“Hey Paul, its Chris Penn in Dallas. I have a record store here and I’d like to bring Dennis in to do an in-store book-signing… I have a bunch of ideas… can you send me a picture of your electric chair?”
In the course of life, we should all experience the deceptive calm that is the epicenter of Chris’ genius. A larger-than-life, soft-spoken carnival barker… equal parts devotion, exhilaration and enthusiasm… and everyone’s a winner. How can you not buy what Chris is selling?
Chris’ genius had the in-store event scheduled the same weekend that Alice was bringing his tour to town. Chris had outfitted his Good Records store with a stage covered in pink astroturf. Chris had arranged for all of the surviving members of the Alice Cooper group to attend.
The result – a standing-room-only impromptu gig by ALICE COOPER. No detail too big or too small… from pink air vent covers to GB’s image overlooking the stage. The buzz was seismic. Social media blew up. TMZ was SOL. And The Dallas Morning News called it “The Show of the Year!“
But Dallas was in for another surprise… Alice reciprocated by inviting his original bandmates to join his touring band to perform “School’s Out” the following evening before 20,000 stunned fans… it was too much for even Motley Crue’s malfunctioning drum set roller coaster.
In conjunction with Dennis’ book release, he asked me to collaborate with him in a travelling pop-up exhibition “Dr. Dreary’s Snakes! Museum of Rare Alice Cooper Artifacts”. The cornerstones of the Snakes! Museum are the costume design and couture of Dennis’ wife, Cindy Smith Dunaway… the glam rock aesthetic of Alice Cooper, TRex, David Bowie and Elton John owe it all to Cindy’s vision and creations.
By 2016 there was an increase in the interactions between the guys. They had all begun writing compositions for Alice’s next release… Alice had announced he was looking forward to putting out a new record with the gritty feel of “Killer”. Hopes buoyed… anticipation.
In the fall of 2016, Chris Penn had had Bob Ezrin produce two tracks from the Dallas Good Records gig. The 7″ vinyl “Live from theAstroturf” including “I’m Eighteen / Body” was released on Record Store Day and became the fastest sell-out in the event’s history. And in keeping with the traditional Alice Cooper marketing hype, the single came in various vinyl colors, some included autograph card inserts, juke box strips and glow-in-the-dark adapters. (At the time of writing, “Live from the Astroturf” was selected winner of the 2017 Alex Award for 7″ packaging and the single is now up for consideration for a Grammy nomination.)
2017 began with anticipation as word got out that all the guys were in the studio working with Bob Ezrin on their tracks for Alice’s upcoming release.
In May, all the band members attended the Music Business Association annual gathering in Nashville, where they received a life-time achievement award. The four guys played a short set to industry attendees and a group of fans, some had flown in from as far away as Australia, for the opportunity to hear Alice Cooper. Alice also had a tour stop in Nashville and so he treated his fans to a novel set change… Alice and his touring band would perform their show and following a brief intermission, the curtain would rise and the Alice Cooper group took the stage. They high-kicked into “I’m Eighteen” as a massive Billion Dollar Babies motif backdrop unfurled behind them and they blasted through a string of their hits. The touring band and original guys joined forces for a climatic combo of “School’s Out” / “Another Brick In the Wall”… and the emotionally-drained audience was vaulted into another dimension.
Q: What has 9 beaming smiles, 18 raised fists and responds to a thunderous standing ovation?
A: Alice Cooper curtain call in Nashville.
Alice’s “Paranormal” LP was released on the heels of the Nashville buzz. Australia, Europe and North America snapped up the successful release. The world wanted to hear what Alice and his original bandmates had laid down. Indeed, it was good to see and hear them again.
Could that be it? Was Nashville one-and-done? Was it all just a dream? What is that feint, nasally voice in my head?
“Hey Paul… you’ve got your audience hyped… they’re begging for more but you gotta leave ’em hangin’ for one more sleep.
Trust me, I’ve been in the biz for 50 years… they’ll be back.”