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Book Review: In the Name of the Boss upstairs

by Lang Reid

Christmas is a time for children, and a time for Christians to remember Jesus Christ. It is then perhaps fitting that in this Christmas edition the book review remembers the life of Father Ray Brennan, a committed Christian priest who founded the Pattaya Orphanage, a home for hundreds of children on the Eastern Seaboard.

The publication is called In the Name of the Boss upstairs (ISBN 0-9759284-0-6, The Thomas J. Vincent Foundation, October 2004) and was written by Jerry Hopkins.

It begins with the historical background of the Brennan ‘clan’ in America, in many ways the typical Irish-Catholic family, whose status in the community was undoubtedly elevated by having some of their children commit themselves to God.

It then follows his path in Thailand, including his early years as a Parish Priest in Isaan, and then his being sent to Pattaya to be the local priest for a small congregation there.

His introduction to orphans and abandoned children resulted in the formation of the Pattaya Orphanage, and then the institutions for the handicapped and stateless. “Father Ray was a person-centered person in a most unusual and creative way,” was one description. That is shown all through the book, where he had the uncanny knack of knowing when to turn down offers of financial donations, but instead use the talents of the people who had come to visit the orphanage.

Many quotations are from Fr. Ray’s newsletters, and it was he who coined the phrase “The Boss Upstairs” in reference to his God. His whimsical sense of humor comes through, referring for example to visits from the Mother Superior (whom he dubbed “Mother Shark”), writing “When she asks for a formal appointment, I prepare myself by doing such things as drinking a cup of battery acid, chewing up and swallowing a dozen steel ball bearings, and finally, just before she arrives I begin practicing my growling and coughing routine.”

Jerry Hopkins has done an excellent job in encapsulating the personality of Fr. Ray Brennan, a man who kept his humor almost to the end, a man who kept a sign in his office that read, “How much can I get away with and still go to heaven?” After reading the book, most readers will believe that anything Fr. Ray Brennan tried to “get away with” was prompted by his perception of the needs of his children, and nothing else. Despite the detractors and innuendo that was fuelled by the international sleaze press, (which does get examined critically in the book), you cannot be in anything but admiration of the man’s achievements for the underprivileged in this country. That his final days should have a cloud placed over them is regrettable.

It should be noted that this biography was authorized by the Brennan Family and the Father Ray Foundation, and the proceeds are for the benefit of the Thomas J. Vincent Trust and administered by the Fr. Ray Foundation to provide for the higher education of the children under their care. The book is available from the Pattaya Orphanage, telephone 038 428 717, fax 038 716 629.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Alice Cooper Band - Billion Dollar Babies

Executed by Mott the Dog
Guillotined by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

In Phoenix, Arizona, in the late sixties there was a rough little garage band known as ‘The Earwigs’, playing whatever gigs they could get with a certain Vincent Furnier on lead vocals. By 1969 and countless name changes the quintet had settled on the name ‘The Alice Cooper Band’’. As expected, the lead singer started to get called Alice. The band’s fame started to spread with the release of their first album ‘Pretties For You’. There was certainly no overnight stardom, more a slow, but inevitable rise to the very top of the tree.

By 1972 Vincent Furnier changed his name by deed poll to Alice Cooper and the Alice Cooper Band had their first global number one hit with ‘School’s Out’; brilliantly timed to be released when all the schools broke up for their long summer holidays. With its lyrics of unbounded joy and anti-teacher rants ‘School’s Out’ captured the imagination of a generation of school kids. Everybody loved the Alice Cooper Band, unless you happened to be a parent.

By the time of the release of this, their sixth album ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, the Alice Cooper Band was one of the biggest bands in the world and had 25 Gold Records, album sales of over 50 million, plus sold-out stadium tours to prove it.

The band was every teenager’s dream. The band members themselves were disastrously young, too brutally good looking, too clever by half, way out of control, preened around the country in their own customized jet (booze and cards in the front, girls in the back), willing to take any chance they were given, and most importantly enough street savvy to fill every young head on our little planet. The songs weren’t bad either.

Opening with the frothy-mouthed Broadway burlesque of ‘Hello Hooray’, the band announces their arrival and greets their audience, a celebration from the musicians to thank their fans for where they now are; together with their fans one mighty gang. Not one to ever dodge issues, the next song ‘Raped and Freezin’ is a Stonesy rave-up involving a guy who gets picked up and raped by some ‘old broad down from Sante Fe’ and winds up naked in Chihuahua, Mexico. You can imagine how much this would have been appreciated by the older generation. But it’s all very tongue in cheek with the singer at his sassy best, and the south-of-the-border Spanish guitar mantra at the song’s end is pure class.

The next song was the first single to be released from this collection, ‘Elected’, which was put out the previous year to tie in with the American Presidential Elections. Not a trick did our boys miss out on. Naturally the song was a huge hit.

The title track remains an all time classic, including its surprising vocal duet with flower power idol Donavan and Alice, although it’s Alice who gets to sing the gleeful:

‘’If I’m too rough, tell me,

I’m so scared your tiny little head is going to come off in my hands”.

‘Billion Dollar Babies’ has wonderful guitar riffs from Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, although Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, two of rock ‘n’ roll’s top session guitarists, were brought in to give some experience to the studio guitar sound. This was also partly due to the failing health of Glen Buxton, who is tragically no longer with us. The rhythm section of Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith really come into their own on these songs.

On this thirtieth anniversary release of ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ you get two discs, one with the original recording cleaned up by original producer Bob Ezrin from the master tapes, and a second one with selected live tracks from the ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ tour that followed this release, where the band leaves you in no doubt they certainly can cut it live. There are also several studio outtakes on the second disc, showing that at the time the band had plenty of material still left in the bank.

‘Generation Landslide’, ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, plus the title track were three more hit singles for the band, while ‘I Love The Dead’ and ‘Sick Things’ would become stage favorites. ‘Unfinished Sweet’ gives the band room to breathe, while giving the stage show a vehicle for the band’s theatrics during their spectacular act, especially with its snippets of West Side Story themes.

‘Mary Ann’ is perhaps the album’s only not instantly memorable song. It’s a pithy ballad that pumps sexual irony to the point of persona self-immolation. On the surface the song is a ballad of pure ear candy for girls, but the last line pitches a curve ball by revealing the protagonist’s true love interest. Mary Ann is as much a man, if not more so, than Alice himself. For sheer cheek alone, Mary Ann scores a point.

A great album beautifully repackaged with loads of sleeve notes and photos all tucked away in a snake skin wallet. Unfortunately though you cannot remove the Billion Dollar note tucked inside as you could in the original vinyl release.

Sadly the next year’s ‘Muscle of Love’ album was the band’s last as egos got in the way. The newly named Alice crawled away to form yet another band, while the others carried on as “The Billion Dollar Babies’’, but none of them ever came close to these heights again.

The Alice Cooper Group
Alice Cooper - Vocals
Glen Buxton - Guitars
Michael Bruce - Guitar, Keyboards, and Vocals
Dennis Dunaway - Bass and Vocals
Neal Smith - Drums and Vocals

Billion Dollar Babies - Original album songs

Hello Hooray
Raped and Freezin’
Billion Dollar Babies
Unfinished Sweet
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Generation Landslide
Sick Things
Mary Ann
I Love the Dead

Bonus Tracks

Hello Hooray (live)
Billion Dollar Babies (live)
Elected (live)
I’m Eighteen (live)
Raped And Freezin’ (live)
No More Mr. Nice Guy (live)
My Stars (live)
Unfinished Sweet (live)
Sick Things (live)
Dead Babies (live)
I Love the Dead (live)
Coal Black Model (outtake)
Son of Billion Dollar Babies (outtake)
Slick Black Limousine (outtake)

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