Live From The Astroturf (The Great, The Brilliant, The Frustrating)
On Tuesday 06th October 2015, fans attending an 'Alice Cooper Happening' (i.e. a signing / questions and answers event) in support of Dennis Dunaway's excellent Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! book were treated to an extra special surprise. The venue was Good Records in Dallas, Texas, which just happened to be the city that Vince / Alice was due to be performing in the following day on his solo Raise The Dead tour (in support of Motley Crue).
What happened now goes down in Alice Cooper folklore, with Alice, Dennis, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce from the original group joined by Ryan Roxie (in place of Glen Buxton) to perform an intimate set of 8 classic hits in front of a couple of hundered people who crammed into the store (with many more catching a view from the parking lot). This marked the first performance by the surviving members since they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2011. In fact, it was also the longest time that they'd spent together on stage since the Group broke up way back in 1974.
The full setlist that night was:
1. Caught In A Dream (without Alice);
2. Be My Lover;
4. Is It My Body;
5. No More Mr Nice Guy;
6. Under My Wheels;
7. School's Out; and
Not content with putting on one of the greatest Alice Cooper moments in recent years, the co-owner of the store, Chris Penn, had the sheer audacity to celebrate the historic night through the release of a 2 track 7" 45 vinyl release called Live From The Astroturf, Alice Cooper (the single taking its name from the pink astroturf located on the stage where the band performed). The 2 tracks included were Eighteen and (Is It My) Body, which featured together on the orginal single of Eighteen in 1970. A great article about all the effort taken to make this release a reality can be found here.
The result was a highly polished, limited edition, release that instantly became the hottest Alice Cooper item of 2016 when it was released on US Record Store Day (Friday 25th November). To be fair, the quality of this release was unbelievable and truly in keeping with the lavish vinyl albums associated with the orginal Alice Cooper Group all those years ago.
This release was initially marketed as being limited to 2,500 units worldwide, with the numbers comprised as follows:
A) 1,150 Opaque Pink Vinyl;
B) 1,150 White Vinyl;
C) 100 Black Vinyl; and
D) 100 'Willy Wonka' Split Pink / White Vinyl.
Images of all these releases (taken from eBay and Facebook) are provided below.
All versions came in a shrink-wrapped gatefold foil board jacket with a sticker and six 5" x 7" double-sided art prints. The record came packed in a colour sleeve featuring thumbnail pictures from the big night. A further paper inlay featured some press articles from local newspapers plus credits and details of the official Live From The Astroturf website The audio was mixed by Justin Cortelyou and Bob Ezrin and the release was dedicated to Glen Buxton and Chris' Mum.
The 'Willy Wonka' version was, initially, definitely the one that everyone wanted to get their hands on as it included everything the other ones did but was (a) really rare (b) the vinyl looked especially cool (c) the art prints were hand-signed in silver pen by the surviving Group members and (d) it also came with a cool glow-in-the-dark Live From The Astroturf record adaptor and a paper jukebox strip.
All of the above versions retailed for about $15 and were individually stamped with a blue foil number on the back of the sleeve, on the bottom left. As all the units were sealed, it was not possible to know what version you had until you opened it. That said, and having done plenty of research of the numbers of the ones that fellow fans ended up with, it seems highly likely that the colours were numbered as follows:
A) Split Pink / White Version = 0001 to 0100;
B) Opaque Pink Version = 0101 to 1,250;
C) Black Version = 1,251 to 1,350; and
D) White Version = 1,351 to 2,500.
However, even the Willy Wonka version was (in my opinion at least) surpassed by an unnanounced-to-the-masses 'Good Records Version'. This retailed for about $25, was limited to 200 copies (therefore, resulting in a total production run of 2,700 units) and featured all the same contents of the Willy Wonka version but with the vinyl coming in stunning translucent pink, the sleeve stamped with a pink foil number and with everything packaged in a pink ziplock bag (rather than being sealed like the other versions). As the title suggests, this version was only available to customers walking into the store, so was out of reach of the vast majority of fans. It's at this time that I'm mad at my parents for not letting me grow up in Dallas!
All copies of the single either sold at, or mailed from, the Good Records store had an extra 'Including Their Hit "I'm Eighteen"' sticker on the packaging. This is a delicious nod to the original release of Love It To Death (which both tracks on the record originate from).
Last but not least, 18 test pressings that came in simple card sleeves (with hand-written copy number) were created in Opaque Pink, Red/Pink Marble effect and Blue/Green Marble effect. A handful of these were offered for sale by Good Records in Spring 2017 with most/all snapped up by die-hard fans. Purchasers were treated to some extra goodies including spare / leftover stickers, test record adaptors and t-shirts.
Onto the music now, and the high quality of the packaging is, thankfully, transferred to the audio side of things with a stunningly rich quality present (I have a good turntable but it sounds unreal even taking that into account). The tracks are also nicely cut and include some of the banter beforehand between out-of-character Alice and the Good Records audience.
Finally, to celebrate this release a very limited range of posters, t-shirts and spare art prints were also made available to purchase for a short period of time (see image below for more details). These sold out very quickly!
There is so much to love about this release but, sadly, also a few things to be a little dissapointed about. Firstly, as it was released as part of the US Record Store Day event, it was generally only available to people walking into participating record stores across the country (with customers typically allowed only 1 copy each). Not good for people like me who live overseas but, very thankfully, Chris Penn kindly put word out to die-hard fans via Facebook that copies could potentially be reserved / sent via mail order if they emailed him with a commitment to buy a month or so in advance. I did just that and, after several weeks of anxious waiting, was thrilled to be offered an Opaque Pink version a few days before Record Store Day.
What is frustrating though is that within hours of the release, numerous copies were appearing on eBay at a significant mark-up on the retail price. This is really sad when proper fans in the US commented that they weren't able to secure a copy when they went to their local store and queued up to get in. To make matters worse some eBay sellers, who are likely to have been record stores as well as opportunist shoppers, appeared to have multiple copies for sale with the worst culprit that I found having 14 available (I know this as they gave me the numbers of each one that they had). This is nothing new though and is certainly not a criticism of Record Store Day or the producers of this single. The same thing happens at Record Store Days across the globe with opportunists and hooky record stores often grabbing the hottest releases for themselves and selling them online at a large profit (see example eBay listing below).
The other frustrating thing is that several people appeared to secure multiple copies via the commitment process, with a handful getting hold of all 5 variants. This meant that they ended up with 2 sets of signed art prints whilst many others missed out and were forced to hit the after-sales market, at great expense, to find the ones they wanted. This may have been due to how well they knew those involved in the project, or whether they supported it in some special way though. It may also have been because of some confusion about whether the limit was 1 record per customer or 1 variant per customer. I thought the former so only politely enquired about trying to get hold of a Willy Wonka version (I didn't know about the Good Records version until Record Store Day itself). Finally, it didn't appear logical that the Willy Wonka version could actually be obtained by anything other than sheer luck (as implied by the name).
Still, you can't please all of the people all of the time and there is no point being bitter about it (even though I probably sound like I am). As much as I want the other variants, I won't pay silly money to line someone else's pocket so I will probably only ever have my 1 Opaque Pink copy*. I'm extremely thankful for this release, I'm thankful for securing a copy and I'm thankful to Chris and co. for making me fall back in love with new music releases. And even if I had ended up with all the varients, I would have swapped them all in heartbeat for the opportunity to have been at Good Records for the original performance by the Group and to simply take in the atmosphere of the Black Friday release.
* Since writing the above piece, I have managed to secure 2 more versions. These were both purchased from die-hard fans and this was important to me as I know they'll no doubt put the money towards strengthen their own collections (please see below for more information).
This was a truly spectacular release and everyone involved have my utmost respect and admiration. If this is the last Alice Cooper Group release then it was a very worthy one. I hope it's not though and would thoroughly encourage a full vinyl album of the event to be produced (perhaps via the Crowdfunding approach). If it is then I'd be first in line to get involved!
More information can be found on the official website for this release. This includes the opportunity to register your version and be in with a chance of winning some Astorturf-related merchandise (although, to date, no updates appear to have been performed).
Also please visit my Facebook page, Alice Cooper Live From The Astrorturf to talk about this record and register / trade your version.
Live From The Astroturf, Opaque Pink Version (2016, Good Records GRR 33)
So here's my Opaque Pink copy in all it's glory, it's number 0182 and because it came direct from Good Records it features the additional 'Including Their Hit "I'm Eighteen"' sticker. Having removed the shrink-wrapping, I took the stickers off and placed them on the sleeve.
When I reserved my copy I also ordered an extra set of art prints so one set has been opened and the other remains sealed.
My Valuation: £100
Live From The Astroturf, Opaque White Version (2016, Good Records GRR 33)
This White version, #1,810, was purchased from a big Alice Cooper fan in Germany who had purchased multiple sealed copies in an attempt to find the 2 rare variants.
It is exactly the same as the Opaque Pink version (above) but is obviously white and also doesn't feature the additional sticker on the front (as it wasn't shipped from Good Records).
The record has some small blemishes in the colouration although I understand that this was common for the variants in this colour.
My Valuation: £75
Live From The Astroturf, Good Records Version (2016, Good Records GRR 33)
Wow, what a total pleasure it is to own this very special version of Live From The Astroturf. This is #0,098 and features all the extra goodies including the pink ziplock bag, pink foil number, signed prints, glow-in-the-dark 45 record adaptor and the juke box slip. An absolute dream of a record and a new standard for others to try and match!
There's not much else to say other than this is probably my favourite Alice Cooper item along with my Bizarre Easy Action and stage-used cane.
My Valuation: £500
Live From The Astroturf 18" x 24" Silkscreened Poster (Pink Edition)
Also on offer to fans was this large promotional poster, which was available on both white (limited to 75 copies) and pink paper (limited to only 25 copies, of which mine is #25).
Each copy was signed and numbered by the artist (William "Bubba" Flint).
My Valuation: £50