Happy Birthday today to Alice Cooper, the master of “shock rock,” the man whose early goth impetus coupled with a foot in the musical blues, and his larger than life persona, which made him a superstar to the masses in the early 1970s and a true elder renaissance man in the current hard rock and heavy metal circuits.
Having fan bases which stretch wide and in a way are compartmentalized by certain eras of his, not unlike say Miles Davis and his different approaches to the genre, Alice Cooper has always kept a common thread for what he does best — being an enigmatic front man who propelled his band (originally called Alice Cooper, a name reportedly in which was acquired from a Ouija board excursion) to galaxy heights, sounding a doomy, bluesy, Doors-style approach ala Black Sabbath, but making themselves in a way more accessible to a wider audience instantly, due to Alice Cooper’s sly wink he uses at himself and the audience.
In a way, when it’s all stripped down, the bombastically irresistible stage antics of Cooper, replete with blood, large blow up inflatables, boa constrictors, and on stage guillotine decapitations (of life-like doll heads), was one big party, and no one knew that there was a divide between the theatrics on stage and the realities off of it better than Alice Cooper himself. He was like a cross between P.T. Barnum and Hershell Gordon Lewis, a classic vaudevillian performer as directed by horror film maven George Romero, but set to music. During the band’s heyday, from about 1971-1974, photographs of Alice the man could be as diverse as him in his glitter, garish, black-smeared makeup affixed to his face, or shots of him playing golf or hanging out with other luminaries at the time like John Lennon and Harry Nilsson (he was part of that famed Hollywood Vampires clique that the aforementioned men were part of as well) traipsing around from West Hollywood bar to bar, raising raucousness albeit a good time.
The music during those early years also played a big part in the success of the band and the man, with great musicianship at the helm, the late Glen Buxton on guitar – he could play a mean one for sure – Michael Bruce on keyboards, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, who’s punctuated notes that formed the dirty bottom end, and the drumming of Neil Smith, who had an artillery of drums and some of the attack like the legendary Keith Moon from The Who did. As a unit, those men, along with the screechy, sensually dark and light vocals from Alice, created classic albums like Love It To Death, Easy Action, Billion Dollar Babies, Killer, and Muscle Of Love, that were filled with songs that had strong sonic cement-like holds that gripped cult and mainstream audiences, like “Long Way to Go,” “Black Juju,” “The Ballad of Dwight Frye,” “Below Your Means,” “Gutter Cats VS The Jets,” “Under My Wheels,” “Hard Hearted Alice,” the megaphone blaring “Elected,” the shout it out at the top of your lungs “School’s Out,” and the confused, where does a young one go from here anthem, “I’m Eighteen.” There are so many more songs in that early catalog that are at once incredible, superb, innovative, adventurous, and far reaching, and a listener is highly encouraged to stretch out their musical horizons and discover that there’s so much more than the Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits album, which does showcase the highlights of the early band’s career, but doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948, in Detroit, MI, the entertain’s long career has been venerable since the days of the original band, and scores of solo albums ranging from adventurous undertakings like From the Inside, the semi-autobiographical album which was created with long time Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin, to back to the basics but done more commercially than the original band albums like Constrictor and Hey Stoopid, as well as appearances in other forms of media ranging from a memorable appearance on The Muppet Show, to films that range from the macabre, cult, and sometimes downright schlock, like John Carpenter’s shocker Prince of Darkness, the Mae West bizarre debacle Sextette, the theatrically wrong-headed botched version of the Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, and Tim Burton’s theatrical retread of the popular TV vampiric soap opera Dark Shadows. But it wasn’t Cooper’s fault that some of these productions were downright mediocre, his presence and gregarious likeable charm even at his most darkest, shrouded in heavy metal moments, still shines through and makes whatever he’s doing rather memorable, if not all-together successful. He currently still tours, still makes new music, and even hosts a local radio show in his native hometown of Detroit, Michigan, the birthplace of classic bands like his old Alice band, The Stooges, and the MC5.
Cooper and his solo band will be the support act for Motley Crue’s 2014 farewell tour, dubbed The Final Tour.
So here’s a tip of the top hat today (a stage prop that is synonymous with Cooper) to the man who remains a seminal figure in the birth of so many classic sounds, who still packs a punch in many of the things he does, who still mystifies generations with his confident approach to music and singing, a man for all leather jacketed, heavy metal and hard rock filled seasons, and usually more than not, the coolest guy in the room and the guy who will always welcome you to his nightmare, the immortal Alice Cooper.
There are several great Alice Cooper albums available right now for a discounted price. Most of the CDs listed are “AutoRip,” which means when you purchase the CD, you get a free MP3 download of the album as well.
Love It to Death (1971) CD I’m Eighteen, Black Juju, Ballad Of Dwight Fry
Killer (1971) MP3 Under My Wheels, Be My Lover, Dead Babies
School’s Out (1972) CD | MP3 School’s Out, Gutter Cat vs. the Jets, Public Animal #9
Billion Dollar Babies (1973) CD Billion Dollar Babies, Elected, No More Mr. Nice Guy
Welcome to My Nightmare (1975) CD Only Women Bleed, Welcome to My Nightmare, Cold Ethyl
Constrictor (1986) CD Teenage Frankenstein, He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask), Simple Disobedience
Raise Your Fist & Yell (1987) CD Freedom, Give The Radio Back, Prince Of Darkness
Trash (1989) CD Poison, Trash, This Maniac’s in Love With You