This Alice Cooper article was written by Al Hall, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Nick Roseblade
“Pretties For You”, the first album by Alice Cooper is one of those LPs that time has forgotten. Released in June 1969, at the time when “Alice Cooper” referred to the band and not lead singer Vincent Furnier, the album proved a commercial and critical flop, but for anyone interested in Alice Cooper or rock history generally, it is a must hear. Musically, the album bridges the gap between the end of the hippy movement and the beginning of the era of the hard-rock giants, and for those familiar with Cooper’s more recent work, you are in for a shock.
The album contains a strong element of psychedelia which stands in stark contrast with Alice Cooper’s later hits. This is particularly noticeable on songs such as ““Ten Minutes Before the Worm”, “No Longer Umpire”, and “Levity Ball”. The latter two in particular have undertones of Syd-Barrett-era Pink Floyd influences, perhaps picked up when Alice Cooper hung out with Pink Floyd when the latter were over on their U.S tour. These songs often feature long instrumental sections which assault the senses through discordant arrangements, greatly varied dynamics and the use of unusual and jarring rhythms.
Vocally too these songs are a far-cry from the archetypal Cooper snarl that fans have become accustomed to. Indeed on songs such as the aforementioned “Levity Ball” Cooper’s voice has more in common with the more psychedelic Beatles albums than his own subsequent hits such as Poison” or “School’s Out”. The contrast is such that there are many moments on the album where you almost have to pinch yourself to remember that this is the same guy now known for a live set involving a guillotine, a live boa constrictor and a 12-foot Frankenstein puppet.
This said, there are a number of songs on the album that do show the seeds of what was to become the staple Alice Cooper sound. Tracks such as “Living” and “Fields Of Regret” are less experimental and, as a result, more conventionally catchy than some of the material mentioned above. These songs are more hard hitting and lean more heavily on the rock rather than the psychedelic side of things. Another such track is “Reflected”. This is the only song from the album to have had any degree of longevity, as it was latterly re-written as the smash hit Elected” and released on the 1973 album “Billion Dollar Babies”. The rest of the album was never played live again following the release of the band’s 1971 breakthrough “Love It To Death”.
Within the channels of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll, it is perhaps understandable why “Pretties For You” never made too much of an impact on the charts. The album is deeply weird and disjointed, and lacks the cohesion necessary for commercial success. Time, however, has been unkind. The album has some great moments, and given that we now know the direction Cooper took later on, “Pretties For You” also stands as an interesting musical artefact showing what could have been, and it certainly does not deserve to be completely forgotten.