10 albums that changed Dennis Dunaway’s life

Dennis Dunaway. Photo courtesy Dennis Dunaway

By Jeb Wright

Dennis Dunaway, founding bass player for the Alice Cooper Group, helped usher in Shock Rock and brought theatrics to the forefront of rock music in the 1970’s. He, along with Alice Cooper and original band members Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce and Neil Smith, have been nominated for a spot in the 2010 class of inductees into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. While it is too early to tell if they will make the ballot, one thing is certain, they deserve the honor. Below Dennis shares the albums that changed his life.

West Side Story Movie Soundtrack:
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

At ages 14 and 15, Alice and I skipped over the sappy girl songs but those incredibly complex rhythms and the finger-snapping street savvy attitude inspired us to buy white tennis shoes and search in vein for purple T-shirts.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan:
Bob Dylan

As old high school buddies, Alice and I thought we were incredibly hip. But when our art teacher made us listen to this album, even though we laughed at the froggy voice, the dead seriousness of most of the lyrics made us realize that our art teacher was way hipper than us. Soon after that, we met Dylan’s parents at the local Mall.

Introducing… The Beatles:
The Beatles

It was like there was an explosion and the Beatles became all that mattered. Just the sound of their recordings had an unexplainable mystic about them. From the ripping scream in “I Saw Her Standing There” to the farewell pleas on “Anna” and especially the guttural vocal performance on “Twist And Shout,” overnight, the Beatles became all that mattered.

England’s Newest Hit Makers/The Rolling Stones:
The Rolling Stones

I was working on my grandfather’s farm in Oregon to earn enough money to buy my first bass. I walked past a record store window in Eugene and saw a picture of a band on a 45 r.p.m. single called “It’s All Over Now.” I thought it was the ugliest band I had ever seen. It was hard not to buy it, but I had to save my money. It didn’t matter though because the Stones had won me over anyway. When I got back to Phoenix, Glen Buxton helped me pick out an Airline bass. I had enough money to buy the Rolling Stones album, so we went to Glen’s house and he started teaching me all the notes and patterns from every song on the album (plus “It’s All Over Now.”) And so, with Glen’s help, I learned how to play rhythm and blues rooted bass parts from Bill Wyman’s recordings.

The Who Sings My Generation:
The Who

It was all about excitement in the crashing tone of that guitar, and the explosive power of the bass and drums, and the charismatic singer that had to work hard just to hold his own on a stage that seemed like a rock and roll battleground.
I had seen them on television and my parents complained about why they would break perfectly good equipment. But like every teenager, I knew why. And I loved it. All that imagery came through on the album.

For Your Love:
The Yardbirds

Paul Samwell-Smith made me realize that I could take my own bass parts to the moon. Without ever meeting him, he set me on my own lifetime musical adventure.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:
The Beatles

Suddenly the world was in color. How could this be the same band of only four years prior? Our generation was swept away in their evolution. There was something important happening on this album and we weren’t sure what it was, but it lured us into believing that it was something to figure out and to follow.

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn:
Pink Floyd

The Alice Cooper group had a kindred feeling toward the experimental nature of this album. It was as if we were exploring outer space and ran into someone else.

Are You Experienced?:
Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Alice Cooper Group was dirt-poor living in Watts during the torch-burning tensions of the equal rights movement. We put this album on our crappy turntable and it ripped the roof off the house.

The Doors:
The Doors

We were opening two shows for the Doors so I hastily listened to the album and was unimpressed. After watching them give two riveting live performances, I gave the record another listen. It pulled me in. It was the perfect soundtrack for Los Angeles.


For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Buy the brand new edition of “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991, 7th Edition”

• Get the new John Lennon book: “John Lennon: Life is What Happens, Music, Memories & Memorabilia”

• Get the closest thing to the full Woodstock experience with the book “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.”

• Order the latest Ozzy book,“The Wit & Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne” (estimated ship date: 9/30/2010) Very witty. Very funny. Very Ozzy.

2 thoughts on “10 albums that changed Dennis Dunaway’s life

  1. “I used to follow you back in ’63,” Bellboy

    Used to follow Dennis from the first time the band opened for The Byrds and I saw his Airline bass for the first time – which he claims he still has and it hasn’t turned to sawdust.

    Bet if you brought up Butterfield Blues Band, Sky Saxon and the Seeds; Dennis would add those as influences.

    I agree with the Yardbirds and The Stones – that’s all The Spiders played with an occasional Who song thrown in.

    The Doors? They all stayed in the same hotel off Sunset Strip. Walk down the hallway to share music, Dennis!

  2. Geez! Dennis’ bass in Alice Cooper changed MY life! You Drive Me Nervous and Gutter Cat Versus The Jets still fun to play.

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