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Originally Published: July 08, 2004
Author: Jim Lundstrom
Alice Cooper believes his role in musical history will be as "the Busby Berkeley of rock íní roll."
Berkeley, you will remember, was the innovative film choreographer and director who brought kaleidoscopic effects into filmed dance routines.
"I did prove you can bring musical theater to rock íní roll, that you could write a rock song that has really graphic lyrics and bring them to life on stage. Nobody had ever done that before us," Cooper said by telephone from Monte Carlo, where he was relaxing after a series of 20 sold-out headlining European shows.
"My wife and sister-in-law are teaching ballet here, so instead of going home to Phoenix at 115 degrees, I decided to come here," he said. "Not a big rock scene. Itís more a James Bond scene, which I fit right into."
Cooper said there is a huge resurgence of metalheads in Europe.
"Itís a new generation and theyíre all very hip to Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper and Ozzy," he said. "You see 40,000 kids in black leather jackets. Itís like Detroit 1978."
And at age 56, he still enjoys being part of that.
"I donít think age has anything to do with it," he said. You gauge everything by Mick Jagger. Mick Jaggerís six years older than me. If heís still going, Iíve still got another six years. I figure Iíve got to be in better shape than the Stones. I donít drink, I donít smoke, I donít take any drugs."
So how does Alice Cooper stay in shape?
"Itís the show," he said. "Itís an hour and 45 minutes of aerobics. Out of the 25 songs, two are ballads and everything else is just full out. You get about 20 of those under your belt and you put yourself in pretty good shape. I used to be a long-distance runner. I think that has a lot to do with my physique and physiology."
Cooper said he will always be tagged with the "shock rock" label, which is what the band wanted to do, beginning with the name.
The oft-told story is that the name came to him during an Ouija board session in which he was told by the spirits that he was a reincarnated 17th-century witch named Alice Cooper who was burned at the stake.
"I always meant to get burned at the stake, but if you have to get a pyro license in every city, that would just be too hard," he said.
But what about the story of the name?
"One of the great urban legends," he said. "I think most people want to believe that, so I say, go ahead and believe it. Itís as good as the real story.
"The idea of Alice Cooper was just to see how many parents you could (tick) off with one name," he continued. "Alice Cooper was a name that really seemed to irritate parents, especially when they saw what the band was, what they looked like, what they did. I didnít want a heavy name. I wanted a name that was just the opposite of what we were, a soft female name."
It may have seemed like a bold move at the time, but Cooper said it was really just an act of desperation.
"We were up against The Doors and bands like that," he said. "I thought, letís do something totally revolutionary. Letís do something that will really upset some people. We didnít know it was going to work.
"Frank Zappa wanted to call us Aliceís Cookies. I went, ĎFrank, in some ways, Alice Cooper is creepier than that.í"
Still, he said, it was a lot easier to shock people in 1969 than it is in 2004.
"Our show is not that great big slick kind of stage show with lasers and pyro," he said. "Itís more like vaudeville, burlesque, sideshow rock. Our show is more ĎPhantom of the Opera,í more cerebral and a little bit more creepy. Alice himself is a creepier character than the characters in Kiss and all the other characters out there. I think Alice has that role down pretty well."