Greatest Songs, #482: “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper

Album: Love It to Death (Warner Bros. Records)
Year: 1971
Written by: Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Alice Cooper, Dennis Dunaway, & Neal Smith
Billboard Hot 100: #21

 From Rolling Stone:

Before “I’m Eighteen,” Cooper was just another hairy rock oddball. But this proto-punk smash defined the age when, in Cooper’s words, you’re “old enough to be drafted but not old enough to vote.” Years later, Johnny Rotten sang this at his audition for the Sex Pistols; by then, Cooper was a guest on The Muppet Show.

From allmusic:

There are many teen-angst anthems, ranging from the 1950s “Summertime Blues” to whatever shallow yawners Limp Bizkit and their ilk were churning out in the late ’90s. But few approach the subject better than Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen.” A satisfying blend of humor, joy, confusion, and frustration, the young-man narrator of “I’m Eighteen” proudly proclaims “I’m a boy and I’m a man/I’m 18…and I like it!”

Written by the band Alice Cooper as a collective — Cooper (vocals), Michael Bruce (guitar, keyboards), Glen Buxton (guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass), and Neal Smith (drums) — the group’s first hit song is an early glam metal classic that sports a meaty guitar riff, bluesy leads, and a wailing harmonica from the singer Cooper. The blues-based sound certainly recalls other Detroit rock groups of the era like the Stooges, but Alice Cooper’s energy is harnessed and the songwriting focused by legendary producer Bob Ezrin for the band’s third LP, Love It to Death (1971).

The lyrics, when not sharply hilarious, are spot-on poignant. Cooper (the singer), at 23, was not too far removed from the age of the narrator, but he somehow manages to simultaneously cast a wizened and knowing eye from his perch as an elder, while capturing much of the actual conflicting emotion and insecurely cocky point of view of someone in his late teens: “I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart/Took 18 years to get this far/Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about/Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt/’Cause I’m 18.”

And how could I resist adding the episode of The Muppet Show that features Cooper?