New Musical Express

Originally Published: February 02, 1973

Alice flexes his muscle

Alice Cooper has become a living legend. And despite the tales of his physical decay, it looks like he's gonna keep on living. Could it be that Cooper is a liar?

At any rate, far from having burned himself out, Cooper was sitting in the back room of Max's Kansas City when I met him looking healthier than anyone in the place. Looking ready for anything.

'Anything', revolves around subliminally muscling in on the Great American Sex Fantasy via his recently-released "Muscle of Love" album (no prizes for guessing what muscle).

The album is notable in that it was produced without the collaboration of Bob Ezrin - who was too exhausted to participate after doing Lou Reed's "Berlin".

Cooper told me: "Jack Richardson produced the album, and it's just so loose. That's what I wanted - a live-effect in the studio. I like mistakes.

"'Billion Dollar Babies' was too slick; it was so theatrical it lacked guts.

"So I thought back to my favourite Rolling Stones album - which was 'December's Children' because it had mistakes all through it.

"'Muscle of Love' doesn't have obvious mistakes, but there are a lot of dirty edges. In fact" - Cooped amused - "it even has a dirty stain on the cover.

"My favourite track is 'Teenage Lament 74'. That's the one with the superstar vocal back-up. It's about a kid who's growing up today who doesn't want red hair, or glitter on his face, or flashy clothes, but he has to conform because it's a social thing.

"If I were a kid now, I'd rebel and go the other way. That's how the whole Alice thing started, only it became accepted. This poor kid is just stuck in the middle. He doesn't want to look like David Bowie or Alice. The song features the return of the individual."

You are no doubt well aware of the Pointers, Ronnie Spector and suchlike were on the session.

"I wanted the best voices I could think of. Bette Midler was busy, but I got the Pointer Sisters to do scat vocals. Ronnie Spector did her 1960's voice. And we got Labelle and Liza.

"Liza (Minnelli) is like everybody's tom-boy sister. She came in, hit me on the arm and said, 'Hey where's the beer, man.'

"I told the press we were married," Cooper chuckles.

"There were so many singles on the album we didn't know which one to pick. Actually, all the tracks were written as singles. But 'Teenage Lament' stood out to me - it's reminiscent of 'Eighteen'."

Apart from doing this album, Cooper has obviously been studying the scene.

"I really see a whole romantic thing coming in," he says seriously. "People will rebel against what we're doing, and that's a healthy social thing.

"And the 90's people will look back and say, 'remember those fabulous 70's, look how camp they were, look at Alice? And I'll be doing those Kay-tel record package commercials."

He seems delighted with the prospect of being a golden oldie.

Cooper then turned the conversation to acting. He says he's an actor, and that he learned his craft from late-night TV movies.

"We're like actors, working in very basic emotions. I learned to act from TV. I sit back and watch styles, taking a little bit from one actor and a little bit from another. Anybody who watches TV as much as I do can learn how to act without going to any drama school.

"I can get any emotion I want out of an audience. Like, people fight for posters I throw out at the end of the show - but it's a John Wayne fight; no one ever gets hurt.

"That's what I really enjoy - letting those kids be a part of the show. A little piece of them wants to be Alice, because Alice is catharsis.

"When we put the spotlights on the kids, everybody is an actor. Hey, am I on," Alice mocks "We sit back and watch. After performing for an hour we give them five minutes. It's only a bit part but . . ."

The whole show seems to revolve around exaggeration and imagination. Cooper never tells people to think a certain way, never expects a set reaction. It's all down to myth and rumours.

"I'm a terrific liar," Cooper interjects with a note of pride in his voice.

"The whole thing about killing chickens on stage was a fantasy that came out as fact.

"Someone threw a chicken onstage I chased it around for a bit and finally gave it to someone in the front row. Now if the chicken later died, I'm sorry. I don't know what happened.

"Next day, Frank Zappa came up to me and said, 'I hear you tore the head off a chicken and drank its blood. And I said - oh really? But I didn't deny it. I love rumours."

With the return of the whole star myth, Alice Cooper fits perfectly. He loved Hollywood and can rap endlessly about movies and actors.

"This whole star thing has been taught by TV" - Cooper breaks into the refrain of a TV show opening theme - "We go on stage to exhaust the audience to the point where they can't take anymore. And that's exactly what Liza Minnelli does, or Barbara Streisand or Bette. That's what Frank Sinatra used to do."

So being an actor, Alice Cooper is a very different character off-stage. Offstage he's pretty normal.

"I'm an all-American kid. Just like Fred McMurray or Ozzie Nelson."

He has a new idea for his stage show, but it reluctant to talk in case someone steals it. But apparently it's the most spectacular yet.

He commented: "It's like Alice has done the electric chair, the guillotine, and the hanging - and this new one is the ultimate test. Can Alice survive!"

Getting back to the offstage Alice, he knows exactly how much he can drink before a show and rarely exceeds his limit. But occasionally the onstage Alice takes over.

"I have my drinking schedule down. I know how many beers I can drink before a show. I can't drink whisky any less than an hour before a show or I'll pass out in the middle of the set."

We know Cooper's a great movie buff, so when are we gonna see his debut on the big screen? Well, it seems the time is rapidly approaching. The Cooper gang have been filming bizarre sequences all over the country. All of them no doubt funny. All of them pointless.

"We're doing a movie containing all sorts of insane scenes. They don't make any sense, but that's the point of the movie.

"I'll tell you about one scene," said Alice getting all excited like a little kid. "A guy comes out of a party in a holiday Inn room. He's really starving, it's five in the morning, and room service is closed. Now you know how people leave the food they didn't eat on tables outside their rooms? Well, this guy sees this piece of cake with only five bites taken out of it; really delicious looking cake. So he starts eating it and it's really good.

"All of a sudden the door opens and there's this old man standing there with blisters bleeding all over his mouth, and he gasps - don't eat the cake. Then he falls over dead. The guy runs to his room and desperately rinses with Listerine. It ends right there and goes into something totally different.

"The whole thing will just be little vignettes. We have an Indian attack on our limousine at the airport. It's real Sam Peckinpah westernish. To make it real Peckinpah we filled water balloons with stage blood so the car is covered in blood.

Yeah, folks, the image of Alice Cooper is a complex one. But Cooper is just smart enough to pull it off. Cooper is a pro.

"The image is so frail that if one thing goes wrong you destroy all that's been built up," says the star of stage and screen. "All the publicity has to fit the image. We did press conferences in all those 62 cities last year. It was like I was talking in my sleep. I didn't know what I was saying.

"At the end of the conference I'd always say everything was a lie. That's a good creative interview. I mean, you don't believe anything I've told you. Do you?