Odds and sods today . . .

Interesting report on Yahoo this morning about NASA plans to send a giant (relatively speaking) probe to explore Jupiter’s satellite system. The probe is to be called JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer). It will feature nuclear propulsion and be launched around 2012. Because the sensitive instruments will need to be kept far from the propulsion reactor, there will be a long thin neck connecting the two elements of the probe. The neck will have fins on it to help dissipate heat from the reactor. The long and the short of it? JIMO ends up looking more like Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey than it does like any previously launched satellite. I wonder if we’ll have the HAL 9000

perfected in time to control the mission?

On a sports front . . .

Looks like the brass at West Point aren’t too happy with Army being the first Division I-A football in history to go 0-13. They’ve managed to pull Bobby Ross out of retirement to coach the Black Knights next year. Keep in mind that this is a man who won a national championship at Georgia Tech, and went to the Super Bowl with San Diego. Not a bad catch. Looks like Navy’s gonna have its work cut out for it in a couple of years.

And what about the music?

Been listening to a lot of old Alice Cooper lately (the original group, not the post-Welcome to My Nightmare solo artist). Such a great band, in the best sense of that word, where the whole was definitely greater than the sum of the parts: everyone wrote, everyone sang, everyone contributed (including producer Bob Ezrin, who’s clearly the sixth member of the band for all of their classic albums), everyone rocked your socks off. But then when the original sextet (including Ezrin) began to unwind, first with Glenn Buxton’s alcohol-fueled illness, then with Alice the singer setting off on his own, then with Mike Bruce, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway setting out as the Billion Dollar Babies, the quality of the material and the performances disinitigrated amazingly rapidly. Cooper (the singer), to his credit, did manage a couple of good solo albums in the late ’70s, while Ezrin was still on board, and while the Lou Reed Rock and Roll Animal band was backing him up, but none of the other original Coops ever managed to produce anything much worth listening to.

But those key early ’70s albums (Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out, Billion Dollar Babies, Muscle of Love). . . man, what masterpieces! I grow increasingly convinced over the years that despite every rock critic in the world citing the Stooges and UK pub rock and the MC5 and the pre-Ubu Cleveland underground scene as the cornerstones on which punk was built, the original Alice Cooper band was probably a more important influence in a real sense, in that the punks were more likely to have heard Alice’s sneering, snarling vocals and snarky, self-obsessed lyrics and rudimentary rock n’ roll chops than they were to have encountered anything by those other, more obscure artists, since Alice Cooper was actually popular in the band’s creative heyday.

In short: Alice Cooper took the sounds of Detroit out of the hands of the music critics and put them into the hearts of the kids who grew into punks a few years later. And it’s a pretty short step musically from Cooper declaiming “I wanna be elected” to the Ramones sneering “I wanna be sedated” (the core melodies of those songs are virtually identical), or from Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” to the Sex Pistols’ “Seventeen,” or from AC’s “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” to the Damned’s “Neat, Neat, Neat.” While the punks may have denied and denigrated the over-the-top theatrics of Alice Cooper, they certainly didn’t drift too far from AC’s musical or lyrical concerns. Maybe it’s time to rewrite rock history from an Alice-centric viewpoint. No more mister nice guy, indeed.

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