I'm Eighteen

Last updated
"I'm Eighteen"
Alicecooper18.jpg
Single by Alice Cooper
from the album Love It to Death
B-side "Is It My Body"
ReleasedNovember 1970
Format 7-inch record
Recorded1970
Genre
Length2:59
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Bob Ezrin
Alice Cooper singles chronology
"Shoe Salesman"
(1970)
"I'm Eighteen"
(1970)
"Caught in a Dream"
(1971)
Audio sample

"I'm Eighteen" is a song by rock band Alice Cooper, first released as a single in November 1970 backed with "Is It My Body". It was the band's first top-forty success—peaking at number 21—and convinced Warner Bros. that Alice Cooper had the commercial potential to release an album. The song and its B-side feature on the band's first major-label album Love It to Death (1971).

Contents

The anthemic song is driven by a lumbering, arpeggiated guitar riff and aggressive, raspy vocals. The lyrics tell of the angst of being "in the middle" between youth and adulthood. It began as an eight-minute jam that young Canadian producer Bob Ezrin persuaded the band into tightening into a tight three-minute rocker.

The song was the band's breakthrough, and left a considerable influence on hard rock, punk, and heavy metal. Joey Ramone wrote his first song for the Ramones based on the chords to "I'm Eighteen", and John Lydon auditioned for the Sex Pistols by miming to the song. Bands such as thrash metalers Anthrax have covered the song, and Kiss settled out of court for plagiarism of the song over the 1998 track "Dreamin'".

Description

The lumbering, distorted, and arpeggiated main guitar riff is in E minor drives the dark, aggressive song. [4] Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce play similar rhythm guitar parts with slight differences; [5] both used Gibson SG guitars. [6] A pair of acoustic guitars subtly round out the sound—one filtered through a Leslie speaker. [5] Dennis Dunaway plays a moving, melodic bass part rather than taking the typical rock strategy of holding to the root. The performance also features some distorted lead guitar, vocalist Cooper on harmonica during the intro, and an organ that joins the band for the closing chord. [5]

Cooper's sings with raspy vocals of the existential anguish of being at the cusp of adulthood, decrying in each verse being "in the middle"—"of life" or "of doubt". The chorus switches to a series of crashing power chords building from A, the vocals proclaiming: "I'm eighteen / And I don't know what I want ... I gotta get out of this place / I'll go runnin' in outer space". The song turns around at the conclusion with an embrace of those things that had been such anguish: "I'm eighteen and I like it!" [4] There are no harmonies or doubling in the vocals. [5]

Background, production, and release

The Alice Cooper band formed in the mid-1960s and adopted its name in 1968, presenting an origin story that it came from a 17th-century witch whose name they learned from a session with a ouija board. [7] The group's first two albums, Pretties for You (1969) and Easy Action (1970), appeared on Frank Zappa's Straight Records label, and failed to find an audience. The band relocated to Detroit and found itself in the midst of a music scene populated with the hard-driving rock of the MC5, the stage-diving Iggy Pop with the Stooges, and the theatricality of George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic. The Alice Cooper band incorporated these influences into a tight hard-rock sound coupled with an outrageous, theatrical live show. [8] Zappa sold Straight Records to Warner Bros. in 1970 for $50,000. [9]

While at the Strawberry Fields Festival in Canada in April 1970, band manager Shep Gordon contacted producer Jack Richardson, who sent nineteen-year-old Bob Ezrin in his place. [10] Ezrin initially turned down working with the band, but changed his mind when he saw them perform at Max's Kansas City in New York City the following October. Ezrin was impressed with the band's audience-participation rock-theater performance and the cult-like devotion of the band's fans, who dressed up and knew the lyrics and actions to the music. [10] Ezrin returned to Toronto to convince Richardson to take on the band; Richardson did not want to work directly with such a group but agreed on condition that Ezrin took the lead. [11]

The band and Bob Ezrin did pre-production for the album in Pontiac, Michigan, in November and December 1970. Ezrin, with his classical and folk background, attempted to have the band tighten its loosely structured songs. The band resisted at first, but came to see things Ezrin's way, and ten to twelve hours a day of rehearsal resulted in a tight set of hard-rocking songs with little of the psychedelic freak-rock aesthetic of the first two albums. According to Cooper, Ezrin "ironed the songs out note by note, giving them coloring, personality", [12] including cutting down "I'm Eighteen" from an eight-minute jam to a tight three-minute rocker, a song whose aggressive chorus he misheard at first as "I'm Edgy". [13]

"I'm Eighteen" was a sixteen-track recording made at RCA Mid-American Recording Center in Chicago. [5] Ezrin found it a challenge to capture Cooper's raspy vocals with standard techniques; he settled on using a Shure SM57 microphone with high compression and judicious addition of treble and midrange equalization. [14]

Release, reception, and legacy

Weekly charts
Chart (1971)Peak
position
Canadian RPM [15] 7
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 [16] 21
Year-end charts
Chart (1971)Rank
Canada [17] 87
U.S. (Joel Whitburn's Pop Annual) [18] 160

In November 1970 [19] the group released a single of "I'm Eighteen" (shown on the label simply as "Eighteen") backed with "Is It My Body", and Warner Bros. agreed that if it sold well the group could go forward with an album. The band posed as fans and made hundreds of calls to radio stations to request the song, and Gordon is said to have paid others a dollar per radio request. Soon the song was on the airwaves across the country—even on mainstream AM radio—and peaked at number 21 on the charts. [16] In Canada it broke the top ten, peaking at number 7. [20] The success convinced Warner to allow the band to go ahead with Love It to Death , [21] released March 1971. [22] The band's next single was "Caught in a Dream" backed with "Hallowed Be My Name" in May 1971. [23]

The band played "I'm Eighteen" live on the German television show Beat-Club in 1972. Cooper appeared on the floor in a Wonder Woman T-shirt gripping a whiskey bottle. During an extended intro, Cooper declares "I ain't twenty-one", then "twenty-two" and on until "twenty-five" before the band delivers an aggressive, heavily distorted performance of the song. [24]

Legend has it John Lydon auditioned for the Sex Pistols by miming to "I'm Eighteen". Sex Pistols in Paradiso - Johnny Rotten 1.jpg
Legend has it John Lydon auditioned for the Sex Pistols by miming to "I'm Eighteen".

Vocalist Joey Ramone based the first song by New York punk band the Ramones, "I Don't Care", on the chords of the main riff to "I'm Eighteen". [25] John Lydon wrote the song "Seventeen" on the Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks in response to "I'm Eighteen", [26] and is said to have auditioned for the Sex Pistols by miming to an Alice Cooper song—most frequently reported as "I'm Eighteen". [27]

Thrash metal band Anthrax included a cover of "I'm Eighteen" on its debut album Fistful of Metal (1984). [28] Creed provided a cover version of the song for the soundtrack to the 1998 teen horror movie The Faculty . [29] The song "Dreamin'" on the 1998 Kiss album Psycho Circus bears such a resemblance to "I'm Eighteen" that a month after the album's release Cooper's publisher filed a plagiarism suit, settled out of court in Cooper's favor. [30]

Rolling Stone included the song in 2011 on its "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list at No.482. [31] "I'm Eighteen" was selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was voted No.38 in Detroit's 100 Greatest Songs, a 2016 Detroit Free Press poll. [32] The song ranked No.39 on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs in 2006. [33]

Related Research Articles

Alice Cooper American rock singer, songwriter and actor

Alice Cooper is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With his distinctive raspy voice and a stage show that features numerous props, including guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, reptiles, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.

<i>Billion Dollar Babies</i> 1973 studio album by Alice Cooper

Billion Dollar Babies is the sixth studio album by American rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1973. The album became the best selling Alice Cooper record at the time of its release, hit number one on the album charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom, and went on to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album has been retrospectively praised by such critics as Robert Christgau, Greg Prato of AllMusic, and Jason Thompson of PopMatters, but The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) gave the album only two and a half stars.

<i>Get Your Wings</i> 1974 studio album by Aerosmith

Get Your Wings is the second studio album by American rock band Aerosmith, released in March 1974. The album is their first to be produced by Jack Douglas, who also was responsible for the band's next four albums. Three singles were released from the album, but none of them reached the singles charts.

<i>Destroyer</i> (Kiss album) 1976 studio album by Kiss

Destroyer is the fourth studio album by American rock band Kiss, released on March 15, 1976 by Casablanca Records in the US. It was the third successive Kiss album to reach the top 40 in the US, as well as the first to chart in Germany and New Zealand. The album was certified gold by the RIAA on April 22, 1976, and platinum on November 11 of the same year, the first Kiss album to achieve platinum. The album marked a departure from the raw sound of the band's first three albums.

Dennis Dunaway is an American musician, best known as the original bass guitarist for Alice Cooper . He co-wrote some of the band's most notable songs, including "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out".

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Alice Cooper album) 1974 greatest hits album by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits is the only greatest hits album by American rock band Alice Cooper, and their last release as a band. Released in 1974, it features hit songs from five of the band's seven studio albums. It does not include any material from their first two albums, Pretties for You and Easy Action.

<i>Welcome to My Nightmare</i> 1975 studio album by Alice Cooper

Welcome to My Nightmare is the first solo album by Alice Cooper, released in March 1975. It is Alice Cooper's first solo album, and his only album for the Atlantic Records label. Welcome to My Nightmare is a concept album. Played in sequence, the songs form a journey through the nightmares of a child named Steven. The album inspired the Alice Cooper: The Nightmare TV special, a worldwide concert tour in 1975, and the Welcome to My Nightmare concert film in 1976. The ensuing tour was one of the most over-the-top excursions of that era. Most of Lou Reed’s band joined Cooper for this record.

<i>Muscle of Love</i> 1973 studio album by Alice Cooper

Muscle of Love is the seventh and final studio album by rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1973.

<i>Revenge</i> (Kiss album) 1992 studio album by Kiss

Revenge is the sixteenth studio album by American rock band Kiss, released on May 19, 1992. It is the band's first album to feature current drummer Eric Singer, following the death of former drummer Eric Carr in November 1991, and is also their last record to feature musical contributions from Carr. Marking a stylistic departure from the pop-influenced glam metal sound which characterized much of the band's 1980s output, the album reached the Top 20 in several countries, though it failed to reestablish the group back in the mainstream and its sales were equal-to or less-than its predecessors, ultimately only being certified gold by the RIAA on July 20, 1992.

<i>Love It to Death</i> 1971 studio album by Alice Cooper

Love It to Death is the third studio album by American rock group Alice Cooper, released in March 1971. It was the band's first commercially successful album and the first album that consolidated the band's aggressive hard-rocking sound. The album's best-known track, "I'm Eighteen", was released as a single to test the band's commercial viability before the album was recorded.

<i>Schools Out</i> (album) 1972 studio album by Alice Cooper

School's Out is the fifth studio album by American rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1972. Following on from the success of Killer, School's Out reached No. 2 on the US Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the Canadian RPM 100 Top Albums chart, holding the top position for four weeks. The single "School's Out" reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles Chart and went to No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart. The album achieved sales of over 50,000 copies in Australia, being eligible for the award of a Gold Disc.

<i>Easy Action</i> 1970 studio album by Alice Cooper

Easy Action is the second studio album by the American rock band Alice Cooper, released by Straight Records in March 1970. The title comes from a line from one of the band's favorite films, the musical West Side Story. As with Pretties for You, the band's debut from the previous year, Easy Action was neither a commercial nor critical success. Singles include "Shoe Salesman" and "Return of the Spiders".

<i>Killer</i> (Alice Cooper album) 1971 studio album by Alice Cooper

Killer is the fourth studio album by the Alice Cooper band, released in November 1971. The album reached number 21 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and the two singles "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover" made the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Richard Allen "Dick" Wagner was an American rock music guitarist, songwriter and author best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, and KISS. He also fronted his own Michigan-based bands, The Frost and The Bossmen.

Schools Out (song) original song written and composed by Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, Alice Cooper, Neal Smith

"School's Out" is a 1972 song first recorded as the title track single of Alice Cooper's fifth album and written by the Alice Cooper band.

"Caught in a Dream" is a 1971 song written by Michael Bruce and recorded by his band, Alice Cooper, on their first major label release album Love It to Death. As the album's second single "Caught in a Dream" was released backed with "Hallowed Be My Name" in May 1971; it peaked in the US at number 94.

Under My Wheels” is a rock song by Alice Cooper. It was originally released on the group's Killer album in 1971, and was also that album's first single release. The song was written by Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Bob Ezrin.

No More Mr. Nice Guy (song) 1973 song by Alice Cooper

"No More Mr. Nice Guy" is a song by the rock band Alice Cooper, taken from the 1973 album Billion Dollar Babies. The single reached #25 on the US charts and #10 on the UK charts, and helped Billion Dollar Babies to reach #1 in both the UK and the US. Michael Bruce and Alice Cooper wrote the song.

<i>Welcome 2 My Nightmare</i> 2011 studio album by Alice Cooper

Welcome 2 My Nightmare is the nineteenth solo album by Alice Cooper, released in September 2011. Peaking at No. 22 in the Billboard 200 it is Cooper's highest-charting album in the US since 1989's Trash. The album is a sequel to his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare.

Alice Cooper (band) American rock band

Alice Cooper was an American rock band formed in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964. The band consisted of lead singer Vince Furnier, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith (drums). Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and has had a solo career under that name since the band became inactive in 1975. The band was notorious for their elaborate, theatrical shock rock stage shows. In 2011, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

References

  1. I'm Eighteen. AllMusic
  2. Talevski 2010, p. 64.
  3. Mervis, Scott (October 27, 2018). "Alice Cooper is the perfect master of ceremonies for WDVE Halloween party at Stage AE". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  4. 1 2 Waksman 2009, pp. 84–85.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Baseford 2010.
  6. Interactive Guitar staff 2012; Prown & Newquist 1997, p. 99.
  7. Konow 2009, p. 31.
  8. Brackett & Hoard 2004, p. 12.
  9. Konow 2009, p. 34.
  10. 1 2 Crouse 2012, p. 104.
  11. Crouse 2012, pp. 104–105.
  12. Crouse 2012, p. 105.
  13. Walker 2013, p. 44.
  14. Hodgson 2010, p. 24.
  15. "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  16. 1 2 Konow 2009, p. 37.
  17. "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  18. Whitburn 2000, p. 283.
  19. Faulk 2013, p. 126.
  20. RPM staff 1971.
  21. Billboard staff 1971a, p. 68.
  22. Sherman 2009, p. 27.
  23. Billboard staff 1971b, p. 66.
  24. Waksman 2009, p. 85.
  25. Leigh 2011, pp. 92–93.
  26. Hartley 2010, p. 141.
  27. Thompson 2012, p. 152; Strausbaugh 2002, p. 202; Marcus 2009, p. 25; English 2007, p. 47; Ellis 2012, p. 75; Harrington 2002, p. 267.
  28. Wall 2010, p. 146.
  29. Shapiro 2000, p. 90.
  30. English 2007, p. 46–47.
  31. Rolling Stone staff 2011.
  32. "Detroit's 100 Greatest Songs" . Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  33. VH1 staff 2006.

Works cited

Shapiro, Marc (2000). Creed: From Zero to Platinum. St. Martin's Press. ISBN   978-0-312-27637-9.