Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Extended Addam's Family: Alice Cooper

Here's a post I forgot to bring over from my old blog! For this trip through the Extended Addam's Family, we're going to pay a visit to: 
I like his music and I want his hat!
Alice Cooper has always seemed like a fitting name for the man who is arguably the world's first Shock Rocker, but he was born with a pretty cool name: Vincent Damon Furnier. He didn't adopt the stage name until he went solo in 1975, having previously played with Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass, and Neal Smith on drums in a band called Alice Cooper during the 1960's. The group got started in 1964 when Cooper assembled a group of his fellow cross country teammates: Glen Buxton, John Tatumm, Dennis Dunaway, and John Speer, to compete in the local Letterman talent show. None of them knew how to play any instruments, so they dressed up like the Beatles and pretended to sing and play to recorded Beatles songs, calling themselves The Earwigs. The group payed girls in the audience to scream like the Beatles fans on the Ed Sullivan Show, and won the talent show with their performance. After getting a taste for the stage, they hit the local pawn shops to buy instruments that they taught themselves to play. 
Aw! Look how sweet and innocent he was! He's holding a puppy!
The high school band went through a number of member and name changes, switching from The Earwigs to The Spiders, and making rounds about the Phoenix area with a giant black spiderweb as a backdrop (see the gothy appeal there?), playing music inspired by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, among others. Why Don't You Love Me was The Spiders' first single, recorded in 1965, and their song Don't Blow Your Mind became a radio hit in 1966. 
The Spiders then became The Nazz, making trips to Los Angeles to play and releasing another single: Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now. They finally became Alice Cooper in 1968, after discovering another band was already named Nazz. Alice Cooper was a name that came from a session with a Ouija board. With this band, Cooper achieved musical success with the singles I'm Eighteen in 1971, (which I shamelessly blasted on my 18th birthday) and School's Out in 1972, (which I always play on the last day of school, who doesn't?). 
As the band progressed, their image became darker and more controversial. Around 1978, the group decided that the theatrical stage presence of a male serial killer in tattered women's clothing and makeup, would stir up the public and grab headlines. So they started dressing up like B-movie horror villains, and eventually attracted the attention of Frank Zappa after a failure of a gig at the Cheetah Club, wherein Alice Cooper emptied the room of patrons after playing for ten minutes onstage. Strangely, the music manger Shep Gordon saw this performance as an opportunity to seize a strange act and make it work, so he hooked the band up with Zappa, who told Alice Cooper to come to his house for an audition at 7:00. The band mistakenly showed up at 7:00 AM, and Zappa was so impressed that they were all ready to play psychedelic rock at seven in the morning that he signed them a three album deal. The first album, Pretties For You did not reflect too much success. Although it reached number 193 on the US charts for a week, it was ultimately branded a critical and commercial failure.
The Chicken Incident
Alice Cooper's reputation as a shock rocker manifested itself largely by accident, starting with "The Chicken Incident" at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in 1969. Apparently the band had planned on a stage routine involving Alice Cooper and a feather pillow, but somehow, a live chicken made its way onstage and into the pillow. When Cooper ripped it open onstage and found the chicken inside, he threw it out over the crowd, expecting it to fly away. Unbeknownst to Cooper, chickens do not fly very well, and the poor bird instead plummeted into the first row of concert-goers, who allegedly ripped it to pieces. The incident blew up in the press, with newspapers reporting the next day that Alice Cooper had "bitten off a chicken's head and drank its blood." Zappa called Cooper, and asked if the story was true. When Cooper denied it, Zappa seized on the publicity opportunity and told Alice: "Whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it."
From then on. the band's image became crazier and crazier. In 1970 after relocating back to Detroit because of the unenthusiastic California crowd, (Alice Cooper once said: "L.A. just didn’t get it. They were all on the wrong drug for us. They were on acid and we were basically drinking beer. We fit much more in Detroit than we did anywhere else") they continued with their second album of the Zappa contract, releasing I'm Eighteen in 1970. The single reached 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972, and  the band continued their dark stage performances, featuring  mock fights and gothic torture devices being imposed on Cooper. They often ended shows with a staged execution by electric chair. Alice Cooper's tight, sequined, glam rock style costumes contrasted majorly with the hippie bands of the time. Cooper said "We were into fun, sex, death and money when everybody was into peace and love. We wanted to see what was next. It turned out we were next, and we drove a stake through the heart of the Love Generation."
Alice Cooper's next album Killer, continued the successful trend (and crazy theatrics including billion dollar bills, guillotines, decapitated baby dolls, an eight foot tall furry cyclops and a dental psychosis scene complete with dancing teeth) of the previous album, and the group went on to record their most successful album to date: Billion Dollar Babies. The success of the band after this album was like nothing they had seen before, with hoards of new teenage fans supporting Alice Cooper and even more terrified parents, the BBC banned the music video for School's Out  and the group was eventually barred from playing in Britain at all. Grueling tour schedules, the constant pressure of getting into character, and demands for more CD's eventually pushed Cooper over the edge with alcoholism. During the tour for the 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare, Cooper's struggles with various substances reached a peak. He tripped over a foot light during a performance in Vancouver, and plunged headfirst off the stage to land on the concrete floor below. It was a few minutes before bouncers could pulls frenzied fans away enough to rush Cooper to the hospital where his head was stitched up. Amazingly, Cooper returned to the venue a few hours later to try and finish his concert, but within minutes he was forced to call it off. 
Cooper combated his problems with alcohol largely by obsessively playing golf. His career continued through the 1980's,and 90's, and he's still going strong in the 2000's. He recently made a cameo appearance as himself in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, and his most recent album was an anniversary release of Welcome to My Nightmare, titled Welcome 2 My Nightmare

For More Information: 

Song of the Day: 


  1. Oh, Alice is writing about Alice, that sounds lovely! :D
    Cooper is an amazing guy, singer and for me some kind of artist with his performances too. I really do love his music, it's very good for lonely evenings at home and you're in good mood. If you're not, you'll be! ^^ His lyrics are somehow crazy, funny and full of life, because of that I love his music.
    Oh, Dark Shadows! When we were with girlfriend in cinema I knew he'll be in movie, but these quotes.. like Barney Stinson would say, it was legendary! :D

    "This Alice Cooper is the ugliest woman I have ever seen." - I thought, I die laughing. :DDD

    1. His music is good for cheering me up! Strangely, he came touring around my area with Marilyn Manson. I see that they have similar stage presences, but their music is so must have been a strange show. And I LOVED Cooper in Dark Shadows! ^^