Turn it Down: Loud dispatches from Lansing’s music scene

A look back: When Alice Cooper wanted to be ‘Elected’

Back in ‘72, the shock rocker got political at just the right time

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Back in August 1972, Alice Cooper was in the recording studio shouting, “I’m your top prime cut of meat, I’m your choice, I wanna be elected! / I’m your yankee doodle dandy in a gold Rolls Royce, I wanna be elected!”

His Detroit-rooted band was busy reworking their 1969 song “Reflected” into a revamped blast of political satire called “Elected.” 

The following month, the single was pressed up and it quickly moved up the Billboard charts, hitting No. 5 in the UK and the Top 30 in the United States. However, the album it was on, “Billion Dollar Babies,” reached No. 1 in both countries thanks to the LP’s other hits, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and the title track. 

While “Elected” didn’t reach the level of some of Cooper’s other signature hits, like “School’s Out,” it’s often spun, and shared on social media, around election times. Beyond that, the late Joey Ramone once said it inspired his band’s punk classic, “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Not a bad contribution to the punk-rock universe. 

Going back to the roots of “Elected,” it’s prototype (“Reflected”) never sat well with Cooper. He himself dismissed the original take as a “fake, quasi-spiritual ’60s thing” thanks to its “stupid” lyrics — adding, “we didn’t know what we were talking about.”

However, three years later, when the Alice Cooper Band re-cut the failed single with new lyrics, it took off. Even John Lennon was a fan. “Right after we cut ‘Elected,’ I was at our record company office in New York, and John Lennon walked past me,” Cooper recalled in a Louder Sound interview. “He said, ‘Great record, Alice’. I said, ‘Thank you’. And then he took about three more steps and turned around and said, ‘Paul would have done it better’. And I looked at him and went, ‘Well of course he would – he’s Paul McCartney!’. But I was so thrilled. I mean, come on – John Lennon loved my song. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Of course, part of the song’s charm was due to its perfect timing: the 1972 presidential election race between President Richard Nixon and U.S. Sen. George McGovern.

The secret hero behind making “Elected” happen was the band’s producer Bob Ezrin—whom Cooper saw as the group’s “guru.” Ezrin, who’d been working with the band for years at that point, always had a soft spot for “Reflected” and felt it could be redone and be “100 times bigger.” 

Under Ezrin’s direction, the guys took the original Pete Townshend-inspired riff, and a snippet of the melody, and went to Morgan Studios in London to lay down an overhauled political version. 

To further enhance the song’s over-the-top sound, Ezrin called in some added session players, according to Cooper. “When he added on the orchestration at the end of Elected, it really did sound like a big brass band playing at somebody’s election rally,” Cooper later said. “The song became so theatrical, and that was what Alice Cooper was all about.”

Adding to the rock ’n roll folklore, Keith Moon was in the studio watching the band record the track, as well as Marc Bolan, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson — a group of A-list rockers Cooper was known to get belligerent with. They all contributed musically to the album, but thanks to booze and other party favors, Cooper admits to not remembering what songs they assisted on. A quick Google search shows plenty of bar shots of the boozy gang of stars at various parties and nightclubs.

However, the following year, it wasn’t intoxicated Cooper who was shamed out of his career, it was Nixon who found himself in the center of the Watergate scandal — making “Election” even more relevant at the time. After all, Cooper does call it “a great satire of what it takes to become the President of the United States.”

In 2016, Cooper reflected on the song in an interview with the Cleveland Scene. “We didn’t realize it would become an anthem,” he said. “I’m so not political so it’s funny that I wrote the song that was one of the most political songs, and I was not trying to be political I was just having fun with it. The most absurd thing in the world in 1972 would be Alice Cooper being president. It would be like if you said that Mr. Rogers is now going to sing for the Rolling Stones. It was on that level of absurdity. But it works for every single election.” 

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