Originally Published: April 30, 1990
Author: Paul Gallotta
When you think of the pioneers who helped shape American rock & roll, you'd be hard-pressed to find one who's had a bigger impact than Alice Cooper. Do you think Poison invented face makeup? Guess again. Do you consider Kiss the founding fathers of theatrical rock? Not quite. Do you believe Aerosmith started garage rock? Wrong again. Alice Cooper became the heavy metal thorn in rock's side long before there was heavy metal.
"Professionally as Alice, we started back in '68, '69," points out the former Vincent Furnier. His first album as Alice Cooper was 1969's Pretties For You, released on Frank Zappa's Straight Records. "We were the band that drove the stake through the heart of the Love Generation, and proud of it. I'm proud of all the persecution we took for it, too. Not just from the authority end of it, but even from the hippies. And it was so hard to get the hippies to hate anyone.
"I don't dwell on nostalgia. I really hate that. Who cares what happened in 1973? That was a totally different Alice, that was a lifetime ago. This is now the new, improved, high-energy Alice."
It's also the most successful Alice to date. His current album Trash (Epic), is his best-selling longplayer in fifteen years. His seven-week tour of Europe drew raves and sold-out crowds, and behind the success of the gold single "Poison," Cooper expects to spend the rest of the year on the road without a break. He traces his success to a different approach in the studio.
"When I started writing Trash, my main concern was not to write lyrics to riffs, like I did on Constrictor or Raise Your Fist And Yell," he explains. "They worked on a metal level, but I wanted to get back to songwriting. Epic came to me and said 'We'll give you an unlimited budget and absolutely no time limit, but bring us back another Welcome To My Nightmare."
With the album completed, Alice was left with the unenviable task of trying to live up to his reputation on stage. At one time, Alice Cooper was billed as the Worst Band in L.A., but the band became notorious for a free-for-all live show that included anything from mock executions to mutilating baby dolls. And in an era where almost every major hard rock act has borrowed something from Cooper's effects closet, the trick was to come up with something that wouldn't look as if he were copying from his more visible peers. The 45-year-old singer admitted it presented a formidable problem. Until he realized that whatever the competition did, he had a built-in secret weapon.
"I'm legally Alice Cooper, of course," he notes, brushing a lock of brown hair from his forehead, "but at the same time, nobody has ever done an interview with ALICE. The character, his interview, is the stage show and I don't even talk to him. And when I say 'him,' I say it in big, dripping letters.
"In the early seventies, there were no Freddies, or Jasons or Michael Myers. There was only Alice. When Alice did a mock slaughter on stage, it would get people upset. Now it's kinda like 'I can see this on Showtime [cable television] tonight.' Now the idea is to give people their money's worth. Seventy-five percent of my mail tells me that they want to see the gullotine, so we brought that back. Now the show is about 70 percent rock & roll and 30 percent theatre. But we still take the audience right into the nightmare.
"I'd hate to see rock & roll becoming a religion," he continues. "I hate to see rock stars abusing the fact that it's anything more than rock & roll. When you start singing things like 'Suicide is OK' and 'Kill your mother and Satan's going to buy you a car,' you sit there and go 'Wait a minute, this is a little off base.' There should be a seperation of rock and religion, and I think the kids are smart enough to know this. I think the kids enjoy my shows for all the right reasons."