According to Alice Cooper’s official website, Lace and Whiskey was influenced by his love for 1940’s and 1950’s movies and music. It’s quite a departure from the dark and creepy ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ persona often attached to guillotine-loving, snake-handling, makeup-wearing Cooper. Released in 1977, most music reviewers have not been very kind to this album, ranking it among the worst of the Alice Cooper collection. But we disagree with their disdain for it.
Musicians need to express fresh ideas once in a while. As great as Billion Dollar Babies was, making that album 25 different times would never suffice for Cooper who had an affinity for musical and artistic exploration. Doing the same thing over and over again is a more sure way to lose your audience than pushing the creative envelope. It’s quite simple: artists either evolve, or they grow stale and boring. And who could ever accuse Alice Cooper of being stale?! And certainly never boring!
His albums were known to be thematic. Cooper’s character is leaving high school. Cooper’s character is having a nightmare. Cooper’s character goes to hell. And in this case Cooper’s character is a detective named Maurice Escargot, an Inspector Clouseau fumbling type of person. And while it isn’t the frightful character we expect, it does provide for an interesting motif for a hard rock album.
The Lace and Whiskey artwork is black and white with a slight sepia tone. The front of the album jacket is busy with a revolver, an unspent bullet, a shot of whiskey alongside its bottle, a cigarette on an ashtray and an open paperback book cover: common things a private investigator might have. The book cover interestingly shows many of the same items, along with some lipstick, cross jewelry and some ‘lace’. The book title, ‘Lace and Whiskey’ obviously serves as the title of the album. The curious subtitle, ‘The Outstanding Mystery Discovery of the Decade’, leaves the Alice Cooper fan to discern what sort of mystery this is about. The answers lie in the grooves of this record.
It’s Hot Tonight
The first track on the album has a raw and gritty sound with an edge that draws the listener a little closer. It’s opening riffs invoke the inquisitive to push open the back door of the theater, leading us into a mysterious dark-alley echo chamber of grimy vocals and blistering guitars.
Cooper literally makes you feel the summer heat as nighttime blankets the city streets. There aren’t any dogs barking or cats screaming on this recording, but we share Maurice Escargot’s fever, because we hear them.
Lace and Whiskey
The title track has Escargot searching for a cure for his pain and insanity. Will he find the magic medicine he needs in drinks and women? He knows the answer, and admits it’s not at the bottom of a shot glass or under any bed sheets:
I’ll end up a broken old hobo
With red and yellow eyes
Swear’ and drunk and dyin’
But no ones surprised
You and Me
In an interview with Greg Laurie in 2019, Alice explains that there was a period of time in the late-70’s that he was ‘out of it; completely gone’. He said there were songs and even whole albums that he didn’t even remember writing or recording. Whether this song is one of them is unknown. But what we do know is that Cooper, the pioneer of ‘shock rock’, had great success with his ballads (Only Women Bleed, I Never Cry, How You Gonna See Me Now).
Some hard rocking fans don’t care for ballads all that much, but Cooper always pulls it off masterfully. The songs that he performed in concert were always done with 100% effort because they meant something to people personally. This song had so much meaning to young couples that they even had it played at their weddings.
You and me ain’t no movie star. What we are is what we are.
It is unknown if Cooper wrote this song for his wife, Sheryl Goddard, whom he married on March 20, 1976, but it seems appropriate since they are still together despite their ups and downs. This rock ballad made it all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1977. Interestingly, Alice Cooper performed this song on the Muppet Show in 1978.
King of the Silver Screen
Escargot is having some visions of what could have been: a regular guy that could have made the big time. He could have been solving crimes as a star on the screen. He could have done the two-step with Fred Astaire. He could have been fighting old King Kong. He could have been Errol Flynn or even Greta Garbo.
The irony here is that Cooper himself was always larger than life. His outrageous theatrics were always an integral part of the entertainment. There were never blank screens at an Alice Cooper event. It was always a spectacle. The fans always came for a show, and they never left disappointed.
Eternity is set in the heart of man. Most people are looking toward the celestial city but unfortunately there are few that find it. To the one who searches thoroughly, the true God is found, as the investigator Maurice Escargot discovered.
The Cathedral-esque introduction, church choir refrain, and guitar crescendo exit are musical elements that tower high above the other tracks on the album. It is a lofty anthem dedicated to the power of God in the people that look to Him.
When life becomes more real than children’s games
Or we’ve become too old to play them
We’ll grow old gracefully
We’ll hide our shame. But there’s that voice behind the wall
And like my conscience, it is still and small
Each word is mercy, protects us all:
Maurice Escargot experienced God in 1977 with this epic song, but it took Alice Cooper a few more years. He grew up as a pastor’s son, and yet Cooper claims to have become a Christian in the mid-80’s after alcoholism almost destroyed his health and nearly wrecked his marriage. Some religious leaders dispute this claim, but only God and Alice Cooper know for sure. Looking down our spiritual noses to make a judgment call on Alice’s relationship with God would be a mistake.
And don’t be too judgmental on this record either, as some self-righteous music critics have been. Listen carefully. Discover and appreciate. Let yourself experience some musical enjoyment as Alice Cooper expresses himself in a way that might be different from the way you want him to be.