Hit Parader

Originally Published: May 1987

Caught in the Act

Author: Andy Secher

The ad appeared in a Detroit newspaper one morning. "For adoption," it read, "One 150 pound, 14 foot-long boa constrictor," which made even that old snake charmer himself, Alice Cooper, take notice. As it happened, Alice was in town to bring his latest stage extravaganza - in support of his Constrictor LP - to the thousands of fans who had waited over four years for his return. The chance of adding a new snake to his traveling collection - which numbers four boas of varying size and weight - was too good to pass up, and by show time that night the snake had a new home.

"He's a little scared," Alice said as he played with his new friend shortly before going onstage. "I fed him a rat because I figured he was hungry, but he's still coiled up real tight. If he doesn't loosen up a bit we'll never be able to use him in the show. The snake I'm using onstage now is only about half his size. I like the real big ones, though. The people all the way in the back can see them."

There's no question that when it comes to playing to the back of the house, Alice Cooper wrote the book. During his heyday in the early 1970's, Alice's doll-decapitating, snake-snuggling, blood-spurting antics created an entirely new genre - theatre rock - which has since been mined most successfully by bands from Twisted Sister to WASP. But there are those who argue, with good reason, that no one will ever match the onstage insanity of Alice Cooper, a fact the legendary rocker was determined to prove once again during his first national tour since 1982.

Cooper's recent problems with alcohol and drugs have been well documented in past months, but when he hit the stage at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena for the first of two sold-out performances, those problems were clearly behind him. Appearing onstage in the leather outfit he last wore on his infamous Billion Dollar Babies tour a decade ago, Alice had the capacity crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from the first note. Beginning with Welcome To My Nightmare complete with a bloody sword that he wielded with expert skill - and proceeding through such classics as I'm Eighteen, No More Mr. Nice Guy and School's Out, Cooper put on a ninety-minute show that was a demonstration of the true power of shock rock.

Every song in Alice's set was turned into a full-scale production. Not only were there the expected doll decapitations and blood baths, there was also a frankenstein-like monster that magically came alive, only to be slain by the Coop, as well as a plethora of slithering creatures that appeared sporadically throughout the evening. While some may have found Alice's exploits - especially those involving two scantily-clad females whom he attacked with whips - a bit in bad taste, by the time the show climaxed with the double barrel encore of Elected and Under My Wheels, Cooper had wrung every ounce of emotion from his adoring audience.

"I want to take everyone on an emotional roller-coaster," he commented as he relaxed in his crowded post-concert dressing room. "I want them to feel the madness. Thankfully, my own head is straight for the first time in many years, so I can enjoy the feelings the audience is experiencing. This tour has really been like a new start for me. It's like being given a second chance."

As the well-wishers continued to approach Alice for an autograph or to offer a word of praise, one question was asked more than any other. What did rock's original master of the bizarre think about bands like Motley Crue and WASP, who have "borrowed" liberally from Cooper's musical vision?

"I think they're great," he told everyone who asked. "I'm glad that what I did back then touched some people. I've talked to the guys in those groups and I even recorded a song with Twisted Sister last year. Those bands acknowledge what I did years ago. But what I told them - and what I'm showing everyone on this tour - is that I'm back. I think I can still show everyone a few new tricks; I certainly have a couple of cards still hidden up my sleeve.