Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Alice Cooper’s ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ Hologram Record Story or, ‘the Almost Launch of Holographic Records’

[Images: 1) Mick Mashbir of Alice Cooper on the chartered BDB tour plane at the start of the Billion Dollar Babies tour, 2) Mick Mashbir on stage with Billion Dollar Babies tour, 3) Salvador Dali’s Portrait of Alice Cooper’s Brain Multiplex hologram by Lloyd Cross]

There have been many news stories circulating lately about Alice Cooper being a’s another one.

I was collaborating with Capitol Records around 1973 testing a process to create holograms on 45 and 78 vinyl records at the same time the music is ‘pressed’ into them.
My partner in CR&D Corporation, Michael Foster, had created a way to ‘transfer’ the holographic visual data and mastering capabilities to the lacquer that the companies ‘carve in’ their sound/audio data and, from that, make an embossing master to then mass produce 'holographic' records.

I proposed that Capitol Records could use existing manufacturing capabilities to mass-produce holograms; such as putting 3D portraits of their artists or actual holograms directly onto the surface of the record itself. After an initial discussion with the Chairman, I was invited to their board meeting. They unanimously agreed to see where we could take this and I was put in touch with two individuals: one, the person in head of production to produce the first prototype and two, Dennis Killen (Director of Merchandising and Advertising) in preparation for its use.

Grand Funk Railroad, their top group at that time, was slated to use the process when Richard Perry also heard of this activity from publicist Michele Elyzabeth Blanchard. Richard was working on an album with Ringo Starr, who was also with Capitol Records. I met with both Richard and Ringo and discussed holography and embossed holography and my ‘prototyping’ involvement with Capitol.

Well, they loved the idea and stormed into Dennis Killen’s office one day to discuss the project. Of course, in historic matters, everyone wants to be first and poor Dennis got caught in the middle of one of their top groups, Grand Funk Railroad and Ringo Starr, a former Beatle, who, of course, made Capital a Lot of $$. When the dust settled both projects were put off.

During that time Shep Gordon, manager of Alice Cooper, got wind of the holographic record process and wanted to use it. During the same time Alice had been the subject/actor of Salvador Dali’s “Portrait of Alice Cooper’s Brain” a First Cylindric Crono-Hologram, commonly known as a Multiplex hologram or Cross hologram. This was a type of hologram that created moving holograms from motion picture film invented by a friend Lloyd Cross. I just talked with Lloyd the other day and he shared how he ‘virtually’ oversaw the production from San Francisco with Technical Consultant Selwyn Lissack in New York City over the phone while Salvador Dali was producing the film shooting session, Lloyd created the hologram later from the film footage that Dali had selected to use for the hologram.

The album Alice Cooper was working on was “Billion Dollar Babies” and the single Warner Bros decided to press as a prototype was “No More Mister Nice Guy”. My good friend Mick Mashbir was the lead guitarist for the album. I don’t have any pics of our holographic record prototype so I called Mick and he sent me some shots of him during the Billion Dollar Babies tour to use with this blog entry.

A disagreement between Cooper and Warner Bros about using the holographic process on their record came to a head at one point and I was told it was one of the biggest fights they had with WB.

WB had evidently already pressed 500,000 albums and wasn’t too thrilled about trashing that much vinyl. Well Cooper still wanted the release to be holographic but WB played the final trump card, and said the sound quality was affected by the holographic process. Of course, Cooper didn’t want any compromise in the sound quality and the plain 45 and album were released without the hologram. Also of course, the sound quality wasn’t really affected because the holographic information is on the record surface where the ‘sound grooves’ aren’t with no affect on the needle.

I was also talking with Tony Smith manager of Genesis about putting a hologram on Genesis’ “Lamb Lies on Broadway”. I met Tony while leaving a Seals and Croft concert at the Universal Amphitheater as a guest of Joe Smith, then president of Warner Records (later president and CEO of Capitol Records.) We were both waiting for a taxi and only one made it through the mass of departing cars…so we shared it. I mentioned I was involved with holography and he mentioned he had some holograms in his hotel room. Without him saying which holograms he had I told him which ones he had. It was easy; we had the only embossed (of commercial quality) holograms in the world. We talked about putting a hologram on the album and moved toward that end.

I’m still not sure what happened but was told later by a friend Peter Kuys, then owner of Stallion Records, who knew Tony Smith that a miscommunication with them by a third party had waned their interest. This was one of my saddest moments as this album is still one of my favorites and I would have loved to have contributed to its overall message.

Note: For historic completeness, Peter Kuys had optioned the use of this process for a record during this time period.

As with some other early marketing efforts I realized this ‘record technique’ as well as the ‘embossing method’ had just been invented and the whole process was probably a bit a head of its time so I directed my energy otherwise.

The ‘jinx’ finally lifted and 6 years later when Split Enz used the technique on their “True Colours” hologram 1979 with A&M records. Next “Superman II” soundtrack 1980, Styx “Paradise Theater” released in 1981, then cassettes and CDs which wouldn’t use this process to enhance their ‘records’.

Since then many holographic CD covers and as well as holograms on the CDs themselves have been used.

Back to Alice Cooper, now in the holography's media limelight again, he and most of his original group appeared virtually last week’s at Jagermeister’s London event ‘billed’ as "UK's first 'holographic' 4D rock gig”...well, at least, they're trying. But stay tuned as I'm consulting on a virtual stage entertainment project which will be incorporating true holographic space and imagery with virtual and live performances.

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