Live From The Astroturf
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
More footage and interviews from that night can be viewed here.
The 7" Single Release (2016)
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) 1150 Opaque Pink Vinyl;
B) 1150 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 packaging was truly exceptional and this was recognised when the release was honoured with the title of 'Best 45 Single Package' at the prestigious Alex Awards 2017.
The audio was mixed by Justin Cortelyou and Bob Ezrin and the release was dedicated to Glen Buxton and Chris' Mum.
Finally, on the inner edge of each disc, there was the following lyric inscriptions (representing the first words of Eighteen and Body respectively:
Side A: 'GRR 33-A Lines form on my face and hands'
Side B: 'GRR 33-B What have I got?'
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 1250;
C) Black Version = 1251 to 1350; and
D) White Version = 1351 to 2500.
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 hype stickers, test record adaptors and t-shirts (see image below).
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 but some items have since reappeared on this online store.
Demand Outstrips Supply
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 more variants. These were purchased from die-hard fans and this was important to me as I know they'll no doubt put the money towards strengthening 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 7" Vinyl Single (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.
I have since managed to get Dennis Dunaway to sign the art print featuring the original flyer for 'The Happening'.
Live From The Astroturf 7" Vinyl Single (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.
Live From The Astroturf 7" Vinyl Single (White Version)
2016, Good Records, GRR 33
This further White version, #1,410, was purchased from an Alice Cooper fan in the US who again had purchased multiple sealed copies in an attempt to find the 2 rare variants.
It is exactly the same as the White version (above) but also features the additional sticker on the front (as it must have been originally shipped from Good Records).
Live From The Astroturf 7" Vinyl Single (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.
Live From The Astroturf 18" x 24" Silkscreen Posters
Also on offer to fans at the time of release was a large silkscreen promotional poster, which was available on both white (limited to 75 copies) and pink (limited to only 25 copies) card. Each copy was signed and numbered by the artist (William "Bubba" Flint).
I have one of each with the white version being #57 of 75 and the pink one being #01 of 25. I also had #25 of the pink version, but have since given it as a gift to hardcore Live From The Astroturf UK-based fan Chris Daniels.
Live From The Astrourf T-Shirts
These great T-shirts were purchased from Good Records, with one the original design sold at the point of release (bright artwork set on a black shirt) and the other purchased during the UK Tour of 2017 (faded artwork set on a grey shirt. These are both worn with pride on a regular basis!
The Astroturf Story Continues
Live From The Astroturf quickly established itself as a pivitol Alice Cooper release due to the historical nature of the performance. This was emphasised in the Summer of 2017 when the recording of Eighteen was selected as the B Side track on the first single taken from Alice's new solo album Paranormal. Better still, Paranoic Personality was also issued as a 7" vinyl single meaning that another member of the Astroturf family was born.
On the 14th June 2017, Alice Cooper announced on his website that the surviving Group members would be joining him for a mini-set as part of his UK solo Spend The Night With Alice Cooper tour (featuring 5 shows in Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and London).
It wouldn't be unfair to say that this decision may well have been influenced by the success of the Good Records performance and the subsequent Live From The Astroturf release. It was therefore very fitting that Chris Penn announced to hardcore Astroturf fans in September 2017, via the Live From The Astroturf Facebook page, a very limited 'UK Tour Edition' to celebrate this significant milestone.
The UK Tour Edition was split into 2 variants, the '18 Version' (we all know the significance of that number) and the '5 Version' (in recognition of the number of UK dates that the Group would appear at). Both versions featured a stack of goodies, including:
> Silkscreen cover* with art from William 'Buba' Flint on the front and Matt Cliff on the back;
> 7" x 7" colour prints of front and back covers numbered and signed by the artists;
> 7" x 7" prints of the original front and back covers numbered and signed by the photographers (Allison V. Smith and Karlo X. Ramos);
> 7" x 7" 45 adapter print numbered and signed by the Chris Penn;
> Black custom 45 insert adapter with white print;
> Jukebox strip (as per the original Good Records and Willy Wonka version);
> 5" x 7" double-sided art prints (as per the original versions);
> Pink ziplock bag with hype stickers (as per the original Good Records version);
> Spare set ziplock bag hype stickers and centre circle 7" vinyl labels (Eighteen and Body);
> Printed inner sleeve and insert (as per the original versions);
> Pearlescent Dennis Dunaway 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs' guitar pick;
> A Hollywood Bowl replica ticket bookmark;
> Numbered flyer / make-shift ticket from the night of the 'Alice Cooper Happening';
> A Good Records business card; and
> A small piece of pink astroturf (I kid you not!).
* The 18 Version came in a black silkscreen cover, whereas the 5 Version was pink. Both were individually numbered (out of 18 and 5 respectively) by hand on the back in silver pen. The inside of the covers contains print that closely matches that used on the original test pressings. A white cover was also produced (see image below) but this was for internal use by Good Records and only 3 exist (2 have since been secured by hardcore fans though, both of which contained a white disc inside).
The 18 Version came with either a pink, white or black vinyl disc (believed to be about 6 of each) whereas the 5 Version came with the Willy Wonka split pink / white disc. These were presumably spare discs from the original release due to the very limited production run of this special version.
Oddly, the 5 7" x 7" prints are numbered up to 30 rather than 23 (what were the other 7 for I hear you ask?).
Live From The Astroturf 7" Vinyl Single (UK Tour 18 Version)
2017, Good Records, GRR 33
I was thrilled to be offered the chance to purchase an 18 Version and quickly put my name down with the hope that I'd get one of the 6 black variants. I really wanted one of these as I missed out on one of the ultra-rare 100 pressings from the original release in 2016. To say I was happy when this little beauty, number 7 of 18, showed up is a bit of an understatment!
The whole package is absolutely superb with a lot of effort put in to make this a special package that is worthy of the event it celebrates. This one is particularly brilliant, as it combines the special feel of the original Good Records version with the scarcity of the black variant (there are only 106 black discs now doing the rounds).
I especially like how the locations and dates of the 5 shows are included in the artwork on the back cover and the personal touches, such as the flyer from the event and the little chunk of pink astroturf. Do I prefer it to the Good Records version? I think I may do, you know!
The 5 7" x 7" art prints are numbered 17 of 30.
Live From The Astrourf, UK Tour T-Shirt
This excellent T-shirt was produced to co-incide with the release of the UK Tour Edition (above), but wasn't made widely available.
It features the excellent artwork by Matt Cliff that featured on the back cover of the UK Tour Edition release, with an image of the Alice Cooper Group set in front of a Union Jack and above a London bus. At the base are the 5 UK tour locations and dates, with a further Union Jack and a Scottish Flag either side (we won't mention that there should probably have been an English flag on the left, rather than the Union Jack).
Live From The Astroturf Cookies!
To celebrate the 2017 UK Tour with the surviving members of the Alice Cooper Group my wife (Sarah-Jane) and I took on the challenge of making some Live From The Astroturf Cookies!
These were a labour of love with edible vinyl stickers produced and each of the variants from the UK Tour Editions faithfully replicated in all their glory (we couldn't work out how to make a translucent pick one).
I somehow managed to transport them safely from Exeter in the South West of England to Bethnal Green in East London (via the Underground) and presented them to Chris Penn at the Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! book signing event at Crypt Of The Wizard. They went down a storm and even Dennis and his amazing wife Cindy enjoying them!
The cookies even made one of superfan Paul Brenton's articles covering the UK Tour in the Music Express (thanks Paul).
During the UK Tour, Chris was also kind enough to gift me an awesome custom-made Live From The Astroturf glow-in-the-dark 45 adaptor badge. When he gave it to me he knighted me as Vice-President of the Live From The Astroturf Appreciation Society!