Circus

Originally Published: October 1981

1972: Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper's impact of rock in 1972 can't be measured solely by his record sales. (Perhaps researching that year's fortunes of the cosmetics industry would provide a better barometer.)

It's not true that Cooper was responsible for bringing theater to rock - his early mentor, Frank Zappa, had indulged himself on stage years earlier, as had groups like the Bonzo Dog Band and the Hello People. But Cooper, his four-piece band and his boa constrictor, Chichita, were among the first to link onstage vaudevillian schtick with gutsy hard rock.

After three years of being regarded as just another freak show (Alice and the boys made ludicrously funny-looking girls), Cooper had hits galore in 1972. In January, Killer slithered into the Top 25 on the strength of two singles, "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover." The LP was a respectable seller, although certainly the odds were against an Alice LP doing any better than that.

But in June it was "School's Out," and Cooper's career sky-rocketed. Many songs were mistakenly referred to as anthems. This one truly is, and Alice knew it. (It was a tactic he later tried exploiting, as on "Department Of Youth" from Welcome To My Nightmare.) The single went to #7, the School's Out LP to #2. Alice explained his success and fans this way: "Some of them are really deranged, those kids are. But they look up to us as heroes, because their parents hate us so much." It was a classic rock & roll story. It was also shortlived; two years later Alice could be found teeing up in golf tournaments with Pat Boone and Perry Como.

School was out, Hollywood was in.

By the fall, other left-of-center (though not nearly as macabre) acts like David Bowie, T.Rex and Lou Reed were enjoying popularity - not that they wouldn't have happened without Alice. Cooper's full-scale success continued into 1973, but by then Bowie had eclipsed him.