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Forty-five years ago, right at this time of year, one of the million warped, delectable pop-culture treats that made the Seventies so great was starting to take shape — and it was happening less than a 10-mile crow’s-fly from my grandparents’ house at 1107 Hope St., Stamford, Connecticut.

My grandpa (spoiler alert) had no idea this was going on, of course. And if he had known, he surely would have disapproved.

But it’s a good story, and those never go out of fashion. So pull up a chair (electric, perhaps?) and come back in the day with me …

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If you wanted to craft a summary of the American dream, you could do worse than this (hypothetical) want ad:

WANTED: Five working-class kids from Phoenix, Arizona, seek luxury property near New York City where they can live, work, play, and bring their successful shared enterprise to a whole new level. Property must be large enough to accommodate support staff and girlfriends, yet private enough to avoid scrapes with the neighbors.

Mansions within driving distance of New York don’t come cheap, but the young men in question felt they could afford it.

They’d just broken big with a pair of Top 40 albums and a hit single, as well as a must-see, headline-grabbing theatrical stage presentation. More and greater success seemed right around the corner — and indeed, it was.

Let money talk for long enough on the real-estate market, and a suitable location will present itself.

In this case, the property in question was the Galesi Estate, a 42-room mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, renting for either $2,000 or $2,500 a month, depending on whose memory you believe.

With heavy doors, massive fireplaces, a hidden passageway and a generally eerie aura, the estate was well-matched to its new tenants’ gothic tastes. They quickly took to it as a place to work, unwind, escape their ever-growing notoriety, and explore other dimensions (in the manner of the day).

And in late summer and early fall of 1972, the tenants began recording new songs in the reverberant ballroom of the estate … plotting out unlikely, over-the-top tales of nightmares, necrophilia and physical decay amidst the country-club swank of southwestern Connecticut.

(Greed was a running theme too, inspired by the tenants’ sudden wealth, and by their interactions with Greenwich teenagers who had their own luxury cars complete with drivers.)

You know the five young men from Phoenix under the name their lead singer took with him when he went solo: Alice Cooper.

And if you are of a particular age and mindset, you know the fruits of their Connecticut labor as Billion Dollar Babies — the only U.S. Number One album that Cooper (the band or the singer) has ever achieved.

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Exactly how much of Billion Dollar Babies was recorded in Greenwich is difficult to tell.

Musicians who try to record in unusual locations sometimes end up going back to the sound quality, and the more disciplined settings, of professional studios. It’s known that follow-up sessions for Billion Dollar Babies took place in studios in New York and London — where, among other things, Donovan’s larkish and completely unexpected appearance on the title track was recorded.

At least one of the album’s most popular songs is a full-on product of Fairfield County, according to drummer Neal Smith.

To capitalize on the 1972 presidential campaign, the single “Elected” was released in September of that year — five months before the full album, and before any of the sessions outside the mansion were held.

A roaring, vainglorious, twelve-cylinder mess, “Elected” was the perfect pop song for the race-to-the-bottom year of Arthur Bremer, Tom Eagleton, and campaign-authorized ratfucking (their term, not mine) … and America’s failure to send the song any higher than No. 26 only underlines how messed-up that season really was.

Great rock n’ roll, it seems, can be made anywhere, even in 42-room mansions in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Alas, even at their moment of greatest triumph, success and indulgence were already starting to crack Alice Cooper apart.

The original group could muster only one more disappointing studio album (also recorded in part at the mansion) before splitting. In April 1974, a year to the month after Billion Dollar Babies hit U.S. Number One, the band was playing its final live shows together.

Like all good horror stories, reports of what happened to the Galesi Estate vary somewhat in the telling.

In the Cooper band’s absence, a fire caused by electrical wiring either destroyed or greatly damaged the mansion. Alice Cooper the singer was spending more and more time in Los Angeles by then, golfing with Bob Hope, drinking with John Lennon, and laying the groundwork for the scary-outside, cuddly-inside celebrity persona that has sustained him to this day.

None of the other band members struck it quite so rich after the ride was over, but one of them sank roots in Fairfield County and prospered. Drummer Smith went back to school and enjoyed a successful second career as a Realtor, selling high-end homes a few towns east of Greenwich.

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To bring this back to my grandpa (and you knew I would), I’d love to posit the notion that he walked past some of the Alice Cooper band members in the grocery store during their Exile on Easy Street.

But there seems to have been something of a wall between upmarket Greenwich and Stamford, even though the two communities border each other. My dad says:

Growing up, the luxury of Greenwich seemed a world away, and I doubt if I was in Greenwich more than a dozen times in my life, most of those for gigs or jam sessions.

(No jams at the Galesi Estate, of course.)

And my mom:

During our time Stamford was definitely blue collar. Changed RAPIDLY after we left. I also spent almost no time in Greenwich except for my violin lessons and my teacher lived almost on the Greenwich/Stamford border. Never went to downtown Greenwich or drove any of the roads. Upper class to say the least – hasn’t changed.

It seems unlikely, then, that anything would have drawn my grandpa in Coop’s direction, or vice versa.

Cooper the singer has said the band had tenuous relationships with its Connecticut neighbors anyway. One suspects they didn’t mix much with the locals — especially when they could spend free time in New York City instead.

And whatever impression of Alice Cooper that my grandpa had would have been negative. A snake-wielding long-haired young man in leather pants and black eye makeup, singing songs like “Hallowed Be My Name” and “I Love the Dead”? Not his bag.

(During the band’s time in Greenwich, my grandpa’s favorite newsweekly and former employer mentioned Cooper in its Oct. 30, 1972, issue, in an article called “Vaudeville Rock.” I can’t read the whole thing, so I don’t know whether it mentioned the group’s unusual choice of residence, or whether my grandpa ever knew that these repugnant, notorious freaks were his not-quite-neighbors one town over.)

In reality, the roughly nine-mile road distance between 1107 Hope Street and the road the Galesi Estate fronted on might as well have been 900 miles. And the Cooper band might just as well have been building a nuclear bomb there, for all it meant to my grandfather.

That doesn’t bother me, though. I still like to imagine my grandfather picking his tomatoes or hosing down his porch while, a scant few miles away, Neal Smith was laying down a thumping drum track or Alice Cooper was belting out a gravelly vocal that would play on radios around the world.

And who knows?

One of those Indian-summer nights on Hope Street, when my grandpa’s half-dozing ears noted the rumble of an unfamiliar, powerful engine above the usual traffic murmur, it might just have been a Yankee Doodle dandy in a gold Rolls-Royce.

You want sources? Here, and here, and here, and here, and here.

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