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(June 15, 1971)
Originally Published: June 15, 1971
Author: Lewis Grossberger
New York, N. Y. "It's actually not dirty, you know," said Alice Cooper. "it's just that the image is hard for a lot of people to take." Alice was leaning back on a couch with his feet up, sipping beer out of a can, explaining what he does for a living, which is being Alice Cooper, which is weird.
Alice looked tired and needed a shave. he had just flown in from Detroit, where he had been up half the previous night singing and throwing feathers at people, and that can take a lot out of you.
But Alice was in a cheerful mood. Things are going well of late for Alice Cooper and also for Alcie Cooper, one of which is the name of a five man rock band and the other the name of its lead singer, a 23 year old former high school track star from Arizona who grew up to be, well, Alice Cooper.
Why Alice Cooper? "It's such an American name," says Alice. "We're such an American band. We're the ultimate Ameican band." He laughs.
Onstage, Alice appears in heavy eye makeup, bracelets and tight, flamboyant clothing of indeterminate gender, his dark tresses flowing over his shoulders, and proceeds to make his small contribution to the forthcoming ultimate sexual liberation of the world. Or something like that.
Constrasting with the group's unisensuality is its hard driving Detroit style sound, plus a far out audience involving melange of theatrics, featuring such bizarre props as a straitjacket and a live boa constrictor that coils around Alice's torso.
And feathers. With its third album ("Love It to Death"), the group is beginning to gain considerable attention.
"To a lot of people I'm sure it looks like we're making idiots of ourselves," says Alice, "or targets even, because when you start confusing the sexual roles, a lot of people that are like hip, with long hair and everything, still really... well, we've had people jump up and try to knock me down. We've had motorcycle gangs jump onstage." But that sort of thing doesn't bother Alice. "It's a healthy reaction," he said. "It' creates theater."
And what if it gets out of control? That's okay, too. "Sometimes I hope it does get out of control. Just for the idea of what a massive theater thing it would be. I used to love the rock and roll riots back when they used to tear the seats out. I think it's not only theatrical, it's really healthy. That's what rock music is about."
But the reactions are improving, says Alice. "We've been getting a lot of bras thrown at us lately. Everybody's been throwing bras with phone numbers." Not like the early days when the only throwing was likely to be up.
"We had this reputation for clearing out a building with five minutes of the time we got on stage. "Alice reminisced. "We played a Lenny Bruce memorial birthday party at the Cheetah in Los Angeles. It was about three years ago, the first time we played as Alice Cooper to a big audience. There were about 2,000 people there. When we got done with the first song, there were about 300 or 400 people left.
"And it wasn't really that negative," Alice marvels. "we weren't even nearly what we are now. It just wasn't timely then." The Cheetah debacle caught the eye of Frank Zappa, leader of the often defunct Mother of Invention and a father of much rock innovation.
Zappa knew a bad thing when he saw one. "That's why he signed us," says Alice. "He said, 'Man, I can't believe anything that negative exists.'"
The group has since changes its emphasis somewhat. "We've taken our show, which used to be chaotic, and we're making it more sensual now," says Alice. "Because people are more interested in sex than chaos."
The band members used to have a routine in which they threw live chickens at each other and the audience, but they started getting nasy messages from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Now they're into feathers. "We build up this tension all the way through the set, and then when you do the thing with the white feathers, man, it's like an orgasm; they're released."
The theatrics are "pure entertainment," Alice says. "It adds to the music. It's something that a lot of groups are probably gonna end up doing pretty soon because people are getting tired of watching the same old thing on stage. You know, the lead guitar break, the drum solo. You could close your eyes and listen to one of our concerts and really get off on the music, but if you opened your eyes you'd see a whole new thing."
Who are the Alice Cooper fans? "We're appealing to the massive antiparent audience," says Alice. "Basically, were playing to 14 and 15 year olds. And they consider us antiheroes. That's really a rebellious age. They'll do anything to get their parents mad to them. We get letters all the time, "My mum and dad won't let me listen to you album; we can't put you pictures up...' And so they go out and listen to it when nobody's there. It's like they're getting away with something."
Alice says it's good for them. "They haven't made up their minds about things yet. They're really open... we're looking like this and like I said making targets out of ourselves for the reason that we're liberating them. It's a sexual liberation. If it's gonna make somebody look better, why shouldn't they wear eye makeup? Or anything like that. Even sexuality roles in life - I think it should really be up to the person's own belief rather than society's belief.
"We just want to affect them," says Alice. "We want to make them think."
Aside from his style of dress, Alice himself comes on straight, says he's been living with a girl for about two years and furthermore, "Budweiser is the only drug I take."
He is firmly opposed to marriage ("cause you can't do anything when you're married that you can't when you're not"), organized religion ("I think it's the most pop art thing I could ever imagine"), funerals ("It's the most depressing thing in the world") and underwear ("What good is it?").
Alice insists that he doesn't listen to anyone but Burt Bacharach ("his albums are really strange") and considers television a strong influence on the group. "We're really television orientated" he says. "I spent most of my time, eight hours a day, watching TV when I was in my formative years...I watched "77 Sunset Strip" and all these things where at least 20 people got shot." Alice Cooper, he says, "is more or less an extension of television," with its emphasis on sex, violence and death.
But it's all good clean fun, just some typical American boys cutting up, and you can't upset Alice by calling him names.
"One reviewer called up amphetamine drag queens," Alice said with a chuckle. "Onstage, that's what it must look like to a lot of people. But in the same sense, it comes off very masculine... the music and everything.
"Actually," said Alice in an effort to sum things up, "we're projecting a lot of negative ideas, only they're positively projected." Or to put it in another light: "It's subtle in a way but at the same time it's blatant."