Melody Maker

Originally Published: November 18, 1972

Alice Is Still Swinging ~ By The Neck

Chris Charlesworth reports as Alice Cooper brings his violent rock to Glasgow - a city where violence is no stranger...

Author: Chris Charlesworth

The kids at Green's Playhouse, Glasgow, were yelling "Alice, Alice, Alice" at the top of their voices in deafening unison as the object of their emotion stepped up to the gallows. But as the volume grew louder and the cries more disjointed, you couldn't tell what the cry was.

It sounded more like "violence, violence, violence," and at that moment Alice had his finger on a trigger that could have sparked off a hundred knifings in this city where violence has always been a way of life.

Alice Cooper was turning Glaswegians on at a rate they'd never known before on any rough Saturday night. And the Scottish kids lapped it all up in a feverish excitement that would have beaten any Celtic/Rangers or ethnic/religious clash the city could invent.

They weren't actually yelling "violence," but it sounded like that and it might just as well have been.

It was a scarey five minutes and the cops down at the front, with their black and white chequered hatbands, couldn't figure out this guy with a girl's name, a snake, a sword and a knife who was about to be hung by his band.

Maybe the bass player ought to be arrested, or perhaps the drummer. He was nasty the way he lunged with a switchblade.

Alice in Scotland on Friday sold out in a matter of hours and these kids - mostly male - couldn't get enough of the transvestite freak whose stage show mixes the macabre with rock on a more than 50-50 basis.

Alice is a killer, a violent psycho whose street battles probably reflected Sauchiehall Street's more seedy evenings better than any other rock artist on the road.

To the more weak hearted of us, it would probably shock. To the violent in mind, it doubtless inspires. Alice maintains that his act does not encourage violence, but saps the violent energy from the kids, leaving them to expired to follow in his footsteps.

Whatever else it is, no-one can argue that Alice presents the most spectacular act of any group, taking theatre/rock to its absolute limits.

Though there's better hard rock around, Alice gets full marks for presentation, full marks for effort and full marks for stunning effects.

The act is timed to perfection, with each gesture building up to the moment when Alice dangles from he noose at the right of the stage.

It opens with clouds of bubbles engulfing the musicians from each side of the stage, and as the music grows louder, our hero slinks on, dressed in gold lame pants as tight as sunburned skin, and a black leather top gripped together with loosely fitting thongs.

There's evil in the air the moment he struts on to the stage. He's like some ballet dancer whose legs have grown tired and whose eyes - blacked with make up - have seen more heavy nights than the devil himself. He's right out of a Hammer film.

The musicians really ought to be hunchbacked old men, with Alice goading them with a whip to thrash them into player harder. Perhaps he could breathe fire into the speaker cabinets, or juggle human skulls between numbers.

Nothing, like nothing, would be too much for this guy.

His first prop is Yvonne, a boa constrictor snake, which curls around Alice like a spiral staircase. Yvonne could if she wanted to squeeze Alice's guts through his mouth, but her training's good, and her tails flashes up between Alice's legs.

Next prop is a sword which Alice swishes within inches of the musicians and fans. Is he going to swallow it? . . . No, but he gets dangerously close to slitting his own throat. The sword is replaced with a knife, a leathal looking blade designed more for meat than bread, and here the fun really starts.

A dustbin is brought on and garbage littered around the stage to transform Alice's rostrum into a New York, Lower East Side ghetto - just like the West Side Story settings.

The next bit is really hot, taken deliberately from the West Side Story routine. Alice and musicians become the Sharks and the Jets - "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet from your first cigarette to your last dying breath" - and , as pre-recorded tapes take over the soundtrack, a switchblade battle takes place.

The whole scene is acted out faithfully, with the band and Alice lunging for each other until drummer Neal Smith and Alice are the only ones left standing. The rest lie crumpled alongside the garbage, groaning and writhing like it was all for real.

But Alice, dear Alice, cops it first and Smith stands arms aloft, in victory salute. The crowd are yelling "Alice, Alice, Alice" and it's here that the mind plays tricks. Is it "violence, violence, violence" they're shouting?

Smoke is coming from somewhere and the din is deafening. Alice is moving again, clutching a broken bottle and stumbling towards the drummer. Knife aloft, he lunged at Smith and stabs him between the shoulder blades.

The deed is done, police sirens fill the air and orange lights - they're orange in America, blue over here - flash on the amp tops.

"What shall we do with him?" asks a guitarist and the cry is unanimous. The audience, delirious with violence are acting as judge and jury.

"Hang him" is the cry.

Alice is bound with rope, and the band do a quick change - one is the masked executioner (hunchbacked, of course), another the cleric and reading from the lone drummer beating out a solemn roll on the side drum hanging off his shoulder.

And while the kids yell their encouragement, Alice is forced upstairs towards the gallows while the masked executioner urges him along with a blazing torch. The noose is fitted around his neck and the din grows louder and louder.

A massive crash, accompanied by some mock thunder and lightning, signifies that the convicted Alice is no more. He dangles from the noose, apparently lifeless. Smoke pours out from beneath the gallows and the set has reached a horrific climax.

But there's more to come. The smoke continues to belch out into the darkness, engulfing the stage and most of the front rows including the row of policemen whose torches flicker hopelessly through the mist.

And while all this is going on Alice is cut down (to be replaced by a skeleton), and dressed as a Presidential candidate. Three minutes later, when the smoke has cleared, the lights are brought up to reveal a new man, in white tail suit, cane and top hat, urging voters to place their croos next to his name.

Stupified by what has happened, the crowd are all out of their seats drunk withe excitement which is further encouragement as Alice expertly flicks the cane around and distributes posters into the throng.

It was a superb piece of showmanship, and the bolt was driven even further home when Alice came back for an encore.

The opening bars of "School's Out" signalled his re-appearance. Saving the best known number until the end always pays dividends and on Saturady, coupled with further distribution of even more posters - some of which were chewed first - it transformed the show into an orgy of idiot dancing. A great climax to a great show.

Alice is a Jekll and Hyde personality. On stage the Hyde in him thrashes out violence at its most extreme, but off he's the passive Jekyll, quieter and more reserved than most rock personalities. He might feed his snake on rats, but that's the only gesture to make you shiver.

He firmly belives that seeing his violent act does not encourage fans to follow in his footsteps.

"I don't think it incites violence at all. It doesn't get me off watching someone else get violent, so why should it effect the kids?

"When I was using the doll to kill in the previous act none of the rest of the band was involved so we changed that to invlove everybody."

The hanging scene, says Alice, could easily go wrong. Twice he escaped luckily, and once he was knocked out for about five minutes after hitting teh floor of the gallows. Piano wires are strapped around him to give the "dangling" effect, but after they've been used for awhile they stretch - thus making the rope tighter around his neck.

His reason for playing Scotland was simple.

"We've already done this act in London, and don't intend to repeat ourselves.

"We were going to put out a Christmas single saying 'enjoy this Christmas because it might be your last' but we decided against it."

Alice is likely to be back in Britain again in May or June of next year with a new set which will go on the road in the States first.

"By the time we get to doing the next act in England it'll be really sparkling."