This Day in ’75: Alice Cooper’s First TV Special
43 years ago today, Alice Cooper debuted The Nightmare, a conceptual art piece disguised as a TV special and doubling as a promotional tool for his latest album.
Directed by Jørn Winther and written by Tony Hudz and Alan Rudolph (yes, the same Alan Rudolph who went on to direct Welcome to L.A., Roadie, Made in Heaven, and The Moderns, among other films), The Nightmare was – as any Cooper fan worth their salt has probably already figured – tied to the release of Welcome to My Nightmare, and it certainly did its job in getting the songs out there for people to hear them, as all of its tracks made an appearance in the special at some point or other.
The premise of the special involved a gentleman by the name of Steven – played by Mr. Cooper himself, of course – who finds himself trapped in a nightmare, unable to wake up. It’s effectively the same theatrical material that Cooper was already using in his stage show, with even the dancers carrying over. The only thing missing: the band.
"It's the first time I've ever danced and I have to do three hours practice a day for it," Cooper said during the promotional blitz for the show. "I've found muscles I never even knew I had!"
“The story included such lavish things as an enormous staircase lined with statues of children whose eyes followed Alice as he descended,” wrote the website Cult Oddities. “Unfortunately, they were constricted by time, money, and network censors and got stuck making a cheap shot-on-video '70s TV special which lacked the punch that Rudolph's story had on the page.” On the other hand, you do get a pretty great guest star: Vincent Price plays a character called The Spirit of the Nightmare, which is only appropriate for a man with his background in horror.
Despite what Cult Oddities might think about it now, Alice Cooper: The Nightmare impressed Emmy voters at the time, taking home the award for Outstanding Achievement in Video Tape Editing for a Special. When it was released on home video in 1984, it was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Video Album, but it lost to Duran Duran. (Please, no “now that’s a nightmare” jokes…)