Released: 2012, Omnibus Press
This book is really overdue. Compared to bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath there have been relatively few books about Alice Cooper, maybe half a dozen. Alice himself has written two autobiographies someone might ask, why would we need and/or want an Alice biography? Well, Alice first autobiography was called ME, ALICE and was published in 1976. It’s a little out of date. Cooper’s second autobiography from 2008 was pretty thin on facts and had a heavy focus on his obsession with golf. All those factors combine to make WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE the first comprehensive book about the man and the band.
First off, the title; WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE. It’s a title so painfully predictable I cringe when I read the name of the book. But at the same time it’s almost perfect. What else could you call it? However, I think Thompson or his editor could have come up with something a bit more creative. Thompson is an incredibly prolific pop-culture writer and not really a ‘Metal’ fan in the truest sense of the term, but it has been argued that Alice Cooper is not a Metal artist either, again, in the purest sense of the term. He however an entertaining and engaging writer and his prose made this long book fly by. My paperback version runs over 300 pages with over 50 photos on three sections of colour plates. It comes with the standard features, introduction, index and a comprehensive discography.
Thompson lays out the book in a linear fashion making sure to keep distinct Alice Cooper (the band) Alice Cooper (the character) and Vincent Furnier (the man). It’s an important distinction to make when discussing the various eras, and Thompson does it well. The research on the Alice Cooper (band) era is phenomenal worth many new stories I had never read or heard.
One superb highlight for me was the enormous amount of detail spent on the ‘lost years’; those seven, under-rated and (mostly) unheralded albums of the late 70’s and early 80’s, ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL, LACE AND WHISKEY, FROM THE INSIDE, FLUSH THE FASHION, SPECIAL FORCES, ZIPPER CATCHES SKIN, and DADA. Tales from this period in time are always really short on detail and even Alice admits many years of his life are just ‘gone’ from his memory as he battled his addictions; never drugs, just booze. Thompson’s research and fondness for those quirky albums shines through and in fact I went back and listened to many of those albums while reading this books, instead of putting on the hits. There is lots of detail on the comeback era with what I call the ‘Triple K’ connection of Ken Mary, Kane Roberts and Kip Winger. Shortly after the stories of commercial albums of the late 80’s and early 90’s the books stumbles.
The author falls prey to one of the most common traps and problems in modern rock writing, namely neglecting recent material. Thompson spends 200 pages or so detailing 1970-1990 and a mere 37 pages covering 1990-2010! Some albums only warrant a few sentences and the detail is extremely thin, it’s as if that entire era didn’t exist for Alice, musically speaking. The entire write-record-tour cycle of DIRTY DIAMONDS gets two measly sentences! Unacceptable. Thompson back in 2008 wrote a book called I HATE NEW MUSIC, which might account for his lack of enthusiasm for the last two-decades of Alice Cooper history! Either way, it was unfortunate that he decided to leave out so much material, there is at least a whole book worth of material to write covering the fourth era of Alice Cooper.
After reading WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE I got a sense of how astute Alice Cooper (the man) was and how distinct Alice Cooper (the band) was as a musical entity, not just the backing band for the iconic front-man. It also demonstrates how by virtue of his quirky charm, sense of humour, and intelligence, Vincent Furnier, easily bridges the eras with his sense of vaudeville and camp, making him an American institution. From hanging out with Elvis and the Beatles to golfing with politicians and celebrities around the world, Vincent keeps himself contemporary and relevant in pop-culture via restaurants, radio, youth clubs, commercials, TV shows, acting and writing books and most importantly recording albums and tours. He really is an All-American ‘bad-guy’ character that you love to hate and Thompson captures that essence perfectly. I will now end this book review with a predictable and clichéd final note suggesting that this book is mandatory reading for all fans. Back in February of 2010 I reviewed Alice’s second autobiography, GOLF MONSTER and I concluded that book review by stating that the ultimate book about Alice has yet to be written. It just has and it called WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE.