June 1972: Alice Cooper Releases the SCHOOL'S OUT Album
By the end of June 1972, Alice Cooper's breakout anthem "School's Out" was already a hit, charging up the charts and radio playlists en route to a peak of #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of July '72.
“We thought it had a good chance, but there was no way to predict what was going to happen,” marveled original Alice Cooper drummer, Neal Smith, to his hometown Akron Beacon Journal newspaper earlier this year.
“I always knew if there was going to be a big hit song, Glen Buxton would be a huge part of it,” Smith added. “My Akron brother! Glen was the one that came up with the opening riff on ‘School’s Out.’ Everybody knows what song it is when they hear that intro...Glen and I are from Akron, and Alice is from Detroit.That’s the Rust Belt of the United States, and I’m proud of it.”
With the title track already a success, Alice Cooper was ready to craft a hit after three under-performing full-length LPs and a fourth--Killer--that almost crashed the U.S. top 20, peaking at #21 on the Billboard 200. They got their wish, with the conceptual School's Out roaring up the charts, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 for the week of July 29, 1972. The album that blocked Alice Cooper from #1: Elton John's Honky Château, which was in the middle of a 5-week run at #1.
“School’s Out was an artistic rock landslide success,” Cooper said in Ian Cranston’s Experiencing Alice Cooper: A Listener’s Companion. “We were bigger than ever. I strolled onstage wearing a top hat and cane, and kids started wearing top hats and make-up on the back streets of London. People actually wanted to look like Alice Cooper.”
The album's packaging also caused quite a stir, with original pressings of the vinyl version arriving with the record slipped inside a pair of woman's panties. The panty-wearing LP was tucked into an album cover designed to look a well-worn high school desk, complete with fold-out legs. The panties were pulled from subsequent releases (and even found U.S. Customs seizing a 500,000 pairs of the paper panties when it was discovered that they were in violation of the Flammable Fabric Act (true story!).
"Our band was not as much influenced by the blues as we were by West Side Story and Guys and Dolls, James Bond and horror movies. We didn't mind that seeping into our music," Cooper told MusicRadar in 2013 about the album's highly theatrical sound and parallels to West Side Story. "I didn't mind doing the Jets song. Again, it's what we were. You know, in a lot of kids' cases, we were the closest thing they'd ever get to seeing a play or something on Broadway. I thought putting West Side Story in would inspire people – you know, 'What is this thing they're doing?' In the era we were in, that was a really big deal, and we thought it was cool."