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Originally Published: November 13, 1986
Author: Dave Dickson
After three years away from the scene, three years spent nurturing psychotic urges with regular daily doses of hack 'n' slash movies, the gorier the better, Alice Cooper returns to the UK with a carefully planned OTT stageshow harking back in places of his classic 'Welcome To My Nightmare' era. Dave Dickson gets the low-down in London, then travels to Detroit for Hallowe'en to see if this really is the King Of Ketchup's definitive production...man behind the lens: Pete Cronin
Image this: for three years, three long years, you're going to be trapped in this room. It will become your whole world, your whole existence. You'll never leave it, except at night maybe, when the lights are low and no-one will recognise you. What will you do, all day, every day? You'll watch movies, of course.
Hundreds of them, thousands of them. Millions of miles of celluloid will pass before your eyes, an endless stream of visual images, curious tales played out in your microcosmic universe where, at the press of a button, you can bring everything to a sudden halt; just like that - BLIPPT!
But you don't just watch any old films, oh no. Your taste leans away from the Romantic, the Western and the Epic, to rest squarely in the realms of Slasher! You prefer 'Maniac' to 'The Ten Commandments' ...at least you do if your name is Alice Cooper....
"I didn't waste the three years I took off - I was renting three movies a night. I didn't care how bad they were, because it was sort of like research. In the last three years I've actually gotten more knowledge of what Alice should be doing on stage."
Alice Cooper, born Vincent Furnier on Christmas Day 1945, the son of a Detroit preacher, is like a man returned from the dead. If you missed Kerrang! two issues back (shame on you!), then let me recap here. Alice Cooper has released a new album, 'Constrictor', an new record label, MCA; there's also a hit single, 'He's Back (the man behind the mask)', the theme tune to the latest 'Friday The 13th' movie, and his first UK tour in over four years. Truly a resurrection of startling proportions. Meanwhile, back at the movies...
"I think movie is a natural place for Alice to go, but they would have to make me a villain, I can't see me being a hero of any kind."
Actually, Mr Cooper is being a little modest here as he's already starred in a movie. He stopped work on his 'Welcome To My Nightmare 2' project a couple years back to appear in a Spanish splatter film called 'Monster Dog' - guess which part Alice played; woof, woof! - about which sadly, I know nothing, not even if it was ever released. But the movies, the Theatre Of Blood, is definitely Alice's natural environment.
"I'm convinced that there's a connection between the popularity of splatter movies and that of Heavy Metal music. The trick is being able to get away with stage-splatter. It's very hard to put over something like 'Night Of The Living Dead' - if I cut off somebody's head you can only get the point across live if it's a 15-foot monster and the head is three feet in diameter! That's the only problem I'm coming across when projecting this thing...it just takes some technical stuff to get it to work."
But never fear, the blood will flow and Alice the monster will be unleashed onto a barely suspecting world...
"I'm looking forward to this tour because I haven't played Alice in about three years now...there's all this psychosis stacked up..."
Yes, indeed, three years worth of accumulated psychosis that at last has found a suitable outlet.
"Right, it was looking for somewhere to go. I think that's why I started getting so involved watching Jason (the 'Friday The 13th' axe-wielder) movies and all those other splatter movies too, because there's a certain amount of catharsis taking place, they were doing it for me."
You ever see any 'Snuff Movies', Alice? (Snuff Movies, for the uninitiated, are purported to be a speciality of South American film industry; movies where the killings are real killings, where the bodies are real bodies and the blood is real blood!)
"I talked to a lot of people who were involved in those and they said there were never really any Snuff Movies. In fact, I met a girl who starred in the most famous Snuff Movie of all time, the one from South America...yeah, I met the girl who got killed! Ha!"
Alice Cooper flew into London a few weeks ago for a couple of days' worth of intense promotion to support the release of 'Constrictor' kicking off at around 6am with an appearance on Breakfast TV. I'm scheduled to meet him around 1pm, but naturally I'm late and things are not ticking over quite as planned. There seems to be a slight problem on the video front.
Bill, Alice's limo driver for the duration, is handed three cassettes with instructions to replace them with three more from the video shop. Yeah, they were right, but Alice is really looking for something with a bit more gore! Bill says he thinks he's getting the gist now, that he's more in tune with what Alice is after.
In the lobby of Alice's plush Bayswater hotel I sip tea with Fliff, the pretty make-up girl who has been dispatched by her agency to cover the Alice Cooper photo session that afternoon. No-one has told her quite what to expect so she has come prepared. She carries a case containing a whole host of make-up effects when all she really needed was a stick of black greasepaint to touch up those infamous Alice Cooper shiners.
Eventually, Alice appears and we clamber into the limo and head out into London's busy Park Lane in the direction of photographer Joe Bangay's studio. Alice, sporting heavy black make-up, leather jacket and exploding 'Alien' T-shirt, leans back in his seat and presses the button to lower the power-window, breathing in the warm Autumn air. A mini-bus full of school kids pulls up beside us and the black driverglances over. Suddenly, a grin erupts across his face and he turns excitedly to his charges: 'Hey, hey, look, it's Whatshisname!"
'Whatshisname' chuckles in the back. "Hey, man, Whatshisname!" Whether this is a question or a statement is unclear but Bill comes to the rescue and provides the answer: "Alice Cooper".
"Yeah, Alice Cooper!" beams the driver. "How yer doin' man?"
'Whatshisname' waves to the bus-driver and his load and they all wave back. Such is the price of stardom. Inside the limo we rap about the state of American politics and the rise of evangelists like Pat Robertson who make Reagan look positively liberal. "Never trust a preacher," cautions Alice, who then explains that his father had to work in an electronics company to make ends meet since proper preachers cannot make a living in the States like they can here.
Fliff does some repair work to the Cooper make-up before Bangay shoots his session, then we head back to the hotel. Time, I decide, to tackle Alice on the really pressing topics at hand. Now, I could have asked him about his album, or his hopes for the upcoming tour, or his plans for the future, but instead...
"Oh, this is more important, this is really important: This is a Marvel comic!"
The 'this' referred to is of Marvel Premiere #50, produced in 1979 and starring, you guessed it, Alice Cooper. This comic is based on Alice's 1978 album, 'From The Inside', and, while not exactly an artistic masterpiece (the comic that is, not the album), it's clearly one of Alice's proudest achievements.
"If you become a Marvel Comic hero suddenly you're made! I'm right up there with Spiderman. I tell you what, that was really an honour for me!"
But Alice wasn't the first; Kiss beat him to it, starring in two deluxe format editions of their own comic as well as in two editions of Howard The Duck.
"I remember when Kiss did theirs, they used a drop of their blood in the ink, right? And Marvel asked me if I'd ever do that, and I said, 'Sure, I'd like to use all of Kiss' blood in the ink', Ha! In fact, Stan Lee (Marvel publisher) is working with my manager (Shep Gordon) right now. He just picked up something I was working on; it was going to be like 'The Magnificent Seven' - only of Heavy Metal! An album and a stageshow. Kane (Roberts, Alice's guitarist and co-writer on 'Constrictor') and I had written it and there was going to be a guy from Motely Crue, a guy from this band and that band in it, and there was a whole storyline behind it. We'd written the whole thing, there were about 20 songs involved and Elektra were going to support it financially because the Crue were involved. But the band's singer Vince Neil had his accident (the one in which Hanoi Rocks' drummer, Razzle was killed) and they pulled out because the Crue weren't going to be able to do it. And then Def Leppard's drummer Rick Allen, lost an arm and that was it. It was amazing and we'd spent about seven months on the project. Anyway, Stan Lee got hold of it and he's seriously considering doing it, either as a comic or a movie or whatever."
I ask Alice if he'd consider turning 'Welcome To My Nightmare' into a comic as you can do things in comics that you really can't in film. The man isn't so sure.
"The great thing about a nightmare is that you don't have any boundaries anyway....That's why we wrote it for stage, the fact that in a nightmare you don't have to say, 'Well, that couldn't happen!' You don't have to follow any logic, and it's the same with insanity. So when I write a concept I try to give myself the edge. The project after this one, which I'm starting to write now, involves the same kind of thing...only it's much more Stephen King-ish!"
So what you're saying is that we're going to get genuine, bona fide Alice Cooper nightmare translated onto stage and vinyl.
So what was the nightmare?
"I can't tell you that, ha! I can't even tell you the title because it's so good I don't want anyone to steal it! But I can tell you that it's going to be set in a new realm, it's going to open up a new world, so that Alice is going to have to react to this new world...and that's what's going to be such fun onstage because we'll get to do a whole new show."
And Alice Cooper enjoys the thought of this concept so much he says it over again, "a whole new show!"
And the, since we've hit the ground running, Alice lays out a whole strategy....
"This current show has got to get everyone back into the Alice Cooper thing, that's why it has to rely on a lot on the older songs; it's gotta be like a refresher course. Before I go on to the next thing I want everybody to understand the basic idea behind Alice Cooper, especially the kids who haven't seen it, because then they'll have a reference point. The object is to do the definitive show! It seems to me that everybody's been hitting all around it, Ozzy Osbourne and all those people, but no-one's produced the definitive show...but that's what the new Alice Cooper show will be."
"It would be nice to walk upon the water..."
Alice Cooper sings during 'Second Coming', one of the new numbers included in his new 18-song extravaganza of a show, and on Mr. Cooper's Second Coming to his home town of Detroit nothing it seems, not even this particular miracle, is beyond him. The hero - or, to be more specific, the anto-hero - has returned. And more, the hero has returned to his element, that darkest parts of our imaginings where the horrors become graphically real. And I, and everyone else in the Joe Louis Arena, welcome him with open if bloodied arms.
And the night, oh the night, the setting, is perfect: Devils' Night and Hallowe'en.
Onstage, Alice Cooper acts out our fantasies, cauterises our lust for violence and sates our need for blood. It is good and, in its own unwholesome and perverted way, it is beautiful.
Alice has not only returned to his geographical roots here, but also to his musical ones. With the exception of just three songs from the new album, the entire set is derived from material produced in what most would consider the 'classic' Cooper period - from 1971's 'Love It To Death' LP to 1976's 'Alice Cooper Goes To Hell'. And the timing could not have been more perfect; less a man finally in tune with the times than the times finally in tune with the man.
Dubbed 'The Nightmare Returns', this show has clearly captured the imagination of both older fans welcoming back a never-to-be-trusted friend and younger kids anxious to experience at first hand a figure so steeped in legend. No-one walks away from this show disappointed. The Legend is intact and as frightening and as glorious (gorious?) as ever.
Now, I have no intention here of giving the game away. Sure, I've seen the movie, twice now, I know the ending...but I'm still trying to figure it out. For those of you who already have tickets for Alice's imminent UK tour, I'm not prepared to sit here and spoil it for you. All I want to do is this 1) Explain what's going on in this accompanying spread of pix, and 2) Point out when Alice promises the 'definitive' show, well, you better believe him...
Having been greeted by a thunderous roar from his congregated acolytes, the majority, surprisingly, come to pay homage for the first time, Alice sets the tone for the evening's entertainment by spearing a Billion Dollar Baby on the end of a sword and, no, I don't really believe he's all that scared its little head will come off in his hands. Casting aside the decapitated baby, Alice presents his prize to the audience, skewered onto the tip of a sword, before toe-punting the offending head into the drumkit.
This is a show that incorporates both new friends and old. Veronica is there, embracing her master in her coils and accepting his invitation to Be My Lover, while new boy guitarist and Rambo lookalike, Kane Roberts, sports his rocket-launching M60 guitar to the obvious delight of the fans.
But lest we forget just who's in control here, Alice invites us to Go To Hell as a leather-masked, booted and corseted dancer vainly attempts to usurp his position with a bull whip. Needless to say, Alice has no truck with her sort and she gets her just deserts.
But even as this Nightmare's MC gains the upper hand, he's just as soon cast down again, held tight within the constraints of a straight-jacket as he explains his Second Coming, "Mommy where's Daddy?" asks the plaintive voice of the child. "Do you think he'll ever come home?" she cries as Alice is tortured by a nurse armed with a grotesque syringe with which she extracts his blood as he relates the Ballad Of Dwight Fry. But pain is a temporary thing...
And, of course, the props star here, too, with Alice constructing a beserking Teenage Frankenstein before being pawed by a variety of freaks and mutants who are so heinous the only fitting judgement is, naturally, the guillotine. But, Alice always escapes, doesn't he...? Don't you, Alice...Alice? One slip, one error and surely the Second Coming could prove as temporary as the pain. Alice may Love The Dead but is he that anxious to join their ranks?
Alice Cooper has returned with his Nightmare after nearly five years away from the circuit and has decimated the opposite at a stoke.
Alice, it's great to have you back, Welcome To The Nightmare....
The house lights dim, a feeling of excitement is in the air - then, shock-horror, on come some Janet'n'John lights accompanied by an intro tape skore that coulda come straight out of Tobe Hooper's 'Funhouse'! But fear not horror fans, it was just Alice Cooper taking the piss out of WASPs '...Electrik Circus' routine; so far so good.
But as the nightmare wore on I began to realise I'd seen it all before on this very same stage some 11 years ago - and sequels are never as good, are they?
It's a bit like comparing 'Halloween 1' with 'Halloween 4' - follow my drift?
Sure, Cooper the Trouper (sadly minus the fez!) is still good value and does put on a splendid show full of gory effects, but if you were sitting where I was - half-a-mile back on one side - you missed 'em.
So where was the video screen and why were the lights virtually non-existent?
Looking on the plus side, the music was good, especially so on the older tunes.
'Billion Dollar Babies' got the 'Rosemary' treatment with a sword thrust into the dummy's Unkle Ned.
And then there was 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'Eighteen', where Mike Tyson clone guitarist Kane Roberts (built like a shithouse door) churned out a few chunky riffs, Judas Priest-style!
Meanwhile Cooper was indulging in a bit of snakehem! And up from nowhere popped 'Rambo' Roberts with his rocket-launching M60, but sadly the fireworks that spewed forth looked pathetic.
After that stunt the middle section of the show dragged and the new numbers got the thumbs down.
Derek Oliver [Kerrang writer], yawned loudly to my right, nudged me in the ribs and said, "the only good thing about this show is the drummer and he looks as though he'd be far more at home in Motley Crue!"
The whipping gal was next, and that was a blatant Tubes rip-off, but the bit where Pete Kronin [Kerrang photograper (it's a joke!)] tried to get onstage to snap a close-up of Cooper with his tried and trusted Brownie 127 only to be met with a mikestand shoved through his gut was brilliant and straight out of 'Friday The 13th'.
And here we are at the guillotine.
Visions of Kenneth Williams being put under the blade in 'Carry On Chopping' came rushing back, especially the bit where he's given a note and replies, "Put it in the bucket, I'll read it later!"
So Cooper went under and off his head came; I natually assumed the great man was dead and went home.
I was later told that they'd patched him up and he'd got 're-elected', but frankly I didn't give a damn coz I prefered 'Welcome To My Nightmare' Part One.
ALICE COOPER has added a third date at the Birmingham Odeon to those previously announced. This is on December 5 and tickets are priced at £8.50/£7.50.