Dick Wagner gets de-Frosted
He led the Frost, partnered with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, defied death, and now he’s coming home for semi-reunion
Published: November 9, 2011
Berlin and Reed was followed by Welcome to My Nightmare and Alice. "I had just been working with Lou Reed. I had taken time off and started writing some songs intended for a solo album. I called up Shep Gordon, Alice's manager. I wanted to give him my songs and see if he wanted to manage me. I had a meeting with him and played him a song. He said that he was thinking of taking Alice on as a solo artist, and would I be interested in taking some of these ideas and joining up with Alice Cooper? Play some songs with him? I could hardly say no. I pulled these solo ideas for me and gave them to Alice, and what we did together went on Welcome to My Nightmare."
Arguably Wagner's most celebrated contribution to the album is "Only Women Bleed." "I wrote the music when I was with the Frost back in '68," he says. "I never felt the lyrics were good enough so I didn't do it with Frost then I met with Alice in '75. I played him that music and he liked it but hated the lyrics. He came up with the lyrics in about 20 minutes."
Wagner went on to work with Aerosmith (that's his guitar solo on "Train Kept A-Rollin'"), Kiss, Air Supply, Meat Loaf, Peter Gabriel, Little Richard, Frank Sinatra and more (usually in a writing capacity). When the lucrative work dried up, he kept busy producing and playing with local bands around Saginaw. Then that dried up too.
"There wasn't that much work but I was enjoying myself and I had my studio," Wagner says. "When Sept. 11 happened, it destroyed my studio business. I had a ton of sessions booked and they all canceled. Nobody was putting money into the music business anymore. That's why we made the move to Phoenix."
That's where he has been since, working steadily and keeping busy. When Alice Cooper decided to record Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Wagner did what he could. "I've been involved very little," he says. "They wanted me to bring a couple of things early on but I wasn't well enough. Bob Ezrin called me and said that he needed another 'Only Women Bleed.' I came up with this song called 'Something to Remember Me By,' which is a beautiful ballad. I do believe if the radio plays it it'll be a big hit. It's one of those Alice Cooper-Dick Wagner ballads. Like 'Might as Well Be on Mars' [from Hey Stoopid]. I love that song."
Having Wagner back in Detroit is going to be a rare treat. It's also, Wagner believes, the closest we'll ever get to a Frost reunion now. The show has been tagged "defrosted". "They want me to do a Frost reunion but Bobby [Rigg, drummer] couldn't do it," Wagner says. "He can't really function correctly. It's me, defrosted. I think this is the closest we'll get to a Frost show. On the night, I'll do Frost, some new songs. It's a retrospective. Some Ursa Major, some Alice Cooper, maybe some Lou. I have a new song called 'Motor City Music.' It's a tribute to Detroit. I'm recording it with Jim McCarty, Johnny Bee and Jimmie Bones. It's for a guy called Big Al, who does a charity where he feeds the homeless and cares for AIDS patients."
So what's next? "I want to get two projects started. I'm trying to get funding for a rock star serial killer movie that will be filmed in Detroit. I have seven songs written for it. I also have an album project I'm working on, about a guitar player in the Southwest and he's traveled from the spiritual world. I have four or five songs written for that. Both projects are different to what I've done before. I can't even describe them. I don't care about a label. I want to make this music and then find a way to get it out there."
Serial killers and spiritual rock 'n' rollers? Why not give Alice and Lou a call?
Dick Wagner plays at the Magic Bag on Nov. 11, with the Trews. 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030.
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