A year after it happened, Chris Penn is still in a slight state of disbelief that the original Alice Cooper group reunited and played the record store he co-owns, Good Records.
On Oct. 6, 2015 the man born as Vince Furnier played with surviving members drummer Neal Smith, bassist Dennis Dunaway and guitarist Michael Bruce to a crowd of 200 in the Greenville Avenue shop. Now the store is preparing to release a limited-edition 7-inch called Alice Cooper: Live from the Astroturf, which will go on sale on Black Friday.
"I never would have thought in a million years that I could see them play together, let alone in my record store," Penn says.
The musicians played eight songs last October, but only two — "I'm Eighteen" and "Is It My Body" — will make it onto the 7-inch, which will have a one-time pressing of 2,500 and be sold in stores across the country.
However, Penn is creating a nice incentive for people to buy it at his store on Black Friday, Nov. 25. While the national release will be stamped in blue metallic and numbered, 200 copies sold at the store will be stamped in pink metallic and come with a card signed by all four surviving members, as well as a 45 adapter and a jukebox strip.
All of the packaging is being done in the store by its employees. No digital downloads will be available. "It's a really homegrown, independent release, but it looks like a major label put it out," Penn says. "I'm really happy with the way it's turned out and I'm gonna submit it for a Grammy for packaging."
There were no overdubs on the original recording, which was first mixed by local David Wilson and later mixed again by legendary producer Bob Ezrin. This is a chance to hear the band stripped down: sans make-up, snakes, guillotines and electric chairs. You hear what has kept the band's sound fresh after all these years: blues-tinged Detroit garage rock with some Rolling Stones, Beatles and Frank Zappa thrown in, too.
Penn was floored by the opportunity, as he's been a lifelong fan of Cooper's. The original Alice Cooper group put out seven records between 1969 and 1973 before disbanding. Penn was only three when the band broke up, so he never got a chance to see them play live.
But thanks to his father and stepfather's record collections, he got into Alice Cooper at a young age, always more interested in the band's music than their theatrics. Now his kids are fans, too. He has seen Alice perform solo several times since the mid-'80s and has met him many times at meet-and-greets.
Three years ago, when he heard Dunaway was writing a book called Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! on his time with the Alice Cooper group, Penn e-mailed Dunaway about doing some sort of in-store performance; Good Records hosts many of them every year. When word got back that Neal Smith and Michael Bruce would like to be involved and play some songs, Penn became hopeful that Cooper might join too.
When it turned up that frontman Alice Cooper was scheduled to be in Dallas on the same day, due to a tour with Mötley Crüe, it seemed like a real possibility. Penn borrowed equipment from local musicians and crossed his fingers.
Smith, Dunaway and Bruce were only able to rehearse once before the show, but they got a solid set of their most famous tunes together, including "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." Cooper showed up after all and was snuck into the back of the store. Alice's current lead guitarist, Ryan Roxie, came along to serve in place of original member Glen Buxton, who died in 1997.
The set, complete with an impromptu, unrehearsed encore of "Elected," sounded great and the reunited band seemed to be in good spirits. The band played again the next night at the American Airlines Center, but the Good Records show was intimate and special.
A more permanent reunion of the Alice Cooper group could happen in the near future. The members have worked on some material for a new Alice Cooper album; there has been talk of a documentary; and the entire eight-song Good Records set might someday be released on vinyl. For now, we get two songs.
"It's a love letter to the band," Penn says. "They've given me so much." He's happy to be a part of the Alice Cooper group's history, even if it's just a footnote. "If they ever do shows, I'll be getting a credit card and maxing that sucker out seeing all the shows I can."
Alice Cooper: Live from the Astroturf will be released on Nov. 25.