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The trouble with Alice Cooper and the 2,000,000 pairs of flammable panties

Alice Cooper in front of the cover artework for his School's Out album
(Image credit: Alice Cooper: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

“I had this reputation for doing covers that were outside the norm, for bands who sold sufficient quantities to have a custom-made sleeve,” explains Craig Braun, who designed the cover of Alice Cooper's School’s Out. “I had a company called the Sound Packaging Corporation, and I’d already done a few special packages like the Rolling StonesSticky Fingers when Alice’s manager, Shep Gordon, contacted us. 

“He said School’s Out was the title of the album and first single. So we submitted four ideas – one of which was a desk I found in my New York studio. We’d carved it up, y’know, the way kids do, with ballpoint pens and knives, and put items inside and stuck chewing gum on it. The guys in the studio were picking their noses and rubbing it on the desk before we photographed it, so it looked legitimate.” 

The presentation of the ideas went well, and Gordon was impressed by the hinge that enabled the sleeve to open like a desk. But Braun had another twist up his sleeve. 

“We decided it would be great to wrap the record in a pair of paper panties,” he recalls. “My production guy found a supplier in London, the first 500,000 pairs were flown in, and when the single was a hit we ordered another million-and-a-half with the half-million flown into JFK and the rest sent by ship.

School's Out fold out cover with panties

(Image credit: Friday Music)

“But when they came into Philadelphia,” he recalls, “customs decided they fitted into the category of ‘wearing apparel’, and one of the regulations was that wearing apparel could not be flammable. We called to explain these were a promotional device, but they froze the entire shipment, and told us we had to treat these panties with a chemical to deflammatise them.” 

Ultimately he was forced to arrange for the million knickers to be treated at a chemical plant. 

“We could feel the clock ticking,” he recalls, “because they wanted School’s Out to be released when school was out all over the country, and that was in a couple of weeks.” 

The pressure increased when label Warners announced they’d found a supplier in Mexico, leaving Braun staring at the possibility of a mountain of redundant underwear and a financial loss. Fortunately School’s Out stormed the US chart, meaning the label could afford to take the panties off his hands. 

“It was a good thing they did,” he concludes, “because otherwise my next move would have been to hire a helicopter and dump those panties all over the Warners parking lot.”

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