Welcome To My Nightmare (1975)

Welcome To My Nightmare Album Cover

Background

 

Welcome To My Nightmare is the 8th Alice Cooper album, the first with Alice as a solo artist, and was released in 1975.  The album is notable not only for being the first not to feature the original band members but also because of the innovative presentation and development methods employed.  Firstly, it is a concept album that tells a (broadly) linear story across the songs, this was quite remarkable in its day and makes for an absorbing listen (even if you don’t necessarily like all the tracks then you at least pay more attention to their lyrics, in case they form an element of the story).  Secondly, the album was produced with a lavish stage show in mind so it is, in essence, reverse engineered (it was also to inspire the release of a TV special).

 

The album cover, produced by Drew Struzan (who also illustrated the Alice Cooper Group's Greatest Hits album cover), is also one of the finest you’ll see with a friendly looking, and smartly dressed, Alice emerging from a black triangle with bugs surrounding him.

 

The album’s storyline revolves around the nightmares of a child named Steven (played by Alice) and his battle to escape back to the safety of his bed and real life.  It’s fair to say that the story being told deviates at times, I’d say this was a combination of artistic license resulting in loss of focus on the nightmare theme and brutal economics of life whereby hits needs to be shoehorned in one way or the other.

 

Bob Ezrin continued his role as producer with the original band members replaced by Lou Reed’s backing band, mostly notably including guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter (the latter of which had already provided uncredited solos on the Billion Dollar Babies album).  Are the original band missed?  Being brutally honest, not really, this is partly because the album’s biggest strength is the concept itself, partly because those brought in to replace them were fine musicians themselves and partly because this album simply reaffirms the fact that Alice / Vince was undoubtedly the biggest star of the original band. 

 

Welcome To My Nightmare

 

“Welcome To My Nightmare, I think you’re going to like it” whispers Alice as the album opens with a a jazz inspired number.  The track benefits from some excellent instrumental backing (including trumpets and keyboards) in order to create the illusion of a hazy dream where literally anything could be going on.   Those familiar with the accompanying stage show will know just what I mean! 

 

Rating: 7 Skulls

 

Devil’s Food

 

This is a great rocker with Alice in fine voice.  Vincent Price, however, is the star of the show with his spoken part, introducing to us (and paying homage to) the Black Widow spider, delivered in the terrifying and creepy manner that he became famous for.  His devotion to the Black Widow as the successor to mankind is brilliantly portrayed and his appearance must stand out as one of the best moves Alice Cooper made.

 

Rating: 9 Stars

 

Black Widow

 

Following Price’s introduction, we launch straight into Black Widow.   This is a high octane rocker as Alice pledges his allegiance to the Queen of arachnids.  The presence of children singing in the background simply adds to the theatrical feel of the song.  Brilliant!

 

Rating: 9 Stars

 

Some Folks

 

Some Folks is a slice of pure Broadway with big production, flamboyant use of brass instruments and a catchy chorus.  Alice is again in fine voice as he sings about sick perversion and the inner conflict that it generates.  The contrast between the song’s theme and the way it’s presented are rather mind blowing and brilliantly executed.

 

Rating: 7 Skulls

 

Only Women Bleed

 

This is probably Alice’s most well known ballad and provides a nice interlude to the madness around it on this album.  The story relates to abusive relationships and is delivered in a powerful yet poignant way.  Some parties have misunderstood the song but it seems clear to me that it’s a sympathetic take on the pains that women go through against physically stronger partners.  This certainly wasn’t the first time that this happened (Dead Babies being the most notable example).

 

Rating: 7 Skulls

 

Department Of Youth

 

The School’s Out of Welcome To My Nightmare (only without the worldwide success) with Alice again addressing the youth of the world.  Whilst it sounds slightly out of place on the album (no nightmares here), it’s a great rocker and a crowd favourite when played live.  The song ends in hilarious fashion as, when asked who gave them the power, they reply “Donny Osmand”, much to Alice’s disgust!

 

Rating: 8 Skulls

 

Cold Ethyl

 

A class track which again sees Alice exploring his perverted inner conscience, this time clearly defined as he fantasises about a relationship with the deceased Ethyl.  There are some extremely funny lyrics on offer here as Alice states that “Ethyl don’t have much to say”!

 

Rating: 8 Skulls

 

Years Ago

 

The album takes a sinister turn with the ultra-creepy Year Ago, which kicks off a hat trick of songs that are intrinsically linked and amongst the finest of Alice’s work.  Years Ago sounds like it is set in a deserted fairground with Steven alone on a merry-go-ride.  Steven appears close to breakdown with him sounding despondent and delusional with the voices in his head playing tug-of-war with him.

 

Rating: 10 Skulls

 

Steven

 

Steven loses the battle and gives in to the voices telling him to “Kill, Kill, Kill”.  Before doing so he justifies to himself that he is merely following God’s plan and that he doesn’t really want to take a life.  The song is not only brilliantly moody but is also accompanied by a fantastic orchestral score throughout.

 

Rating: 10 Skulls

 

The Awakening

 

Steven finds himself in the basement, semi-conscious and disorientated.  He follows the trial of blood that is dripping from his hands, upon realising what he’s done he declares ‘I’m a man”! 

One can only imagine what the result had been if the theme of Years Ago, Steven and The Awakening had been broadened out across the whole album.

 

Rating: 10 Skulls

 

Escape

 

The tempo picks up as Steven realises it’s all just a dream and decides to escape the clutches of his nightmare and return to real life.  This song neatly ends the album and leaves the listener in good spirits, a fitting end to the most diverse of albums.

 

Escape was used to terrific effect on the stage show, with the famous 'Magic Screen' becoming one of Alice's stand-out moments in his career.

 

Rating: 9 Skulls 

 

OVERALL ALBUM RATING:  9 SKULLS

 

See my Welcome To My Nightmare collection here.