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Originally Published: March 27, 1987
Author: James Muretich
Most rock performers have a sound check before a concert. Alice Cooper has a guillotine check.
"I always go and check my guillotine closely since the blade only misses my head by about eight inches. I definitely want to make sure it's working properly," Cooper says via long-distance telephone.
"Ah, but they expect an Alice show to be spectacular."
So they do. And Alice Cooper's career mirror the title of the theme song he sand for the last Friday The 13th slasher flick: He's Back.
After failing in the early '80s with various musical comebacks, including fooling around with synthesizers, the 40-year-old Detroit native has returned to the style that worked for him in the early '70s: snakes, gore, makeup and song that either celebrate teenage concerns or go boo in the night.
From 1970 to '75 Cooper (born Vincent Furnier) was the king of rock theatrics while also enjoying hits with such derivation Iggy Pop-style spin-offs as I'm Eighteen, School's Out, Elected and Billion Dollar Babies.
So, just as Kiss abandoned its serious musical attemp in the early '80s to return to its successful outlandish antics, Cooper is back to being a bad boy for big bucks - and we all have Ozzy Osbourne to thank for it.
"Too many bands today buy lot of lights, throw some smoke up there and put a dragon on stage and that's it. But that's just scratching the surface," says Cooper, who performs at the Olympic Saddledome Tuesday.
"Ozzy Obsourne is about as scary as a cardboard box in concert. When I saw him, I thought, 'Hell, it's time I get back out there.'
"People told me audiences can't be shocked anymore. I said, 'We'll see about that.'
"So my show is like Friday The 13th put to music. The show is so overloaded, it's like an hour and 20 minutes where you don't get a chance to breathe."
In short, there's more gore than before and enough blood to make he movie Angel Heart seem like a Saturday matinee.
"What I do is take a song, like Billion Dollar Babies, and dissect it. I make each song a psycho-drama and pretty soon you're in the asylum with Alice," says Cooper, who committed himself to a psychiatric hospital in 1978 for alcohol-related problems.
Cooper isn't afraid to milk the shock side of his show in an interview, but even he has to damin that he's recorded some good songs over the years. Before self-parody set in, he occasionally tapped the teenage rebel market with his aggressive anthems, such as I'm Eighteen.
"I'm pleased because I think a lot of those songs held up well. Even for this tour, we spent two months on the music and only two weeks on the theatrics.
"But people are moresensitive to the visual than the aural. So, after experiencing out smorgasbord of effects they walk away forgetting about the music."
But the man whose band earned a reputation for being the worst group in Los Angeles before being signed by Frank Zappa in 1969 isn't about to drop his bag of tricks for musical respectiblity.
"I have an excessive personality," Cooper admits before being summoned for his guillotine check.