Sounds

Originally Published: March 30, 1974

Bronzed Bomber

Two ice-hockey teams are silently battling away for supremacy, but the man with the Michelob bottle is more engrossed in the morning's silly papers.

He doesn't really bother reading the stories, he's a headline connoisseur. "I had one that said 'Boy SWALLOWED', and it said 'Today, a six-year-old boy was swallowed by a 26-foot python'. That was the whole story, and it was in the entertainment section of the Phoenix Gazette; bad taste, I love it."

A sunny day in London town, and Alice Cooper's looking extraordinarily well, lean and bronzed from the first lay-off in years, including some Mexican sunshine. Having only seen Britain in terms of short stretches of rain and general bad weather in and around the Kensington hotel he's in, the BBC and the Speakeasy (why do people do it!), he's quite shocked by the notion that England has weather like this in March.

What with this new sunny image, and a far more musically adventurous album, "Muscle Of Love", was the old ferocious Alice becoming a thing of the past, replaced by the new Mr. Show Biz and friend of the stars?

"It's a funny thing. Musically, 'Muscle Of Love' was the best thing we've done, sort of laid back, but a lot of people didn't like it, because we didn't have that feverish type of evil thing, and a lot of people were disappointed by that. But I mean, we needed a release, we were exhausted from that image. That Nazi sound, where it had to be right on the beat like machinery.

"But now that we've relaxed on this album. I'm sure that the next one that we do will probably be very tense, very sharp and pointed. It is hard to live up to an image, but mostly I enjoy it. Like Bela Lugosi had to play Dracula every night for two years before the movie, but there must have been times when he didn't want to be Dracula.

"For me, 99 per cent of the time I can't wait to be Alice, but then I've got one per cent where I feel that I just can't take the pressure of being Alice tonight."

It seems a natural next step for Alice to become a movie star himself, and he admits to being a bit bored by the confines of being a rock star. But it's not proving too easy. Oh, the Coopers film (working title "Hard Hearted Alice") was fine, just a film of the stage act and a loony sub-plot with helicopters, machine guns, camels, a donkey in tennis shows… But filming his episode of "The Snoop Sisters" was something else. "Playing opposite Helen Hayes, who's been a professional actress for all those years, and having lines…I was shaking."

Equally scary was the concern in Toledo, Ohio during a recent short tour, which ended in a riot. "It's a very tough place. Steel workers, Hell's Angels, very tough. We went out and first thing I get hit in the head with an egg or something. That's OK, then one of those cubes from the flash things, right here, and the next thing I know, somebody throws one of those cherry bombs. That's a 16th of a stick of dynamite, like a very bi firecracker. It blew up in a roadies face, and I was so pissed off. I broke the mike into pieced, and we just went off, first time I ever had to leave the stage. I said, 'We just came to entertain you, not be targets.' It's awfully stupid that the audience doesn't act as their own police force. We were so tensed up, so ready to go for an hour and a half, that we just destroyed the dressing room."

It's evident that once the jokey stage violence turns real, Alice Copper dies as surely as if a stake had been driven right through that dollar-plated heart.

He's only really alive in terms of illusion 0 the guillotine, the rope. They've all worked, bar one, "We built a cannon that was supposed to shoot me across the stage. We spend 10,000 dollars on it, and we were sure it was going to work. There was an escape hatch for me to get out, and an exact replica dummy inside.

"First time we used it, I got stuck in the escape hatch, and I couldn't get out. It has a small dynamite charge to make it look like an explosion , although it was done with springs. I was shot down there, and it went 'BOOOOM' and my head went 'Boyoyoyoyong'. And when the replica came out it went three feet. I just came out and shrugged. It's one of those things where all can do is say 'Well, we tried'."

Right now, Alice is 40 pages into a book about a comic detective, Maurice Escargot, who is Clouseau's sidekick, and only marginally smarter. Cooper's guitarists Mike Bruce, who writes "very romantic stuff" and Dennis Dunaway "weird stuff, a bit like Pink Floyd" are doing their own albums, and Alice is feeling sorry for Nixon "the guy's had so much bad press, like we used to back in '66. Also, he gets more press than everyone else, which makes him a superstar". (Alice isn't exactly your typical rock star – he voted for Nixon, and also admires Wallace and Truman).

Politics isn't his favourite subject, though, and before long his eyes are drifting back to the TV, where wrestling has replaced ice hockey, and the headlines – "Hey! 'STREAKING HITS ROCK BOTTOM'. A group called Willie Flasher and the Raincoats!" And he's happy again. Anything that makes sense...