Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway and Chris Hodenfield (2015)
Before Alice Cooper the man came Alice Cooper the group. Formed by high school buddies in Arizona, Alice Cooper originally referred to five men playing together as a unit: Vince Furnier, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith. Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! tells the story of the Alice Cooper group from bass player Dunaway’s perspective, from the hardships of finding fame to the rush of being superstars, to the devastation of breaking up. It was not until the band’s third album, Love It to Death, and the successful single “I’m Eighteen,” that Alice Cooper finally realized the dream. Dunaway writes of hearing the song on the radio, “(W)e always knew we were famous. We were just glad to know the world had caught on to our way of thinking.”
While Dunaway does discuss the immoral excesses that often plague the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, he also examines the bond of friendship that the five members of Alice Cooper shared during the early years. He shows how drugs and alcohol contributed to the downfall of the group by inflating egos and hindering performances. While Dunaway does not seem bitter anymore about the breakup that occurred in the mid-1970s, it is clear there were hard feelings at the time.
Dunaway treats Buxton, who passed away in 1997, with an enormous amount of respect, though it appears that the guitarist’s demons may have forced him out of the band even if they had not all gone their separate ways. There is sadness in the face that Buxton was not around to participate in various recent reunions, including the group’s 2011 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact that the remaining four members were able to come back together, though, shows how strong the bonds of friendship were.
Most people are familiar with Alice Cooper’s biggest hits, from “School’s Out” to “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” but to get a behind-the-scenes look at the group during the time those songs were written and recorded, there is no better source than Dunaway’s Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! This book is highly recommended for fans of one of the greatest theatrical rock acts of all-time.