February 1973: Alice Cooper Releases "Billion Dollar Babies"
In 1972, Alice Cooper became legend with the release of the band's fifth album, School's Out, and the teen anthem title track. One year later, the album Billion Dollar Babies would make the group's lead singer a superstar.
Alice Cooper would officially go from being the name of the band to the name of the solo artist a couple of albums down the road with the release of Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975. With the breakout success of Billion Dollar Babies, however, is when the persona of Alice Cooper as embodied by singer Vincent Furnier would truly invade US public consciousness.
The Billion Dollar Babies campaign got off to a rousing start with the release of single "Elected" in the fall of 1972. Helped by the ongoing success of "School's Out" and it being an election year in America, the song would leap up the charts to peak at #26 on the Hot 100 over the week of November 11, 1972--just days after Richard Nixon would win the US presidential election in a landslide. The song would come with a promotional music video that's considered among the first of the art form.
The band would follow it with Billion Dollar Babies' opening track, "Hello Hooray," a cover of the song made famous by Judy Collins in the late '60s. The bombastic and theatrical track set the stage for what was in store throughout the rest of the album. It would peak at #35 on the Hot 100 in March 1973.
On February 25, 1973, Alice Cooper released Billion Dollar Babies to the world. Fans flocked to record stores to grab a copy of the vinyl release, which came with an assortment of goodies including a billion-dollar bill poster. On April 20, 1973, it was the #1 album in America. The reign would be short-lived: the following week, it would be replaced by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
"Billion Dollar Babies was a joke about us," the singer told Houston Chronicle in 2008. "How could we, this band that two years ago was living in the Chambers Brothers' basement in Watts, be the No. 1 band in world, with people throwing money at us? Billion Dollar Babies was about ... realizing we didn't belong there, but knowing it was great to be there."
As the album was topping the charts, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was released as the next single. The reactionary track to his exploding success was another hit, peaking at #25 over the first week of June 1973.
There would be one more single: the album's title track, which featured eclectic '60s pop singer Donovan sharing lead vocals in a distinctive falsetto.
"I did the falsetto, Alice loved it, and then I forgot about it, and never even thought about it, until someone told me later, it went to #1," Donovan told Songfacts. "And I was half the vocal! So Alice and I, when we meet, we have a chuckle and a laugh about it. It was a great pleasure. And the best thing about it was nobody knew it was me for so long!"
Billion Dollar Babies would close on one of Alice Cooper's most notorious tunes: "I Love the Dead." Dealing with the subject of necrophilia in sarcastic and comedic terms, it was still controversial enough to generate more protests from church groups and religious organizations outside of Alice Cooper concerts. The song has long been a fan favorite and concert highlight, featuring Cooper beheaded onstage by way of guillotine.
Alice Cooper's legacy and influence continues to loom over rock and roll, inspiring some of the the biggest and best artists to follow in their wake.
"When I was in junior high, every Friday the teachers would let the kids play their favorite records. I brought in Billion Dollar Babies [Alice Cooper, 1973] and they wouldn't let me play it," the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden famously told SPIN in 1989. "They never vetoed anyone's choice before. It was then I knew that rock 'n' roll could scare the f*ck out of certain people."
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