Vancouver Westender

Originally Published: 1999

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper's Rock N Roll Carnival is coming to Vancouver. It doesn't matter much that his best contribution to the annuls of rock had to be back in 1972 with the release of the absolutely matchless "School's Out" -- it remains, quite simply, one of the best rock anthems ever recorded. It doesn't matter that his last #1 record, Billion Dollar Babies, was released in 1973 when I was but a mere babe myself. Why? Because it was his dark world of Rock alot of us were born into. And it doesn't even matter that he, like all dressed-up, resurrect-a- rock bands of the 70's, must now measure the stage make-up in pounds per square inch -- it must be said: Rock don't wrinkle, and theatre and concept get better with age. This is Alice Cooper.

It's no secret that Alice Cooper was the original rock marketeur, and that The Alice Cooper Band was a group of 5 shock-rockers that indelibly bloodied up Glam. With the combination of violent imagery and ambiguous sexuality, Alice Cooper raised the ante of all Rock-dom to come. I mean, what can you say about a figure who's inarguably influenced everyone that's chronologically followed, and forced them to better his example just to get noticed? His image is a cultural imprint the world over, and his influence on every successive scene is documented in the history books: Bowie owes androgyny to Alice, Iggy owes an ER rescue to him (after a legendary Max's Kansas City roll-in-the-glass), Ozzy owes the whole "biting-heads-off-chickens" thing to Alice, and Johhny Lydon owes a successful audition for Malcolm McLaren's The Sex Pistols to an Alice 45 in the jukebox.

The international infamy of Alice Cooper started in Toronto. It was there that he mistakenly sacrificed a bird to the damnation of Rock N Roll while playing a festival slot for his band's label-head at the time, Frank Zappa. A chicken was thrown on-stage, and when he threw it back to the throng, expecting it to fly, it fell directly into the masses of wheelchair geeks parked in the front, and they tore it apart. The year was 1969. As Alice has summed up: "We were the group that drove a stake through the heart of the love generation."

And while Alice Cooper, the evil legend, needs no introduction, his contribution to the branches of Rock America's family-tree has remained largely overlooked amid his calculation and controversy. After dropping the Stones/ Yardbirds style and the former names of the Spiders and the Nazz, the Alice Cooper band found themselves fraternizing with the Doors and Zappa and Lennon in LA. In Detroit, they shared the streets and the scene with The Stooges, MC5, and Grand Funk Railroad. Sure, while most of them would have kicked his ass in a battle of the bands just as quickly and surely as they would have in a common bar-room brawl (remember -- Alice wore heels...), that's not really what Alice Cooper was about now, was it? Alice Cooper was a freakshow, a production collaboration, and Vincent "Alice Cooper" Furnier was an intrinsically astute, smart-ass punk. It was Uncle Alice, a TV junkie with a keen eye for controversy and his finger on absolutely every pulse that ran America's blood cold, who pushed the limits of Rock to where they remain today: an all-out behavioral deviation from the norm.

Alice Cooper understood the power of packaging. His popularity was propelled by the live-stage. Self- hangings and baby-doll killings, guillotining and necrophilia, his theatre was compelling, addictive and throbbingly macabre. In an atmosphere of corrupt governments, Vietnam shell-shock and a restrictive petrol energy crisis, Alice was the backlash the kids craved. And with hard packaging stunts like wrapping the first 1000-lot pressing of "School's Out" in pink panties -- "panties with 12" stuffed in them" -- he set the modern- day standard of promotional genius. Perhaps a tad grandiose, but more likely right on the money, director Penelope Spheeris observed: " If it weren't for Alice Cooper, civilization never would have declined." Certainly, music culture would not have become so deliciously dangerous and deranged.

But I'm biased. You see, "The Alice Cooper Show" was the first album I ever bought myself. I was an impressionable young girl of 10, and eager to trade in my candy money for music. It was that live album, with its dark and haunting cover photos and song titles like "Only Women Bleed," that spoke to me loudest at a time when I was becoming hormonally mal-adjusted enough to be interested (partly due to that exact eventuality). And now at the turn of the century, with the other original members either dead or selling real estate, Alice Cooper, the singular icon, has found his way off the golf course and back onto the world's stage. While my tastes and moral objectivity may have changed over the years, it's undeniable that Alice Cooper's side-show innovation remains the basis of other groups' imitation to this day -- just look at Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie for proof that the strategy still works. I've waited a long time to see the man who'll be eternally eighteen, and at the Orpheum on Sept. 11, I'll be the one front row screaming, "Long live the 'Coop!"