Michael Bruce with Billy James: No More Mr Nice Guy

Gonzo 2007-2017

Michael Bruce with Billy James: No More Mr Nice Guy

No More Mr Nice Guy

No sickness, no obscenity, no billion dollars: battle axeman’s memoir cuts to the chase and tells it like it was.

The fall of 2017 saw the surviving members of ALICE COOPER reunite for a short concert track, and it was a perfect opportunity for the group’s guitarist Michael Bruce to update and reissue his autobiography. Yes, the singer’s stage persona came out of the ensemble that had passed their name onto the frontman to eventually produce a chasm which would leave the band in the shadows and him in the spotlight, an unjust contrast that Bruce’s book tries to balance out. Many will find Michael’s account weird because it avoids the cheap-thrills sensationalism usually associated with both the collective and the vocalist and, instead, focuses on their inner life, but that’s the whole point of this slim tome: to remember the past events in a no-frills fashion.

Fashion of their own was a vital part of AC’s existence, and the quintet made a conscious effort to come up with original ideas – visual, aural, lyrical – and entertain audience and themselves. That’s how the legends about the band were born. Michael addresses every rumor the ensemble amassed over the years, yet mythbusting isn’t major part of his book – simply because most of the stories prove to be true, even though the circumstances of those events didn’t seem so scandalous. In fact, scandals didn’t play too important a role in the group’s routine at all – possibly, because the players tried to concentrate on its creative aspect, leaving personal issues and agendas on the roadside.

Basically, the only thing the musicians had in common was a background in the arts, and the collective image – as well as albums sleeves, songs arrangements and, of course, the stage show – that stood out of rock crowd and pulled the public was a result of great attention to detail. Their public stood out, too, as the quintet became “the type of band that attracted a lot of lost souls” which could hardly be surprising given the subject matter of “Dead Babies” or other pieces whose genesis Michael’s digging into here. In his words, “It was a lot of hard work but it was always fun,” and there are funny moments on these pages that didn’t seem to make it to the group’s lore, what with Bruce switching his pedal with Frank Zappa’s and then with Eric Clapton’s, and tragic elements such as the unraveling of Glen Buxton, the sole casualty of the line-up’s ascension to fame, if not glory.

A few other artists land here, too, but luminaries like Jim Morrison, “a real asshole” Harry Nilsson or Elton John are little more than bystanders in Michael’s story, unlike Bob Ezrin: depicted by him with due respect, despite their many clashes, the producer appeared to be the villain of this volume, getting in the way of some musical decisions and contributing to the group’s drift from rock ‘n’ roll theater to something more Broadway-esque and to the eventual rift between Alice and the ensemble. Bruce provides a sound reasoning for creating a monster, as he puts it, by allowing Vincent Furnier morph into Alice, the name Michael’s using when he refers to the vocalist, albeit he never really admits it was a mistake rather than a natural course of the shock-rock combo’s development.

The guitarist takes his reader from the group’s early days, with just a bit of pre-AC background, through the band’s halcyon period and beyond, to the "Battle Axe" extravaganza and the ensemble members solo meandering, such as Michael’s "In My Own Way" and the reformation of BILLION DOLLAR BABIES with the book’s co-writer Billy James, although not to this moment of their life when their footnote status got reversed, and the listener’s interest in these veterans’ achievements, not apocryphal shenanigans, increased enough to take them where they belong. This tome couldn’t be more timely, then, to help the artists get their due and dancing from the attic into full view. Rough yet essential read.

***3/4

July 2, 2018

Category(s): Books
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