Beat - August 27th, 1997

(August 27, 1997)

Originally Published: August 27, 1997

Alice Cooper: A New Nightmare

Author: Murray Engleheart

When Alice Cooper visited Sydney's Hard Rock Cafe during a promotional tour for his last album, The Last Temptation seating wasn't a problem. He was the star of the night after all. But eerily he eased himself into a position directly underneath a framed jacket that belonging to the original Australian rock n' roll powderkeg, Johnny O'Keefe. Call it fate of mutual animal magnetism.

Two decades after Cooper hung up (pardon the executionist pun) his private turn blue excesses the greatest man has released the second live album of his career, A Fistful of Alice which contains enough great teen rebellion rock n' roll anthems to feed the most demanding of jukeboxes.

"We hadn't done a live album in 20 years so it was really important I think to let the audience know what you sound like live and I think it was also a message to the audience that Alice hasn't slowed down, Alice hasn't gotten soft on you."

The album was recorded at Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico rather than amid a blizzard of customised dollar bills and chicken feathers at Madison Square Garden.

"I wanted to do it in a small place because my favourite live album of all time is Five Live Yardbirds. It was recorded in a small club, the Marquee club I think in London before about 300 people. You can literally hear the pick hit the strings and that's the kind of live sound I wanted, something direct, right in your face. That's why Fistful of Alice is kind of like saying this is right in your face."

Guests on the album include Hagar himself as well as Slash and Rob Zombie. Thankfully the usual live album showups like say, Julian Lennon er... couldn't make it.

"Rob's great, he's go a great sense of humour. His show is definitely not the same kind of music. I call them industrial tattoo rock because the whole sound of their show is sort of like a tattoo coming to life" he laughs. "And of course Slash on the album is great because he's just a pure rocker."

A Fistful Of Alice is of course the aural side of Alice Cooper experience. In September the full complement of da Coop's show is coming to town for a third visit. "This is by far the highest energy show we've done. You know you get to the point and there's at least 10 or 11 songs that you have to do in the show in order to satisfy the audience. We know that we have to do Billion Dollar Babies and School's Out and Eighteen and Only Women Bleed and Poison so those songs have got to fit into the show. Then we have to wrap new songs around it and we have to put sort of old new songs, songs that we haven't done in a long time. We actually are throwing in a couple of songs just for Australia. We're doing (Rolf Harris') Sun Arise as we haven't done that song since Love It To Death came out in 1970" he laughs.

Cooper is not quite so full of enthusiastism when it comes to the recent book by original Alice Cooper band guitarist, Michael Bruce called No More Mr Nice Guy.

"I think it's a wonderful piece fiction. Some of the memories of who wrote what songs are a little out of whack - like 90%. I had a friend of mine read me exerts from the book and he'd got through about half of it and I'd go, What! Are you out of your mind! I just laughed about it."

With or without Bruce's memories and observations the chances of a reunion of the original Alice Cooper band who as a rock n' roll band left Guns n' Roses dicks in the dirt and had such phenomenal success in the first half of the seventies are slight to say the least.

"About as much as me moving his hotel to the left about 4 feet" chuckles Cooper. "The funny thing is I like everybody in the band, everybody likes everybody. I don't have anything against Mike Bruce. I don't have anything against (guitarist) Glen (Buxton). (Drummer) Neal Smith and (bassist) Dennis Dunaway and I are the best of friends. It's just that putting the band together would not be like putting Kiss together. Kiss had a whole different thing. (With) our band there were problems that were almost insurmountable musically. I haven't seen Mike Bruce in a long, long time but I'm sure we'd have a good laugh."

Not that Cooper needs any fresh doses of respect. Salvador Dali raved about him, Bon Jovi in an ultimate act of tribute wrote the Ballad of Alice Cooper for him but to this day the Coop is still too bashful to sing it and hell, the man once played on a bill in Detroit that included The Stooges, The MC5 and Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes. However that circle of respect and influence over the years has extended beyond just the musical realm.

"Groucho used to call up at like two in the morning because he couldn't sleep. He'd say, 'Come on over, let's watch TV.' He'd be propped up in his bed and he'd have a six pack of Budweiser for me and we'd watch old movies. He'd tell me see that guy over there that's playing the cop? Well he was gay and he was doing that guy over there and see that girl there? All of us got her. All the backstories of all these people in the movies. After three or four hours I'd look over and he'd be asleep so I'd put his cigar out and leave. Somebody brought him to one of the shows and one of the greatest compliments I ever got was he said Alice Cooper is the last chance at burlesque and vaudeville."

Alice plays Entertainment Centre Monday Sept 8.