Date First Published: 24 April 2018 – Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: Billion Dollar Babies – First Ever Live Show Flint – 1977 (2017 Gonzo Multimedia)
By Gary “Uncle G” Brown
I might have given ‘…Flint – 1977’ a different title. Such as this: Billion Dollar Babies – Live Audience Bootleg Recording I Found On eBay. To those in the know, this might sound horrible. Good NEWS … it’s not all that bad. Let me explain.
All this starts off with a guy I got to know, compliments of the world wide web, who I nicknamed; Sir Anus. Obviously in my mind, a huge wanker. An Alice Cooper fanatic. I use to think the both of us started off on a wrong foot. On a few rare occasions, all was well between us. And this was one of those times. Sir Anus via electronic mail informed me that there were a Billion Dollar Babies listing on eBay that he thought I would be interested in. Not excited enough to bid on it himself, obviously. But okay, I gave thanks and praise for the tip. Followed up by doing some communicating with the one who was doing the auctioning, on the world’s largest Internet auction website.
The item up for sale appeared to be too good to even be true. What the hell I told myself. I bid and won. A live recording of a rock group that contained three original members of Alice Cooper; Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith. Along with Bob Dolan and Mike Marconi, they were the: Billion Dollar Babies. And the piece up for auction, a holy grail type item. Once it arrived and was in my hands, I gave a listen, while making notes. The start of the cleanup process. Took my time. Labor of love. Because Alice Cooper (original group) was one of my all-time favorite bands. I wanted it to be just right. The good Catholic schoolboy that I was, got turned onto Alice Cooper (original group) while still a youngin’ in grade school. School’s Out! Back in the 1970’s, this rock band was a typical parents nightmare. Songs about having sex with the recently deceased, you say. Not that I wanted to do such a thing. Let alone having no interest, in my young mind I equated that as a sure as shit, one-way ticket, straight to HELL. Still, I embraced the weirdness along with the hard rock music, that flowed within.
Towards the end of the 20th century, on one fine sunny business day, while slowly enjoying a marijuana cigarette in a now-defunct computer shop called ‘JDI’ in Houston, Texas, Alice Cooper/Billion Dollar Babies band member Michael Bruce suggested to me nonchalantly that I start doing music trades. Not copyrighted music. What was commonly referred to as rare recordings; bootlegs.
I have known about the bootleg music market since the 1970’s. Back then I use to frequent a head shop/music store in Long Branch (West End), New Jersey, called; The Turntable. No longer in business. I have fond memories. When you walked in the door, the illegal albums were right up front. One day I purchased a Led Zeppelin colored vinyl boot, so bad, the audio sounded like it was recorded in a bathroom from the next door building the band was playing in. With a strict ‘no return policy’ on boots, this guy Andy, who worked there gave me my money back anyway. He warned me that would be the last time he did so. I ended up purchasing that day, a Yes bootleg double album that Andy already knew was an FM radio broadcast out of Boston. The group was touring; Relayer. What a treasure he hooked me up with. Welcome to the wonderful world of pirated music. A few stellar recordings, mixed in among the tons of rubbish. Poor quality sounding audio. Buyer beware was always the rule of thumb to go by.
Traders have to be careful as well. if people are not upfront about what they got, one can get taken advantage of. Knowing all this, I took Michael’s advice and started doing Alice Cooper trades. Usually with folks that could be found within the Alice Cooper Internet community. And as you can guess, no trading ever took place between myself and Sir Anus. Made friends with various other Alice Cooper followers, and amassed quite a collection. Anything that I guessed would interest Michael, I give him a copy. Which is what I did with the Billion Dollar Babies Live audience bootleg CD I acquired. After I got done doing my thing. Made it so I could enjoy playing it. Never really intended to be sold in stores worldwide. Got to admit, makes for a cool story.
Billion Dollar Babies – First Ever Live Show Flint – 1977 (my involvement)
Original source (eBay item) recorded onto a Philips CD RW (that I still have in storage). The music in between point A and point B ran through a 24 bar equalizer, and then recorded and finalized onto another Philips CD RW.
The live Billion Dollar Babies recording I got from eBay had contained flaws. Not that I was surprised. Two BDB songs that were incomplete; Dance with Me, and Wasn’t I The One. BOTH terrific songs! The perfectionist I am, I omitted. Was doing this for my own listening pleasure.
Michael also asked me about my making all the Alice Cooper songs just one track. On my original source, the songs were individually tracked. Wasn’t right in my mind. The all in one track, Alice Cooper Medley … was born. On the CD-R wrap, I listed all the songs and even mentioned Neal Smith’s drum solo. Why not? The actual music stopped, in which Neal proceeded to wow the audience with his superior drumming skills. So it made sense to me to give that a mention in the song title credits.
Alice Cooper Medley: No More Mister Nice Guy/Neal Smith Solo /Elected/Eighteen / School’s Out.
Note: There was one other Alice Cooper song; Billion Dollar Babies – encore (last track on the recording).
The best thing I believe I did was get the final tracks of Battle Axe together, and label it all the; The Battle Axe Suite.
Ego Mania (Bruce/Dolin/Dunaway/Marconi/Smith)
Battle Axe (Bruce/Dolin/Dunaway)
(Sudden Death) (Dolin)
Wish the record label thought the same. The label split it up into 3 tracks. Wish they would have left it alone. As far as prog-rock goes, the ‘Battle Axe Suite’ … OMG! Worth the price of admission all on its own. Tells a story. It’s keyboard heavy. So much so, that in concert, parts of it sound like a burning hot, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. Wished they filmed. Pictures are provided, as is an interview Jon Kirkman did (August 2001) with Michael Bruce, that was used for the limited 3 CD box set release of Billion Dollar Babies – Complete Battle Axe (2001). And Gonzo Multimedia used the original cover art for this reissue.
Music wise, I think the guys did a terrific job, considering the circumstances. All the songs were solid. A matter of taste as to which one a person likes best. Their previous singer and those they trusted, stabbed them in the back. What was planned to be the next Alice Cooper album, was now; Billion Dollar Babies – Battle Axe. The record company (Polydor) faced production problems to where the first batch of wax released (Battle Axe) was flawed. Bad enough so that sales were basically halted until new records were made and could be redistributed. Affected the first thirty-day sales numbers drastically. The major record companies care about those numbers, a whole lot. Resulted in lower than expected sales. This, in turn, killed all hopes of everything else. No huge North America tour. Only four concerts! And this recording, the very first show played, is one of them.
“Uncle G” RATES … Billion Dollar Babies – First Ever Live Show Flint – 1977
Using a five-star rating system, whereas one star means to not bother, to five stars which means it’s very much worth considering buying, “Uncle G” rates this newly reissued album … (insert a Neal Smith drum roll) … 4 SOLID Stars! It’s not perfect, and I know because … I helped create it. An audience bootleg from 1977, originally recorded on cassette tape. The audio I received over twenty years later could have been and probably was several generations down the line. Thankfully, someone had the sense to put it on CD-R, so as not to water down the lineage any more than it was.
The audio, even with the record label(s) punching it up some from what I did, still according to my ears, needs more improvement. If that is even possible? Dennis’ bass playing can’t be heard properly, at all. Damn shame because the man’s one of the best bass players going. The Alice Cooper studio albums clearly point that out.
Neal’s drums have a tin can sound to them, most of the time.
In defense… the concert did, after all, take place in a high school auditorium. A wonder, knowing all involved that THIS recording sounds ‘as good’ as it does. Not because of my association with. in my eyes ‘…Flint – 1977’ is a historical ‘live’ archival recording that every fan of the original Alice Cooper group (and that of just good rock music in general) should have. Not professionally recorded. Established that! A testament that the Billion Dollar Babies were without Alice, a solid band. The music itself has been just fine without him. I and countless of others would have loved a follow-up album after, Battle Axe. And a much BIGGER tour. Not having any of that, makes this particular release not too shabby. Disc 3 of the OoP Billion Dollar Babies – Complete Battle Axe (2001 NMC Music Ltd_Pilot77).
What next for me, you wonder? Billion Dollar Babies – Battle Axe Deluxe (Expanded Edition) … of course. Also distributed by Gonzo Multimedia. Out last month. It’s a given. Got to get it! And Michael’s book has also been re-published (3rd printing). Updated For 2018. Looking forward to getting in the mail here shortly (pre-ordered). Oh, and speaking of books, Dennis Dunaway has an autobiography out that has been doing good business the last couple years. A nice tribute to Glen Buxton. The write up I did on that can be found on my archival website.
Date of Concert: 06 July 1977 (Flint, Michigan, U.S.A.)
Promotion/Press Inquiries: Glass Onyon PR