Alice Cooper – Zipper Catches Skin

The early 80s were kind of a rough time for Alice Cooper. Even though flashy hair metal had become a popular sound, so had new wave music. The former would have been the path of least resistance for the theatrical shock rocker, but Cooper chose the more drastic transition. “Zipper Catches Skin” was the third album of four in Alice Cooper’s new wave era. Unfortunately, long time fans weren’t buying into his new sound and image and he didn’t gain many new ones from the new wave crowd. Consequently, Alice Cooper’s popularity took a big hit during the early and mid ’80s.

Alice Cooper was also battling a very personal issue during the early 1980s – addiction. Cooper had spent time in a sanitarium in the mid ’70s for treatment of alcoholism. The experience became the inspiration for his 1978 album, “From the Inside“. Tragically, he fell off the wagon a few years after recording that album. In the new decade, his addiction took over with a vengeance as he dove into heavy cocaine use combined with alcohol. He went into treatment a second time after the disease nearly killed him. Today, the long-time sober Alice refers to “Zipper Catches Skin” and his other records from the early ’80s as his “blackout” albums because he has little to no memory of writing or recording them.

Like many, I totally wrote off Alice Cooper’s new wave era; at least at first. I actually didn’t realize how good his music was from this era until I happened to hear a couple of songs from it a decade or so later. Today, these albums are some of my favorites by Alice, partly because they are so different from anything he did before or since, yet they are still, unquestionably Alice.

“Zipper Catches Skin” is the sound of Alice Cooper trying to find a creative outlet in a rapidly changing musical landscape. It may have been a commercial misstep, but it was also an adventurous musical expression of a true artist. I just wish he could remember doing it.

Kiss – Destroyer

“You gotta lose your mind in Detroit, Rock City”

“Destroyer” is hands down my favorite studio album by Kiss. Then again, growing up in metro Detroit, I guess my opinion is a bit biased.

One of the things I really dig “Destroyer” is the album version of “Detroit Rock City”. It includes an intro and ending which you almost never hear when the song is played on the radio. Together, they makes the song travel full circle in a kind of time warped story.

The intro starts out with the sounds of someone muddling about, getting ready to head out the door; a radio station can be heard in the background. It’s playing a news story about a fatal car and truck accident that happened on Grand Boulevard. Hopping into the car, revving the engine, and diving off, “Rock and Roll All Night” from Kiss’ earlier album is playing on the car’s stereo. You can faintly hear the driver singing along. He feels so alive. Then the actual song “Detroit Rock City” kicks in. The song tells the story of a rock star speeding off on the road to do a show. He never makes it, dying after losing control and driving head on into an oncoming truck. On the album, the song ends with the sound crashing metal and glass and it becomes obvious that earlier, this guy had been listening to a news story about the crash he was going to die in a few minutes later. All that is lost if you don’t listen to the album version of “Detroit Rock City”.

The rest of “Destroyer” typical Kiss: Hard rock and metal. Two exceptions are “Great Expectations” which includes some orchestration and choral arrangements and the power ballad “Beth”, the only Kiss song to feature strings and no guitars whatsoever; it sounds unlike anything Kiss did before or after. Ironically, that song became Kiss’ highest charting song ever and one of their best-selling singles.

Alice Cooper – Trash

I will forever relate Alice Cooper’s phenomenal 18th album with my time at WKQZ, “Thee Rock and Roll Tradition” in Midland, Saginaw, Bay City, Michigan. Being on-air talent at a radio station like this was a dream come true for me. It being at a time that Alice Cooper had one of the hugest comeback albums of all time, was just icing on the cake.

I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been working in radio even a year when I started at WKQZ. I mean, this was a legendary rock radio station in mid-Michigan, and here I was, barely into the game, spinning Alice Cooper’s comeback single, “Poison”. How cool was that? Granted, it was a weekend overnight slot, the least listened to, but it was on a legendary station in my home state. So who cares? I sure didn’t. If I didn’t make it beyond this point in my on-air career, I didn’t care. This is was what I wanted to be apart of; and here I was.

“Trash” is one of the greatest comeback albums ever. It’s one of the best metal albums ever recorded. It is one of the best records ever made by Alice Cooper, a true legend in rock history. It is also one of the best memories I have from my years in radio.

I will always love this album.

Uriah Heep – Demons And Wizards

I might not have ever heard Uriah Heep’s fourth album “Demons and Wizards” had I not had a brain fart and my sister not gotten it all wrong.

If there is one thing that has remained true about me through the decades, it is if you want to give me a gift, you can’t go wrong with music. One year when we were in high school, my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I’m sure she was not at all surprised when I rattled off a list of albums that were on my radar. “Sweet Freedom“, by Uriah Heep was an album I wanted mainly because it had the song “Stealin'” on it (to this day that is my favorite song by the Heep). Well, I had a brain fart at that moment and although I could picture the album cover in my head, I couldn’t remember the name of the album. So I just told my sister “it’s the album with my favorite Uriah Heep song, “Stealin'”

So Christmas rolls around and we’re exchanging presents. As I’m looking at the present my sister hands me, I can tell by its size that it’s obviously an album. As I tear off the wrapping paper, I see hidden inside, an album by Uriah Heep: “Demons and Wizards”. I must have had a dumbfounded look on my face as I was looking at it, because my sister suddenly explained to me “It’s got your favorite song by them on it: “Easy Livin’.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she got the wrong album and the wrong song; at least not right away.


Up until that Christmas, “Easy Livin'” was the only song I knew off of “Demons and Wizards”. It was probably my second favorite Heep song. That changed the moment I heard the album open up with “The Wizard”, an amazing song of hope that asks us all to put our differences aside.

Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts?
’cause then I know we’d find that we’re not so far apart

The rest of the songs that follow are Uriah Heep at the top of their game. Yeah, “Stealin'” may still be my favorite Uriah Heep song but hands down, “Demons and Wizards” is my favorite Uriah Heep album.

A few days after Christmas that year, I told my sister that she totally bought me the wrong album…and I thanked her for getting it all wrong.

Greta Van Fleet – Anthem Of The Peaceful Army

One of the things I really liked about Greta Van Fleet when I heard their first EP was that they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I didn’t like about them is they sounded almost too much like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I really like about Greta Van Fleets first full length LP is that it doesn’t sound quite so much like Led Zeppelin.

Does “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” remind me of a good Zeppelin album? Absolutely…at times. But it also has so many other influences, from so many classic rock bands I’m not even going to try to list them all. There is no doubt in my mind that had this album been released back in the ’70s. It would have been at the top of the AOR charts. Coming out in the 2010s, it’s like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the stench of the music factory’s pollution.

On “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” Greta Van Fleet prove they are not a wannabe band by any stretch. I’m sure with how young they are, they grew up listening to their parents rock records – and they loved them. It’s still music they love listening to, so when they pick up their instruments, it’s the music they love to play. When they pick up a pen it’s in the songs they love to write.

As I listen to Greta Van Fleet’s “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” now, I’m listing to music influenced by bands that I love from the past, but I’m also listening to new music that I know I will still love in the future.

Uriah Heep – Live January 1973

I never understood why Uriah Heep didn’t earn a reputation more on par with Deep Purple. The two bands had so much in common. The Heep rocked just as hard as Deep Purple. Their songs were just as solid, as was their musicianship. Both bands had amazing lead vocalists, especially early on – when David Byron and Ian Gillan had probably the two most amazing voices in rock and roll. And then there’s the Hammond B3 organ, which both bands used extensively to augment their sound.

One of the area where my ear felt Uriah Heep had a slight edge over Deep Purple was with their use of the synthesizer. In the song “Gypsy”, one of the two songs that grace side three of this double album, Ken Hensley plays an absolutely amazing Moog Synth solo. That’s followed by a powerhouse drum solo from Lee Kerslake. That song, along with the live version of “Easy Livin'” are reason enough to make Uriah Heep’s “Live January 1973” worth owning. When you tally in the other songs on it, this is easily one of the best live albums ever recorded.

Uriah Heep’s “Live January 1973” is a live album requirement for any rock record collection. Come to think of it, so is Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan”. So there’s another thing the two bands have in common.

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remais The Same (soundtrack)

In the short time between when I first saw the film “The Song Remains the Same” and bought the double album soundtrack, I didn’t remember the music from the movie well enough to realize all of the differences between the two. Then again, when I first saw the movie, I was probably in a great state of mind for listening to music; not so good for remembering all of it.

I’m not going to go into all the specifics between the music in the film and on the album – you can Google that easily enough – but in a nutshell, there are songs in the movie that didn’t make it to the record and one that’s the other way around. Also some of the same songs on both are not from the same performances. Sure, both the film and soundtrack were recorded in 1976, during three nights of sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York, but Zeppelin liked to make each of their concerts a unique experience for the audience. They always played their songs differently from one night to the next. When I listen to “The Song Remains the Same” today, I cant help but remember all the differences between the songs here and the music in the film. It’s so significant, I don’t know if I even consider this to be the soundtrack to the film; just a great live album.

Frank Marino – Juggernaut

First there was the band Mahogany Rush. Then there was Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush. Finally it was just Frank Marino.

I suppose the writing is on the wall when your lead guitarist and vocalist start tagging their name in front of the band’s.

Frank Marino is a Canadian rock legend who, much in the style of Hendrix, played a combination of hard rocking blues and jazz guitar. “Juggernaut”, the second solo album by Marino, had a slightly more ’80s feel than his earlier work in the ’70s but still found him staying true to form; doing what he does best. Really, the music didn’t change that much from Mahogany Rush to Frank Marino’s solo material. It’s still some of the best guitar playing you’ll hear on any record.

Rainbow – Down To Earth

“Down to Earth” was Rainbow’s attempt at a more commercially accessible sound. On this, their fourth record, the band moved noticeably away from heavy metal to a more mainstream hard rock sound, though the album does still keep a bit of a metal edge. The change earned rainbow their first hit single, “Since You Been Gone”.

Rainbow is a band that went through a lot of personnel changes, often exchanging members with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Through its history, the only consistent member of Rainbow is guitarist Ritchie Blackmore who formed Rainbow after departing Deep Purple.

On “Down to Earth”, the only member of Rainbow who is not a past or future member of Sabbath or Deep Purple is vocalist Graham Bonnet. This was the only Rainbow album to feature Bonnet, who replaced Ronnie James Dio, who left Rainbow to join Black Sabbath. Bonnet was replaced by Joe Lynn Turner, who would later join Deep Purple.

Was (Not Was) – Born To Laugh At Tornadoes

What would you say if I told you that in the ’80s, metal legend Ozzy Osbourne did the rap vocals to a synth-pop dance song?

Well, if you demanded proof, I’d just throw “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” on the turntable. Then I’d have you listen to “Shake Your Head (Let’s Go To Bed)”.

Strange bedfellows for sure, but it works.

Was (Not Was) never really had an official singer on their first two albums, so their second album, “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes”, like their debut, is loaded with guest vocalists. Others who appear on this album include Detroit natives Doug Fieger (The Knack) and Mitch Ryder as well as Marshall Crenshaw and jazz legend Mel Tormé.

Even though “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” received high accolades from Rolling Stone magazine, it failed to sell well outside of the Detroit area. Their follow-up album, “What’s Up Dog” would end up being their national breakthrough with the help of “Walk the Dinosaur” and a few other hit singles. By that time, founding members David Was (David Jay Weiss) and Don Was (Don Fagenson) had added a couple of official singers to the group’s lineup, so Ozzy was off the hook.