Alice Cooper and his longtime producer, Bob Ezrin, prefer to create conceptual albums. The topic of the original shock rocker’s forthcoming collection is something close to his heart — his hometown of Detroit.
“Detroit Stories” is set to hit stores February 26.
“It’s easier to write in concepts,” says Cooper, a Valley resident. “I didn’t want to just write 12 good, hard rock songs. I said, why don’t we dedicate it to the home of hard rock?
“We didn’t stop there. We wrote the album there, with Detroiters and have the entire band from Detroit.”
Those legendary musicians included MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Detroit Wheels drummer Johnny “Bee” Badanjek, jazz and R&B bassist Paul Randolph, Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner and the Motor City Horns. The group recorded at Royal Oak, Michigan’s Rustbelt Studios.
“Mark Farner, Wayne Kramer and Johnny Bee were great, and then we got some studio guys to play bass, keyboards and horns. The only guy who wasn’t from Detroit was Joe Bonamassa. I just thought he was good for the songs ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Drunk and In Love.’
“I’ve known Wayne Kramer since his MC5 days. I think he’s playing better than he ever has. Johnny Bee is a premier drummer. Mark Farner is a modern guitarist from Grand Funk.”
Cooper didn’t anticipate the funk undercurrent of the songs. He listened back to the songs and soul was revealed as well. Normally, he says, he would ask to remove it. But Detroit had such a great relationship with Motown that he asked to keep it in.
“When we played the Eastown back in those days, it was Alice Cooper, the Stooges and The Who and I’d see Smokey Robinson in the audience,” Cooper recalls about the long-shuttered east side Detroit club. “We’d see members of the Supremes and the Temptations at hard rock shows. Back then, it was just music. It wasn’t something they were shocked by. They loved hard rock. When they did shows at the Roostertail, we’d go there. There was nothing racial about it. You were part of the gang.”
That, Cooper adds, is the difference between Detroit and the rest of the world. Music there is authentic and real.
“Bands playing Detroit had better be real,” he says. “What the Stooges did was the absolute beginnings of punk. It didn’t matter that they weren’t the greatest players.
“When they got on stage and did play, they never flinched about who they were. It’s the same with the MC5 and us. We were theatrical hard rock bands. We didn’t try to change for Detroit.”
That music is reflected in “Detroit Stories.” He calls “$1,000 High Heel Shoes” a Motown song. “Go Man Go” is rockabilly, and “Drunk and In Love” is blues.
“I tried to include every bit of Detroit kind of rock,” Cooper says.
The acknowledgments in the liner notes even reflect his love of the Motor City by thanking the likes of Creem Magazine, WABX, Soupy Sales, The Grande Ballroom, Al Kaline, Bobby Layne and Gordie Howe.
“They were our sports heroes,” Cooper says. “They were such a big part of my life when I was a little kid.
“We had a great time playing big arenas all over the world, but the coolest rock ‘n’ roll time was at the Grande and Eastown with Suzi Quatro and maybe Ted Nugent. You go and every one of these bands brought it every night. Nobody was up there going, ‘I hope you like us tonight.’ You grab them by the face and shake them.”
Preorder “Detroit Stories” here: