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Originally Published: September 1985
Author: Jodi Summers Dorland
"If Motley Crue is this generation's Kiss, than we are this generation's Alice Cooper," once declared W.A.S.P.'s main demon, Blackie Lawless.
If you thought outlandish bands like W.A.S.P., Motley Crue and Twisted Sister were originals, think again. They, and numerous other metal maniacs - including the inimitable Ozzy Osbourne - were inspired by none other than Alice Cooper.
Back in the early '70s, when bands frequently want on stage, and just played music - they didn't think about stage sets, lighting or choreography the way they do now - Alice Cooper was an act that was totally extraordinary. Cooper (born Vincent Furnier) brought theatrics into rock and roll. During concerts he would simulate executions, chop up baby dolls, climb on huge spider webs while wearing makeup, ripped clothing and holding aloft a live boa constrictor. Some people thought the man was a genius, others dubbed him as "sick."
"If you're in the middle, you might as well not be there," cited Cooper. "When we first started out in 1968 we could clean out a place of 6,000 people in the space of four songs - so that there were maybe 10 people left. We realized that all you had to do was take that negative energy and turn it around - then you realize the power you have."
Cooper was the first to turn that energy around in the first half of the '70s. He became one of the big names in rock - along with other flamboyant personalities such as Elton John and David Bowie. At that point in time, outrage was rock's stock in trade, but Alice visually and musically beat them all. His albums of that period; Killer, School's Out (that disc came surrounded by a pair of girl's underwear) and Billion Dollar Babies, were metallic, yet tuneful explorations into the slightly twisted side of life. And if you liked things slightly bent, you had only one musical choice - Alice Cooper.
"I looked for a place that needed to be filled," explained Cooper. "There's always been a need for someone like me with my sense of humour and my ability to handle the stage. I've never heard anybody compare me to anybody."
But the Alice Cooper phenomenon did not last long. His music had never been his strongest point (in the late '60s his group was dubbed the worst band on the L.A. circuit) and his theatrically novelty soon began to wear thin. To add to this dilemma, Cooper got hooked on the rock and roll lifestyle; his diet often consisted of nothing more than junk food and beer. He muddled on for a few years in this state - achieving some Top 40 success with ballads like Only Women Bleed, but he received little artistic recognition. His drinking worsened. By 1978, Cooper had gotten totally lost and commited himself to a psychiatric hospital for treatment of alcoholism.
"Drinking started out being my attempt to be just one of the guys, drinking, drinking, drinking. I didn't realize that the fun part of it had suddenly become the gasoline to make it work. If you can drink and have fun, then you're not an alcoholic. But if you have to drink to have fun, then you've lost it. That's what happened to me."
Since his rehabilitation, Cooper has made attempts at recapturing his stardom. Unfortunately, there were others in his path who were younger, more talented and better marketed. They then learn from Alice and expanded on his bizarre approach. But, Cooper has become a personality, and he made the most of this quality by playing Las Vegas lounges and making guest appearances on the TV game show Hollywood Squares.
It was rumoured that Alice Cooper will again be trying to make a comeback in the near future. Shock rock has returned to popularity via bands such as W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister, so it may again be Cooper's time. Alice Cooper, the godfather of macabre metal, may just return to show this generation a trick or two.