Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween From Alice Cooper

Welcome to My Nightmare is a concept album by Alice Cooper, released in 1975. This was Alice Cooper's first solo album (all previous Alice Cooper releases were band efforts). The cover artwork was created by Drew Struzan. Rolling Stone would later rank it as one of the "Top 100 Album Covers Of All Time"

Welcome to My Nightmare is a concept album. The songs, heard in sequence, form a journey through the nightmares of a child named Steven.

Steven appears for the first time on the concept album Welcome To My Nightmare. The listener understands that Steven is/or has the mind of a young boy, maybe around 8 years old. The album is a journey through Steven's mind, which is severely damaged. He lives in a constant nightmare and we are guided through this nightmare, by The Curator (played by Vincent Price). In the first song on the album, the title track, we are introduced to the nightmare. On the second song, “Devils Food”, Steven is trapped in a spider's web and is about to be eaten by The Black Widow. The spider and the web (and the whole nightmare) are only in his mind, some sort of mental disease, so Steven thinks he has to obey The Black Widow, to get away alive. Steven says:

“These words he speaks are true. We're all humanary stew, if we don't pledge allegiance to… The Black Widow”

The next song on the album is called "Some Folks," and reading between the lines, one can understand that the song is about how Steven enjoys killing women and possibly doing things to their dead bodies;

“Some folks love to see red/ Some folks never talk about it/ Some folks crave a blue lady/ Some folks know and still they doubt it.”

And then we learn of Steven’s abuse of his wife. The song “Only Women Bleed” tells us this. We once again learn of Steven’s lust for the dead, in the song “Cold Ethyl” where it’s clear that Steven is doing things to a woman’s (Ethyl’s) corpse. The next thing that is revealed to the listener is of Steven’s childhood and how he became the psycho killer we now know. In “Years Ago” we understand that Steven was alone as a child, and maybe that he feels rejected by friends and adults. The song “Steven” shows his transformation from an innocent child to a murderer.

“I don't want to feel you die, but if that's the way that God has planned you/ I'll put pennies on your eyes and it will go away, see?/ You've only lived a minute of your life/ I must be dreaming, please stop screaming”

Obviously some one has died. Maybe it’s Steven’s young mother, maybe his baby brother or, most likely, it’s the young Steven – the innocent. In the end of the previous song, “Years Ago” we hear the child-Steven talking to himself, as an old man:

“ - I'm a little boy (young Steven) - No, I'm a great big man (old man Steven) - No, let's be a little boy. For a little while longer. Maybe an hour? (young Steven) - No, Steven. We have to go back now (old man Steven) “

These lines support the theory that it is in fact the young Steven – Steven’s childhood and innocence – that has died. So who is he telling to stop screaming (“I must be dreaming, please stop screaming”)? It could be Steven who is screaming, because he is grief-stricken that his childhood has died. And he is in fact, pleading with himself to stop screaming. Another interpretation of this could be that it’s again, the child Steven, that is screaming – the childhood’s death-rattle. There is also a third possibility that it is the Curator that is screaming. The refrain to the song “Steven” goes like this:

“Steven!/ Steven! I hear my name! Steven! Is someone calling me? I hear my name! Steven! That icy breath it whispers screams of pain!”

The voice that chants “Steven! Steven!” is probably his wife, as he is killing her. This means that Steven could be beseeching her to stop screaming. After we have taken part of Steven’s transformation, he wakes up. Until now, we are unsure if the nightmare is a real nightmare (just a bad dream) or in fact part of Steven’s mental disease. But in the song “The Awakening” we understand that during the nightmare, Steven has killed his wife.

“Getting up from my easy chair looking for my wife/ Following a trail of crimson spots that lead into the night/ Suddenly I realize/ I see it all through real eyes/ These crimson spots are dripping from my hand/ And, ooh, it makes me feel like a man”

From this we can draw the conclusion that the nightmare occurred when Steven was sleepwalking but not knowing what was real or what was his imagination, he abused his wife during “Only Women Bleed”, did things to her corpse during “Cold Ethyl” and then sat down in his easy chair, “waking up” and at first thinking that everything was a bad dream. But then he realizes what he has done. As a result of this he escapes into drinking alcohol, which takes place in "Escape":

“Escape/ I get out when I can/ Escape/ Anytime I can/ Let’s all escape/ I'm crying in my beer/ C'mon let's escape/ Just get me out of here”

Welcome to My Nightmare inspired the Alice Cooper: The Nightmare TV special and a worldwide concert tour in 1975, and the Welcome To My Nightmare concert film in 1976.

Steven=Alice Theory

Some Alice Cooper fans believe that Steven is actually the same person as Alice Cooper. To understand this, one must understand the Alice Cooper persona. Alice has always talked about his stage persona in third person, and by this he is pointing out that the person he is on stage is not the same person he is in real life. To make it easier we can call the off-stage person Vincent Furnier (which was Alice’s real name until he legally changed it in 1974), and the stage person Alice Cooper. When Vincent was an alcoholic he had difficulties separating himself from Alice. He thought he had to be Alice and behave like him, even off stage. This problem is similar to that Steven has. Vincent Furnier (off stage Alice) is represented by the innocent child-Steven, while Alice Cooper is represented by the adult madman-Steven. This theory supports the idea that Steven appears on Dada. Taking in mind that Steven is Alice, brings a new perspective to the story of The Last Temptation. The story could be a metaphor for when Alice Cooper was “cured” from his alcoholism, and became a Christian in the early 80’s. Vincent Furnier’s temptation was alcohol (and behind all temptation lurks the Devil) and when he started to believe in God, he defeated his alcoholism (and thus the Devil). So, Alice is Steven, his alcoholism is The Showman, and they both get saved by the same one: God.

The inside cover of the Along Came A Spider album has two photos - both are of Alice as a child but one has him with the Alice makeup on and Steven written underneath. This again shows the possibility of Steve being Alice. track 11 of "Welcome To My Nightmare", "Escape", reinforces this theory between Steven=Alice and could also be what inspired both photos; "Paint on my cruel or happy face and hide me behind it."

This is rock and roll macabre, at it's finest!

Track listing

1. "Welcome to My Nightmare" (Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner) – 5:19

2. "Devil's Food" (Cooper, Bob Ezrin, Kelly Jay) – 3:38

3. "The Black Widow" (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:37 (with Vincent Price)

4."Some Folks" (Cooper, Ezrin, Alan Gordon) – 4:19

5."Only Women Bleed" (Cooper, Wagner) – 5:49

6."Department of Youth" (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 3:18

7."Cold Ethyl" (Cooper, Ezrin) – 2:51

8."Years Ago" (Cooper, Wagner) – 2:51

9."Steven" (Cooper, Ezrin) – 5:52

10. "The Awakening" (Cooper, Wagner, Ezrin) – 2:25

11. "Escape" (Cooper, Mark Anthony, Kim Fowley) – 3:20

Thx to Shawn at

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Thanks, Bob! I especially enjoyed the Alice/Vincent comparison. I suppose somewhere in my mind, I figured that out, but it was much more fun to imagine Steven as someone different. Cheers!