From the Inside

Alice Cooper

1978: Warner Bros 7599-26064-2

  1. From the Inside
  2. Wish I were Born in Beverly Hills
  3. The Quiet Room
  4. Nurse Rozetta
  5. Millie and Billie
  6. Serious
  7. How You Gonna See Me Now
  8. For Veronica’s Sake
  9. Jackknife Johnny
  10. Inmates (We’re All Crazy)

This is really quite an extraordinary album. My sister had it, when we were kids, and I think I got far more out of it than did she. It’s very much a “concept album,” being songs all in the voice of residents of some institution housing mental-issues patients, many of them violent and/or criminal, all presented by Alice Cooper himself. And possibly two or three of them (“How You Gonna See Me Now,” and, I think, “From the Inside” and “The Quiet Room”) are actually his own stories.

The album provides quite a wild ride of personalities and their stories, ranging from frenetic (“Serious,”) to reflective (various tracks) and from sex-obsessed (“Nurse Rozetta”) to sociohistorically significant (“Jackknife Johnny,” about a Vietnam vet who has married a “VC girl” (i.e., Viet Cong, thus one of his and his comrades’ adversaries)).

In terms of musical energy, that ride is only let down by the closing track, which I have to acknowledge was probably necessary as a wrapup if not in the end successful. “Millie and Billie is a mini-epic, a duet between sweet ’n’ innocent country sweethearts who just happen to murder and dismember someone in their little romance (with details lovingly sung herein), and actually I consider it the standout track because of its ending, in which things don’t merely end with a minor note but in fact trail out with sonic tendrils indicating insanity and delusion closing in on Billie…a very nice, if intentionally (and successfully) disturbing, touch.

Choosing just one track from this as being my “favorite” would make me squirm, indeed, but probably I’d go with “Nurse Rozetta—not because it’s a stellar composition or performance or story, but because it’s just such nasty fun. It also includes just one whiff of a synthesizer, amidst all the pre-synth rock instrumentation, in a somewhat startling arpeggiated whoosh used a couple of times. Amusing lyrics, too.

In retrospect, the amusing “Wish I Was Born in Beverly Hills” should have informed me a bit about the existence of homosexuality (or at least activities in that zone, with whatever end in mind, so to speak) with its line, regarding its main character and her mother’s tennis-pro lover, “if she don’t score him fast, she knows that her brother will.” Another fun set of lyrics, there, the chorus running “I wish I was born in Beverly Hills / I swear I couldn’t drink half as much as she spills / I want to lick it up, get my kicks and thrills / Be her gigolo lover and send her the bills, yeah!”

One last thought: this album cover/package was a great one to see in full LP format, because not only did the front cover open with a split down the middle (between the eyes) to reveal the scene within, but also it was much easier to see the scene portrayed in the big photo therein: all the sung characters from the songs arranged in one psych-ward room (plus Veronica!). This photo appears on the back of the CD booklet, but, at just under 2.5" tall, as opposed to the 12" height of the photo on the LP version, it really can’t compare favorably. Many of the characters also cluster to become the refections in his eyes on the front cover—again, more clear on the LP than on the CD. The back cover had a die-cut opening so that the doors on it would open to reveal a photo of the patients, led by Cooper, coming at the viewer. It was a nifty package.

A final note, and this one’s specific to the CD release, which was of German make and bears no indication of the year of its production, just that of the content’s copyright: its booklet contains lyrics that are riddled with errors, both typos and mishearings, proudly ascribed to one Linda Hennrick. I do hope Warner Brothers has gotten a better source for those lyrics and the tracklist since whenever this thing was produced, for future repressings.