A couple of years ago I was in a two-day leadership class, when the instructor decided to trot the old tired cliche know as the "ice breaker". There are many to chose from but she decided to go with the old standby:
"If you could have dinner with anyone in the whole world, who would it be?"
While everyone else was picking movies stars and sports heroes, I selected the original shock rocker, Alice Cooper. While this is probably not surprising to folks in the Junk Drawer, my co-workers were puzzled at my choice. Part of the exercise was to explain why. They only gave use 5 mins so I could only give just a brief over view and they remained dubious...but if asked again, today, I would give the same answer. Alice Cooper!
To explain why requires giving a brief bio of the dude....I don't feel like writing it all out so I post in a couple blurbs from our friend wikipedia:
Cooper was born as Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ella Mae (née McCart) and Ether Moroni Furnier. His father was a lay preacher in the Church of Jesus Christ.......an offshoot of the Latter Day Saint movement.
In 1964, 16-year-old Furnier was eager to participate in the local annual letterman's talent show, so he gathered fellow cross-country teammates to form a group for the show. They named themselves The Earwigs. Because they did not know how to play any instruments at the time, they dressed up like The Beatles and mimed their performance to Beatles songs. As a result of winning the talent show and loving the experience of being onstage, the group immediately proceeded to learn how to play instruments they acquired from a local pawn shop. They soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, John Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar and John Speer on drums
By 1967, the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles to play shows. They soon renamed themselves The Nazz. By the end of the year, the band had relocated to Los Angeles.
In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name. Furnier also believed that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage. The name "Alice Cooper" supposedly came from a session with a ouija board, but in reality was largely chosen because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's image and music. Furnier eventually adopted this stage name as his own. Cooper later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves.
Nonetheless, at the time Cooper and the band realized that the concept of a male playing the role of a villain, a woman killer, in tattered women's clothing and wearing make-up, would have the potential to cause considerable social controversy and grab headlines.
One night after an unsuccessful gig at the Cheetah club in Venice, California, where the band emptied the entire room of patrons after playing just ten minutes, they were approached and enlisted by music manager Shep Gordon, who ironically saw the band's negative impact that night as a force that could be turned in a more productive direction. Shep then arranged an audition for the band with composer and renowned record producer, Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. For the audition Zappa told them to come to his house "at 7 o'clock." The band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o'clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of psychedelic rock at seven in the morning impressed Zappa enough to sign them to a three-album deal. Another Zappa-signed act, the all-female GTOs, who liked to "dress the Cooper boys up like full size Barbie dolls," played a major role in developing the band's early onstage look
Alice Cooper's "shock rock" reputation apparently developed almost by accident at first. An unrehearsed stage routine involving Cooper, a feather pillow and a live chicken garnered attention from the press; the band decided to capitalize on the tabloid sensationalism, creating in the process a new sub-genre, shock rock. Cooper claims that the infamous "Chicken Incident" at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in September 1969 was an accident. A chicken somehow made its way onto the stage into the feathers of a feather pillow they would open during Cooper's performance, and not having any experience around farm animals, Cooper presumed that, because the chicken had wings, it would be able to fly. He picked it up and threw it out over the crowd, expecting it to fly away. The chicken instead plummeted into the first few rows occupied by disabled people in wheelchairs, who reportedly proceeded to tear the bird to pieces. The next day the incident made the front page of national newspapers, and Zappa phoned Cooper and asked if the story, which reported that he had bitten off the chicken's head and drunk its blood on stage, was true. Cooper denied the rumor, whereupon Zappa told him, "Well, whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it,"
"We were into fun, sex, death and money when everybody was into peace and love. We wanted to see what was next. It turned out we were next, and we drove a stake through the heart of the Love Generation" - Alice Cooper, 1970
In autumn 1970, the Alice Cooper group teamed with producer Bob Ezrin for the recording of their third album Love It to Death. This was the final album in their Straight Records contract and the band's last chance to create a hit. That first success came with the single "I'm Eighteen", released in November 1970, which reached number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1971. Not long after the album's release in January 1971 Warner Bros. Records purchased Alice Cooper's contract from Straight and re-issued the album, giving the group a higher level of promotion
From that point on the guys were off to the races!!
I will pick up the thread from here. With Love it to Death, the Alice Cooper Band started string of top selling albums and singles packed full of Furnier's macabre lyrics and catchy hooks. The Cooper band also developed a stage show that included violent images, hangings, and decapitations. Parents were outraged ....the band was being banned in many venues....but the records kept selling.
The thing was that the parents just didn't get the joke. Old vaudevillians like Groucho Marx and Mae West understood intrinsically that what Cooper was up to was just a variation on Vaudeville ...and became friends of the band and Alice himself
Alice Cooper and Mae West
Alice Cooper and Groucho Marx
Well we got no class
And we got no principals
And we got no innocence
We can't even think of word that rhymes -School's Out - 1972
The more popular the band became and the more outraged parents and teachers became the harder it was for Vince to don the Alice Cooper persona. The alcohol he was consuming was beginning to get out of control...but even while battling addiction his musical ideas and lyrics were brilliant. Such as recruiting Folk singer Donovan (Sunshine Superman) sing the strange and awesome lyrics of Billion Dollar Babies
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (Studio Version) (via SecondHelping74)
I agree with Mr Zimmerman's assessment: "
Bob Dylan stated, "I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked songwriter"
My dog bit me in the leg today
My cat clawed my eyes
Mom's been thrown out the social circle
And dad has to hide
I went to church, incognito
When everybody rose,
the Reverend Smithy recognized me
,And punched me in the nose
No more Mister Nice Guy - 1973
The Billion Dollar Babies album was the high point from the Alice Cooper Band. Vince officially changed his name to Alice Cooper after the Muscle of Love album which was the final album of the Alice Cooper Band. For his first release as a solo artist he hired the entire touring band from Lou Reed's classic live album Rock and Roll Animal. He and his new band went to record what was to become Welcome to my Nightmare . With new lead guitarist, Dick Wagner, he penned the haunting, and now classic, Only Women Bleed, thought to be one of the earliest songs to deal with domestic violence. This song has since went on to be covered by likes of Etta James, Tina Turner and Lita Ford.
Man makes your hair grey
he's your life's mistake
all you're really looking for's an even break
He lies right at you
you now hate this game
he slaps you once in a while
and you live and love in pain
She cries alone at night too often
he smokes and drinks
and don't come home at all ooh
Only women bleed
- Only Women Bleed 1975
Even deep in the throws of alcoholism, he hadn't lost his poignant lyrical touch, penning three more top 20 selling ballads. But even as his ballads were soaring up the charts, his humor was still full force as seen in the title track of his follow up to Nightmare....Alice Cooper goes to Hell. He gives us a little taste of criticism he had been recieving for years
For criminal acts and violence on the stage
For being a brat
Refusing to act your age
For all of the decent citizens you've enraged
You can go to Hell
You'd poison a blind man's dog and steal his cane
You'd gift wrap a leper
And mail him to your Aunt Jane
You'd even force-feed a diabetic a candy cane
You can go to Hell
It was around this time that he became involved a dancer in his stage show named Sheryl Goddard. They soon fell in love ...If fact so much in love that Alice famously turned down the advances of Raquel Welch
It was also soon apparent that he need to deal with his alcoholism. He checked into a sanitarium (this was before Betty Ford was open) to dry out. However, being Alice Cooper, he used the experience as fodder for his next record....From The Inside
He re-united with his writing partner Dick Wagner, as well as Elton John lyricist, Bernie Taupin to write music based on his stay at the loonie bin. All the characters were based on the people he met there or himself. The songs were personal, funny, and creepy...so a typical Alice Cooper record (my personal favorite).
Y'all got your kicks from what you saw up there
Eight bucks even buys a folding chair
I was downing Seagrams on another flight
And I worked that stage all night long
You were screaming for the villain up there
And I was much obliged
The old road sure screwed me good this time
It's hard to see where the vicious circle ends
I'm stuck here on the inside
That ain't no big disgrace
Where's my makeup
where's my face
on the inside
"From The Inside"...1978
As time went by, more and people were finally getting the joke with this guy. He became a regular on the Hollywood Squares, had many appearances on the Tonight Show and even a famous guest spot on The Muppet Show
Alice Cooper - Welcome to my nightmare (On Muppet Show) (via Buore)
While the sales of his albums had slipped from his hey day, he was still making records ...his way. Only now clean and sober ...and still Alice! Plus the rock world was now acknowledging his influence....Kiss, Bowie, Motley Crue all cite his paving the way for the type of success they had. HE used monster images and had Vincent Price on one of his albums nearly a decade before Micheal Jackson's Thriller
WE"RE NOT WORTHY!!
Even now, the joke is still funny
Alice Cooper: "The Ugliest Woman I've Ever Seen" (via Jerry Carr)
Shock-rocker : Basically invented the splatter seats at a rock show
Born Again Christian : The type I really like....knows he has an answer ....but not necessarily the answer
Alcoholic : Once he quit....he quit. I am glad he did
Mentor: He has taken young musicians (guitarists usually) and added them to his show. (current Lead guitarist)
Golfer : He is a single digit handicapper who claims that golf saved his life ...he traded one addiction for another
Husband: He and Sheryl have now been married 35+ years ...and has never cheated on her (and I believe him)
He hung out with Groucho, Mae West, Salvador Dalí....turned down Raquel Welch. Keith Richards still calls him Vinnie
He is really the most interesting man in the world