Saturday, October 17, 2009

Welcome to My Nightmare

Welcome to My Nightmare is a concept album by Alice Cooper, released in 1975. This was Alice Cooper's first solo album (all previous Alice Cooper releases were band efforts). The songs, heard in sequence, form a journey through the nightmares of a child named Steven. This is the first appearance of Steven on an album. He goes on to appear officially on 3 more albums and may unofficially be referenced on others. Referencing other sites throughout the net and my own observations, we will take a walk through the Nightmare today because Alice Cooper certainly conjures up images of Halloween.

The album is a journey through Steven's mind, which is severely damaged. He lives in a constant nightmare and we are guided through this nightmare, by The Curator (played by Vincent Price). In the first song on the album, the title track, we are introduced to the nightmare. On the second song, “Devils Food”, Steven is trapped in a spider's web and is about to be eaten by The Black Widow. The spider and the web (and the whole nightmare) are only in his mind, so Steven thinks he has to obey The Black Widow, to get away alive.

The next song on the album is called "Some Folks," and reading between the lines, one can understand that the song is about how Steven enjoys killing women and possibly making love to their dead bodies, and then we learn of Steven’s abuse of his wife. The song “Only Women Bleed” tells us this. We once again learn of Steven’s lust for the dead, in the song “Cold Ethyl” where it’s clear that Steven is having sex with a woman’s (Ethyl’s) corpse. The next thing that is revealed to the listener is of Steven’s childhood and how he became the psycho killer we now know. In “Years Ago” we understand that Steven was alone as a child, and maybe that he feels rejected by friends and adults. The song “Steven” shows his transformation from an innocent child to a murderer. The refrain to the song “Steven” goes like this:

“Steven!/ Steven! I hear my name! Steven! Is someone calling me? I hear my name! Steven! That icy breath it whispers screams of pain!”

The voice that chants “Steven! Steven!” is most probably his wife, as he is killing her. This means that Steven could be beseeching her to stop screaming. After we have taken part of Steven’s transformation, he wakes up. Until now, we are unsure if the nightmare is a real nightmare or in fact part of Steven’s mental disease. But in the song “The Awakening” we understand that during the nightmare, Steven has killed his wife. From this we can draw the conclusion that the nightmare occurred when Steven was sleepwalking but not knowing what was real or what was his imagination, he abused his wife during “Only Women Bleed”, made love to her corpse during “Cold Ethyl” and then sat down in his easy chair, “waking up” and at first thinking that everything was a bad dream. But then he realizes what he has done. As a result of this he escapes into drinking alcohol, which takes place in "Escape". This is the basic storyline although there are some aspects of some of the songs that seem to still be up for debate.

Knowing the full story line makes the album that much creepier. Although Only Women Bleed is a nice ballad on it's own which charted at #12 on the charts, sandwiched in between the other songs it becomes more of a creepy song. While the album on first listen is not as gritty as previous albums with the Alice Cooper band, after listening to it knowing the story behind Steven, one realizes that the concept and the album is quite brilliant. Later on this month we will walk again with Steven and discuss his relationship with Alice, but for now listen to these three tracks in sequence with the alternate version of The Awakening instead of the original, then tell me it doesn't send a chill or two up your spine.

Years Ago
The Awakening
Buy It

Funny Toon