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Originally Published: August 1977
Author: Keith Sharp
Alice Cooper's image has changed considerably since the days when he used to chop up chickens on stage, now he machines machine guns them to death.
But seriously, there's a new depth to the image of Alice Cooper. That mascara-faced living nightmare that used to incite school kids to rebel against the system had matured with time. The anti-social Alice Cooper has become a film star and a television celebrity.
From the menacing evils of hard rock evolves Alice the balladeer, charming his way onto the charts with Only Women Bleed, I Never Cry, and more recently, You and Me from his Lace And Whiskey album.
But who or what is Alice Cooper?
Most of his fans can tell you that Alice was born Vince Furnier on February 4th, 1948 amidst mysterious circumstances in Detroit. At the age of 11 he moved with his family to Phoenix where he became the archetypal teenager; track star, school clown and journalist.
In his senior year at Cortez High School, he appeared in a Beatle wig for a skit by the Letterman's Club in the school cafeteria. A joke, but nevertheless, it laid down the foundation of a philosophy that eventually formulated the image of Alice Cooper in the early '70's.
At the age of 18, Alice and his band made periodic trips to Los Angeles where they became the first recognized glitter rock band. After leaving college in Phoenix, Alice Cooper moved to Los Angeles for two years, sleeping in coffins, living in motels and dressing up in women's clothing.
It wasn't until five years later when the band moved to Detroit that Alice Cooper's career began to move in an upwards direction. Under the direction of producer Bob Ezrin, the Cooper band cut their third album, Love It To Death which featured their first hit single, I'm Eighteen. Since then the career of the infamous Alice Cooper has spiralled. Three platinum albums, sales in excess of 14 million records and a tune called School's Out which became one on the biggest selling singles in the history of Warner Bros Records. The legendary Billion Dollar Baby tour attacked 56 cities in 62 days, grossing over $5 million.
Cooper has since left his original group and continues alone with Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Goes To Hell and now the Lace And Whiskey album.
In a recent telephone conversation, Music Express editor Keith Sharp talked with Alice Cooper prior to the present Lace And Whiskey tour. Cooper commented on the evolution of Alice Cooper, his present stature and the future of Alice Cooper outside the world of the recording studio.
KS: What can Alice Cooper fans expect from your forthcoming tour?
AC: The stage show actually contains five different shows, it's the best parts of each of our previous shows. It's fun to play around with the guillotine again and then there's the cyclops and the spider. We've also got the new character who machine guns chickens and we've added eight new songs. It's a lot of work putting the show together. We're at it from five p.m. until midnight every night.
KS: Is this Humphrey Bogart - Sam Spade character that's depicted on your Lace And Whiskey album an evolution of the Alice Cooper character?
AC: Maurice Escargot? No, he's just another character - a Cooper fantasy.
KS: How would you compare the Alice Cooper of today with the Alice Cooper of say five years ago?
AC: Alice five years ago was a lot more violent, a lot more Clockwork Orange. But that phase has already gone. Alice has matured a lot. He's still dangerous but not as much as before.
KS: How do you account for the change in the image of Alice.
AC: It's jut that Alice is more flexible. Road Rats, It's Hot Tonight and Lace And Whiskey - those songs are still the old Alice. But people who hear I Never Cry and You And Me will sit band and say, 'that's a different phase of Alice'.
KS: Did writing more melodic songs like I Never Cry present a special challenge for you?
AC: Yeah. I wrote those things out of spite. I was so tired of people saying Alice is great on stage but he can't write. So I wrote those songs to show that Alice could write. It was a personal challenge. That whole idea of coming up with these types of songs was a challenge. We were getting more commercial airplay because they were ballads.
KS: Many people thought the image of Alice Cooper wouldn't stand up when you left the original band.
AC: I was stronger when I left the band. I was the band. I felt stronger towards the image of Alice Cooper. I knew exactly what I was doing. I created the image of Alice Cooper and I created the albums which displayed that image.
KS: There's a song on the Lace And Whiskey album called I Never Wrote Those Songs which in effect refutes the old Alice Cooper image of Alice Cooper.
AC: This rejection business gets a bit ridiculous. The artist had got to be allowed to grow. I can't chop up baby dolls forever. I've got to grow. If you don't do that, you'll die. You'll get stale and you'll die.
KS: How do you feel the now your material has received wider acceptance.
AC: I feel extremely relaxed. I was really relaxed doing the last album. Now I have that wider appeal, I can go and do things like Hollywood Squares and feel comfortable.
KS: Does Alice Cooper feel at home in Hollywood?
AC: Yes, I love it. I do feel at home there. I like to rub elbows with the stars. My best friend is Bernie Taupin. He's my absolute best friend and we hang around with a lot of famous people. I've always had this fantasy of Hollywood. I've always felt that somewhere there's a place for me in Hollywood.
KS: Is Alice Cooper the movie star a natural progression?
AC: Yes, because Alice is an act. I put the Alice image into all of my acting parts. I find acting really natural myself. I think I've had so much experience on stage - so when somebody says do it, I do it. It's hard though, very hard, I've taken some special lessons.
KS: What acting projects are you involved in.
AC: Well, there's five or six things right now. I've just finished Sextette with Mae West, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. I play an Italian singing waiter. That was a lot of fun. I've also been offered the part of Bunny Hoover in Breakfast Of Champions but we haven't finalized that yet.
KS: In conclusion, how do you feel about Lace And Whiskey, it's the first album in a long time that doesn't have a direct theme.
AC: Yeah, the theme is in the packaging. Actually, I really like the album. It's a real rock 'n roll album. I like that about it. That's what I wanted. And there's some strong people on it that gave it a good rock 'n' roll sound.
(Originally published in "Canada's Monthly Music Tabloid", Music Express, Vol. 1 No. 8, August 1977)