Session File: Steve Hunter on Recording Alice Cooper's "Steven"

“Steven” was one of the more complex tunes on Alice Cooper’s 1975 solo album, Welcome to my Nightmare.
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 “Steven” was one of the more complex tunes on Alice Cooper’s 1975 solo album, Welcome to my Nightmare. If I remember correctly, we recorded this tune in one pass. In other words, we didn’t record sections, and then edit them together—which was done in those days with tape and a razor blade. To get the vibe right and maintain continuity, this song really needed to be recorded all in one go. However, there were places in the arrangement where sections slowed down, and that is very difficult to get together, because everyone feels timing things a little differently. So the album’s producer, Bob Ezrin, came out into the studio and actually directed us as if we were an orchestra. It was a pretty cool way of focusing everyone into the same rhythmic feel.

I had my first experience playing a high-strung—or Nashville tuned—guitar on this track. For those of you who might not know, you take the octave set of strings from a 12-string guitar and put them on a regular guitar. So, the high-E and B strings are the same pitch, but the G, D, A, and low E strings are now up one octave. I fell in love with this tuning as soon as I played it for the first time. It’s really a beautiful sound. On “Steven,” I basically followed the classically based piano part. It was a lot of fun, and the sound of the high-strung guitar was mesmerizing. Even today, I have a guitar dedicated to high-strung tuning.

An interesting thing happened during the overdubs session for this song. I was set to play solos from about the middle of the song on out. I was looking forward to it, because that section of the song sounded a bit Zeppelin-y to me, and Jimmy Page was my initial inspiration. Bob and I did our usual thing of getting the sound together before we recorded the track. Then, he cued up the tape, hit Record, and away we went.

At the end of the first pass, Bob got on the talkback and said we had it. I felt like I had been in the zone when the solo went down, so I was looking forward to hearing it. I came into the control room, Bob hit Play, and—no solo. Nothing. The only thing we could think of was that the record relay did not kick in when the Record button was pressed. Those wonderful, old two-inch tape machines sure had their quirks! As it ended up taking Bob and me seven hours to get those solos just right, I would have loved to hear that first take, which is probably still floating around the cosmos somewhere.

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