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Originally Published: November 1994
The story begins in Detroit on 4th of February 1948. Born Vincent Damon Furnier so to Ether and Ella Furnier, Alice's career started during his school days of 1962 at Cortez High miming Beatles tunes in his band called The Earwigs.
Twelve months and a few personal changes after that the guys were known as The Spiders and won a battle of the bands competition in the summer of 1965. The year 1967 saw another name change to The Nazz and also the line up that remained unchanged until their breakup in 1974.
After realising the name The Nazz had already been used, the guys set out to find a distinctive name. After throwing around ideas, it was Vince who suggested ALICE COOPER!! which at first was laughed at and ignored until the story of the real Alice Cooper was learnt through the use of an Ouija board. Just briefly, Alice was a thirteen year old girl who lived in Sussex, England and was taught magic by her sister.
One day her parents were caught in a mysterious fire and their bodies never recovered. Her sister was accused of being a witch and consequently burned at the stake by villagers in 1623. The story goes on but the guys decided that this fitted their needs perfectly. The band signed up with Frank Zappa's record company Straight Records and recorded their first album Pretties For You in 1969. Easy Action followed in 1970 but unfortunately neither of these enjoyed any chart success of major sales.
Neither of these albums were released in Australia but were released as a double album titled School Days, The Early Recordings in 1973. The third and final album on Straight was Love It To Death released in 1971. The album broke the band internationally and boasted their first charting hit single, I'm Eighteen. Interestingly, the album also contained a cover version of the Rolf Harris song, Sun Arise. It wasn't until later that I discovered it was a cover, but I know which version I'd rather listen to!
The band went from strength to strength gaining publicity for their outrageous stage shows and antics of the lead singer. Success followed with every album (and single) release but none more popular than the School's Out single in 1972. It topped the charts around the world and like it or not, Alice Cooper was here to stay.
Things were suddenly turning out OK for the guys, no more borrowing of equipment or stealing food when the chance arose. In fact, it was their dream come true, they were finally big stars and there was no shortage of parties, groupies, screaming fans and booze.
Their tours became bigger and better and took them to places they had never dreamed of visiting. At every stop the press was making up gory stories about the band but mostly about Alice as he was the front man and received most of the attention. We all know most of the legends associated with Alice Cooper, but none more famous than the "biting the head off a chicken" incident. I guess also that most of us have heard what really happened, but for the benefit of those who don't, this is a quick summary.
An open air concert was held in 1969 and our friends were one of the opening acts. A chicken walked on stage (as chickens usually do,) during their last song and Alice saw the chance to work it into the act.
Realising it was a bird with wings, he presumed it could fly as chickens from his home town could. With that, he picked it up and threw it above the crowd expecting it to soar upwards but to his horror it fell and people in the first few rows grabbed at it. Someone had a hold of a wing another the legs and the rest is history. The day after the show the papers described how Alice bit the poor birds head off, threw it into the crowd and then drank the blood for the encore. Shocking I know but as Alice says "any publicity is good publicity."
The first real theatrics unleashed on the public were the electric chair and the hanging act on the "Killer" tour in 1971 and the album was released (overseas) with a fold out, zip off calendar of Alice "hanging around" on stage.
The Killer shows were promoted in the usual manner, posters, ads in music magazines, radio and so on, but they pulled a great stunt in England for the concerts at Wembley Stadium. Before the first show a large billboard was made of Alice lying nude and the only thing he was wearing for warmth was a snake around his waist. The billboard was fixed to the side of a truck and driven through the busy London streets.
As you can probably guess, the truck just happened to break down and caused major traffic jam and what else could people look at while they were waiting, very clever indeed.
The hanging act proved such a crowd pleaser that it was carried over to School's Out in 1972 and by the time the gallows and actual hanging had been polished to perfection. Alice also had a change in eye make up from the original squigley lines to the coloured in circles with points that we all know and love today. The band were certainly on a roll, the parties grew bigger and Alice was drinking more.
Their shows were automatic sellouts as the fans were just dying to see what they would do next. They were greeted with the famous Billion Dollar Babies shows which was the bands biggest production to date. The audience watched as Alice paraded around on-stage wearing the outfit of white singlet, leopards and those famous thigh high leopard skin boots (which are now stored along with other Alice clothing and stage props in LA.) The guillotine was introduced on this tour and was an overnight success and it seemed the more outrageous Alice became, the more the public wanted. This added to the drinking problem as Alice presumed the fans expected him to be the Alice character off stage as well.
He was always with a drink in hand (the famous Budweiser beer) and at one stage was consuming a case of beer and two bottles of Scotch a day. The schedule was hectic with a concert almost every day, radio spots and public appearances and in additional to this there was a feeling of unrest amongst the band.
Alice was happy to continue with the theatrics but the band wanted to concentrate more on the music side of things. The grueling Billion Dollar Babies shows ended and the boys took a well deserved break. One of these shows from America was recorded on film and released as "Good To See You Again." I can remember my folks telling me not to waste my money going to town to see it and suggested it would be cheaper sitting in my room looking at the hundreds (literally) of Alice pictures stuck all over my walls.
Needless to say I enjoyed the movie but kick myself for not stealing one of the posters used for publicity purposes. It's one of those funny things, but everytime I think about or see that movie, I recall the events of that day from my teenage years.
The guys set a date and met after their respective holidays to put their heads together for a new album. This was their last recorded effort together and the album was Muscle Of Love. It was fairly heavily promoted by the record company as it was the follow up to the previous monster. It did reasonably well but there was still a conflict of ideas amongst the band and with no compromise reached, they split and went their seperate ways. For the record, the rhythm section of the Cooper band Michael Bruce, Neil Smith and Dennis Dunaway teamed up with two other guys Bob Dolin and Mike Marconi and formed a band.
They called themselves Billion Dollar Babies and released an album titled Battle Axe in 1977. Michael Bruce released a solo album (Rock Rolls On) in 1983 and the others have played as guests on various other records here and there.
Alice's first solo album after the split was the infamous Welcome To My Nightmare in 1975. This album shot him to mega star status and is still selling well today (especially with the advent of CD's, everyone is swapping their well worn out LP's for the round silver discs.) It was a big year for Alice, he had a huge hit on his hands with the new album and the singles lifted from it did very well also. Only Women Bleed was the first of the Alice ballads and was met with a warm reception as the public was seeing a soft and gentle side to the man they had labeled the super ghoul.
Alice employed the services of the late Vincent Price to narrate the story on the track The Black Widow (this idea was later stolen by Michael Jackson and used on his Thriller album,) and the marriage between rock horror and movie horror was a great success. The Welcome To My Nightmare LP cover won album cover of the year in 1975 and was soon popping up everywhere.
There was a Nightmare jigsaw puzzle, drinking cups, clock, belt buckle (very big in the 70's,) mirror, T-shirts, posters and the list goes on.
Alice had the idea of producing videos for some of the songs and decided to produce a TV special for the whole album. It follows the album character, Steven, through all of the songs and some lyrics were changed for TV. To my knowledge it has only ever been shown on Australian TV once (that's the time I saw it,) but has since been released in America on home video title The Nightmare.
A live recording of a show in the UK was released as a film Welcome To My Nightmare and when it was screened around Australia it was advertised as "The Jaws of Rock," cashing in on the wave of shock caused by a large shark! The Nightmare shows took Alice all over the world and Australia was about to see first hand what they had only read about. The year was 1975, the dates were set, posters printed and so on but the Government at the time banned Alice from entering the country and consequently all the shows were cancelled but we would get our chance.
Welcome To My Nightmare was the best charting release for Alice in Australia (which would explain the ever present copies in the secondhand shops,) with Newcastle taking out the honors for most album sales per head of population, good on you people.
The follow up release was Alice Cooper Goes To Hell (a bedtime story) in 1976, Nightmare part two. We follow Steven through the continued adventure and this album contained another of the Cooper ballads, I Never Cry, Alice's first million selling single. The next year was very exciting for me and the rest of the country as Alice was finally to perform on our soil.
The show was on a Saturday (26th March 1977) and I remember having to leave my weekly cricket match a bit early as in those days there were no reserved seats and it was first in best dressed. By the time we arrived at the Sydney Showground the crowd had already built up and the queue started at the roller doors and stretched back towards the road. Even still, we had a fair jump start on the rest of the people that were still arriving by the truck load.
I can remember how hot it was sitting on the footpath (from 12.30 pm to 7.00 pm) waiting for those shutters to be rolled up. The time passed quickly and we were soon charging in to get a good spot on the grassed area inside. I was only 15 at that stage but thankfully bought the concert book, badge and poster which was torn in half accidentally by someone running by, it's still to be treasured though.
'Hush' were the supporting band after their set the announcer put a message over the PA system that Alice would be a bit late in coming on, but to be patient. The crowd wanted to see Alice right then and the craze of the time at outdoor concerts was can throwing, some full, some empty.
It was quite scary and people were being hit left right and centre. To add to this, the Hells Angels arrived and were determined to have a front row seat. The crowd parted as these giants in leather made their way right up to the barrier at the front. Finally, Alice hit the stage and the noise was deafening! The show was absolutely fabulous complete with a giant inflatable Alice that was tied down behind speaker stacks and raised periodically, dancing black widow and skeletons, a snake and fireworks at the end of the concert that lit up to say "Alice loves Australia." One of the most vivid memories I have that night was the encore of School's Out and Alice was wearing a Manly football jumper (as they had won the premiership that year) it looked so strange but at the same time, so Alice.
The show ended and the crowd left the scene very satisfied indeed. There were the usual arguments and punch ups but I was too busy collecting discarded tickets off the ground. I cut the reviews out of the newspapers the next day, bought RAM magazine with Alice on the cover and that's where my collecting habit started which is still going today.
During Alice's stay in Australia he experienced shark fishing, had a trip to Sydney's famous Luna Park and hosted an episode of Countdown. I have only ever seen that once but can remember Alice and Glen Shorrock (of LRB) as hosts and the competition to win one of Alice's top hats.
Alice's drinking problem by this stage was very serious and in fact he was given the choice, stop drinking or die. After returning to the States he checked himself into a clinic to dry out and the album From The Inside is based on his experiences there and the people he met. I like that album very much and the cover is fantastic. It is a gatefold, has a little pop open door to "the quiet room" where Alice is sitting and the back doors of the clinic (the back cover) also opens to reveal a shot of Alice and some of the other characters running down the corridor, all with their certificates of releases.
There has been some classic album packaging over the years and who could forget the School's Out, fold out desk cover with the paper underpants and Muscle Of Love in the cardboard carton with inner sleeve and book cover, although some countries opted for a "flat" cover release.
Another was Billion Dollar Babies LP which was designed to resemble a giant wallet (green snakeskin mind you) that opened, inside were colour press out wallet sized photos of the band, a large Alice Cooper billion dollar note and inner sleeve.
One side had all the lyrics and the other was a shot of the band (with Alice holding a baby in full Cooper eye make up) surrounded by piles and piles of fresh crisp American currency. Here is a small piece of trivia for your enjoyment / investigation, the cover of the Goes To Hell album is a blow up of Alice's face and if you check the picture of him on the B$B inner sleeve, you may discover it is the same, there you go boys and girls.
For the years 1980 - 1983 Alice released the albums Flush The Fashion, Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and Dada and with the change in music style around that period these went virtually undetected. 1986 saw Alice's comeback album Constrictor released and the single, He's Back, The Man Behind The Mask from the album was selected as the title theme for the movie Friday The 13th Part 6.
The album was heavier than anything that he had previously recorded and was received with open arms by audiences around the world. That tour exposed Alice to a whole new teenage audience who had only read about the legend of Alice Cooper. Alice titled this tour the "The Nightmare Returns." The next year gave us the album Raise Your Fist And Yell which continued with the heavy style and by this time Kip Winger and Kane Roberts were almost on their way to solo careers.
The single from this album was Freedom and unfortunately not released in Australia. A good collectable came out of the UK as a limited edition, 12 inch picture sleeve single in a plastic snakeskin bag.
The next time Australia was to see Alice was in 1990 when he was here doing concerts for the Trash album. The single "Poison" was the first lifted from it and entered the charts sneaking into the top five, resulting in excellent album and single sales (more trivia, Poison was used in the film Tango and Cash in one of the bar scenes.)
This was the first solid air play Alice was receiving here since his last real charting hits, You and Me from 1977 and How You Gonna See Me Now released in 1978. There were another three singles from Trash making it four releases from one LP, equalled only by the Billion Dollar Babies album from 1973. I will never forget that tour of 1990 as I met Alice for the first time face to face. Present were my wife Maree, our good friend Libby, Brian Nelson (Alice's assistant), Toby Mamis (Alice's manager) and me.
There we all were standing around backstage at the first of the Trash shows in Canberra, talk about star struck! Alice came over to greet us in the flesh and I could barely get a word out. With some gentle prodding from Maree I managed to get a few autographs and a photo with the man, it's a strange feeling, but after 13 years of collecting and looking at photos and pictures, he had come to life and was standing right next to me and asked if I minded if he put his arm around my shoulder for the photo! what a guy.
We were fortunate enough to have backstage passes for the Sydney shows and by that time I was an old hand (?) at meeting stars and consequently enjoyed myself more. After the successful Trash tour of Australia and New Zealand, Alice took a well deserved holiday and shortly after was (rightly so) requested to add his handprints to the Hollywood Rockwalk.
Various movie producers have approached Alice to appear in their films and his TV acting career began in the mid seventies when he was required for the premier episode of The Snoop Sisters. He played a warlock decked out in full eye make up and a skeleton suit.
He also starred in his own full length movie called Monster Dog filmed in the Philippines and if you check the horror section of your local video store you might just find it. Other movies Alice makes an appearance in are Diary Of A Mad Housewife, Sextette (with Mae West,) Prince Of Darkness, Shocker, The Decline of the Western Civilization Part 2, one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sagas, Freddy's Dead the Final Nightmare and the one everybody knows, Waynes World. His most recent effort is Maverick with Jody Foster and Mel Gibson who incidentally asked Alice for his autograph on the first day of shooting.
There have been other (all) Alice music videos released in Australia and to save space I have listed them in the discography.
Alice's latest album release is The Last Temptation (1994) and he embarked on a world wide promotional tour which included Australia. It was a lightning couple of weeks that saw him doing radio spots, TV appearances, record shop in-store and lots of autograph signing.
A few of those were for me as Maree and I took time off work to follow the promo tour. I was over the moon when I asked Alice to sign my Yugoslavia pressing of Muscle Of Love and he told me that he had never seen a copy before. Right then, all the hours (not to mention dollars) spent on collecting seemed worthwhile.
It was fabulous to have spent time with him again and he didn't seem to mind the ever present two shadows. Alice was in top form and I'm sure some of the people who interviewed him were of the same opinion. Taking a breather from their hectic schedule, Alice and Toby took a stroll through and lunched in the Queen Victoria Building.
There were more autographs to sign and good wishes to receive from office workers of all ages. The Last Temptation was released in Australia on CD and cassette only and to coincide with Alice's visit, there was a limited edition of 5,000 issued which included a free comic book.
The front and back cover of that comic is quite different to the first in a set of three which were released separately, so there are two different cover releases for volume one although the actual comic story inside is exactly the same.
Like all limited editions, the CD and comic release was sold out quickly and the following are other examples of Australian only Cooper releases, the 7" School's Out EP in a picture sleeve, the Hammard album (and cassette) release of To Hell And Back, the 1990 Limited Edition Trash Tour picture disc and believe it or not, the original Greatest Hits album from 1974 as we were the only country to issue it in a gate fold cover. In closing, I can only hope you enjoyed this story and we will all have to wait patiently for the next release and maybe another tour, until then,
REMEMBER THE COOP!