Originally Published: 1987
Author: Rob Andrews
Alice Cooper is a rock and roll original. During his 18-year career, he's called every name in the book - madman, martyr, genius, ghoul. But the bottom line may well be that Cooper remains one of the most inventive, if bizarre, forces in the rock world - a fact proven once again in his new LP, Raise Your Fist And Yell. Making music for the Coop isn't merely plugging in the guitars and cranking it up. For this 40-year-old Phoenix resident, music is a celebration of both sight and sound, a place where visual impact play just as vital a role as sonic overkill.
"I've always viewed rock and roll as a medium where you could be outrageous in a number of areas," Cooper explained. "The music can be wild, but the stage show can be just as crazy if you have the imagination to create something exciting. That's where I've always excelled. Musically, I think I've some influence on what's going on in rock today, but visually I know I've had a major impact."
Over the years, such Cooper stage props as a guillotine, chopped-up dolls, a hangman's noose, walking monsters and ritualistic blood-and-guts celebration have made Alice a figure both lauded and distained. To his fans, he's the ultimate showman, a macabre character who brings together the best elements of heavy metal, splatter movies and theatre. To his enemies, he's a little more than an evil force that must be stopped - a demented madman who is a menace to everyone's children. While Alice finds this latter attitude somewhat amusing, he chose to tackle the subject seriously on his new LP's first track, Freedom.
"It was just time somebody answered those people who view rock and roll as something totally negative," said Cooper. "What bothers me is that their basic premise is that kids in America are too stupid to know what they're listening to. That's a real condemnation not only of the kids, but their parents as well. Those anti-rock groups want to convince everyone that kids are being manipulated through music, that they're being told to do things that are dangerous and sinful. But those kids are a lot sharper than they're given credit for - they've had to battle against being manipulated all their lives. They've had everything from the media to school trying to get them to think and act a certain way, and it usually hasn't worked. On Freedom, we wanted to have a bit of fun with the whole anti-rock phenomenon. Alice Cooper doesn't preach about things like that, he just makes fun of it."
Making fun of controversial topics has been Cooper's stock-in-trade since he first burst upon the rock scene in 1970. With his wild makeup, tattered leather clothes and high-energy songs. Cooper became as immediate sensation through such tongue-in-cheek anthems as School's Out, Eighteen and Elected. His fame and fortune soared throughout the '70s, but by the end of the decade, Cooper found himself burnt out - an alcoholic who was no longer battling to salvage his career, but rather to save his life. Happily, after years of rehabilitation, Cooper reports that his health - and his music - are back stronger than ever.
"I have so much energy now," he said. "I went through some rough times a few years back, but those are behind me. As soon as I got my body and mind together, I was able to tap even stranger, sicker ideas than ever before. I'm in a hundred times better shape now than I've ever been in my life, and that means two things: that my music will be more energetic and that my mind will be sicker than ever before."
Cooper's mind was evidently working overtime when he created the stage presentation he's used on his Raise Your Fist And Yell tour. Always a big fan of horror movies - especially those flicks featuring guts and gore - Alice has incorporated his fondness for splatter with his love for rock and roll. The results have left the fans both shocked and rocked.
"I don't want to ruin anything for those who haven't seen the show yet," Cooper said with a devilish grin, "but let's just say this show takes things to the limit. It's a very Gothic show with a lot of graveyard imagery. Also, I'd like to warn anyone sitting in the first few rows to wear red clothing. If they don't, they might have some explaining to do when they get home with blood stains all over themselves."