Goldmine reached out to Michael Bruce and Dennis Dunaway, members of the Alice Cooper group classic lineup, about their post-Alice Cooper work as Billion Dollar Babies, discussed Alice Cooper songs, and what lies ahead.
By Warren Kurtz
Win a copy of the live CD – Billion Dollar Babies’ First Ever Live Show – Flint 1977 —see below for details.
BILLION DOLLAR BABIES was a mid-‘70s band comprised of three members of the classic line up of the Alice Cooper group, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, plus Mike Marconi and Bob Dolin. They released the album “Battle Axe” in 1977 on Polydor and had a brief live tour. The first concert of that tour has now been released on CD. Goldmine spoke with Michael Bruce and Dennis Dunaway.
MICHAEL BRUCE INTERVIEW
GOLDMINE: The Billion Dollar Babies tour in 1977 kicked off in Flint, Michigan.
Michael Bruce: It was like a homecoming. It was actually recorded in a high school auditorium. Several years prior, our Alice Cooper group left L.A. for Michigan, which became a wonderful place for us right as the MC5, Stooges and Bob Seger were all happening there. We learned a lot.
GM: The single from the Polydor album was “Rock N’ Roll Radio”
MB: Neal did this one and was one we thought of for the Muscle of Love album, but went on to this next studio album for this group, after Alice went solo.
GM: “Rock Me Slowly” is a nice piano-based ballad that sounds great live.
MB: Once in a while, lyrics and music flow together for me and when it does, it is a miracle, as it did in this case.
GM: The “Alice Cooper Medley” is entertaining on the live CD.
MB: We knew we had to play some songs for the fans. I enjoy the “Elected” to “Eighteen” transition.
GM: “Too Young” is progressive with keyboards.
MB: We were trying to write another “School’s Out”-like anthem, but the album had issues, including mechanical issues. The tone arm skipped on our record pressings and people returned the Battle Axe album 40 years ago.
GM: Now we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Alice Cooper group and the seven albums that followed. The Love It to Death and Killer albums certainly had some of my favorite songs, like “Long Way to Go,” “Be My Lover,” and flip sides “Desperado” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”
MB: With “Long Way to Go” we certainly had a long way to go financially. We were living on a farm in Pontiac, with not a lot of sunlight, and when we were on the road, we had no money yet, eating mashed potato sandwiches. Alice hardly modified the lyrics on the song. Bob Ezrin played keyboards in the middle and it worked out well. Like “Long Way to Go,” I really liked the time changes on “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” The lyrics for “Desperado” had been around for a long time. We worked on the music and Bob added strings, which I liked. The lines in “Be My Lover” are from a true story, when an elderly lady, sitting next to me, “asked me why the singer’s name is Alice.”
GM: I love the variety on the Muscle of Love album. I read that the song “Muscle of Love” was a high point of your reunited Alice Cooper group show in England last Year.
MB: We wrote most of it the album at the mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. It had nostalgia, tongue-in-cheek songs and one which we hoped would have been included in a James Bond film, our song “Man with the Golden Gun.” They went with a Lulu song instead.
GM: On Alice’s 2011 sequel “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” your song “When Hell Comes Home,” about domestic abuse, was included.
MB: Alice chose this one. I got a call from Bob Ezrin and they had turned my “Hell Hole # 9” into “When Hell Comes Home.”
GM: It is good to see your newly revised No More Mr. Nice Guy book out now, have your compositions on Alice’s albums and learn about you and the others getting together.
MB: I hope for a 50th reunion this year and I hope to do a vinyl album this year too, maybe with my wife Lynn who is a jazz bassist. We appreciate all the fans and thank the Goldmine readers, which is a good magazine to read, and for buying, selling and trading music.
DENNIS DUNAWAY INTERVIEW
GOLDMINE: The “Battle Axe Suite” of five songs on the new live CD is quite epic.
Dennis Dunaway: The suite was the concept of the show. A boxing ring rose from underneath Neal’s drum risers as the gladiators enter. Michael Bruce was the red gladiator and Mike Marconi was the green gladiator. battling with axe guitars. This was our concept for the next Alice Cooper concert tour, which didn’t happen, as Alice went solo, so we used it for our show. Bob Dolin on keyboards was a key part of it. He was on the Billion Dollar Babies album and tour and on the Muscle of Love album, too. He was inspired by Keith Emerson. He would take ELP albums and slow them down to learn the music.
GM: Going back to the breakthrough album Love It to Death, in addition to “Eighteen,” I enjoyed its flip side, “Is It My Body.”
DD: Neal got a boa constrictor and I wanted to write a song to accommodate using the snake in our shows.
GM: What inspired the song “Black Juju” on the album?
DD: A small black Labrador retriever. We were living in Pontiac, Michigan at the time. Hunters were in the area, but as they moved on, the dog stayed, so we had him all summer.
GM: The Killer album, which followed, was so solid, with “Under My Wheels,” “Halo of Flies” and others.
DD: I think that is our best album. We were still a band with a producer, plus Bob Ezrin was an apprentice under Jack Richardson for that album and the prior album. We felt prepared, played our best and had confidence. I wrote “Under My Wheels,” influenced by Chuck Berry. We were in a corporate building where the men’s room had a great echo. Neal’s drum solo on “Halo of Flies” was recorded in that bathroom and he and I created a rhythm section duo. The song was really a medley of songs we had at the time.
GM: Speaking of medleys, the medley on the new live CD includes another favorite, “Elected.”
DD: With people less familiar with our first two albums, we took “Reflected” from our first album, Pretties for You, which was Who-inspired, with a descending bass run, and we overhauled it, around election time, turning it into “Elected.”
GM: The last album as a group was “Muscle of Love,” starting off with a song I found to be quite inspiring as a teenager, “Big Apple Dreaming,” about leaving Ohio and moving to New York City with skyscrapers, subways, stations and the United Nations.
DD: We were influenced by the environment of the tri-state area. The album was going in a couple of directions. We loved “West Side Story,” which we had already touched on with the “School’s Out” album, and we did love looking up at the skyscrapers.
GM: Back to Ohio for a moment, in 2011 the whole group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, near where my college was located at in my hometown of Cleveland.
DD: And it would have been more fitting if the induction ceremony was held in Cleveland that year, versus the New York City Waldorf. As you know, the Midwest was where we were accepted first. New York came much later.
GM: You are also currently part of a group called Blue Coupe with Blue Oyster Cult members.
DD: And we play Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper hits and deep cuts. Joe and Albert Bouchard and I are working on our third album. We met Blue Oyster Cult in 1972. Dr. John was opening for us and he had a snake in his act and so did we. Well, we couldn’t have two snakes in the show, so Blue Oyster Cult became our opening act.
GM: On Alice’s 2011 sequel album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, you and Neal certainly capture a train rhythm on “Runaway Train.”
DD: That song started out as “Subway” from my Dennis Dunaway Project album with Ian Hunter. Alice played it on his radio show and liked it. I got blisters on my wrist from all that fast picking. I enjoy being part of other people’s recordings. I’m on the new Steve Conte video “Gimme Gimme Rockaway.”
GM: I enjoyed sharing a page with you last year with our endorsement paragraphs in the inside cover of Tony Renzoni’s Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll book. This is also where I learned about the Connecticut mansion where the Billion Dollar Babies album was recorded.
DD: That was fun. Speaking of books, my book, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group, will be coming out in paperback this summer. I enjoyed sharing the page in Tony’s book with you as well. I used to read “The Vinyl Junkie” articles in Goldmine in the late ‘70s by Cub Koda, who we knew from Detroit with Brownsville Station. I’m a big fan of Goldmine, being a vinyl fan.
To win a sealed copy of Billion Dollar Babies’ First Ever Live Show – Flint 1977 CD, all you have to do is put your email address in the box below by April 15, 11:59 p.m. You will immediately be entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have two CDs to give away, so your chances are doubled.