RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Dennis Dunaway - Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in The Alice Cooper Group
Macmillan Publishing
http://www.dennisdunaway.com/book

Rating: A

In the day and age where every rocker in the world seems to be writing his or her memoirs, the rock and roll lifestyle of the 1970s and '80s has been exposed to death.  We all know about the sex, the drugs, the groupies, the fighting, the bad deals made and the squandering of millions of dollars.  The entire 'thing' has been beaten to death worse than FM Classic Rock Radio has overplayed "Stairway to Heaven" and “Free Bird"... but not “Mississippi Queen”... I could hear that one or two more times.

It is precisely for these reasons that Dennis Dunaway's book is so refreshing.  This is a true rock and roll story recounted in stunning detail.  What makes it even more wonderful is the fact that Dennis Dunaway is telling the story of one of the most important and iconic rock bands to ever take the stage: The Alice Cooper Group. Group?  We thought Alice was the singer?  Well, he is... but this was started as a band, and all of the shock-rock theatrics that influenced everyone from Ozzy to Kiss to Marilyn Manson began in an Arizona high school where Dennis and his best friend- a skinny kid named Vince- created Alice Cooper. 

The book reads like a movie, meaning that Dunaway, along with co-writer Chris Hodenfileld, bring each scene in stunning Technicolor to the reader's imagination.  Vincent Furnier, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith all come across as real people--I know this is a biography, but too often people come across as either larger than life, or as a work of fiction in these rock and roll diaries.  Dunaway makes these guys seem real, so much so that you not only learn about them, you feel what they are feeling and learn subtle aspects of their personality.  One truly feels the kinship of the band's struggles to achieve fame and fortune, as well as the growing pains of stardom... which, in this case, sees Vince, now solely as Alice, leave his childhood friends behind.  He tells the truth about Alice Cooper being a band, right down to the kinda-sorta truth that a Ouija board named the band!

Dunaway covers the creation of all of the groups biggest hits, including "I'm 18," "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy."  He takes us on a journey from the rough and tumble Detroit music scene, to the desert of Arizona, and on to the slums of Hollywood.  Along the way we meet Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison, Syd Barrett and the king of rock, Elvis himself!  Dunaway mixes the rise to fame with deep personal insights, funny moments and just a touch of the wild side of being in a rock and roll band.  The book is impossible to put down and easy to read more than once.

Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! is a rarity in the world of rock and roll, as it is a true telling of what really happened by someone who was really there.  The fact that it historically chronicles one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time is just icing on the cake. 

Don't take my word for it... see what these guys had to say:

"I still consider Dennis Dunaway to be one of my best friends. Dennis is one of the few true surrealists that I've ever met….This book carries on in Dennis' own private surrealistic world. "- Alice Cooper

"Dennis tells the story from the inside out with wit and wisdom and adds brilliantly to the Alice Cooper Group mythos. There may be many versions of this story, but Dennis' is one of the most colorful, insightful and entertaining!" -Bob Ezrin, record producer

"For a fan of the Alice Cooper band, as I have been since my adolescence in the 1970s, Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway's first-hand account of the group's humble beginnings, heady triumphs and arguably inevitable implosion is gripping stuff." -Michael J. Fox

Bottom line:  Buy it! 

By Jeb Wright

 

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