Cooper at the Scream Awards, 2007
|Birth name||Vincent Damon Furnier|
|Born||February 4, 1948 |
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.(age 63)
|Genres||Rock, hard rock, heavy metal, shock rock|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, actor, DJ|
|Instruments||Vocals, harmonica, guitar|
|Labels||Straight, Warner Bros., Atlantic, MCA, Epic, Spitfire, Eagle, New West|
Vincent Damon Furnier (born February 4, 1948), better known by his stage name Alice Cooper, is an American rock singer, songwriter and musician whose career spans more than five decades. With a stage show that sometimes included a guillotine, gallows, electric chair, fake blood, boa constrictor and baby dolls, Cooper drew equally from horror movies, vaudeville and garage rock to pioneer a grandly theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock.
Alice Cooper originally was a band that consisted of Furnier on vocals and harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and Neal Smith on drums. Taking on the name in 1968, the Alice Cooper band broke into the international music mainstream with the 1971 hit "I'm Eighteen". It was followed in 1972 by the even bigger single "School's Out", which reached #1 in the UK during that summer. The band reached its commercial peak with the transatlantic #1 album Billion Dollar Babies in 1973.
Influences include the American acts of the time like the Doors, Frank Zappa (who discovered the band), Jimi Hendrix plus some acts of the British rock scene like The Who, Arthur Brown etc.
Furnier's solo career as Alice Cooper, legally adopting the band's name as his own, began with the 1975 concept album Welcome to My Nightmare, and reached his commercial peak with the 1989 hit "Poison". His most recent studio release (his 18th solo album) was in 2008, Along Came a Spider. Expanding from his original Detroit-based garage rock roots, over the years Cooper has experimented with many different musical styles, including art rock, conceptual rock, rock and roll, jazz, new wave, and heavy metal.
Alice Cooper is known for his social and witty persona offstage. The Rolling Stone Album Guide goes so far as to call him the world's most "beloved heavy metal entertainer". He helped to shape the sound and look of heavy metal, and is seen as the person who "first introduced horror imagery to rock'n'roll, and whose stagecraft and showmanship have permanently transformed the genre". Away from music, Cooper is a film actor, a golfing celebrity, a restaurateur, and since 2004 a popular radio DJ with his classic rock show Nights with Alice Cooper. In 2011, the original Alice Cooper Group was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Childhood and early life
Cooper was born as Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ella Mae (née McCart) and Ether Moroni Furnier. His father was a lay preacher in the Church of Jesus Christ (also known as the Bickertonite Church) which, historically, is a branch of the Latter Day Saint movement. He has French Huguenot, Sioux Native American, English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, and was named after one of his uncles (Vincent Collier Furnier) and the writer Damon Runyon. His paternal grandfather, Thurman Sylvester Furnier, was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite). Vincent Furnier was active in his church at the ages of 11 and 12.
While growing up in Detroit, Furnier attended Washington Elementary School, and then a middle school Nankin Mills Jr. High, that is now Lutheran High School Westland. Following a series of childhood illnesses, Furnier moved with his family to Phoenix, Arizona. Furnier attended Cortez High School in north Phoenix, and was a member of the Order of DeMolay.
In 1964 sixteen year-old Furnier was eager to take part in the local annual letterman's talent show, so he gathered fellow cross-country teammates to form a group for the show. They named themselves The Earwigs. Since they didn't know how to play any instruments at the time, they dressed up like The Beatles and mimed their performance to Beatles songs. As a result of winning the talent show and loving the experience of being onstage, the group immediately proceeded to learn how to play instruments they acquired from a local pawn shop. They soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, John Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and John Speer on drums. Musically, the group was inspired by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider's web as their backdrop, the group's first stage prop. In 1965 they recorded their first single, "Why Don't You Love Me" (originally performed by The Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for that song.
In 1966 "The Spiders" graduated from high school, and after North High School footballer, Michael Bruce, replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band scored a local #1 radio hit with "Don't Blow Your Mind," an original composition from their second single release. By 1967 the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles, California to play shows. They soon renamed themselves The Nazz and released the single "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now," backed with future Alice Cooper track "Lay Down And Die, Goodbye." At around this time drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith. By the end of the year the band had relocated to Los Angeles permanently.
In 1968 upon learning that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, the band was again in need of another stage name. Believing that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage, Furnier chose "Alice Cooper" as the band's name and adopted this stage name as his own. Cooper later stated that the name change (lifted from a "Mayberry RFD" character) was one of his most important and successful career moves.
Nonetheless, at the time Cooper and the band realized that the concept of a male playing the role of a villian, a woman killer, in tattered women's clothing and wearing make-up, would have the potential to cause considerable social controversy and grab headlines. In 2007 in his book Cooper stated that his look was inspired in part by film. One of the band's all time favorite movies was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane starring Bette Davis. "In the movie, Bette wears disgusting caked makeup smeared on her face and underneath her eyes, with deep , dark, black eyeliner." Another movie watched over and over was Barbarella. "When I saw Anita Pallenberg playing the Great Tyrant in that movie in 1968, wearing long black leather gloves with switchblades coming out of them, I thought, 'That's what Alice should look like'. That, and a little bit of Emma Peel from The Avengers".
The conception for the character that Cooper plays on stage came when he took careful observation of the rock world around him. He noticed that rock stars were always made out to be heroes, and that rock villains were scarce. In a 2010 interview he stated, "Why do we always have rock heroes? Why not a rock villain? I was more than happy to be rock's Darth Vader. I was more than happy to be Captain Hook."
The classic Alice Cooper group line-up consisted of singer Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier), lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith. With the exception of Smith, who graduated from Camelback High School (which is referred to in the song "Alma Mater" on the School's Out album), all of the band members were on the Cortez High School cross-country team, and many of Cooper's stage effects were inspired by their cross-country coach, Emmett Smith (one of Smith's class projects was to build a working guillotine for slicing watermelons). Cooper, Buxton and Dunaway were also art students, and their admiration for the works of surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí would further inspire their future stage antics.
One night after an unsuccessful gig at the Cheetah club in Venice, California, where the band emptied the entire room of patrons after playing just ten minutes, they were approached and enlisted by music manager Shep Gordon, who ironically saw the band's negative impact that night as a force that could be turned in a more productive direction. Shep then arranged an audition for the band with composer and renowned record producer, Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. For the audition Zappa told them to come to his house "at 7 o'clock." The band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o'clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of psychedelic rock at seven in the morning impressed Zappa enough to sign them to a three-album deal. Another Zappa-signed act, the all-female GTOs, who liked to "dress the Cooper boys up like full size barbie dolls," played a major role in developing the band's early onstage look.
Cooper's first album Pretties for You (released in 1969) had a slight psychedelic feel. Although it touched the US charts for one week at #193, it was ultimately a critical and commercial failure.
Alice Cooper's "shock rock" reputation apparently developed almost by accident at first. An unrehearsed stage routine involving Cooper and a live chicken garnered attention from the press, and the band decided to capitalize on the tabloid sensationalism, creating in the process a new subgenre, shock rock. Cooper claims that the infamous "Chicken Incident" at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in September 1969 was an accident. A chicken somehow made its way onto the stage during Cooper's performance, and not having any experience around farm animals, Cooper presumed that, because the chicken had wings, it would be able to fly. He picked it up and threw it out over the crowd, expecting it to fly away. The chicken instead plummeted into the first few rows occupied by disabled people in wheelchairs, who reportedly proceeded to tear the bird to pieces.
The next day the incident made the front page of national newspapers, and Zappa phoned Cooper and asked if the story, which reported that he had bitten off the chicken's head and drunk its blood on stage, was true. Cooper denied the rumor, whereupon Zappa told him, "Well, whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it", obviously recognizing that such publicity would be priceless for the band.
Despite the publicity from the Chicken Incident, the band's stronger second album, Easy Action, released in June 1970, met with the same fate as its predecessor. At around this time the band, fed up with Californians' indifference to their act, relocated to Cooper's birthplace, Detroit, where their bizarre stage act was much better received by the crowds of the Midwest states who were accustomed to the similar hard rock styles of local bands such as The Stooges and The MC5. Despite this, Cooper still managed to receive a cream pie in the face when performing at the Cincinnati Pop Festival. Detroit would remain their steady home base until 1972. "LA just didn’t get it," Cooper stated. "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."
Alice Cooper appeared at the Woodstock-esque, Strawberry Fields Festival near Toronto, Ontario in August 1970. The band's mix of glam and increasingly violent stage theatrics stood out in stark contrast to the bearded, denim-clad hippie bands of the time. As Cooper himself stated: "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".
In autumn 1970 the Alice Cooper group teamed with producer Bob Ezrin for the recording of their third album Love it to Death. This was the final album in their Straight Records contract and the band's last chance to create a hit. That first success came with the single "I'm Eighteen", released in November 1970, which reached number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1971. Not long after the album's release in January 1971 Warner Bros. Records purchased Alice Cooper's contract from Straight and re-issued the album, giving the group a higher level of promotion.
Love it to Death proved to be their breakthrough album, reaching number 35 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album charts. It would be the first of eleven Alice Cooper group and solo albums produced by Ezrin, who is widely seen as being instrumental in helping to create and develop the band's definitive sound.
The group's 1971 tour featured a stage show involving mock fights and gothic torture modes being imposed on Cooper climaxing with a staged execution by electric chair, with the band sporting tight, sequined, and color-contrasting glam rock-style costumes made by prominent rock fashion designer Cindy Dunaway (sister of band member Neal Smith, and wife of band member Dennis Dunaway). Cooper's androgynous stage role had developed to present a villainous side, portraying a potential threat to modern society. The success of the band's single, the album, and their tour of 1971, which included their first tour of Europe (audience members reportedly included Elton John and a pre-Ziggy David Bowie), provided enough encouragement for Warner Bros. to offer the band a new multi-album contract.
Their follow-up album Killer, released in late 1971, continued the commercial success of Love It To Death and included further single success with "Under My Wheels", "Be My Lover" in early 1972, and "Halo Of Flies" which became a Top 10 hit in the Netherlands in 1972. Thematically, Killer expanded on the villainous side of Cooper's androgynous stage role, with its music becoming the soundtrack to the group's morality-based stage show, which by then featured a boa constrictor hugging Cooper onstage, the murderous axe chopping of bloodied baby dolls, and execution by hanging at the gallows. Back then, the real criticism was aimed at questioning the artists' sexual ambiguity, rather than the stage gore. In January 1972, Cooper was again asked about his peculiar name, and told talk show hostess Dinah Shore that he took the name from a "Mayberry RFD" character.
The summer of 1972 saw the release of the single "School's Out". It went Top 10 in the US, was a #1 single in the UK, and remains a staple on classic rock radio to this day. School's Out the album reached #2 on the US charts and sold over a million copies. The band now relocated to their new mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. With Cooper's on-stage androgynous persona completely replaced with brattiness and machismo, the band solidified their success with subsequent tours in the US and Europe, and won over devoted fans in droves while at the same time horrifying parents and outraging the social establishment. Controversy seemed to have little negative effect on the band's popularity, as they were selected to be the first band to appear on then-new US television series ABC In Concert in September 1972. In England, Mary Whitehouse, a well known campaigner for values of morality and decency, succeeded in having the BBC ban the video for "School's Out" and Member of Parliament Leo Abse petitioned Home Secretary Reginald Maudling to have the group banned altogether from performing in the country.
In February 1973 Billion Dollar Babies was released worldwide and became the band's most commercially successful album, reaching #1 in both the US and UK. "Elected", a late-1972 Top 10 UK hit from the album, which inspired one of the first MTV-style story-line promo videos ever made for a song (three years before Queen's promotional video for "Bohemian Rhapsody"), was followed by two more UK Top 10 singles, "Hello Hooray" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy", the latter of which was the last UK single from the album; it reached #25 in the US. The title track, featuring guest vocals by Donovan, was also a US hit single. Due to Glen Buxton's waning health around this time Mick Mashbir was secretly added to the band (who also played, without credit, on Muscle of Love) to supplement Glen's playing.
With a string of successful concept albums and several hit singles, the band continued their gruelling schedule and toured the US once again. Continued attempts by politicians and pressure groups to ban their shocking act only served to fuel the myth of Alice Cooper further and generate even greater public interest. Their 1973 US tour broke box office records previously set by The Rolling Stones and raised rock theatrics to new heights; the multi-level stage show by then featured numerous special effects, including Billion Dollar Bills, decapitated baby dolls and mannequins, a dental psychosis scene complete with dancing teeth, and the ultimate execution prop and highlight of the show: the guillotine. The guillotine and other stage effects were designed for the band by magician James Randi, who appeared on stage during some of the shows as executioner. The Alice Cooper group had now reached its peak and it was among the most visible and successful acts in the industry. (Cooper's stage antics would influence a host of later bands, including, among others, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Kiss, Blue Öyster Cult, GWAR, W.A.S.P., Lizzy Borden and, later, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Rob Zombie and Norwegian black metal bands.) Beneath the surface, however, the repetitive schedule of recording and touring had begun to take its toll on the band, and Cooper, who was under the constant pressure of getting into character for that night's show, was consistently sighted nursing a can of beer.
Muscle of Love, released at the end of 1973, was to be the last studio album from the classic line-up, and marked Alice Cooper's last UK Top 20 single of the 1970s with "Teenage Lament '74". An unsolicited theme song was recorded for the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, but a different song of the same name by Lulu was chosen instead. By 1974, the Muscle of Love album had not matched the top-charting success of its predecessor, and the band began to have constant disagreements. Cooper wanted to retain the theatrics in the show that had brought them so much attention, while the rest of the group thought they should be toned down so that they could concentrate more on the music which had given them credibility. Largely as a result of this difference of opinion, the band decided to take a much-needed hiatus.
During this time Cooper relocated back to Los Angeles and started appearing regularly on TV shows such as Hollywood Squares, and Warner Bros. released the Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits compilation album. It featured classic style artwork and reached the US Top 10, performing better than Muscle of Love. However, the band's 1974 feature film Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper (consisting mainly of 1973 concert footage with 'comedic' sketches woven throughout to a faint storyline), released on a minor theatrical run mostly to drive-in theaters, saw little box office success.
As some of the Alice Cooper band members had begun recording their own solo albums, Cooper decided to do the same himself. In 1975 he released his first solo album, Welcome To My Nightmare. Its success marked the final break with the original members of the band with Cooper collaborating with their producer Bob Ezrin, who recruited Lou Reed's backing band, including guitarist Dick Wagner to play on the album. Spearheaded by the US Top 20 hit ballad, "Only Women Bleed", the album was released by Atlantic Records in March of that year and became a Top 10 hit for Cooper. It was a concept album that was based on the nightmare of a child named Steven, featuring narration by classic horror movie film star Vincent Price (several years after Welcome To My Nightmare, he guested on Michael Jackson's "Thriller"), and serving as the soundtrack to Cooper's new stage show, which now included more theatrics than ever (including an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) furry Cyclops which Cooper decapitates and kills).
By this time, however, alcohol was clearly affecting Cooper's performances. During the Welcome to My Nightmare tour in Vancouver, and only a few songs into the routine, Cooper tripped over a foot-light, staggered a few paces, lost his bearings, and plunged head-first off the stage and onto the concrete floor of the Pacific Coliseum. Some fans, thinking it was all part of the act, reached through the barriers to pull at his blood-matted hair before bouncers could pull him away for help. He was taken to a local hospital, where medical staff stitched his head wound and provided him with a skullcap. Cooper returned to the venue a couple of hours later and tried to perform a couple of more songs, but within minutes he had to call it a night. The opening act, Suzi Quatro, had already left the building and the remainder of the concert was canceled.
Accompanying the album and stage show was the TV special The Nightmare, starring Cooper and Vincent Price, which aired on US prime-time TV in April 1975. The Nightmare, the first rock music video album ever made (it was later released on home video in 1983 and gained a Grammy Awards nomination for Best Long Form Music Video), was regarded as another groundbreaking moment in rock history. Adding to all that, a concert film, also called Welcome to My Nightmare produced, directed and choreographed by the West Side Story cast member David Winters and filmed live at London's Wembley Arena in September 1975, was released to theaters in 1976. Though it failed at the box office, it later became a midnight movie favorite and a cult classic.
Such was the immense success of Cooper's solo project that he decided to continue alone as a solo artist, and the original band became officially defunct. It was also during this time that Cooper co-founded the legendary drinking club The Hollywood Vampires, which gave him yet another reason to indulge his continued ample appetite for alcohol.
Following the 1976 US #12 hit "I Never Cry", another ballad, two albums, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and Lace and Whiskey, and another ballad hit, the US #9 "You and Me", it became clear from his performances during his 1977 US tour that he was in dire need of help with his alcoholism (at his alcoholic peak it was rumored that Cooper was consuming up to two cases of Budweiser and a bottle of whiskey a day). Following the tour, Cooper had himself hospitalized in a New York sanitarium for treatment, during which time the live album The Alice Cooper Show was released. His experience in the sanitarium was the inspiration for his 1978 semi-autobiographical album From The Inside, which Cooper co-wrote with Bernie Taupin. The release spawned another US Top 20 hit "How You Gonna See Me Now", which peaked at #12, and was yet another ballad, based on his fear of how his wife would react to him after his spell in hospital.
The subsequent tour's stage show was based inside an asylum, and was filmed for Cooper's first home video release, The Strange Case of Alice Cooper, in 1979. Around this time, Cooper performed "Welcome To My Nightmare", "You and Me", and "School's Out" on The Muppet Show (episode # 307) on March 28, 1978 (he played one of the devil's henchmen trying to dupe Kermit the Frog and Gonzo into selling their souls). He also appeared in an against-type casting in the campy role of a piano playing, disco bellboy in Mae West's final film, Sextette. Cooper also led celebrities in raising money to remodel the famous Hollywood Sign in California. Cooper himself contributed over $27,000 to the project, buying an O in the sign in memory of friend and comedian Groucho Marx.
Cooper's albums from the beginning of the 80s, Flush the Fashion, Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin, and DaDa, were not as commercially successful as his past releases, and Cooper has claimed that, suffering from acute alcoholic amnesia, he has no recollection of recording the latter two of these albums. Flush the Fashion, produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, had a thick, edgy New Wave musical sound that baffled even long-time fans, though it still yielded the US Top 40 hit "(We're All) Clones". The album Special Forces featured a more aggressive but consistent form of New Wave style, and included a new version of "Generation Landslide". The following album, Zipper Catches Skin was a more power pop-oriented recording, with lots of quirky high-energy guitar-driven songs. While those three albums engaged the experimental New Wave sound with energetic results, 1983 marked the return collaboration of producer Bob Ezrin and guitarist Dick Wagner with the haunting epic DaDa, the final album in his Warner Bros. contract.
In 1983 after the recording of DaDa, Cooper was re-hospitalized for alcoholism. In a deathly state of health he moved back to Phoenix to save his marriage from collapse, and so that he could receive the support of family and friends. Cooper was finally clean and sober by the time DaDa and The Nightmare home video (of his 1975 TV Special) were released in the fall of that year; however, both releases performed below expectations. Even with The Nightmare scoring a nomination for 1984's Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video (he lost to Duran Duran), it was not enough for Warner Bros. to keep Cooper on their books, so in 1984 Cooper became a "free agent" for the first time in his career.
After over a year on hiatus, during which time he spent being a full-time father, perfecting his golf swing every day on the golf course, and finding time to star in the Spanish B-grade horror movie production Monster Dog, Cooper sought to pick up the pieces of his musical career. In 1985 he met and began writing songs with guitarist Kane Roberts. Cooper was subsequently signed to MCA Records, and appeared as guest vocalist on Twisted Sister's song "Be Chrool To Your Scuel". A video was made for the song, featuring Cooper donning his black snake-eyes make-up for the first time since 1979. But any publicity it may have generated toward Cooper's return to the music scene was cut short as the video was promptly banned because of its graphically gory make-up (by Tom Savini), and because of the innumerable zombies in the video and their insatiable appetite for gorging on human flesh.
In 1986 Alice Cooper officially returned to the music industry with the album Constrictor. The album spawned the hits "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" (the theme song for the movie Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives; in the video of the song Cooper was given a cameo role as a deranged psychiatrist) and the fan favorite "Teenage Frankenstein". The Constrictor album was a catalyst for Cooper to make (for the first time since the 1982 Special Forces tour) a triumphant return to the road, on a tour appropriately entitled The Nightmare Returns. The Detroit leg of this tour, which took place at the end of October 1986 during Halloween, was captured on film as The Nightmare Returns, and is viewed by some as being the definitive Alice Cooper concert film. The concert, which received rave reviews in the rock music press, was also described as bringing "Cooper’s violent, twisted onstage fantasies to a new generation". The Constrictor album was followed by Raise Your Fist and Yell in 1987, which had an even rougher sound than its predecessor, as well as the Cooper classic "Freedom". The subsequent tour of Raise Your Fist and Yell, which was heavily inspired by the slasher horror movies of the time such as the Friday the 13th series and Nightmare on Elm Street, served up a shocking spectacle similar to its predecessor, and courted the kind of controversy, especially in Europe, that recalled the public outrage caused by Cooper's public performances in America in the early 1970s.
In Britain Labour M.P. David Blunkett called for the show to be banned, saying "I'm horrified by his behaviour — it goes beyond the bounds of entertainment". The controversy spilled over into the German segment of the tour, with the German government actually succeeding in having some of the gorier segments of the performance removed. It was also during the London leg of the tour that Cooper met with a near fatal accident during the hanging execution sequence at the end of the show. Needless to say the attendant publicity served only to increase public interest and ensure that the tour was completely sold out.
Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell were recorded with lead guitarist Kane Roberts and bassist Kip Winger, both of whom would leave the band by the end of 1988 (although Kane Roberts played guitar on "Bed Of Nails" on 1989's album Trash). Roberts would continue as a solo artist while Kip Winger would go on to form Winger.
In 1987 Cooper made a brief appearance as a vagrant in the horror movie Prince of Darkness, directed by John Carpenter. His role had no lines and consisted of generally menacing the protagonists before eventually impaling one of them with a bicycle frame. Cooper also appeared at WrestleMania III, escorting wrestler Jake 'The Snake' Roberts to the ring. After the match was over, Cooper got involved and threw Jake's snake Damien at The Honky Tonk Man's manager Jimmy Hart. Jake considered the involvement of Cooper to be an honor, as he had idolized Cooper in his youth and was still a huge fan.
In 1988 Cooper's contract with MCA Records expired and he signed with Epic Records. Then in 1989 his career finally experienced a real revival with the Desmond Child produced album Trash, which spawned a hit single "Poison", which reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the US, and a worldwide arena tour.
1991 saw the release of Cooper's 19th studio album, Hey Stoopid, again featuring several of rock music’s glitterati guesting on the record. Released as glam metal's popularity was on the wane, and just before the explosion of grunge, it failed to have the same commercial impact as its predecessor. The same year also saw the release of the video Alice Cooper: Prime Cuts which chronicled his entire career using in depth interviews with Cooper himself, Bob Ezrin, and Shep Gordon. One critic has noted that Prime Cuts demonstrates how Cooper had used (in contrast to similar artists who succeeded him) themes of satire and moralisation to such good effect throughout his career. It was in the Prime Cuts video that Bob Ezrin delivered his own summation of the Alice Cooper persona: "He is the psycho killer in all of us. He's the axe murderer, he's the spoiled child, he's the abuser, he's the abused; he's the perpetrator, he's the victim, he's the gun slinger, and he's the guy lying dead in the middle of the street".
By the early 1990s Cooper had become a genuine cultural icon, guesting on records by the most successful bands of the time, such as the Guns N' Roses album Use Your Illusion I, (on which he shared vocal duties with Axl Rose on the track "The Garden"); making a brief appearance as the abusive stepfather of Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street film Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991); and making a famous cameo appearance in the 1992 comedy film Wayne's World, in which he and his band intellectually discuss (after a performance of the song "Feed My Frankenstein" from Hey Stoopid) the history of Milwaukee in surprising depth. In a now famous scene, the movie's main characters Wayne and Garth, upon seeing Cooper, kneel and bow reverently before him while chanting "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" He later made an appearance on an episode of That 70s Show, at the end of which he and two other (minor) guest characters parody Dungeons & Dragons.
In 1994 Cooper released The Last Temptation, his first concept album since DaDa. The album deals with issues of faith, temptation, alienation, and the frustrations of modern life, and has been described as "a young man's struggle to see the truth through the distractions of the 'Sideshow' of the modern world". Concurrent with the release of The Last Temptation was a three-part comic book series written by Neil Gaiman, fleshing out the album's story. This was to be Cooper’s last album with Epic Records, and his last studio release for six years, though during this period the live album A Fistful of Alice was released, and in 1997 he lent his voice to the first track of Insane Clown Posse's The Great Milenko. In 1999, the four-disc box set The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper appeared, which contained an authorized biography of Cooper, Alcohol and Razor Blades, Poison and Needles: The Glorious Wretched Excess of Alice Cooper, All-American, written by Creem magazine editor Jeffrey Morgan.
During his absence from the recording studio, Cooper toured extensively every year throughout the latter part of the 1990s, including, in 1996, South America, which he had not visited since 1974. Also in 1996, Cooper sang the role of Herod on the London cast recording of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
The first decade of the 21st century saw a sustained period of activity from Alice Cooper. In the decade that he turned sixty, he toured extensively and released (after a significant break) a steady stream of studio albums to favorable critical acclaim. During this period Cooper was also recognized and awarded in various ways: he received a Rock Immortal award at the 2007 Scream Awards; was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003; he received (in May 2004) an honorary doctoral degree from Grand Canyon University; was given (in May 2006) the key to the city of Alice, North Dakota; he scooped the living legend award at the 2006 Classic Rock Roll of Honour event; he won the 2007 Mojo music magazine Hero Award; and fans twice tried to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The lengthy break between studio albums ended in 2000 with Brutal Planet, which was a return to horror-lined heavy metal, with industrial rock, and with subject matter thematically inspired by the brutality of the modern world, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, and also inspired by a number of news stories that had recently appeared on the CNN news channel. The album was produced by Bob Marlett, with longtime Cooper production collaborator Bob Ezrin returning as Executive Producer. The accompanying world tour, which included Cooper's first concert in Russia, was a resounding success, introducing Alice Cooper to a new audience and producing the live home video, Brutally Live, in 2001. During one memorable episode in Brutally Live, Britney Spears (being played by Alice Cooper's real life daughter, Calico), and representing "everything that my audience hates — the softening of rock and roll...the sweetness of it" is executed by Cooper.
Brutal Planet was succeeded by the sonically similar and widely acclaimed sequel Dragontown, which saw Bob Ezrin back at the helm as producer. The album has been described as leading the listener down "a nightmarish path into the mind of rock's original conceptual storyteller" and by Cooper himself as being "the worst town on Brutal Planet". Like The Last Temptation, both Brutal Planet and Dragontown are albums which explore Cooper's personal faith perspective (born again Christianity). It is often cited in the music media that Dragontown forms the third chapter in a trilogy begun with The Last Temptation; however, Cooper has himself indicated that this in fact is not the case.
Cooper again adopted a leaner, cleaner sound for his critically acclaimed 2003 release The Eyes Of Alice Cooper. Recognizing that many contemporary bands were having great success with his former sounds and styles, Cooper worked with a somewhat younger group of road and studio musicians who were very familiar with his oeuvre of old. However, instead of rehashing the old sounds, they updated them, often with surprisingly effective results. The resulting Bare Bones tour adopted a less-orchestrated performance style that had fewer theatrical flourishes and a greater emphasis on musicality. The success of this tour helped support the growing recognition that the classic Cooper songs were exceptionally clever, tuneful and unique.
Cooper's radio show, Nights with Alice Cooper, began airing on January 26, 2004 in several US cities. The program showcases classic rock, Cooper's personal stories about his life as a rock icon, and interviews with prominent rock artists. The show is broadcast on nearly 100 stations in the US and Canada, and has also been broadcast all over the world. In 2005, Alice Cooper was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
A continuation of the songwriting approach adopted on The Eyes of Alice Cooper was again adopted by Cooper for his 24th studio album, Dirty Diamonds, released in 2005. Dirty Diamonds became Cooper's highest charting album since 1994's The Last Temptation. The Dirty Diamonds tour launched in America in August 2005 after several European concerts, including a performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 12. Cooper and his band, including Kiss drummer Eric Singer, were filmed for a DVD released as Alice Cooper: Live at Montreux 2005. One critic, in a review of the Montreux release, commented that Cooper was to be applauded for "still mining pretty much the same territory of teenage angst and rebellion" as he had done more than thirty years previously.
In December 2006 the original Alice Cooper band reunited to perform six classic Alice Cooper songs at Cooper's annual charity event in Phoenix, entitled "Christmas Pudding".
On July 1, 2007, Cooper performed a duet with Marilyn Manson at the B'Estival event in Bucharest, Romania. The performance represented a reconciliation between the two artists; Cooper had previously taken issue with Manson over his overtly anti-Christian onstage antics, which included tearing up Bibles, and he had sarcastically made reference to the originality of Manson's choosing a female name and dressing in women's clothing. Cooper and Manson have been the subject of an academic paper on the significance of adolescent antiheroes.
In January 2008 he was one of the guest singers on the new Avantasia album The Scarecrow, singing the 7th track, The Toy Master. In July 2008, after lengthy delays, Cooper released Along Came a Spider, his 25th studio album. It was Cooper's highest charting album since 1991's Hey Stoopid, reaching #53 in the US and #31 in the UK. The album, visiting similar territory explored in 1987's Raise Your Fist and Yell, deals with the nefarious antics of a deranged serial killer named "Spider" who is on a quest to use the limbs of his victims to create a human spider. The album generally received positive reviews from music critics, though Rolling Stone magazine opined that the music on the record sorely missed Bob Ezrin's production values. The resulting Theatre of Death tour of the album (during which Cooper is executed on four separate occasions) was described in a long November 2009 article about Cooper in The Times as "epic" and featuring "enough fake blood to remake Saving Private Ryan".
On January 22, 2010, it was announced that Alice would be touring with Rob Zombie on the "Gruesome Twosome" tour.
On March 29, 2010, Cooper revealed during his weekly radio show on Planet Rock that his next record is to be titled The Night Shift. Cooper stated he has 10 demos ready.
On June 15, 2010 to coincide with the release of the "Alice Cooper Track Pack" for Guitar Hero, a free download of the newly-recorded "Elected" was made available on Alice Cooper's official website. He scored alongside his daughter and band member Dick Wagner the score for the Indie horror flick Silas Gore.
During 2010 Cooper began working on a new album, dubbed Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to the original Welcome to My Nightmare. In a Radio Metal interview, he said that "[w]e'll put some of the original people on it and add some new people[...]I'm very happy with working with Bob (Ezrin) again."
During a press conference in France Cooper said about Welcome to My Nightmare II: "this album is more bloody and more accomplished than the first. It sounds like the early years." By October 2010, Alice and Bob Ezrin had come up with 13 songs, including the ballads "I Am Made of You" and "Something to Remember Me By." In addition, Cooper cut three new songs with original band members Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce.
On December 15, 2010, it was announced Cooper and his former band would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The official Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place March 14, 2011, where Cooper was inducted by fellow horror-rocker Rob Zombie. He showed up for the event wearing a (presumably fake) blood-splattered shirt and had a live giant albino boa snake wrapped around his neck. Cooper told Rolling Stone magazine that he was "elated" by the news and that the nomination had been made for the original band, as "We all did go to the same high school together, and we were all on the track team, and it was pretty cool that guys that knew each other before the band ended up going that far".
On March 10, 2011 Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Alice Cooper, Jennifer Warnes, and others performed at a benefit concert in Tucson, Arizona benefiting The Fund For Civility, Respect, and Understanding, a foundation that raise awareness about and provides medical prevention and treatment services to people with mental disorders. The concert also benefited the injured and the families of victims of the January 8, 2011 shootings in Tucson, AZ. On March 19, 2011, Alice appeared on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
Influences and fans
During an interview for the program Entertainment USA in 1986 Cooper stunned interviewer Jonathan King by stating that The Yardbirds were his favorite band of all time. Perhaps King should not have been so taken aback, as Cooper had as far back as 1969 gone on record as saying that it was music from the mid-sixties, and particularly from British bands The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, as well as The Yardbirds, that had had the greatest influence on him. Cooper would later pay homage to The Who by singing "I'm A Boy" for A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who in 1994 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and performing a cover of "My Generation" on the Brutal Planet tour of 2000.
During an interview Cooper himself conducted with Ozzy Osbourne on his radio show, Nights with Alice Cooper in 2007, Cooper again affirmed his debt of gratitude to these bands, and to The Beatles in particular. During their discussion, Cooper and Osbourne bemoaned the often inferior quality of songwriting coming from contemporary rock artists. Cooper stated that in his opinion the cause of the problem was that certain modern bands "had forgotten to listen to The Beatles".
Evidence of Cooper's eclectic tastes in both classic and contemporary rock music, from the 1960s to the present, can be seen in the track listings of his radio show; in addition, when he appeared on the BBC Radio 2 program Tracks of My Years in September 2007, he listed his favourite tracks of all time as being: "19th Nervous Breakdown" (1966) by The Rolling Stones; "Turning Japanese" (1980) by The Vapors; "My Sharona" (1979) by The Knack; "Beds Are Burning" (1987) by Midnight Oil; "My Generation" (1965) by The Who; "Welcome To The Jungle" (1987) by Guns N' Roses; "Rebel Rebel" (1974) by David Bowie; "Over Under Sideways Down" (1966) by The Yardbirds; "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (2003) by Jet; and "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) by The Beatles, and when he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2010 he chose the songs "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" by The Yardbirds; "I Get Around" by The Beach Boys; "I'm a Boy" by The Who; Timer by Laura Nyro; "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson; "Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction; "Work Song" by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Bob Dylan.
In the foreword to Alice Cooper's CD retrospective box set The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper, John Lydon of The Sex Pistols pronounced Killer as the greatest rock album of all time, and in 2002 Lydon presented his own tribute program to Cooper on BBC radio. Lydon told the BBC that "I know the words to every Alice Cooper song. The fact is, if you can call what I have a musical career, it all started with me miming to I'm Eighteen on a jukebox".
The Flaming Lips are longtime Alice Cooper fans and used the bass line from "Levity Ball" (an early song from the 1969 release Pretties for You) for their song "The Ceiling Is Bending". They also covered "Sun Arise" for an Alice Cooper tribute album. (Cooper's version, which closes the album Love It To Death, was itself a cover of a Rolf Harris song.)
In 1999 Cleopatra Records released Humanary Stew: A Tribute to Alice Cooper featuring a number of contributions from rock and metal all-star collaborations, including Dave Mustaine, Roger Daltrey, Ronnie James Dio, Slash, Bruce Dickinson, and Steve Jones. The album was notable for the fact that it was possible to assemble a different supergroup for each cover version on the record, which gave an indication of the depth of esteem in which Cooper is held by other eminent musicians within the music industry.
A song by alternative rock group They Might Be Giants from their 1994 album John Henry entitled "Why Must I Be Sad?" mentions 13 Cooper songs, and has been described as being "from the perspective of a kid who hears all of his unspoken sadness given voice in the music of Alice Cooper; Alice says everything the kid has been wishing he could say about his alienated, frustrated, teenage world".
Such unlikely non-musician fans of Cooper included Groucho Marx and Mae West, who both reportedly saw the early shows as a form of vaudeville revue, and artist Salvador Dalí, who on attending a show in 1973 described it as being surreal, and made a hologram, First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain.
In the period when the Alice Cooper group was signed to Frank Zappa's Straight label, of the GTOs became Cooper's girlfriend. Miss Christine (real name: Christine Frka), who had actually recommended Zappa to the group, died on November 5, 1972 of an overdose. Another long-time girlfriend of Cooper's was Cindy Lang, with whom he lived for several years. They separated in 1975. Lang sued Cooper for palimony, and they eventually settled out of court in the early 1980s. After his separation from Lang, Cooper was briefly linked with actress Raquel Welch. Cooper then reportedly left Welch, however, to marry, on March 20, 1976, ballerina instructor/choreographer Sheryl Goddard, who performed in the Alice Cooper show from 1975 to 1982. In November 1983, at the height of Cooper's alcoholism, Sheryl filed for divorce, but by mid-1984, she and Cooper had reconciled. The couple has remained together since. In a 2002 television interview, Cooper claimed that he had "never cheated" on his wife in all the time they had been together. In the same interview, he also claimed that the secret to a lasting and successful relationship is to continue going out on dates with your partner. The couple have three children: elder daughter Calico Cooper (born 1981), an actress and singer who has been performing in the Alice Cooper show since 2000; son Dash (b. 1985), a student at Arizona State University, and also plays in a band called Runaway Phoenix; and younger daughter Sonora Rose (b. 1993).
Cooper, a huge fan of The Simpsons, was asked to contribute a storyline for the September 2004 edition of Bongo Comics's Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror, a special Monsters of Rock issue that also included stories plotted by Gene Simmons, Rob Zombie and Pat Boone. Cooper's story featured Homer Simpson being a Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th style killer and Alice and the citizens of Springfield are being stalked by Homer.
On June 20, 2005, ahead of his June–July 2005 tour, Cooper had a wide-ranging interview with interviewer of celebrities Andrew Denton for the Australian ABC Television's Enough Rope. Cooper discussed various issues during a revealing and frank talk, including the horrors of acute alcoholism and his subsequent cure, being a Christian, and his social and work relationship with his family. During the interview, Cooper remarked "I look at Mick Jagger and he's on an 18-month tour and he's six [sic] years older than me, so I figure, when he retires, I have six more years. I will not let him beat me when it comes to longevity."
In 1986, Megadeth was asked to open for Cooper for dates on his US tour. After noticing the hardcore drug and alcohol abuse in the band, Cooper personally approached the band members to try to help them control their abuse, and he has stayed close to front man Dave Mustaine ever since; Mustaine in fact considers him his godfather. Since conquering his own addiction to alcohol in the mid 1980s, Cooper has continued to help and counsel other rock musicians battling addiction problems who turn to him for help. "I've made myself very available to friends of mine - they're people who would call me late at night and say, 'Between you and me, I've got a problem.'" In recognition of the work he has done in helping other addicts in the recovery process, Cooper received in 2008 the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the fourth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert in Los Angeles.
The actual ownership of the Alice Cooper name is often cited by intellectual property lawyers and law professors as an example of the value of a single copyright or trademark. Since "Alice Cooper" was originally the name of the band, and not the lead singer (e.g. Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Amy Meredith, etc.), and it was actually owned by the band as whole, Cooper paid, and continues to pay, a yearly royalty to his original bandmates for the right to use the name commercially. Although the exact amount is not known, insiders agree that it is large enough for the surviving band members to live comfortably.
Religion and politics
Although he originally tended to shy away from speaking publicly about his religious beliefs, Cooper has in recent years been quite vocal about his faith as a born-again Christian. He has avoided so called "celebrity Christianity" because, as Cooper states himself: "It's really easy to focus on Alice Cooper and not on Christ. I'm a rock singer. I'm nothing more than that. I'm not a philosopher. I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians. So, don't look for answers from me".
When asked by the British Sunday Times newspaper in 2001 how a shock-rocker could be a Christian, Cooper responded "Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's real rebellion!"
Throughout his career, Cooper's philosophy regarding politics is that politics should not be mixed with rock music. He has consistently kept his political views to himself, and in 2010 said "I am extremely non-political. I go out of my way to be non-political. I'm probably the biggest moderate you know. When John Lennon and Harry Nilsson used to argue politics, I was sitting right in the middle of them, and I was the guy who was going 'I don't care.' When my parents would start talking politics, I would go in my room and put on The Rolling Stones or The Who on as long as I could to avoid politics. And I still feel that way". On occasion he has spoken out against musicians who promote or opine on politics, for example in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, when he declared that the then crop of rock stars campaigning for and touring on behalf of Democratic candidate John Kerry were "treasonous morons" the incident also drew attention from The Washington Post Cooper's outburst caused a certain amount of controversy, and led to Cooper releasing an official statement that clarifies and reiterated that the treason concerned was not against the state but against the ethos of rock itself.
Love of golf
Cooper has on several occasions credited golf as having played a major role in helping him to overcome his addiction to alcohol, and has even gone as far to say that when he took up golf, it was a case of replacing one addiction with another. The importance that the game has had in his life is also reflected in the title to his 2007 autobiography, Alice Cooper, Golf Monster. Cooper, who has participated in a number of Pro-Am competitions, plays the game six days a week, off a handicap of two. Since 1997, he has hosted an annual golf competition, the Alice Cooper Celebrity AM Golf Tournament, all proceeds from which go to his charity, the Solid Rock Foundation. In 2005, while playing with manager Shep Gordon on The Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Cooper recorded an impressive round of two-over par 74 on the world-class course. Cooper has also appeared in commercials for Callaway Golf equipment, was a guest of veteran British player and broadcaster Peter Alliss on A Golfer's Travels. He wrote the foreword to the Gary McCord book "Ryder Cup" and participated in the second All*Star Cup in South Wales. In an interview with VH1, friend and fellow golfer Pat Boone said that Cooper was "'this close' to being a pro".
Public Campaign on the Hollywood Sign
In a seeming departure from his public persona, in the mid-1970's Alice Cooper spearheaded an effort to restore the badly deteriorated Hollywood sign, one of the most prominent landmarks in the Los Angeles area. The restoration ultimately took place in 1978 at a cost of $250,000. In recognition of his efforts in this regard, Cooper's donation among the letters was of the completely missing "O".
List of Alice Cooper band personnel
- Official website
- Download music (promotional use only)
- Official Nights with Alice Cooper website
- Alice Cooper Artist Page @ VH1.com
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