Originally Published: October 15, 1970
Author: Elaine Gross
New York - "You suck!" shouted the drunk kid.
"Yes, I do," replied Alice Cooper, laughing. Alice proceeded to crouch down on the stage and began chanting softly into the mike, "Suck, Suck, Suck." But the kid really hated Alice, and like a perfect straight man screamed, "You still suck!" Alice swaggered over in his black tights, tank top and white high-heeled slingback shoes. When he got closer to the kid, he pulled up on his metal belt as suggestively as he could and let it snap back. At that point two bouncers pulled the kid out. Alice cordially waved goodbye.
The audience of suburban Long Island hippies at the Action House moved back from the stage in fear as Alice Cooper menacingly picked up a metal pronged stake. Three young girls with braided hair discussed the show, and decided it was sick and disgusting. Alice had picked up on the fear from the audience, and was busy sticking the stake into the long hair of the rest of the band. The tension in the room built up with the lights and the music. Alice started to swing a pillowcase around. Suddenly everyone was hit with a shower of feathers, and the audience was up on its feet clapping and shouting "Thank You."
The night before Alice Cooper succeeded in getting the crowd at Max's Kansas City standing. Alice was playing Supreme Bitch Drag Queen. Nervous giggles would erupt from the New York Super Hip as Alice took off his silver-striped leather heart-on-crotch pants. Bumping and grinding in his black tights, Alice tore up a newspaper with his teeth. Some of the paper was stuffed into his black tank top. Alice proudly strutted around the stage showing off his newspaper tits to a chorus of relieved laughter.
Then a cop walked in and tried to stop the show. Alice and the band played on as their road manager, Loe Finn, intercepted the cop. The cop had come in because of the complaits that the music was "too loud," but when he saw the show he totally freaked and decided it was "too dirty." "Too loud" and "too dirty" in New York at Max's Kansas City! The entire scene smacked of surrealism.
The cop was completely confused. He simply gave up trying to deal with the situation, and made the wise choice of leaving. The audience naturally showed its appreciation with a standing ovation. Alice Cooper and the band finished off the evening's drama with a hypnotic number and left to the sounds of a happy cheering audience.
Alice Cooper and the band - Mike Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith - have been together for five years. They are from Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles, and are now based in Detroit because they consider it a "high energy" city. The group has always been involved in a stage act. Alice maintains that "it's just natural theatrics. We don't work any of that out. It all works together, like the clothes, the way we move; everything all works together. We just always wanted to be really exciting on stage, and so it just naturally happened. Things just kept evolving until we don't look like we relate to anybody, and our act doesn't relate to anything."
Frank Zappa picked up on the group during what Alice calls their "horror show period." The relationship with Zappa hasn't been exactly harmonious. Alice feels that Zappa is an "anti-hero." "Frank is too political," says Alice. "He takes himself too seriously. He acts like Hitler, and with that mustache he even looks like Hitler." Zappa wanted to produce their last album, but Alice wouldn't let him: "Frank didn't take us seriously. He thought of us as freaks like the G.T.O.'s and we aren't."
The freak image has been hard for them to break. Last year they did a show in Detroit at the East Town - the place where the whole Paul McCartney rumour started. Alice described the show: "Mike, Glen, and Neal dressed in white. I dressed up in white like Errol Flynn with a dueling sword, a bandana, and even a penciled mustache. I was acting real swashbuckling. Our bass player, Dennis, dressed all in black in a tuxedo without any shoes because of the Paul McCartney rumours. At the end of the show we did a song called "Lay Down And Die, Goodbye," and Dennis fell down like he was dead. And nobody in the audience got it. Nobody associated the fact that Dennis was a bass player and Paul McCartney was a bass player!
"People just don't want to think. I felt it couldn't have been more obvious, what we were doing. It was a real satire. But people just said, 'Where are the chickens?' So what could we say? If you don't get that, then what else can you get? It was really funny. We just laughed at it."
The name Alice Cooper and the group's accent on dual sexuality confuse a lot of people and tend to put people uptight. It reflects the group's involvement with the concept of "Musical Liberation"
"People are really surprised when they meet us and find out that we're all straight. It's really very simple. Everyone is part man and part woman, and you've got to accept both parts if your head is together. It's natural law. The people who are threatened by us haven't really dealt with their own sexuality, so after they've seen us we've given them something to think about. One of the things I'd like to do would be to play for Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation, since so many people are trying to liberate themselves from the roles our society has imposed on them."
The idea of changing his name to Alice Cooper is unique for rock music, but it is not unprecedented. Alice has been interested in reincarnation, and is quite aware of the artist Marcel Duchamp, the "father" of the Dada art movement. At one point in his career, Duchamp became involved with the idea of breaking down the sexual roles. He took on the name of Rose Selevy (pronounced Rose C'est la vie) with which he signed a number of his famous "ready-mades." Duchamp's influence on Alice Cooper is too apparent to be merely coincidence. Yet, Alice Cooper is not an art exhibit set to music, nor are they Bonzo Dog Band Vaudeville.
Alice feels that, "you have to appreciate the visual thing we're doing, even if you don't like it. If people can only relate to us on the level of our stage act, I can accept that. We're dealing with music and theatrics as a totality. I don't expect people to understand our music right now. Iggy Stooge is using his music and theatrics as a totality too. If his music wasn't any different, he wouldn't be so strong. No one considers that the music behind him is the whole backbone of Iggy. They just look at him on the level of his stage act. If he didn't have Ron Ashton and the rest of those cats behind him it wouldn't be the same."
Both Alice Cooper albums received bad reviews. It doesn't bother him because basically he doesn't like the albums either. He considers the music on the albums "too obscure" and "people need things that are base." Part of the problem with the albums has been translating the visual excitement to an auditory medium. He hopes to remedy this on the next album, tentatively titled "Honest Alice," which will be recorded soon in New York. Alice plans to record the album to an audience in the studio.
As far as their relationship to the rest of the music scene, Alice calls the group a "third generation band." He includes the Stooges in this category. "We went to the Fillmore East the other night and all the audience kept screaming was 'boogie.' Or the blues. How many times can you lose your baby? And jams. All those lame jams. Unless you're somebody like Mike Bloomfield who really knows the technical aspect of it, most of the jams you hear are stereotyped. The people who dig groups like Ten Years After now are going to be washed up in two years. They're just going to be like old married couples.
"When we were in Washington on the Tom Donahue Caravan, all those San Francisco jam bands hated us. They hassled us more than anybody ever did. Owsley's people, who were running the PA system said, 'We don't like them, they're theatrical. We don't want them to go on. They might break our microphones.' They're all into Hog Farm Earthy Jams. And we said, 'What are you talking about? Warner Brothers hired us to go on this thing. We had to get the Washington police to let us on. And the Jefferson Airplane came up and told the people who were running the PA to let us play. 'We dig them, and they'll use our equipment.' So we went on and used the Airplane's equipment, and had the crowd standing. It was really incredible.
"The liberated people from San Francisco were so hypocritical. These people were first and second generation San Francisco bands, but they're prejudice, man. They're not any better than the people they're putting down. In fact the Washington police were on a higher level. If these people were forty with short hair, I could understand it. But these people were Owsley's people - Owsley, the guy who created acid!"
Alice likes the fact that the group attracts a very young audience: "We affect the little teenage boys between the ages of twelve and fifteen more than anybody. They consider us the heroes of our time for some reason. They always come into the dressing room and say, 'Can I have a picture taken on your lap?' For some reason we represent the fourteen and fifteen year old kids, and when we play for them they really flip out. They're a great audience. They know how to react.
"Neal and I used to have a routine where we'd get into a cat fight. And these kids would really get into the physical action of it. The kids who are digging us right now are a lot heavier - they know more. They're fourteen and fucking. I was eighteen before I fucked. I would rather affect even the ten and eleven year olds, because they're just getting into music. Their minds are open, and they accept us.
"It maked me feel good," says Alice, "that at the end of our act people don't say 'More,' 'More.' They say, 'Thank You!' "