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(June 20, 1999)
Originally Published: June 20, 1999
Author: Paul Stewart
With the release of an in-depth career retrospective, Alice Cooper remains the unrepentant king of over-the-top rock. And he tells Paul Stewart, '90s rockers such as Marilyn Manson are nothing but show ponies
Pioneering rock showman Alice Cooper has hit out at comparisons with leading 1990s shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald Sun to promote his four-CD set retrospective, The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper, Cooper labelled Manson's music as thoroughly forgettable.
"After a Marilyn Manson show, can you actually name one song he has sung?" Cooper said. "To him the music seems unimportant.
"I can see why people compare us because we both have girl's names, have long hair and are out-there freaks, but that is it really.
"He is into hardcore industrial music where I prefer a hit record any day.
"On stage, my job is to entertain people not preach to them about religious, or political issues.
"He is also into promoting drugs during his live show, which I have never ever been. I'm into Foster's."
Cooper's new collection has been out in North America for about a month and is proving to be one of the "fastest selling box sets ever."
"There are 80 songs on it that cover a 25-year period, but even then it didn't seem like we could include enough of them," Cooper said.
Part of the new CD packaging is a detailed glossy booklet featuring career highlights, plus a staggering array of tributes from fellow performers.
These include praise from David Cassidy, Bono, Dick Clark, Burt Bacharach, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Guns n' Roses, Jim Rose, Lemmy from Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Boy George, Elton John, Joey Ramone, Mike Myers and AC/DC.
The most over-the-top tribute comes from former Sex Pistol lead singer Johnny Rotten.
"That was unusual because Johnny hates just about everyone," Cooper said.
"He actually told me that before the Sex Pistols took off he and Sid Vicious used to go down the London Tube station with an old violin and guitar and busk my song I Love The Dead, even though they couldn't play.
"I think I came along at the time when a lot of the newer breed of rock performers were looking for some inspiration.
"I could say the same nice things about my prime influences and gush for hours about acts like the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, Salvador Dali, the Who and T-Rex."
Perhaps Cooper's biggest fan was fellow musical eccentric Frank Zappa, who gave him his first break by offering him a recording deal.
On the new CD, Cooper thanks many people, but especially Zappa.
Featured on the box set are some of Cooper's first recordings, including those when he was singing under who birth name of Vincent Furnier with his early bands the Nazz, the Spiders and the Earwigs.
"When you are going to do a history, you want it to be warts and all thing," Cooper said.
The CD also features much material from the Alice Cooper Band, the vehicle that launched the flamboyant showman.
"People say, 'How come I sacked the rest of the band in 1976?', but how could I do that when I was only one fifth of the band?" he said.
"What broke the early line-up was that the other guys wanted to concentrate more on the music and less on the theatrics and that horrified me.
"I really couldn't believe it. I thought, 'guys how can we go on it T-shirts and jeans when we had won the war?' In fact, I wanted to take it more over-the-top. They didn't. The band broke up.
"There was no bad blood. We remained friends."
Cooper said there had been no other act that had inspired him to launch his stage extravaganza that featured props such as multi-level stage sets, electric chairs, a gallows and guillotine, dismembered dolls, stage make-up, snakes, fake blood and more.
"I wanted to take rock and roll shows to the next level - to a new league where it was fun to watch as well as listen to," he said.
Cooper said he knew people hated his stage persona with a vengeance.
In a famous quote about his act at the height of the '70s glam movement, he said: "We were into fun, sex, death and money when everybody was into peace and love.
(Originally published in the Look Hear supplement of Australia's Herald Sun, June 20th, 1999)