Frendz - June 1971

(June 1971)

Originally Published: June 1971

Alice Cooper Third Generation

Alice Cooper will, no doubt, be forever known as 'the band that kills chickens onstage'. "Wow, man, chickens That's really weird. Transvestites, y'know - makeup, chicks clothes, the works. Strange people, man"

Author: Steve Mann

But like all myths, it ain't really that way at all. No chillun, Alice doesn't really kill chickens - or molest them even. Y'see the band did a concert in London Ontario - usual Alice Cooper type thing. A bit of sado/masochism, weird props, Alice hacks a juicy red melon to pieces and throws it to the audience. Suddenly a member of the crowd throws a chicken onto the stage, Alice picks it up and throws it back, and the good folks out front go berserk and tear the beast to shreds. Well, at least, that's one version of the story, & it's good enough I guess. Anyway it's all getting a little boring by now.......

Offstage, Alice himself is depressingly normal - normal that is compared to Alice on stage. He passed through recently for a look around, prior to bringing the band over for a September tour. Holed up in the Ladbroke Hotel, he spent three days doing interviews and getting drunk. Maybe 'interviews' isn't the right word - Alice doesn't exactly give them, he sorta throws sentences at you & every so often you catch one or two.

Alice on Frank Zappa.

I used to go steady with one of the GTO's- Miss Christine used to be my girlfriend. That's how I met Zappa. He was just starting a company - I had a band. There was a negative power about us that he liked, so we signed. I haven't seen Frank is a long time - two years or so. I don't even know if Straight are still bringing out records.

Alice on England.

It seems like England needs a jolt of energy - that's why Detroit Rock, Third Generation Rock is gonna do so well here. It sorta lacks energy, it's really nice and smooth y'know, but I'd like to come over and really shake the place up.

It's starting to happen - there's a coupla bands that are....

I heard, the Toothless Fairies, right? (Takes Pink Fairy badge, hands me an Alice Cooper fortune cookie in exchange. On biting it a piece of paper falls out - I'm 18 and I like you - Alice Cooper)

Alice on Alice.

The name is just like using the whole thing as a pop-art, shock-rock trip. We consider ourselves to be the most American band, and Alice Cooper is such an American name. It really works. A lotta people used to turn up expecting a girl folk singer - nice soft little name, Alice Cooper - then when it comes on, it's really tough. It comes on chrome and streamlined and loud - it's totally opposite to the name. It's turned the name around; now when people hear Alice Cooper, they think of a tough old broad. Bette Davis or someone.

It's a very masculine image.

It really is. It used to be that people considered it feminine. But now when we come on - we still wear make-up, the whole bit, y 'know obvious - but it's not feminine in the least. The way it comes off is totally masculine - well almost masculine.

Alice on the Stooges.

A lot of people compare us because we're both really blatant - sexual. He's much more physical, just like Theatre of Cruelty sort of thing, that type of shit, which is really neat & I appreciate it, but mine's more of a mimist type thing. It's still sensual - based on sensuality, sex - but I think ours has a little more finesse. Detroit's got some really strange things going now. People come over and say 'Wait a minute look at that over there'. We play a lot of shows with the Stooges and it's really a total bombardment. We lived in Ann Arbor for a while, which is really into a heavy revolutionary trip. Everybody wears black leather jackets and stomps around looking tough - kicking dogs. That's where the Stooges got their trip. My parents had a lotta money so I just goofed around becoming obnoxious - professionally obnoxious, you understand.

You must lead a very schizoid life.

Yeah, really. See Alice is a whole different personality on stage. This isn't really Alice right here. It's the image but it isn't the personality. It's a complete Jekyll & Hyde thing - she's really a mean old broad. She even scares me once in a while; I never know what she's gonna do.

Don't you ever worry that she's gonna take over completely one day?

It'll be really crazy if she does.

You won't be walking around for long.

Yeah, that really would be a trip - a reversal.

Like get up on stage and sing chick folk songs, & stumble around killing people outside!

Hey, nobody'd want to interview me. Wouldn't be able to do interviews at all. No interviews! You know, we did a gig once backing Gene Vincent with about 25 Hells Angels on stage, doing the twist & singing the chorus of Be Bopalula. We did that and Rockin' Robin & A Whole Lotta Lovin' Gene is really a gas to work with. It's funny, you know, I never get beat-up at all. People are afraid of us in the States. They've heard so many insane things about us nobody ever hassles us at airports or anything. When we're all together it looks pretty frightening I think. We used to think we'd really get killed. They must be so sure that we've been insulted so many times that nothing they can say can affect us, so they leave us alone.

Alice on Alice's props.

We still wear eye makeup - there's a company gonna be making Alice Cooper eye makeup outa organic materials. We never used to wear dresses - that was just a hype. I wore a sorta cheerleader's outfit for the first album, and it kinda snowballed into this rumour that we all went round dressed like chicks. We've just got an 80 foot pair of wings to hang behind us on stage, waving back and forwards. Sort of like a Leonardo da Vinci model. And an electric chair and a large cross. Oh, and a boa constrictor! The act is about 60 per cent contrived, the rest we leave to chance. Sometimes the audience throws things back at us - that's what happened with the chicken. Then the Humane Society gets onto us. Shit, I'd never even seen that chicken before! We never planned it, someone threw it at me - all I did was throw it back!

Alice Cooper: Love It To Death
Warner Bros. WB 1883.

Alice calls his 'Third Generation Rock' - a lifetime of American TV; 77Sunset Strip, The Thin Man, old Busby Berkeley extravaganzas, all, mixed with the moon shots & the Vietnam war..

Net result: two albums for Straight Records, Pretties For You and Easy Action, both notable more for their novelty shock-value than for any innate musical qualities. Then the switch to Warner Bros., and a third album, which ranks with the MC5's Kick Out the Jams and the Stooges first album as a prime example of a short but violent tradition of Detroit rock.

Somehow Alice has got past the gimmickry and turned his band into musicians - nothing fancy, y'understand, just hard, dirty rock. They're still weird alright, but the bizarre attitudes and lyrics are an adjunct to the music rather than an end in themselves. And it's fucking good. Take Micheal Bruce's Caught In a Dream, for example. The two guitars battle it out, nice solid bass lines and drumming drumming, and the vocals screaching over the top:-,Well I'm running thru the world with a gun in my hack/Try in' to get a ride in a Cadillac/Thought that I was livin' but you can't really tell/Tryin' to get away from that success smell...

Or the band's hit single (yes Alice even managed to make the singles chart - even Dick Clark wanted him on his show). The Third Generation's My Generation - confusion, paranoia, but deep down he's really digging it: I gotta baby's brain and an old man's heart/Took 18 years to get this far/Don't always know what I'm talking about/Seems like I'm living in the middle of doubt/Cause I'm 18 I get confused every day/18 I just don't know what to say/ I'm a boy and I'm a man/I'm 18 and I like it, love it, like it, love it... Dr. John type vocals and Alice on harp.

But the real mind-fuck comes on side two - the three middle tracks to be precise. Almost a trilogy; Hallowed Be Thy Name - Second Coming - Ballad of Dwight Fry. Religion, death and insanity - a nice mixture. Come on you sinners/You're now in your glory/Cursing the Bible/The sluts & the hookers are takin' your money/It would be nice to walk upon the water/To talk again to angels by my side/The time is getting closer/I read it on a poster/Locked up in an intensive care ward lying on the floor/Sleeping don't come very easy in a strait white vest/I gotta get outta here!

Alice's evocation of a mental hospital trip has James Taylor beaten at the post. The chilling matter-of-factness - I think I lost some weight there/And I know I need the rest./See my lonely life unfold/I see it every day/See my lonely mind explode/When I've gone insane.

Last track is the old Rolf Harris hit Sun Arise. Very much a put-on, very much a joke - or is it? After all, they do want Burt Bacharach to produce the next album...

(Kindly submitted from the collection of Peter Trustram)