Sunday Old School: Alice Cooper, The King Of Shock Rock
As it’s impossible not to notice, today is Halloween. It’s probably a general consensus that Halloween goes with metal better than it does any type of music, but why is this is? In two words: Alice Cooper. With a stage show that included hangings, guillotines and chicken throwing (ok, that only happened once), the Alice Cooper band brought the shock to rock and it could be argued that nobody has been able to do it better to this day. Although now known as the solo act of singer Vincent Furnier, the name, Alice Cooper was originally the name of the band that Furnier sang in, taking their name from a witch they believed they had contacted through the use of a Ouija board.
The group was formed in 1964 as The Earwigs, choosing the Cooper name in 1968. They released their first album, “Pretties For You” the next year which was unsuccessful both critically and commercially, a fate which would also befall their second album, “Easy Action.” However, the band eventually achieved a breakthrough with the single, “I’m Eighteen,” which became a hit and helped the album, “Love It To Death” climb to the number 35 spot on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. The next album, “Killer,” not only yielded more hit singles, but saw the band expand their live show into something rock audiences had never seen before, featuring boa constrictors, chopping up bloody baby dolls and ending with Furnier being hanged in a gallows.
Following a string of classic albums and songs, including the album, “Billion Dollar Babies,” which topped the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom, the band members had decided to record solo albums, with Furnier (now using the name, Alice Cooper as his own) being no exception. The resulting album, “Welcome To My Nightmare” marked the end of the Alice Cooper band and the beginning of Alice Cooper, the rock icon. The album featured another hit single in the form of “Only Women Bleed” and contained narration by horror movie legend Vincent Price. Although two more successful albums were released afterwards, Cooper’s alcohol intake was becoming a great cause of concern, with rumours that he was drinking two cases of beer and a bottle of whiskey a day. To combat this, he checked himself into a New York mental institution, which provided the inspiration for his next album, “From The Inside,” a concept record dealing with characters inside the asylum.
Unfortunately, his next four albums were not successful on a commercial scale and he was once again hospitalised for alcoholism. Although he achieved his goal of becoming sober, he was let go by Warner Brothers because of the poor performances of recent albums. Nevertheless, Cooper returned to the rock scene in 1986 with, “Constrictor,” which included music he had contributed to the soundtrack of the movie, “Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.” Following another album, “Raise Your Fist And Yell,” his live shows once again became notorious the world over, owing to the performances being influenced by popular slasher movie series like “Friday The 13th” and “Nightmare On Elm Street,” (in which Cooper had a cameo role as Freddy Kruger’s father.) The tour was so controversial that British M.P. David Blunkett called for the tour to be banned. Despite this, the tour was a massive success and so was his next album, “Trash,” which included the song, “Poison,” perhaps Cooper’s best known recording as a solo artist. In support of the album, Cooper co-headlined the “Operation Rock and Roll” tour with Judas Priest (who were themselves experiencing a resurgence in popularity thanks to their album, “Painkiller”) and Motorhead.
Since then, Cooper has continued to release albums which, despite varying levels of commercial success, have helped him remain one of the most popular touring figures in rock music. It’s fair to say that although the music of Alice Cooper will live forever as timeless classics, the stage show was just as influential. It’s an unspoken conclusion that without Alice Cooper, there would be no Rob Zombie, no Marilyn Manson, no Gwar, because every aspect of these controversial artists’ stage shows contain shades of Alice Cooper.
Alice Cooper - "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
Alice Cooper - "Welcome To My Nightmare"
Alice Cooper - "Feed My Frankenstein"
Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider (The Movie)
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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