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Originally Published: December 1986
Author: Mary Anne Cassata
Remember: When you're under the influence of Alice Cooper, you may never be the same again. It's been nearly 15 years since the rock luminary has wreaked havoc with macabre stage antics and such anthemic classics as "I'm Eighteen", "School's Out", and "Elected". In the early '70s, most bands wore simple jeans and T-shirts on stage, but Alice in his tattered tights hung himself, and chopped up baby dolls. A true innovator, The Coop was the first to dare open a Pandora's box that unleashed all the primers for a shock rock invasion that would ensue a decade later.
Before there was even Ozzy, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P. and numerous other metal madmen, there was Alice Cooper. He single-handedly influenced a whole generation with his skillful combination of rock and theatre. A minister's son, born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948, this extraordinary performer's vision was years ahead of his time. Some dubbed him evil. "Alice Cooper is my hero," Dee Snider of Twisted Sister has often professed. "I used to have this picture of Alice over my sink, and every morning I would bow down to it." Ozzy Osbourne too has cited Cooper as a kind of mentor: "Alice was the father of us all. He was doing things on stage far worse than I can ever do. He's great."
In concert, wearing Kabuki make up, Alice simulated death by execution, wrapped a live boa constrictor around his neck, and was chased by giant spiders. Perhaps he didn't create outrage, or perversity, but there is no doubt he certainly did draw more attention to that "underside" of rock than any other personality in the genre. "People call me the grandfather of punk," Alice states. "I think it's great. When I started out, we could clear out a place of 600 in the space of four songs."
In the early to mid-seventies, Cooper became a music phenomenon of the "Glitter Rock" era which also has served as a launching pad for Elton John and David Bowie. By 1973, at the pinnacle of his success with visually stirring albums like Killer, Billion Dollar Babies, and School's Out, Alice Cooper had created slightly twisted explorations into the darker side of life - and rock 'n' roll.
Despite a bizarre and shocking image which boasted that he even slaughtered a live chicken on stage (not true), Alice also wrote and performed some of the best, catchiest Top 40 songs in the history of rock music. By 1978 ballads like "Only Women Bleed", "I Never Cry", and "You And Me", gradually had disposed of his sinister exterior. However, his ballad success left little space for artistic recognition; Alice wasn't anti-establishment anymore, nor a threat to society. Amidst his domestic domain in Beverly Hills he played golf with George Burns, drank beer, and was an avid television viewer. A rather normal existance, right? Not entirely. By the late '70s, Cooper's drinking had become a "problem", and he totally lost control before he admitted himself to a psychiatric ward. It seemed his brilliant career was headed toward a rapid demise, and although Cooper still released albums with moderate success, by 1982 he realized that some of those young people he had influenced a decade earlier, now musically eclipsed him. Heavy metal and harder edged rock was in demand, and somehow Alice's original music got lost in between.
When his last album, his 17th, Dada (a return to some of his primal dark and contorted concept songs. Hardly acknowledged by the music industry or public, it appeared that Cooper's rock star days were numbered. But should you believe that the legendary Alice Cooper is some imaginary character who was never really forgotten but left safely pressed between the pages of rock history - surprise! He's Back, and (he informs me) more dangerous than ever. Now I don't know exactly where Alice is back from, but the man is determined to destroy any lingering doubt that may exist about his "status." He new album Constrictor (MCA Records) features the single appropriately titled "He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)" from the movie Friday The 13th, Part Six.
On location in Los Angeles for the filming of the single's video, Alice never looked better. He's fit, trim, and tan, wearing his familiar black leather pants with ice picks fastened to the sides, and a new version of the vest which he wore in the 1972 "Killer" show. "Isn't it nice to know I haven't grown out of my leather pants," he smiles, batting the dark lashes on his intense hazel eyes. Although I have talked to The Coop a times in the past, following his career intently throughout the years, the Alice who sits before me is strangely different from the man I remember. His energy level is still boundless as he easily switches roles from the incensed-eyed Alice Cooper to the proud father of two beautiful children; daughter Calico, age 6, and son Dashiell, a year and a half. Nonetheless, some things never change: Cooper still diligently protects his personal life with wife Sheryl and family, while the public Alice remains as competitive as ever, and can't wait to get back on the road again. FACES spoke to the legendary rock performer recently about his music, his life, and a most welcomed and long awaited return to rock'n'roll.
It's so inspiring to have Alice Cooper back in rock'n'roll again. Why did you decide to make a return at this particular time?
Everybody that is out there now is doing everything that I ever did. I think it's pretty obvious I'm the musical influence here. I decided this is the time to return, now, because something is really happening. Movies, for one, are getting more exciting. I think the kids out there want rock'n'roll, and they want image too. That's why I'm back. I think it's time to go back and do it again.
Are you expecting more than the hardcore Alice fans to come to the new show?
I hope they all come out. I have provided a real escape. I don't think a lot of fans will consider me a role model for the rest of their lives, then again I don't know. I always thought it was important to be original. I think I hit a nerve with everybody. It must be an important nerve because people are reacting to it.
Is Alice still as competitive as he used to be?
Oh, yes, I've always been like that. I think the competition that comes out is more in the fact that when I go on stage, I try to erase any memory that anybody out there had before me.
How did you feel learning that "Be Crool To Your Scuel" was banned from MTV? Twisted Sister didn't take the news very kindly.
Actually, I thought it was great. I figured it this way: If the only video I'd ever done ended up getting banned, then I must have done something right. I kind of like the idea.
How is the new album a departure from the earlier works?
I think this is the heaviest album I have ever done as far as soundwise. Lyrically it's pretty heavy, too. I think some of the stronger cuts on the album are "The World Needs Guts", and "Teenage Frankenstein". Lyrically everything is very Cooper-ique. It's got a lot of a black sense of humour to it.
What inspires Alice these days to write songs?
I don't know. That's really hard to say. I think alot of what I'm influenced by is, well, I'm not really into TV as much as I am into splatter videos. The songs I wrote in the Dada, Zipper, or Special Forces periods I am not ashamed of at all. I thought it was good for hardcore Alice Cooper fans. I think with the image of Alice, we have taken him up past the eighties.
What's the concept behind the video for "He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)"?
The idea behind it...as you know it's for Friday The 13th, Part Six. The idea is that these two kids around 16-17 get swept away into Alice Cooperville. I grab them and bring them into my world. It's great. Isn't the set totally surrealistic?
Throughout the years, Alice has taken us through so many phases of his career and life. From teenage uncertainty, high school rebellion, to nightmares and insanity, to name but a few. What's really left for Alice? Can he still shock people?
Oh, there are things I don't dare talk about. You're talking social things, I'm talking...there are so many things to touch on out there. Alice Cooper is a kind of reality, and he could still go out there and shock. We just have to shock on a different level this time. There are things I haven't even done yet.
What if the album and the tour isn't the success that you anticipate? Will you be disappointed?
Yes, I would be disappointed, but I'll just do another one. I just can't imagine it not doing what it's supposed to do. I expect there to be a pretty big tremor about the whole thing. At least I would hope so. This is one of the reasons why I'm coming back now.
What do you think the future of Alice Cooper will be?
I don't put any limitations on Alice. He does what he wants. I just play Alice. He comes up with the ideas. I think the future of Alice is the future of America. Alice is back, and it's going to be for a long time. Whether people like it or not, Alice is back, and he's more dangerous than ever.