Alice Cooper (1964-present): a Heavy Metal band from Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
lice Cooper (Real Name: Vincent Damon Furnier) had two key metal music specialties: to shock and to play the rock anthem. His theatricals, including face paint and snakes, managed to impress or disgust all who came to see him. Starting in jr. high school, shortly after moving to Phoenix, the man that was to become Alice Cooper was already dreaming of stardom by once saying he wanted to become as famous as the Beatles or Rolling Stones. During these years he had several bands The Earwigs, then The Spiders, and then The Nazz; the latter two incarnations played locally but obtained no national stardom.
In 1968 the now members of The Nazz, consisting of Fernier and Mike Bruce (guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass), Glen Buxton (guitar) and Neil Smith (drums) changed officially to Alice Cooper when it was discovered Todd Rungren was using the name The Nazz (legend says the name "Alice Cooper" came from a session with a Ouija board and was the name of a 17th century warlock but this was a myth, he chose the name and subsequent character as a gimmick to grab attention). In 1967 Frank Zappa took a liking to them and signed them to his label, 'Straight Records'. The group recorded twice here before switching to 'Warner Brothers' in 1970.
By the time 'Warner' came about, his live performances had taken on a life of their own using electric chairs, guillotines and live snakes as stage props; he was so good at his art that a reputation followed him. One of these legends that established his reputation is a rumor that he ripped off a chicken's head and drank its blood. This rumor, as it turns out, is incorrect. The true story is, while at the Toronto Peace Festival in 1969, an audience member threw a chicken onto the stage. Alice tossed it back under the belief that the chicken would fly itself away. Instead it flopped onto the ground and the audience tore the poor thing to shreds [chickens cannot fly]! He was now typecast, however, with no option but to play the part. His earliest works are often considered his classics, Pretties For You (1969) and Easy Action (1970), were the debut and sophomore recordings for 'Straight Records', but charting success was achieved on 'Warner' with the single I'm Eighteen in 1970 followed by the albums Love it To Death (1971), Killer (1971), School's Out (1972; an all time student anthem as a single and their next big hit on the charts).
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Even though Alice Cooper was the band's official name, sometime soon after Vincent bought the name outright for his own use. In essence Alice Cooper became him. Legend has it that to this day he pays the other original band members a handsome yearly royalty for the exclusive use of the name.
A stream of hit albums were to follow, like 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, Muscle of Love (1973) (where he sacked the band in favor of Dick Wagner (guitar/vocals), Steve 'Deacon' Hunter (guitar), Prakash John (bass), Pentii 'Whitey' Glan (drums) and Josef Chirowski (drums) all of ex-Lou Reed Band) and Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), all of which reached US top 10. The last album was actually a solo album for shortly before, his band fractured with him officially adopting the name all for himself and taking up Vincent Price as a guest star. 'Nightmare also managed to spawn the unlikely tear jerking romantic ballad hit single Only Women Bleed. Many of the tracks from these classic albums were recorded at Jack Richardson's now defunct Nimbus 9 studios in Toronto, Canada, a popular studio for everyone from the Bay Rollers to Pink Floyd at the time, and after Richardson moving on to produce for the likes of Manowar.
His offstage persona was now nothing less then a Hollywood star. He appeared on TV talk shows - even having a show of his own wherein the band shamelessly glorified their past conquests, played golf with celebrities and even befriended Groucho Marx, to whom he purchased one of the Hollywood 'O's and dedicated it to his memory. He also appeared in films such as Sextette and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Between 1979 and 1982 his band featured Mike Pinera (ex-Iron Butterfly) within its membership.
Alice Cooper Goes To Hell (1976), Lace And Whiskey (1977), The Alice Cooper Show (1977; where he once again replaced the entire band with Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (ex-Turtles;backing vocals), Fred Mandel (to replace Josef), Davey Johnstone (ex-Elton John; guitar) along with session musicians), followed by From The Inside (1978), Flush The Fashion (1980) and Special Forces (1981) were competent releases but weaker then the past ones, and it would get worse over the next decade as declining sales plagued him. Once again a line-up change was initiated featuring Mike Pinera and Davey Johnstone (guitar), Duane Hitchings (keyboards), Eric Scott (bass) and Craig Krampf (drums).
By the time Zipper Catches Skin (1982), Da Da (1983), Live In Toronto (1984), Constrictor (1986), Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987), Trash (1989), Hey Stoopid (1991), Live 1968 (1992), Live At The Whiskey A Go Go (1992) came about, ending with the aptly named The Last Temptation (1994), an album that saw him use his stage props as entertainment instead of shocking, choosing instead to shock people about the matters of like and the afterlife, a successful venture because as far as standard shock rock was concerned, he had become part of the background, his influential days over.
Even his attempts at a line-up change back in 1983 (after Dada) with Kane Roberts (guitar/vocals), David Rosenberg (drums), Paul Delph (keyboards/vocals), Donnie Kisselback (bass/vocals) that replaced the line-up imposed after Zipper Catches Skin the year previous, featuring the returning Wagner, Prakash and Ezrin with Grahan Shaw (synthesizer ), with John Anderson and Richard Kolinga on drums, and himself still failed to improve the prospects. Further attempts in 1988 with a temporary all-star attempt featuring John Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton and JoeyKramer, and a later 1991 all-star effort featuring Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Stef Burns, Slash (all guitars), Mick Mars, Vinnie Moore, Hugh McDonald, Nikki Sixx (all bass), Mickey Curry, Robert Sally and John Webster (all keyboards) and Steve Croes (synclaiver) as session players received only minor notice.
Although still performing and a highly respected musician his releases over the millennium, including the compilations Classicks (1995), A Fistful Of Alice (1997) and The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper (1999) (a box set compilation) went relatively unnoticed. Yet another line-up change would come around with Reb Beach (guitar), Ryan Roxie (guitar), Paul Taylor (keyboards), Todd Jensen (bass), Jimmi DeGrasso (drums) with Rob Zombie, Slash and Sammy Hagar appearing from time to time as guests. His long awaited studio recordings, the first in almost a decade, Brutal Planet (2000), Dragon Town (2002) and The Eyes Of Alice Cooper (2003), fared the same, although coming across as a decidedly heavier album mixing his classic styles with elements of the indie/garage/Alternative movement from the 1990s, while Dirty Diamonds (2005) saw a more classic hard rock feel. Along Came a Spider (2008) and the hit Welcome 2 My Nightmare followed in 2011, with Paranormal and the EP Breadcrumbs in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Alice Cooper and his chums have both supported and headlined for many bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. His influence has also contributed to the success of many other bands like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, GWAR, Kiss ,and others who use his shock-rock style. Most artists who now utilize bizarre costumes, stage props and face paint have Alice Cooper to thank for the innovation. Alice Cooper lives on to this day with live performances and albums but they are less frequent then they once were. He is also rumored to spend private time with other musical greats while eating granola-bars and golfing.
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Alice Cooper in 1972.
Photo: Hunter Desportes
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