On March 9, 1971, Alice Cooper released their third studio album, an LP which provided them with not only their first placement within the top 40 of the Billboard 200 chart but also their first appearance in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Recorded at RCA Mid-American Recording Center in Chicago and co-produced by Jack Richardson and Bob Ezrin, Love It to Death was a major step forward for Alice Cooper in the studio...and at this point, we should probably offer a quick clarification to those readers who may be mildly mystified as to why we used the words “their” and “them” in the opening paragraph: yes, Alice Cooper is the stage name utilized by Vincent Furnier, but once upon a time, it was also utilized as the name of the band Vince fronted, which also consisted of lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith.
Got it? Good.
When Alice Cooper entered the studio with the aforementioned producers, they found one of them in particular - Bob Ezrin - actively trying to get them to tighten up their songs, which he found to be too loose for his liking. (His background was more in the realm of folk and classical music.) They grouched about it initially, but they eventually came around to see his point, with Cooper - and this time we’re just talking about the singer - later telling journalist Richard Course that Ezrin “ironed the songs out note by note, giving them coloring, personality.”
Probably the best example of this was with “I’m Eighteen,” which started out as an eight-minute jam called “I Wish I Was 18 Again” and eventually turned into three minutes of some of the best American rock to emerge during the 1970s.
It’s particularly fortuitous that Ezrin worked his magic on “I’m Eighteen,” as it was the song selected for release as a single by Warner Bros. to test the commercial waters and see if there was enough commercial interest to make a full album worthwhile.
Yes, that’s right: once upon a time, Alice Cooper had to fight to get Warner Bros. to release an album. That’s because the band was originally signed to Frank Zappa’s label, Straight Records, and though they moved when Straight was sold to Warners in 1970, that didn’t mean the suits were as enthused about Alice Cooper as Frank had been.
When “I’m Eighteen” went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, however, that sealed the deal. Now, granted, the members of Alice Cooper made hundreds of phone calls to radio stations, pretending to be fans and requesting the song, and there’ve also been rumors that Cooper paid other folks a buck each time they requested the song. Whatever the truth on that anecdote may be, the only thing that matters in retrospect is that listeners loved “I’m Eighteen,” the song became a hit, the band was able to make an album, and the album became a hit, too.
Alas, the second single from Love It to Death, “Caught in a Dream,” did not catch the attention of listeners nearly as well: it stalled at only #94 before beginning its descent. Still, the success of “I’m Eighteen” propelled the band’s momentum, which meant more people were paying attention when their next album, Killer, came out - and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history.