I'm Eighteen
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"I'm Eighteen" is a song by
rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) In geology, a rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemical composition and ...
band
Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With a raspy voice and a stage show that features numerous props, including pyrotechnics, guillotines, e ...
, first released as a single in November 1970 backed with "Is It My Body". It was the band's first top-forty success—peaking at number 21—and convinced
Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB) is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate Conglomerate or conglomeration may refer to: * Conglomerate (company) * ...
that Alice Cooper had the commercial potential to release an album. The song and its B-side feature on the band's first major-label album ''
Love It to Death #REDIRECT Love It to Death ''Love It to Death'' is the third studio album by American rock group Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 ...
'' (1971). The anthemic song is driven by a lumbering, arpeggiated guitar riff and aggressive, raspy vocals. The lyrics tell of the angst of being "in the middle" between youth and adulthood. It began as an eight-minute jam that young Canadian producer
Bob Ezrin Robert Alan Ezrin (born March 25, 1949) is a Canadian music producer and keyboardist A keyboardist or keyboard player is a musician who plays keyboard instrument A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played using a musical keyboard, ...

Bob Ezrin
persuaded the band into tightening into a tight three-minute rocker. The song was the band's breakthrough, and left a considerable influence on
hard rock Hard rock or heavy rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These f ...

hard rock
,
punk Punk or punks may refer to: Genres, subculture, and related aspects * Punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arrangin ...
, and
heavy metal Heavy metal may refer to: *Heavy metals, a loose category of relatively dense metals and metalloids **Toxic heavy metal, any heavy metal chemical element of environmental concern *Heavy metal music, a genre of rock music **Heavy metal genres *Hea ...
.
Joey Ramone Jeffrey Ross Hyman (May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001), known professionally as Joey Ramone, was an American musician, singer, composer, and lead vocalist of the punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conv ...

Joey Ramone
wrote his first song for the
Ramones The Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974. They are often cited as the first true punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success initially, t ...
based on the chords to "I'm Eighteen", and
John Lydon John Joseph Lydon (; born 31 January 1956), also known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, is an English-born singer and songwriter who also holds American and Irish citizenship. He is best known as the lead singer of the late-1970s British punk Pu ...
auditioned for the
Sex Pistols The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a comp ...

Sex Pistols
by miming to the song. Bands such as
thrash metal Thrash metal (or simply thrash) is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music Heavy metal (or simply metal) is a genre of rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typica ...
ers
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have covered the song, and
Kiss A kiss is the touch or pressing of one's lips against another person or an object. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love Love encompasses a range of str ...
settled out of court for plagiarism of the song over the 1998 track "Dreamin.


Description

The lumbering,
distorted Distorted may refer to: * Anything subject to distortion * Distorted (band), a progressive deathdoom metal band from Bat-Yam, Israel * Distorted (EP), ''Distorted'' (EP), an extended play by the band Distorted * Distorted (film), ''Distorted'' (film ...
, and
arpeggiated A broken chord is a chord (music), chord broken into a sequence of notes. A broken chord may repeat some of the notes from the chord and span one or more octaves. An arpeggio () is a type of broken chord, in which the Musical note, notes tha ...

arpeggiated
main guitar riff is in E minor and drives the dark, aggressive song.
Glen Buxton Glen Edward Buxton (November 10, 1947 – October 19, 1997) was an American musician and composer, best known as the lead guitarist for the rock band Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American si ...
and Michael Bruce play similar rhythm guitar parts with slight differences; both used
Gibson SG The Gibson SG is a solid-body thumb , Sound sample of solid-body electric guitar. A solid-body musical instrument is a string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instrument A musical instrumen ...

Gibson SG
guitars. A pair of acoustic guitars subtly round out the sound—one filtered through a
Leslie speaker The Leslie speaker is a combined amplifier An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of ener ...

Leslie speaker
.
Dennis Dunaway Dennis Dunaway (born December 9, 1946 in Cottage Grove, Oregon Cottage Grove is a city in Lane County, Oregon Oregon () is a U.S. state, state in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western United States. The Columbia River delineates m ...
plays a moving, melodic bass part rather than taking the typical rock strategy of holding to the
root In vascular plant Vascular plants (from Latin ''vasculum'': duct), also known as Tracheophyta (the tracheophytes , from Greek τραχεῖα ἀρτηρία ''trācheia artēria'' 'windpipe' + φυτά ''phutá'' 'plants'), form a large grou ...
. The performance also features some distorted lead guitar, vocalist
Cooper Cooper, Cooper's, Coopers and similar may refer to: * Cooper (profession), a maker of wooden casks and other staved vessels Arts and entertainment * Cooper (producers), alias of Dutch producers Klubbheads * Cooper (video game character), in ' ...

Cooper
on harmonica during the intro, and an organ that joins the band for the closing chord. Cooper's sings with raspy vocals of the existential anguish of being at the cusp of adulthood, decrying in each verse being "in the middle"—"of life" or "of doubt". The chorus switches to a series of crashing
power chord A power chord (also fifth chord) is a colloquial Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom nor ...
s building from A, the vocals proclaiming: "I'm eighteen / And I don't know what I want ... I gotta get out of this place / I'll go runnin' in outer space". The song turns around at the conclusion with an embrace of those things that had been such anguish: "I'm eighteen and I like it!" There are no harmonies or doubling in the vocals.


Background, production, and release

The Alice Cooper band formed in the mid-1960s and adopted its name in 1968, presenting an origin story that it came from a 17th-century witch whose name they learned from a session with a
ouija The ouija ( , ), also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0–9, the words "yes", "no", occasionally "hello" and "goodbye", along with various symbols and graphics. It ...
board. The group's first two albums, ''
Pretties for You ''Pretties for You'' is the debut studio album by American rock music, rock band Alice Cooper (band), Alice Cooper, released on June 25, 1969, by Straight Records. At this time, the name "Alice Cooper" referred to the band and not its lead singer ...
'' (1969) and ''
Easy Action ''Easy Action'' is the second studio album by the American rock band Alice Cooper (band), Alice Cooper, released by Straight Records in March 1970. The title comes from a line from one of the band's favorite films, the musical ''West Side Story ( ...

Easy Action
'' (1970), appeared on
Frank Zappa Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity Nonconformity or nonconformism may refer to: Culture and soci ...

Frank Zappa
's
Straight Records Straight Records, self-identified simply as Straight, was a record label A record label, or record company, is a brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distin ...
label, and failed to find an audience. The band relocated to Detroit and found itself in the midst of a music scene populated with the hard-driving rock of the
MC5 MC5 was an American rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical compound, chemical ...

MC5
, the stage-diving
Iggy Pop James Newell Osterberg Jr. (born April 21, 1947), known professionally as Iggy Pop, is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. Designated the " Godfather of Punk", he was the vocalist and lyricist of influential proto-punk Proto-punk ...

Iggy Pop
with
the Stooges The Stooges, originally billed as the Psychedelic Stooges, also known as Iggy and the Stooges, were an American Rock music, rock band formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1967 by singer Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer S ...
, and the theatricality of George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic. The Alice Cooper band incorporated these influences into a tight hard-rock sound coupled with an outrageous, theatrical live show. Zappa sold Straight Records to
Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB) is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate Conglomerate or conglomeration may refer to: * Conglomerate (company) * ...
in 1970 for $50,000. While at the
Strawberry Fields Festival The Strawberry Fields Festival was a rock music Rock music is a broad genre of popular music Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be ...
in Canada in April 1970, band manager
Shep Gordon Shep E. Gordon (born October 18, 1945) is an American talent manager, Cinema of the United States, Hollywood film agent, and Film producer, producer. Gordon is featured in a 2013 documentary film, documentary, ''Supermensch: The Legend of Shep G ...
contacted producer Jack Richardson, who sent nineteen-year-old
Bob Ezrin Robert Alan Ezrin (born March 25, 1949) is a Canadian music producer and keyboardist A keyboardist or keyboard player is a musician who plays keyboard instrument A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played using a musical keyboard, ...

Bob Ezrin
in his place. Ezrin initially turned down working with the band, but changed his mind when he saw them perform at
Max's Kansas City Max's Kansas City was a nightclub and restaurant at 213 Park Avenue South in New York City, which became a gathering spot for musicians, poets, artists and politicians in the 1960s and 1970s. It was opened by Mickey Ruskin (1933–1983) in Decembe ...

Max's Kansas City
in New York City the following October. Ezrin was impressed with the band's audience-participation rock-theater performance and the cult-like devotion of the band's fans, who dressed up and knew the lyrics and actions to the music. Ezrin returned to Toronto to convince Richardson to take on the band; Richardson did not want to work directly with such a group but agreed on condition that Ezrin took the lead. The band and
Bob Ezrin Robert Alan Ezrin (born March 25, 1949) is a Canadian music producer and keyboardist A keyboardist or keyboard player is a musician who plays keyboard instrument A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played using a musical keyboard, ...

Bob Ezrin
did pre-production for the album in
Pontiac, Michigan Pontiac ( ') is a city in and the county seat of Oakland County, Michigan, Oakland County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the city had a total population of 59,515. A northern suburb of Metro Detr ...
, in November and December 1970. Ezrin, with his classical and folk background, attempted to have the band tighten its loosely structured songs. The band resisted at first, but came to see things Ezrin's way, and ten to twelve hours a day of rehearsal resulted in a tight set of hard-rocking songs with little of the psychedelic freak-rock aesthetic of the first two albums. According to Cooper, Ezrin "ironed the songs out note by note, giving them coloring, personality", including cutting down "I'm Eighteen" from an eight-minute jam to a tight three-minute rocker, a song whose aggressive chorus he misheard at first as "I'm Edgy". "I'm Eighteen" was a sixteen-track recording made at RCA Mid-American Recording Center in Chicago. Ezrin found it a challenge to capture Cooper's raspy vocals with standard techniques; he settled on using a
Shure SM57 The Shure SM57 is a low-Electrical impedance, impedance cardioid Microphone#Dynamic microphone, dynamic microphone made by Shure Incorporated and commonly used in live sound reinforcement and studio recording. It is one of the best-selling microph ...

Shure SM57
microphone with high
compression Compression may refer to: Physical science *Compression (physics), size reduction due to forces *Compression member, a structural element such as a column *Compressibility, susceptibility to compression *Gas compression *Compression ratio, of a c ...
and judicious addition of treble and midrange equalization.


Release, reception, and legacy

In November 1970 the group released a single of "I'm Eighteen" (shown on the label simply as "Eighteen") backed with "Is It My Body", and Warner Bros. agreed that if it sold well the group could go forward with an album. The band posed as fans and made hundreds of calls to radio stations to request the song, and Gordon is said to have paid others a dollar per radio request. Soon the song was on the airwaves across the country—even on mainstream AM radio—and peaked at number 21 on the charts. In Canada it broke the top ten, peaking at number 7. The success convinced Warner to allow the band to go ahead with ''
Love It to Death #REDIRECT Love It to Death ''Love It to Death'' is the third studio album by American rock group Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 ...
'', released March 1971. The band's next single was "
Caught in a Dream "Caught in a Dream" is a 1971 song written by Michael Bruce and recorded by his band, Alice Cooper Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier, February 4, 1948) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. Wit ...
" backed with "Hallowed Be My Name" in May 1971. The band played "I'm Eighteen" live on the German television show ''Beat-Club'' in 1972. Cooper appeared on the floor in a Wonder Woman T-shirt gripping a whiskey bottle. During an extended intro, Cooper declares "I ain't twenty-one", then "twenty-two" and on until "twenty-five" before the band delivers an aggressive, heavily distorted performance of the song. Vocalist
Joey Ramone Jeffrey Ross Hyman (May 19, 1951 – April 15, 2001), known professionally as Joey Ramone, was an American musician, singer, composer, and lead vocalist of the punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conv ...

Joey Ramone
based the first song by New York punk band the
Ramones The Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974. They are often cited as the first true punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success initially, t ...
, "I Don't Care", on the chords of the main riff to "I'm Eighteen".
John Lydon John Joseph Lydon (; born 31 January 1956), also known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, is an English-born singer and songwriter who also holds American and Irish citizenship. He is best known as the lead singer of the late-1970s British punk Pu ...
wrote the song "Seventeen" on the
Sex Pistols The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock Punk rock (or simply punk) is a music genre A music genre is a conventional category that identifies some pieces of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a comp ...

Sex Pistols
album ''Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks'' in response to "I'm Eighteen", and is said to have auditioned for the Sex Pistols by miming to an Alice Cooper song—most frequently reported as "I'm Eighteen". Thrash metal band
Anthrax Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium ''Bacillus anthracis ''Bacillus anthracis'' is a Gram-positive and rod-shaped bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological c ...
included a cover of "I'm Eighteen" on its debut album ''Fistful of Metal'' (1984). Creed (band), Creed provided a cover version of the song for the soundtrack to the 1998 teen horror movie ''The Faculty''. The song "Dreamin on the 1998
Kiss A kiss is the touch or pressing of one's lips against another person or an object. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love Love encompasses a range of str ...
album ''Psycho Circus'' bears such a resemblance to "I'm Eighteen" that a month after the album's release Cooper's publisher filed a plagiarism suit, settled out of court in Cooper's favor. ''Rolling Stone'' included the song in 2011 on its "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list at . "I'm Eighteen" was selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was voted in Detroit's 100 Greatest Songs, a 2016 ''Detroit Free Press'' poll. The song ranked on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs in 2006.


References


Works cited

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:I'm Eighteen Songs about teenagers 1970 singles Alice Cooper songs Songs written by Dennis Dunaway Songs written by Alice Cooper Song recordings produced by Bob Ezrin Songs written by Michael Owen Bruce 1970 songs Warner Records singles