Book review: SNAKES! GUILLOTINES! ELECTRIC CHAIRS! Dennis Dunaway & Chris Hodenfield

St Martin’s Press [Published 14.08.18]

Although this book, co-authored with Rolling Stone writer Chris Hodenfield, was first published in 2015, it now gets a paperback version and if you missed out on it first time around make sure you get this one. Why? Well Dennis Dunaway was the bassist in the original line-up of the Alice Cooper Band and he has a rock n roll tale to tell, which he does so with style and humour.

Dennis Dunaway says he has a great memory and you can tell as he recalls in detail legendary incidents such as how the name Alice Cooper came about and the infamous chicken incident. The book is rich in anecdote with great tales of meeting the Yardbirds, Jim Morrison and the Doors, plus plenty of insight into how the young Dunaway and Vincent Furnier (who would change his name to Alice Cooper) met and the group formed. We find out how the various theatrical ideas came about such as the guillotine and snakes, which are still part of Alice Cooper’s stage show to this day.

They had a wild rock ‘n’ roll time, often living hand to mouth as they created classic albums such as ‘Killer’, ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Billion Dollar Babies’. Dunaway doesn’t spare the detail as he recalls how drugs and drunk affected them all, none more so than guitarist Glen Buxton who died in 1997. Dunaway devotes a chapter to Buxton and one of the book’s poignant moments is when he sees Buxton shortly before his death and he was seemingly in a good place, with plans to get married and a stable home life.

The parting of the ways came when the band found out that they were no longer the Alice Cooper band, as Alice Cooper was now solely about Alice and his then new album ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’. Dunaway explains in detail how this evolved during the course of the book, as the group of the five who started out together facing everything that came their way together, unravelled over time with Alice becoming more & more the centre of attention. However, since then the surviving band members – Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith and guitarist Michael Bruce - have worked again with Alice in recent times. The most recent being on Alice’s latest album ‘Paranormal’ which contained a bonus disc of the four of them rattling through live classics from the time they were together.

Would have been interesting to read more about Dunaway’s work from the 1980′s onwards including the underrated Deadringer album and his ongoing musical adventures with Neal Smith and former Blue Oyster Cult members Joe and Albert Bouchard in Blue Coupe. Still the book is about Alice Cooper and that is where the main interest lies for most readers.

Review by Jason Ritchie


In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)

Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)

THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)

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