I’ve mentioned before about Alice Cooper’s sharp wit and humor, and nowhere is that more evident than in the lyrics of “Cold Ethyl,” from 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare. When we were first learning the song in the studio, I wasn’t really paying attention to the lyrics. I was busy learning the arrangement and developing my part. And, as we started recording, the first few takes were used to see if any changes were needed before we nailed down the final version. Once that was all straight, we began recording takes to get a performance.
“Cold Ethyl” was a lot of fun to play. Even better, Alice liked singing with us as we did the basic tracks—which helped us get a far better sense of the song than if we were laying down solely instrumental parts. But that’s when it got funny for me. As soon as I could relax and simply enjoy playing the song, I started listening to the lyrics, and they were so hilarious that I found myself cracking up in the middle of takes. Alice would do some hysterical things vocally, as well, so that didn’t help me keep a straight face at all. And what made it even funnier was that we were all approaching the song as a damn serious, balls-out rock tune. We did everything we could to make it slam—excepting the laughter, that is.
When it came time for overdubs, I had an idea for the intro—a sort of Hendrix/Leslie West approach—and [album producer] Bob Ezrin said to go for it. I messed around with that concept, and out came the part that made it on the album. I also used the Leslie West approach for my little solo between the chorus and verse. You can tell I had become fond of pinch harmonics! Dick Wagner played the solos at the end, while I did a slide part. I played everything with my trusty ’60s Gibson SG and a Marshall. I think you can tell I used the neck pickup, which I almost always preferred back then.
On tour in 1975, Alice had this full-size stuffed dummy dressed in a pink ballet costume that he would mercilessly throw around the stage, dance with, and impale several times with a sword. Occasionally, I would see some of the things he would do to that dummy, and I would always lose it. In 2011, I went back out on the road with Alice, and it was such a joy to do “Cold Ethyl” with him again. Like a home movie, it brought back all the great memories of recording the song and playing it live on the original Welcome to My Nightmare tour.