Love It to Death

Love It to Death
Black-and-white album cover. A group of five men in makeup pose together. The figure in the middle wears a cape and sticks his thumb out from behind it near his crotch.
Original, uncensored album cover
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 9, 1971
RecordedNovember–December 1970
StudioRCA Mid-American Recording Center, Chicago, Illinois
Genre
Length36:58
Label
Producer
Alice Cooper chronology
Easy Action
(1970)
Love It to Death
(1971)
Killer
(1971)
Singles from Love It to Death
  1. "I'm Eighteen" / "Is It My Body"
    Released: November 1970
  2. "Caught in a Dream" / "Hallowed Be My Name"
    Released: April 1971

Love It to Death is the third studio album by American rock group Alice Cooper, released in March 1971. It was the band's first commercially successful album and the first album that consolidated the band's aggressive hard-rocking sound. The album's best-known track, "I'm Eighteen", was released as a single to test the band's commercial viability before the album was recorded.

Formed in the mid-1960s, the band took the name Alice Cooper in 1968 and became known for its outrageous theatrical live shows. The loose, psychedelic freak rock of the first two albums failed to find an audience. The band moved to Detroit in 1970 where they were influenced by the aggressive hard rock scene. A young Bob Ezrin was enlisted as producer; he encouraged the band to tighten its songwriting over two months of rehearsing ten to twelve hours a day. The single "I'm Eighteen" achieved top-forty success soon after, peaking at No. 21. This convinced Warner Bros. that Alice Cooper had the commercial potential to release an album. After its release in March 1971, Love It to Death reached No. 35 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and has since been certified platinum. The album's second single, "Caught in a Dream", charted at No. 94.

The original album cover featured the singer Cooper posed with his thumb protruding so it appeared to be his penis; Warner Bros. soon replaced it with a censored version. The Love It to Death tour featured an elaborate shock rock live show: during "Ballad of Dwight Fry"—about an inmate in an insane asylum—Cooper would be dragged offstage and return in a straitjacket, and the show climaxed with Cooper's mock execution in a prop electric chair during "Black Juju". Ezrin and the Coopers continued to work together for a string of hit albums until the band's breakup in 1974. The album has come to be seen as a foundational influence on hard rock, punk, and heavy metal; several tracks have become live Alice Cooper standards and are frequently covered by other bands.

Background

Detroit-born vocalist Vincent Furnier co-formed the Earwigs in the mid-1960s in Phoenix, Arizona. The band released a few singles and went through a few name changes before settling on a lineup with guitarist Glen Buxton, guitarist and keyboardist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith.[4] In 1968 the band adopted the name Alice Cooper—a name Furnier later adopted as his own—and presented a story that it came from a 17th-century witch whose name they learned from a session with a ouija board.[5]

At some point Buxton painted circles under his eyes with cigarette ashes, and soon the rest followed with ghoulish black makeup and outlandish clothes.[5] The band moved to Los Angeles[5] and became known for its provocative, theatrical shock rock stage show.[6] In an incident during a performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in 1969, Cooper threw a live chicken into the audience, who tore it to shreds.[7]

Black-and-white photo of five long-haired men
Frank Zappa (in back) signed Alice Cooper and released the band's first two albums.

The group's first two albums, Pretties for You (1969) and Easy Action (1970), appeared on Frank Zappa's Straight Records label, and failed to find an audience. The band relocated to Detroit and found itself in the midst of a music scene populated with the hard-driving rock of the MC5, the stage-diving Iggy Pop with the Stooges, and the theatricality of George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic. The Alice Cooper band incorporated these influences into a tight hard-rock sound coupled with an outrageous live show.[1]

While at the Strawberry Fields Festival in Canada in April 1970, band manager Shep Gordon contacted producer Jack Richardson, who had produced hit singles for the Guess Who. Richardson was uninterested in producing the Alice Cooper band himself, and sent the young Bob Ezrin in his place. Cooper recalled the junior producer as "a nineteen-year-old Jewish hippie" who reacted to meeting the outlandish band "as if he had just opened a surprise package and found a box full of maggots".[8]

Ezrin initially turned down working with the band, but changed his mind when he saw them perform at Max's Kansas City in New York City the following October. Ezrin was impressed with the band's audience-participation rock-theater performance and the cult-like devotion of the band's fans, who dressed up and knew the lyrics and actions to the music, which Ezrin compared to the later cult following of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.[8] Ezrin returned to Toronto to convince Richardson to take on the band; Richardson did not want to work directly with such a group but agreed on condition that Ezrin took the lead.[9]

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