we played the Pudding show, Bob Ezrin came out and announced it to the crowd."
They reunited again at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony the following March and again a month later to play the Revolver Golden Gods Awards and record a live set for a Jägermeister Ice Cold 4D webcast.
As Dunaway explains that last event, "We holographically did this show at the Battersea Power Station in England. You know the factory-looking place that’s on the cover of the Pink Floyd ‘Animals’ album with a pig hanging down? We recorded the show in LA and then they had a holographic projection of us onstage at this big event for Ice Cold Jagermeister. They did all these special effects where we were inside these blocks of ice."
They also appeared on three tracks on the "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" album in 2011.
The Dallas record store concert was the first they'd played together since those events in 2011.
"It always was a blast and it continues to be," Dunaway says. "You know, as soon as we’re together, we’re all in high school again."
A legend born at a Phoenix high school
Cooper, Dunaway and Buxton made their first onstage appearance in the Cortez High School "cafetorium," shaking the wigs they'd bought at Woolworth's while spoofing the Beatles as part of a talent show.
By the time they hit the Phoenix club scene as the Spiders, they'd recruited Bruce, a North High football player, scoring a regional hit with a single called "Don't Blow Your Mind."
After changing their name to the Nazz, they moved to Los Angeles in 1967, where Smith, a Camelback High grad who'd been in art classes with Dunaway, Cooper and Buxton at Glendale Community College, joined on drums.
They have a lot of history. And they've shared a lot of laughs.
"Humor has always been the glue that’s kept everything together through thick and thin," Dunaway says. "We miss Glen’s humor, though. He was sharp-witted. The guy that you knew if you left the room, when you came back, that he had whittled you apart while you were gone."
He laughs, then says, "But it was like a Don Rickles kind of thing where everybody was a target. So you couldn’t take it personally. Michael has this great offbeat humor. I have this very abstract humor and Michael does, too. For instance, somebody took a photograph of the band once and they took a long time to get the focus and everything and I said, 'I could’ve done an ice sculpture by now' and Michael said, 'Are you a cubist?' And then, Neal’s just got this great, goofy sense of humor where he turns into goofy characters from time to time. It’s very Ohio. I’m married to Neal’s sister and she’s got that same type of humor."
There's a bittersweet side to reuniting with your high school friends.
As Bruce says, "Sometimes it’s hard for me to strike up a conversation with Alice. He’s so busy and what am I gonna talk about? 'Oh hey, guess what? I mowed my lawn last week.' He’s out on the road constantly, doing a lot of things. But he’s a great guy. I just wish we could do these kind of things more often."
It's clear from watching Cooper rock the record store with his old friends that he's enjoying the experience as much as they are.
As to what the future hold in terms of further dates with Cooper, only time will tell.
As Dunaway says, when he and Cooper get together usually "we’re just so happy to be together that we don’t turn it into a business thing."
He'd love to do more playing with his former bandmates, though.
"We’ll see," he says. "I mean, we’re all friends. We always have been. And if the opportunities arise, Michael and Neal and I (and Glen when he was alive) were always ready and willing to work together. All it takes is a phone call and we’re ready."
Alice Cooper performs onstage at the 26th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The Waldorf-Astoria on March 14, 2011, in New York City. (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
February 13, 2019
Alice Cooper Doc ‘Live From the Astroturf’ Captures Original Band’s 2015 Reunion
See first trailer for upcoming concert film about record store that procured group’s first full concert together in over 40 years
By Daniel Kreps
A Dallas record store’s efforts to reunite the original Alice Cooper Band after 40 years is the focus of the upcoming documentary/concert film Alice Cooper: Live From the Astroturf.
Cooper superfan and Good Records owner Chris Penn lobbied for Cooper and his former bandmates – Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith alongside new guitarist Ryan Roxie (in the late Glen Buxton’s place) – to stage a (non-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction) concert together for the first time since 1974, with the surprise reunion gig taking place in October 2015 at the Dallas record shop.
While a recording of the show was initially released as a Record Store Day exclusive in 2018, Penn and director Steven Gaddis realized they had enough footage from the performance to construct a full film from the event, which a record store full of lucky Cooper fans witnessed.
In addition to the in-store performance captured by eight cameras and mixed by Bob Ezrin, the documentary also features interviews with the members of the Alice Cooper Band and those who made the show possible.
Alice Cooper: Live From the Astroturf will premiere this April at the Phoenix Film Festival – Cooper and company formed the band in the Arizona city – before the film embarks on the film festival circuit. Check out the documentary’s site for more details and screening information.
The Vinyl District
February 13, 2019
TVD Radar: Good Records announces
first theatrical film
Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper
By TVD HQ
VIA PRESS RELEASE | Good Records, the Dallas-based indie record label that is home to recording artists such as The Polyphonic Spree, is announcing their first foray into theatrical film with a companion movie to their wildly successful LP Record Store Day release, Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper. The documentary will hold its world premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival which runs from April 4-14, 2019. Phoenix is home to the original incarnation of the band Alice Cooper.
The movie is part concert film, part documentary highlighting the near incredulous story of how an Alice Cooper fan who runs a record store was able to coax the original lineup into reuniting at his store forty-one years after they had disbanded. Alice Cooper, the singer, went on as a solo artist in 1974, continuing to use the same name. The reunion marks the longest set the original members had played since that time, and their first appearance together since being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
<span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span>
The incredible performance was captured with eight cameras, originally intended to be a personal video for the record store owner, Chris Penn. Luckily, he knew professional camera operators, and at the end of the evening, the film’s director, Steven Gaddis, informed Penn that they had enough material to make a movie. Gaddis and Penn immediately went to work to make that happen.
Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper features a soundtrack mixed by Justin Cortelyou and the legendary Bob Ezrin, who is responsible for producing most of Alice Cooper’s output, including a string of eternal rock hits. The performance was released on 7” and 12” colored vinyl as Record Store Day official releases. The 7”, which features the songs “I’m Eighteen” and “Is It My Body?” was reported to have been the fastest selling Record Store Day release of all time. The packaging won an Alex Award for Best 45 Single Packaging.
Alice Cooper rose to fame with original band members Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith in 1971 when their song “I’m Eighteen” ushered in an era of anthemic, rebellious rock music. The band became known as well for their stage theatrics, which included mock executions by hanging or beheading, signature makeup, and snakes. After Alice Cooper went solo, taking the name with him in 1974, the remaining band members continued making music. However, Cooper’s trajectory continued to outshine his former bandmates for decades.
After its premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival, Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper will make the rounds throughout the U.S. and worldwide playing at select film festivals. More festival announcements are expected soon.