Classic Album: Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

Billion Dollar Babies is a prime example of what can be achieved if you strike while the iron is hot. The years in the run up to this album’s release saw Alice Cooper establish themselves as the great black hope of American rock and roll, with Love It to Death andKiller establishing them as an act capable of penning albums that found a willing and sizeable audience of hard rock fans. 1972 had seen the Detroit five piece achieve crossover single success with “Schools Out”, an immortal classic of a rock song which made Vincent Furnier and his band mates the scourge of teachers and parents across Western civilization.

As phenomenal as “Schools Out” was, I’ve always felt that the album of the same name leant too heavily on West Side Story for a lumpy concept for it to be anything more than just a vehicle for the biggest single of Alice Cooper’s career. The idea had been great, it just lacked the killer tunes to back up the big hit. Regardless of this Alice Cooper were now one of the hottest rock bands on the planet, and as long as the next album didn’t explore the same creative cul-de-sac as its predecessor, they were on to a winner.

And win they did. Billion Dollar Babies hit the sweet spot between album based hard rock and chart bothering singles action square on. The title track, opener “Hello Hooray” and “No More Mr Nice Guy” were strong singles, and the politically themed “Elected” has made the rare move in recent years from being a parody of its subject to being an oddly prophetic number when you consider the current shape of global politics. The cult of personality might not have been a ‘thing’ back in early 1973, but “Elected” captures it perfectly.

Those tracks on Billion Dollar Babies that were not released as singles were strong enough to stand up in their own right, with “Sick Things” becoming the nickname for fans of the band, and Furnier himself in later years, while “Mary Ann” and “I Love the Dead” pointed to the direction that Furnier would take when he went solo and he ‘became’ Alice Cooper. Best track of all though was “Generation Landslide”, which had been the B-Side of “Hello Hooray”, but could easily have been a stand alone single in its own right and is something of a hidden gem when you consider the output of the original Alice Cooper group.

With its mix of legitimately great hit singles and ability to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside the classic rock albums of the era, Billion Dollar Babies may very well be the definitive release by the original Alice Cooper group, and is certainly in the running as a highlight of Furnier’s half a century of career. Sometimes all the stars align on a release, and Billion Dollar Babies found Alice Cooper’s dark star very much on the rise.

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