Originally Published: May 1979
The Alice Cooper Group was, at one time, the most successful punk-rock group in the world. They were so disgusting that a teenage girl wrote a protest letter to Ann Landers after she threw up at one of their concerts.
Stupid people always put them down, saying that they didn't know how to play their instruments - the same people who never mentioned that Ringo Starr couldn't play a drum roll to save his life. Alice Cooper was almost the Beatles at one point. They created pandemonium when Alice hung himself from a gallows or threw money to the mob, saying "You're sicker than we are!" It was true. The violence, shock and horror backfired on the group. Audiences took the whole thing too seriously. Real violence erupted often at their gigs - often directed against the performers. The group soon broke up. Alice's solo career has been carried by mellow ballads, carried by production value and soppy sentimentality. Alice always knew how to please the masses. The rest of the Alice Cooper Group have gone through a succession of unsuccessful follow-up groups. The latest - The Flying Tigers - is playing in Connecticut bars.
The side-effects of Alice's fame & fortune - heavy boozing et cetera - have been only too well chronicled. Anyhow, shortly after our own Legs McNeil escaped the booby hatch after a prolonged heavy drinking binge he ran into Alice Cooper at a party. The two of them got together to compare notes.
L: What was the hospital like?
A: The hospital was terrifying at first.
L: Did you have to go through a....
A: Yeah, I had to go through a week of, ah, it's called, ah....
A: Yeah, detox for a week, which is well... The greatest part of the hospital was the characters and for a writer, it was really good to see. There was a lot to sort of digest. There was one girl who smashed the stereo every three or four days. She totally destroyed the stereo. she'd go into a fit (Laughing). The only time I stopped her was when she was going for the T.V. She went for the T.V. one night and I had to stop her real fast 'cause that was the only thing in the hospital that was keeping me real sane. If she broke the TV, I couldn't watch the "Odd Couple." So...ah...there were some real good characters. There was one guy who, the first day I was there...you're real shaky when you're coming off alcohol...so I was REAL shaky the first day and I was sort of wiped out, you know, and just holding on to the sanity part and a this guy comes in. Everybody eats in the same dining room. At breakfast, this guy comes in. He eats about three eggs and then vomits it all up all over the kitchen while I was sitting there. And this is my first day in the hospital. I'm not feeling so hot anyway and I go "Arrrgh!" I was getting sicker and it smelled like that all day.
Mrs. A: You got used to it pretty fast.
A: Yeah, after that. Then when people started flipping out and breaking things, it got to be real normal.
Mrs. A: I called him up one time and all of a sudden, I hear an alarm.
A: Alarms going off and people are screaming.
Mrs. A: Like "Star Trek" and I say, what's going on and he says, real calmly, oh, somebody just flipped out in 7A.
A: Nancy, was here name, just flipped out and it breaking everything again, and it go, they had a pool table in there and we'd be playing pool and somebody'd be going crazy, and it was sort of like, it didn't even phase the rhythm of the game of anything 'cause it was so common.
L: Where was the place?
A: It was upper New York. It was real good. The reason I went there was they had a real high success rate. You know, I tried to stop drinking when I was here alone and it was just impossible because it was too available, so I had to go to a place where they lock you up...put you away for three months.
L: Yeah, that's where they put me.
A: Where? In New York?
L: No, Connecticut. It was a discount place.
A: A discount mental place. It's like going to K Mart.
L: Well, here on T.V. they advertise it.
A: It's like checking into a hotel here or something. Well, this was a little different than that. It got to the point, it was such a different society than what I was used to, living in L.A., running around cool and everything, to be locked up was scary. Then it got to be like survival. How do you survive without going crazy so I started finding little things to keep me busy.
L: Did you do things like macrame?
A: No, I didn't do that. One reason that got to me...when they said there's RT, recreational therapy, and OT, occupational therapy, where you learn how to make little bracelets and stuff, and to me that was an insult to think I'd be in there weaving baskets. I said I wouldn't do that but I will take RT, which is like you basketball and sports, I said, I'll do that. I wouldn't go in and make ashtrays and shit. Then you feel like a mental case, and really my problem didn't have anything to do with depression. I was just trying to stop drinking, physically stop drinking.
L: What's happening with the old band? Do they have a lawsuit?
A: No. We settled all that shit. It's too bad. We didn't really part with any bad feelings at all. There were legal things. I didn't worry about that I guess 'cause that was all lawyers and stuff but Neal and those guys, we were always real good friends and everything. It was just a hassle over the ah...
A: Yeah. The only reason we really broke up, I think, was because everyone was going in different directions musically. One guy wanted to sound like this. One guy didn't want to do any theatre anymore and that was the only reason I was doing it was because I like doing the theatre so much. So I said if you guys don't want to do theatre, I gotta go a different way, because that's what I really like to do. If I just wanted to be in a band, I wouldn't just be in a band. I like doing this 'cause I like going out in front and act.
L: You lived in Connecticut at one time.
A: Yeah. In Greenwich. It was like living in Peyton Place. Every wife swapping place. You just felt like everyone around you was wife swapping. When you walked down the street, everyone was REAL Connecticut, even the name Connecticut reminds you of that kind of New England sort of pop shot. We were so out of place in Connecticut. In Greenwich Connecticut, I mean. The Alice Cooper Band at their height was living in Greenwich, Connecticut. We were so out of place!!
L: Did you like go grocery shopping and everyone would freak out?
A: Yeah, man. We were like a pork chop at a bar-mitzvah. Way out of place. (Laughter) But we had one of the biggest houses so everybody really... I mean we were like driving in Rolls Royces with hair down to here and levis with grease marks all over them. It's like just what you said they like you money. They don't care what you look like, as long as you're spending money. I was gonna ask something 'cause you probably know more about the actual punk rock movement than I do. I mean, there must be a philosophy behind it, like you said it's all fun and everything, but the guys who take it seriously, like the bands... if a band gets successful in the punk rock thing, are they just more of less outcasts?
L: Well, the Sex Pistols made a whole mess just getting dropped from record companies...
A: That's kind of confusing me for a while, 'cause I kept thinking, if a band, if a punk rock band, whose philosophy is: We know we're no good and we don't like money but we want to go out and do a tour and make a lot of money. That didn't make any sense to me. The confusion is alright. I like confusing myself. Confusion makes a lot of sense to me, but I was just wondering if they would become outcasts. If a punk rock band go as big as say, the Rolling Stones?
L: I don't believe anything I read. You can't. It's just like reading about you. Everything is so completely untrue.
A: Who's Ron Ashton playing for now?
L: Destroy All Monsters.
A: Oh, great! Ronnie great. God, we used to do so many gigs together. Iggy and I used to hang around with Ron a lot when we lived in Detroit. He showed me all his Nazi collection.
L: You lived in a farmhouse there.
A: Yeah, everybody was in Detroit. That was great back then. Every night was a different party at a different band's house. You know, back with SRC, MC5, the Stooges and...
L: A real rock and roll city.
A: It was great, though, 'cause Detroit was like the capital of everything. Everything was going on in Detroit. It was a lot of fun. Every night there was something else to do. There were no clubs, no night clubs at all. Everything was done at parties. Iggy was crazy. I loved Iggy. Man, a real nut.
L: Did you like the book Bob Green did? (Billion Dollar Babies)
A: Yeah. It was try. Most of it was true. The thing about the book is he saw it from kind of a different angle. All the stuff was true about getting into fights with each other but I mean that was normal. That was the kind of thing we thrived. It was sort of like we got all that energy out after a gig and you just... so fucking tired of being on the road all the time. He saw that, though, as being destructive and he didn't understand that was part of it. I guess it was because he was coming out of a Chicago journalism school thing and he was looking at it and he was probably comparing us, to say, like, what the Beach Boys do on tour.
A: What's Iggy doing now?
L: He just did the tour for "Lust for Life" but I don't know. What a great title. He looks good.
A: Yeah, but he isn't playing around with any stuff, is he? 'Cause last time I saw him, he was really...
L: I don't know. I hear he's cleaned up but I hear from friends on tour with him that he's always saying "Give me drugs." But I don't know.
A: That's a drag, 'cause he's so fucking good. To me, Iggy was the best and still is. I haven't seen his act in a long time but you know Iggy was so good on stage and I just said, man, if he could just channel this and make it work so that more people will see it. The thing was, his attitude was the kind of thing where I don't think he cared that he got that big, you know, in the business because if he would really put his mind to it... The thing is that I thought everybody really lost out. They never got to see Iggy when he really was at his best, you know. That was because of... there were all these things where maybe they didn't show up for gigs and things, the Stooges, you know, and they go a bad rep around the Detroit area for not showing up and if... oh man, he was so good onstage.... One of my favorite albums is the "Funhouse" album. It's just too bad that not many people got to see the original Stooges 'cause they were terrific.
L: Have you heard of "Metallic K.O."?
L: It's one of his last shows in Detroit. I don't know if it's a bootleg but he gets punched out by some motorcycle guys.
A: Iggy used to get punched out at almost every show we did with him. He'd go out into the audience and pick the biggest guy out and then...
(People come in who need plastic surgery. Alice talks about dumping hot coffee on them. More doctor talk).
L: Did you just get out when I saw you in New York?
A: Yeah, pretty much. I was in hospital for about a month before that.
L: How was it?
A: It was great. Well, I mean, you know, I had to stop drinking. I had gone, I went too far, and it was getting to the point where it didn't even taste good anymore. The whiskey didn't even taste good. It had lost its fuzz, you know. The whole thing. I didn't want to work anymore. I didn't feel like going out and working. I didn't feel like recording. I just felt like drinking and watching T.V., which I figured, I'm going to be doing that about when I'm sixty, why do it now?
L: What's your favorite show?
A: I watch the "Gong Show" every day. That's my favorite. Chuck Barriss is great. He is great.
L: Yeah, that song, Palisades Park, he wrote.
A: Yeah, great song. Freddie Cannon.
L: I mean, he's done like everything, hit song, hit book.
A: Yeah, taught himself how to play guitar, self-taught. He's got a funny sense of humor too. He's really... he ought to do... in fact, I was going to tell him he ought to do a whole punk show on the "Gong Show." Dedicate the whole show to punk rock.
L: You should go on there.
A: On his show? I did, I did.
L: You did? I didn't know that. When did you go on?
A: I did the Anniversary Show. I did "On the Guillotine" and "I Think I'm Going Outta My Head." (Laughs)
L: Did you get gonged?
(Originally published in Punk magazine issue #17, May/June 1979)