The Original Alice Cooper Band: Classic Rock’s Most Underrated Group

For years I’ve maintained that the original Alice Cooper band was one of the finest and most underrated bands in rock history. Their dangerously subversive string of early-’70s albums, Love It To Death, Killers, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies and the woefully overlooked Muscle of Love, were impeccably written, imaginatively arranged and feature some of the wittiest rock ’n’ roll lyrics this side of Chuck Berry.

Musicians should take special note of just how brilliantly nimble the rhythm section is on songs like “Billion Dollar Babies” and the astonishing “Muscle of Love.”

Unfortunately, I was a little too young during the band’s heyday and I never saw them perform … and I thought I never would. The original unit disbanded in 1975, and there was no reason to think they’d ever reunite.

But miracles never cease, and earlier this year, Alice, guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and played an electrifying set with session guitarist Steve Hunter (original guitarist Glen Buxton died in 1997).

I was asked to write the induction notes that appeared in a special book given to Rock Hall attendees (which I’ll reprint in my next post), and I was invited to the event.

I secretly expected the worse. I mean, it had been more than 30 years since they last played together, but they were absurdly great. And they were even better when they played again at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards a few weeks later (That performance will be televised on VH-1 Classics on May 28).

My real thrill, however, came the day after their Golden Gods performance. I was invited by photographer Ross Halfin to attend a special taping of the band ripping through six of their greatest hits, including “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Eighteen” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” There were only about 20 people in the room as a small army of technicians shot footage using state-of-the-art 3D cameras for some Jagermeister event in London.

After working for Guitar World for close to two decades, it’s easy to be a little jaded, but my inner-15-year-old was losing his shit. Little did I realize just how special and unique the performance was. Recently Alice Cooper announced he was going to tour, but not with his original group. Chances are, they may never play again. What I saw was the rock equivalent to a unicorn or a UFO.

Loved it to death!

Brad Tolinski is the editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine.

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.