Things You May or May Not Know About Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper Rockin' in Brazil
Alice Cooper is on the road again
Classic rock hounds rejoice! Alice Cooper is coming to a town near you.
Does this man never get tired of touring? Apparently not. His brand new tour Spend the Night with Alice Cooper kicks off in Biloxi, MS on April 29th and continues on the road through a May 21st show at the Casino Rama north-east of Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes cottage area. Hey, I wonder if Alice knows that Cooper’s Falls is nearby?
With a new tour starting, I thought it would be fun to share some things you may or may not know about Alice Cooper – the man and the band.
So, who is Alice Cooper?
Alice came into the world February 4th, 1948 as Vincent Damon Furnier, and he grew up in Detroit, Michigan where his father was a layman in the church. Young Vincent was also active in the church for a time before the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. There, Vince attended Cortez High School, where he met future Alice Cooper lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce and bass player Dennis Dunaway.
By 1975 Furnier had legally changed his name to Alice Cooper, and began his successful solo career. And since he never owned the rights to the band’s name, he continues to pay a royalty to the original band members so that he can legally use the name in his shows.
He has actually recorded more albums as a single artist – 19 of them and counting – than he did with the original band (7 albums to their name).
There was also a character on the tv show Mayberry RFD named Alice Cooper. She was the housekeeper who replaced Aunt Bea in the third season of the show.
Alice Cooper - The Band
After graduating from high school in 1966, the band members recorded their second single Don’t Blow Your Mind, which actually became a #1 hit in the Phoenix area. Michael Bruce had joined the band by this point, and the band began making trips to the U.S. west coast – now calling themselves The Nazz – and playing bars in the Los Angeles area.
It so happened that musician Todd Rundgren already had a band called The Nazz, so in 1968, Furnier decided on the name Alice Cooper, because it sounded tame and non-threatening, unlike the image the boys were cultivating for themselves through their music and on-stage personas. He later said it was one of the best career moves he ever made.
Alice Cooper Killer Tour
How did Alice Cooper get their start?
The band was approached by Shep Gordon one evening after their music had emptied the bar they were playing even before the set was half done. Shep was a manager who saw something raw and original in them and suggested that he arrange an audition for them with Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign new bands to his own label. A meeting was arranged for 7:00 o'clock, which they guys mistakenly thought meant 7:00am. And so it was that they arrived at Zappa’s house early one morning to play their crazy sound. Zappa was so blown away by what he heard that he signed them to a three-album record deal.
The first album recorded for Zappa’s Straight Records, Pretties for You, was released in 1969, followed by a second album in 1970. Easy Action was met with about the same level of indifference that had met their first. The guys were still getting out there though, refining their act and doing what they could to promote their shock rock. In May of 1970, the guys, along with a band called The Flaming Groovies, opened a two-night gig for Iggy Pop and the Stooges at the famous Fillmore West in San Francisco. The Fillmore’s old saloon feel was the perfect backdrop for the bands and their patrons, including a large group of Hells Angels and San Fran’s own Cockettes.
Ongoing frustrations on the coast led the band to take on a Detroit road manager and move back to Michigan, where the music scene was more accepting of their bizarre stage antics and angry music. Detroit bands just had an intensity about them that was accepted there, and Alice Cooper was in good company with Iggy Pop and his fabulous Stooges, the MC5, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, and the Cradle, featuring hard-rockin’ Suzi Quatro and her sisters.
In June of 1970, the guys somehow landed a spot on NBC’s Midsummer Rock, though nothing about the show was ready for prime-time television. Though the editors in the booth managed to cut out the violence that broke out before and even during the concert, they left in enough to ensure that NBC’s phones were ringing off the hook…who wanted to see a band that wore makeup? What kind of rubbish was this?
I wear lace and I wear black leather
John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten, actually auditioned for the band The Sex Pistols by performing a mime version of the song I'm Eighteen.
Love It To Death - Third Time Lucky
Album number three proved to be the charm. With Canadian record producer Bob Ezrin finally convincing the guys to tighten up their songs, Love it to Death produced the hit I’m Eighteen, which rose to number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971.
The song struck a chord with teenagers everywhere. Being in between childhood and adulthood is a tough place to be, and the song perfectly captured the angst that every teenager feels.
Rock On Alice Cooper!
Alice once lost a 12-foot boa named Yvonne in a hotel room in Knoxville. Tennessee. The snake reappeared two weeks later, having crawled into the sewer system via a hotel room toilet.
Spiders and Snakes...Oh My!
Furnier’s early attempts at making music led him and his band-mates to enter and actually win a talent contest by mimicking The Beatles. This unexpected win by The Earwigs further fueled their desire to actually learn how to play their instruments, which they set about doing with great zeal. They also came up with a new name for their band. Now known as The Spiders, Vince and the guys played in and around the Phoenix area with a huge spider web as a backdrop behind the drum kit.
High school’s art class influences like Salvador Dali and a track-and-field running coach who had the guys construct a guillotine to cut watermelon led the band to adopt artsy, glam, and, at the time, shocking themes into their act.
Alice realized very early on that the show, or ‘le spectacle’ as the French say, was the key to defining an image that set the band apart from other rock bands. Giant toothbrushes, baby’s losing their heads, and songs that hinted at necrophilia were all part of the package at an Alice Cooper concert.
The glam look adopted by the band was actually started by Frank Zappa’s girl band The GTOs, or Girls Together Outrageously. The GTOs liked to dress the guys up with feather boas and makeup, and the look just kind of stuck.
The boa constrictors used on stage were all very real. Alice still keeps snakes, and his current one is named Christopher, after the late-star Christopher Lee. His previous snakes have had names like Count Strangula and Cobra Winfrey.
Alice Cooper Songs
As much as it was about the show – and the show was truly an experience – there was always the music. The solid guitar work and bass, the often creative and off-beat drumming and the smart, well-crafted lyrics that truly told a story.
Even among the songs that never made it as hit singles, there were some true gems, including Desperado, which was based on Robert Vaughn’s character who was an on-the-run gunman in the movie The Magnificent Seven.
The song No More Mister Nice Guy from the Billion Dollar Babies Album was Alice’s retort to what his mother’s church group thought of him and his music. The song showed up in the movie Dazed and Confused, and also on an episode of The Simpsons.
Reflected, from Pretties for You, went nowhere as a song, and was later rewritten as Elected, which was the second single from the School’s Out album, and made it to number 26 on the Billboard chart.
Dear Alice Cooper, I wish I had your handicap!
Alice Cooper is a golfer?
These days, you’re more likely to find Alice on a golf course.
Alice is a regular in pro-am tournaments, and has a golf handicap of 5.3! Now that’s something! Alice says that taking up golf saved him from alcoholism, and he has even written a book Golf Monster: My 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.
Rock on Alice!
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Kaili Bisson