Every great production deserves a sequel – even if comes 35-plus years after the original.
In 1975, Alice Cooper joined forces with longtime collaborator and producer Bob Ezrin to record his first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare, a theatrical concept album about the nightmares of a young boy named Steven. Now, he’s followed Steven into adulthood and presents Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a new but familiar concept album about the fear, anxiety and disgust that haunt Alice Cooper’s dreams in an era of Facebook, Lady Gaga, Sketchers and Angry Birds.
“Alice hates technology, disco is still a nightmare for him and working in a cubicle from nine-to-five would give him cold sweats,” Cooper says. “At the same time, this is a nightmare so all these normal life things are thrown into this crazy world that’s only logical when you’re in the nightmare. You could have an elephant in your garage, and you’re on the lawn in a pink tutu cooking hot dogs. And at the time it’s fine. But when you wake up you go, ‘How insane is that? Where did that come from?’ So we realized that having Alice in a modern-world nightmare is a great place to come from theatrically because we can go anywhere we want and make it as insane as possible.”
A wild, surreal odyssey, Welcome 2 My Nightmare provided Cooper and Ezrin the opportunity to work with numerous musicians and experiment with various musical styles. The three surviving members of the original band, guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith, co-wrote three songs and they all played on “When Hell Comes Home,” a gritty ‘70s-style rock track about the nightmare of domestic abuse. “I wanted the song to feel like it was off of Love it to Death or Killer, Cooper says. “But we never had to talk about playing the song ‘70s-style, they just did it. It was great and there was nothing we could do to make it any more ‘70s ‘cause that’s just the way these guys play.”
The collaborations with his fellow original band members stemmed from their 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for which they reunited to play four songs. “I was always looking for a logical reason to work with them again,” Cooper says. “When we broke up there was no bad blood. Most bands break up and they start suing each other. We never broke up on that level. We broke up on a very friendly level. ‘You go do what you’re gonna do, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. Let’s see what happens.’ When we got in the Hall of Fame I called them up and I said, ‘We have to do four songs. Let’s get together and rehearse.’ And they sounded great. They played great. We did a few projects after that. We played a couple times together. And I said, ‘Let’s keep it going. Let’s get these guys on the album.’ And Bob said, ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s write with these guys.’ It just worked.”
The first single from Welcome 2 My Nightmare, “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” is about a gorgeous but deadly female who takes Alice by the hand and guides him through the various scenes of his nightmare. The song was co-written by Neal Smith and features a swaggering ‘60s British rock rhythm, brash, bluesy guitars and sneering, seductive vocals. “We tried to make this sound as much like early Rolling Stones as possible and we really did capture that,” Cooper says. “We’ve been doing it onstage and the audience sings along without knowing the song.”
On “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever,” Cooper combines a tongue-in-cheek disco beat and rhythm with near-rap vocals and lyrics about taking a machine gun to zombie disco dancers who refuse to die. Then there’s the zany surf rock of “Ghoul’s Gone Wild,” the derelict down-on-his-luck slur of “The Last Man on Earth,” and the Beatles meet Gary Glitter show tune “The Congregation,” which stars Rob Zombie as a narrator describing such modern-day nightmares as telemarketers, lawyers, pimps, mariachi bands and mimes.
One of the highlights for Cooper is the throbbing, modern rocker “What Baby Wants,” which stars Ke$ha as the devil. “Some people thought I was crazy to have Ke$ha on the record, but I never saw her as one of these Britney Spears diva girls. I saw her more as a rock singer. So I said, ‘Let’s present you not as a diva, but as a rock singer on this.’ We wrote the song together and in the end the darker lyrics were hers.”
Like The original Welcome To My Nightmare, which was highlighted by “Only Women Bleed,” Welcome 2 My Nightmare also features a lovelorn ballad, “Something to Remember Me By,” which was written with Dick Wagner back when they released “I Never Cry” in 1976. “We never used it on an album before because I never felt I was good enough to sing that song,” Cooper reflects. “It was never in my key, I could never get it right. Finally, we got it where my voice is in the right place so we included it and it may be the prettiest ballad we ever wrote. Steve Hunter played guitar on it and we really got a nice Beatles-y sound out of it. So when you’re listening to it you hear this really pretty romantic song and then you realize that in the Nightmare Alice is singing to a pile of bones that used to be a girl.”
Fans of the first Welcome To My Nightmare will recognize melodic references to the original woven throughout the new record. For example, in the cinematic minor-key song “The Nightmare Returns,” Ezrin plays the theme from “Steven” when Cooper sings, “I think we’ve heard that song before.”
“I really like the idea of having some of the musical identity of the first album showing up in the second album,” Cooper says. “It really connects the two and if you’re a real Alice fan and you hear those themes it makes you feel comfortable.”
Welcome To My Nightmare, which came out in 1975, was a landmark album for Cooper. It was his first solo release, following a historic string of anthems written and recorded by the original band between 1971 and 1974, including “School’s Out,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Elected,” and “I’m Eighteen.” A multimedia smash long before the dawn of music television, Welcome To My Nightmare proved that Cooper could remain popular musically and could take theatricality to an entirely new level of dream by exposing audiences to the crippling fears of a seven-year-old child with an active imagination.
Welcome To My Nightmare spawned two major singles, the ominous, anthemic title track and the beautiful, melancholy acoustic ballad “Only Women Bleed,” and featured narration by horror movie icon Vincent Price. In addition to touring the live “Welcome To My Nightmare” show, Cooper created the prime time special The Nightmare, which was essentially the first long form music video. The program debuted in April 1975. In September he shot the concert film “Welcome To My Nightmare” at London’s Wembley Arena.
“A seven-year-old kid is pretty sure there’s something living in the closet and thinks that something is waiting for him under his bed,” Cooper says. “His toys are probably coming to life and trying to kill him. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a good general approach for the album because we’ve all been kids and we’ve all had those nightmares.’”