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Alice Cooper

Let's clear up one thing right away. Alice Cooper is the name of the group's lead singer. He was born with the unlikely name of Vincent Furnier back in '48 (February 4th). To add to the confusion the group was also named Alice Cooper and consisted of lead guitarist Glen Buxton (who passed away 10/19/97), rhythm guitarist Mike Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. OK?

One might ponder how a band of Phoenix, AZ high school buddies, with a minister's son as lead singer and a knack for cranking out third rate covers of the Rolling Stones, The Who and Yardbirds could, rather quickly, evolve into the founders of Shock Rock. First as the Earwigs, then the Spiders and finally the Nazz, the roots of Alice Cooper (the band) began to take hold. Finding there was another band recording under the moniker the Nazz (with Todd Rundgren) forced a change. Off an ouija board came the name Alice Cooper. Or so the legend goes.

The band relocated to LA and signed with Frank Zappa's label. In that environment, every bit of weirdness was encouraged. Alice Cooper (the lead singer) even managed to become an occasional drinking buddy of the Doors' Jim Morrison. But after two albums nothing seemed to jell so the group left glitter town. They moved to the heartland, Coop's hometown - Detroit. Playing long and hard, and heavily influenced by the MC5 and Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Alice Cooper was ready.

You'd think a bunch of guys who called themselves Alice Cooper would be some drag outfit. If gender bending was their intent they could have done a lot better job with the make-up (see David Bowie). Nope. A.C.'s contribution was merging gothic theater and Rock. Taking the whole idea, to what was then, the extreme. Growing up, Vinnie (the future "Alice" or "Coop") loved old horror movies and slapstick comedy. The vision was to put the two together in a sick, twisted sort of way.

Coop always went for the showbiz jugular. Over the top or forget it. Give 'em what they came for: Rock, violence, death and sex - in that order. Alice Cooper bonded with their audience, expressed their frustrations and prayed on their desire to be on top, or at the very least get even. Driving, riff-laden guitar Rock propelled teen or anti-social (usually the same thing) anthems. Even though the band's high school days were nearly a decade behind them, they knew how it felt to be unpopular, left out and constantly put down by the "in-crowd." And they never forgot.

Alice Cooper (the singer) had a snarling voice and wild, out of control demeanor. The stage show grew with the band's success and excess. First, it was throwing chickens into the audience. Rumor had it that Cooper bit the head off a live chicken during a show. Cooper always denied it, blaming the chicken's demise on an over zealous audience. Still, the ASPCA ordered them not to bite the heads off any more chickens. Nearly a decade later, Ozzy Osbourne had the same problem, only with bats.

The Cooper stage show also included a gallows and Cooper's "execution." However, an Atlanta court ruled that Cooper couldn't use feathers, an electric chair or gallows during their show in that fair city. Why bother? Then there was the boa constrictor. She was wrapped around Cooper in something just short of the death grip. The snake was an indispensable part of the act. And that was what it was. An act. It was a '50s horror movie with a hard Rock beat. Nostalgic yet contemporary, shocking but often performed with a wry sense of humor. A startling, compelling combination. You had to watch. By being the anti-role model, Alice became THE role model.

With the arrival of the "Killer" album Alice Cooper found themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. The accompanying article was entitled "Gold Diggers of 1984." The title had extra punch since that magic year was still a ways off. The article also mentioned that Alice Cooper drank a case of beer a day. Shortly thereafter, there were numerous reports of teenage boys getting seriously ill or being taken to the hospital after trying to down twenty-four beers in one sitting. Even if they made it through one day they couldn't sustain it. You have to pace yourself.

Also, on a more tragic note, there was a report of a death when a guy tried to hang himself as he'd seen Cooper do. Cooper's gallows was a prop with safety devices. Those devices failed during one show and nearly sent Cooper to the great beyond. Definitely, not something to try at home.

Another thing that made Alice Cooper was timeliness. As eighteen year-old boys were registering for the draft and the possibility of being sent to fight in Vietnam, Alice Cooper released the empathetic "I'm Eighteen." As summer approached "School's Out" vaulted up the charts. When the '72 election loomed Alice Cooper threw his hat into the ring with "Elected."

One huge Cooper hit not connected to a specific event was the sneering "No More Mr. Nice Guy." "It was me screaming back at the public," said Alice several decades later. "At the time I was guilty of every single thing that was wrong with America. And it ended up being one of those songs everyone connected to."

Not too far into the '70s Alice Cooper (the group) was having trouble functioning for all the usual reasons. Alice Cooper (the singer) dumped the band and went solo taking the name with him. The band re-surfaced momentarily as Billion Dollar Babies. After spending a considerable portion of the decade in a haze, Cooper checked into the Betty Ford clinic. He even managed to cash in on the misery with the "From The Inside" album and found commercial success with a couple of tepid ballads (the last resort of a fading Rocker).

So much of what Alice Cooper started has shown up repeatedly. Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie are two of Cooper's more obvious music/showman offspring. That attention has fueled various comebacks including a hilarious '04 Staples (the paper products outfit) back-to-school commercial, playing on the "School's Out" theme, and the '05 release "Dirty Diamonds."

Taking a concept that might have worked better in the '70s - a wayward tour inside the mind of a serial killer - Cooper, with contributions from ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and Ozzy Osbourne, issued "Along Came A Spider" in '08. While the theme was most certainly in bad taste it was just the sort of subject that Cooper's blend of twisted humor and horror had at least a shot at pulling off. As a result, Cooper continued to display an uncanny knack for trouble. He was forced to tone down his performance on CBS' Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson after network officials deemed a planned segment too graphic. Cooper initially intended to re-enact a scene from his "Vengeance Is Mine" video by pretending to strangle a female audience member with a scarf. That was a no-go. Oh well.

In a move that some, including Cooper himself thought would never happen, Alice Cooper (the band) was one of the 2011 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were selected along with Darlene Love, Dr. John, Tom Waits and Neil Diamond.

Later in the year, Alice Cooper returned in a way that they could not have conceived of back in the 70's. The band appeared in "4-D" during the Jagermeister Ice Cold Event at the Battersea Power Station in London. A holographic image of Cooper performing in the U.S. with the surviving members of the original band (Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce) was beamed to England. "Working with Jagermeister to appear as holograms on the other side of the Atlantic is the ultimate experience - a cutting-edge conjuring trick that celebrates the future and our history," said Cooper in a statement.

Revisiting and re-inventing his past once again, Cooper's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare," a continuation of '75 classic "Welcome To My Nightmare," was released in '11. "Welcome To My Nightmare" was Cooper's debut solo album. Both it and "2" were produced by Bob Ezrin (who also produced the band's early albums).

With Ezrin still on the board, "Paranormal" dropped in '17. Like its predecessors, the album featured an A-List of contributors - ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, U2's Larry Mullen and Deep Purple's Roger Glover. Most of the guitar work was courtesy of Tommy Denander and Tommy Henroksen.

Alice Cooper Discography

Alice Cooper (the band) Studio Albums:

1969 Pretties For You
1970 Easy Action
1971 Love It To Death
1971 Killer
1972 School's Out
1973 Billion Dollar Babies
1973 Muscle Of Love

Alice Cooper Solo Albums:

1975 Welcome To My Nightmare
1976 Alice Cooper Goes To Hell
1977 Lace And Whiskey
1978 From The Inside
1980 Flush The Fashion
1981 Special Forces
1982 Zipper Catches Skin
1983 DaDa
1986 Constrictor
1987 Raise Your Fist And Yell
1989 Trash
1991 Hey Stoopid
1994 The Last Temptation
2000 Brutal Planet
2001 Dragontown
2003 The Eyes Of Alice Cooper
2005 Dirty Diamonds
2008 Along Came A Spider
2011 Welcome 2 My Nightmare
2017 Paranormal

There are three great Alice Cooper records: "Killer," "School's Out" and "Billion Dollar Babies."

"Killer" has the potent "Under My Wheels." From the opening guitar to the fierce horn-driven chorus, not to mention Cooper's in-your-face vocals, this is everything a Rock song should be. The album also contains one of the few Hard Rock westerns in "Desperado."

"School's Out" has the title track, Alice Cooper's biggest hit, but there is so much more. "My Stars" and "Public Animal #9" are excellent with lyrics promoting Cooper's emerging seditious persona. They even take the "Jets Theme" from "West Side Story" and gave it some real venom.

"Billion Dollar Babies" has the most hits ("Elected" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy") including the ballad "Hello, Hooray," another show tune.


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