Originally Published: April 1990
Author: Brad Hollins
Backstage there was a sea of humanity. Anyone who was anyone in the world of rock and roll - record executives, radio deejays, local press personalities and fellow musicians - crowded into the cramped party room to celebrate Alice Cooper's return. Many recalled seeing him perform for the first time nearly 20 years before, when his "shock rock" style and heavy metal sound made him the most infamous rocker of his era. Now, two decades later, Alice was back, stronger than ever. There's no denying that the years haven't been particularly kind to Cooper; his battles with drinking and with record labels have been widely reported over the years. But when he walked into the room, resplendent in black leather outfit, California tan and room-lighting smile, any problems he had seemed long since forgotten. His latest LP, Trash, has proved to be his most successful effort in 12 years. His current tour is bringing him back to the giant arenas he once called home. Alice is now sitting on top of the world.
"I feel lucky," he admitted. "A lot of people never get one chance at being a success, but I've had two. If anything, the success I'm having this time around is more satisfying than it was the first time. I'm older now, so I realize what it takes to make it. It's not easy. That's something I don't think I would have believed 20 years ago. Things happened so fast then, and success seemed so easy that I almost took it for granted. But after the rough times I had, I appreciated it all the more now."
In addition to being more appreciative, Cooper's also a lot smarter than he used to be - or maybe we should say he's wiser. Let's face it, anyone who can survive as a legend in the rock business for 20 years has got to have his share of smarts. One of the wise moves Mr. Cooper is now making is to lessen the horror movie mentality that characterized his stage show for the last couple of years and return to the more street-level outrageousness of his earliest performances. You won't have to bring a plastic sheet from home to avoid the flying blood anymore. But you'd better be prepared for some shock rock at its best.
"We took the blood about as far as we could last time," Cooper said. "We made sure that everyone sitting within 100 feet of the stage was covered in blood by the time the show was over. I'm glad I wasn't handed those cleaning bills. I've always been into splatter movies, and I wanted my last few tours to reflect the same kind of mentality. But after you've done that a few times, you can't repeat it. Anyway Trash is the first album I've released with a new label. They're trying to get me back on top again, and they're doing a great job. They haven't really talked to me about it, but I know they'd prefer if the show didn't totally turn off the executives of the label. There's still blood this time, but I've placed the focus on some other areas. The show is still pretty wild, but the focus this time will be just as much on the music as it is on the visuals."
Indeed, the Alice Cooper 1990 show is state-of-the-art rock and roll in every way. The man who first brought the concept of "the stage as theatre" into the rock world is still head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to entertainment value for the dollar. Art? What's that? Anyone who comes to see Alice Cooper may not have his conscience raised, but he's sure as hell gonna walk away a lifetime's worth of memories.
"It's great to go out there and see fans who were too young to even have been born when I first started doing this," Cooper said. "They might have gotten into a newer song like Poison and never heard Under My Wheels or I'm 18. I hope that's not true, but it's certainly possible. I'm going out there to show everyone that the master is still at work."