How Alice Cooper Embraced Notoriety on ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’
After years of being told how awful they were, Alice Cooper decided to prove their critics right on "No More Mr. Nice Guy."
They had been hard at work striking fear in the hearts of fans with their gallows humor, androgynous aesthetic and grisly, theatrical stage shows featuring mock executions by way of hanging and electric chair. Alice Cooper parlayed their notoriety into album sales, earning a series of gold records and reaching the Top 10 with 1972's School's Out and its anthemic title track.
The band's dizzying upward trajectory climaxed with 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, a ghoulish glam-rock extravaganza with tongue-in-cheek takes on politics ("Elected"), sexual harassment ("Raped and Freezin'") and necrophilia ("I Love the Dead"). It became Alice Cooper's first and only No. 1 album and solidified their superstar status, which the group had already poked fun at with the album title.
"How could we, this band that two years ago was living in the Chambers Brothers' basement in Watts, be the No. 1 band in the world, with people throwing money at us?" titular frontman Alice Cooper asked the Houston Chronicle in 2010. "Billion Dollar Babies was about ... realizing we didn't belong there, but knowing it was great to be there."
Listen to Alice Cooper's 'No More Mr. Nice Guy'
Yet as Alice Cooper's stature grew, so did their number of detractors. So on "No More Mr. Nice Guy," Cooper decided to embrace his public-enemy persona, boasting, "I got no friends 'cause they read the papers, they can't be seen with me," and later admitting to getting punched in the face by Reverend Smith when he went to church incognito.
"That was autobiographical," Cooper told UCR in 2018. "Everybody at that point didn't know whether to hate us or love us. But I was definitely, with the general public, the worst person ever. I was the Antichrist, I was everything – and I said, 'OK, that does it. Gloves are off — no more Mr. Nice Guy. Now we're gonna get rough.'"
Guitarist Michael Bruce had composed the music to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" several years earlier and was simply waiting for the right opportunity to use it.
"'No More Mr. Nice Guy' was a tune I had written and had been around since Killer, but it was just not a song that would fit on any of those albums," he said in 2022's Easy Action: The Original Alice Cooper Band. "But when Billion Dollar Babies came around, it was its time, and that song — and 'Billion Dollar Babies,' really — set the mood for the album, and then we built it from there. I think it was more of a public album, like we were celebrating our success. It's worldly and in-your-face at the same time."
Watch Alice Cooper Play 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' Live in 1989
Despite the band's iconoclastic nature, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was shockingly traditional from a musical standpoint, borrowing heavily from the Who. "The song was actually a pop song," Cooper told UCR. "It was pretty much based after 'Substitute.' … It was maybe the most pop record we ever did. It was kind of an in-joke for us."
When it came time to record "No More Mr. Nice Guy," the band stayed faithful to Bruce's original composition, but Cooper changed the lyrics to address the lumps they'd taken in the press. "The whole song was like, 'I used to be such a sweet sweet thing — that was just a burn. Break my back just to kiss her ass and got nothing in return. All my friends told me, man, you're crazy for being such a big fool. But I guess I was because being in love made such a fool. Now I'm no more...'" Bruce said in Easy Action. "See, really, that's life, but then Alice rewrites it and changes it into a song about the press. Great, if you're the lead singer ..."
Released as Billion Dollar Babies' third single in March 1973, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" crashed into the Billboard Top 40, peaking at No. 25. It became a set list staple for both the band and Cooper as a solo act, having been played a staggering 2,500-plus times. And even if Cooper has since developed a reputation as one of rock's nicest and most astute figures, he still plays the bad-guy role with gusto every time he hits the stage.
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