Born Vincent Damian Furnier on December 25, 1945 (one source says February 4, 1948), in Detroit, MI; son of a protestant minister; married; children: two. Addresses: Record company--New West, 9215 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90212, website: http://www.newwestrecords.com. Website--Alice Cooper Official Website: http://www.alicecooper.com.
Alice Cooper---the "King of Shock Rock," "Prince of Splatter," and "Godfather of Trash Heavy Rock"---appeared on the Los Angeles music scene just as the national passion for the flower power of the late 1960s had begun to wane; his arrival was nothing less than an explosive changing of the pop-music guard. In 1968, the year Cooper relocated from Phoenix, Arizona, to Los Angeles, the stages of Hollywood's Sunset Strip nightclubs were populated by laid-back, well-groomed bands featuring a jangly guitar sound. The decidedly un-jangly Alice Cooper band was named, according to The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, for a seventeeth-century witch that a Ouija board had revealed was reincarnated as the group's lead singer. The group was at first poorly received; in Prime Cuts, a Cooper video documentary, the former bandleader said, "It used to be the hip thing to walk out on us." Of the group's early reception, he added, "No one could clear a room faster than the Alice Cooper band."
Cooper and his cohorts were the antithesis of what was expected from rock bands at the time, owing more to loud, crude, Detroit groups like Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5 than anything that sunny California had to offer. From the beginning, the group displayed a theatrical bent, emphasizing visual as well as musical aspects. An early video of the band from Prime Cuts showed Cooper dressed as Satan, complete with horns and pitchfork. Not surprisingly, the band is often cited as the originator of shock rock. It was manager Shep Gordon's idea of cultivating this negative image that ultimately led to Cooper's success. Cooper and his early band were among the first to exaggerate the androgynous aspects of the rock and roll image; they looked almost as much like women---though nightmarishly so---as they did guitar warriors. One need only look at groups like Motley Crue and Poison to realize the impact Cooper had on rock style.
Gallows and Guillotines
In 1971, after releasing two albums on musician Frank Zappa's Straight label, the Alice Cooper band signed to Warner Bros. Records. The label provided the group with a substantial budget to explore their theatrical leanings. Stage settings became as extensive as those of a Broadway show. One notorious effect was the gallows the Cooper band brought along on the tour supporting their 1971 album Killer. At the culmination of the song "Dead Babies," Cooper would slip his head into a noose and hang himself. Two years later, in support of the Billion Dollar Babies album, Cooper outdid the gallows effect by utilizing a guillotine; a roadie dressed as an executioner would parade around the stage afterwards with the bloody head of the controversial singer, igniting a mixture of delight and repugnance from the audience. Cooper would emerge soon after his "beheading" dressed in a white suit with tails, to sing the song "Elected."
With the Alice Cooper band, Cooper earned chart success many times. There were two hit singles from 1970's Love it to Death album, the psychedelic "Caught in A Dream" and "I'm Eighteen," which Creem magazine said was "like a Chuck Berry poem, timeless as far as anthems were concerned." The following year's Killer was an even greater sensation, boasting "Under My Wheels" as its main selling point. Celebrated rock critic Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone called the song "a Stones classic translated into Alice Cooper's obsession with machines and technology." In Stairway to Hell, a book that described the top-500 best heavy metal records of all time, author Chuck Eddy called Killer "faux Detroit." Indeed, of all the Cooper band LPs, Killer was perhaps the most indebted to the raunchy guitar-drenched sound made famous in the Motor City.
"School's Out" Was a Hit
It was the 1972 release School's Out, however, that produced the Cooper band's biggest hit, the anthem-like title cut "School's Out." Describing this famous paean to youth rebellion, Rolling Stone contributor Ben Gerson called it "an instant classic as well as an instant manifesto." Melody Maker deemed the song "rough as a ropeburn." Continuing the hit parade, 1973 saw the release of Billion Dollar Babies, which featured the chart-toppers "Elected" and "Hello, Hooray." The tide turned somewhat, however, in 1974, when the Cooper band released what would be their last album, Muscle of Love. Though ambitiously packaged in an oversized cardboard box, even perennially ardent fans like Rolling Stone scribe Lenny Kaye thought it a mediocre effort. "It's not a bad collation," wrote Kaye, "but the very safety that Muscle of Love implies makes me apprehensive for the band's creative future. Has success spoiled Alice Cooper?"
By the mid-1970s the Cooper band had earned, according to Spin magazine, upwards of 17 million dollars, but all was not well within the group. In Billion Dollar Baby, a book documenting the band's final tour, Chicago journalist Bob Greene revealed that the rest of the band had resented Cooper's star treatment and what they felt was their relegation to backup status. However, the group disbanded amicably in 1975.
Launched Solo Career
The groundwork laid by the Alice Cooper band helped build the foundation for Cooper's solo career, which has spanned nearly two decades and boasts more than 20 albums. In an attempt to market his solo image, Cooper appeared on the game show Hollywood Squares and on the Pro-Am golf circuit. He publicly insisted that Alice Cooper was strictly an onstage character, a rock and roll alter ego. Of Cooper's solo image, Rolling Stone contributor Chris Holdenfield offered, "Although Alice uses sex, confusion, and death as crowd pleasers, it's only a variation on the Hot Shot Singer formula, popular from [Frank] Sinatra to [Jim] Morrison. Alice Cooper is believable because he doesn't believe."
The release of Cooper's first solo album, 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare, was accompanied by a successful prime-time television special. The album contained an unlikely hit, the ballad "Only Women Bleed." Other cuts demonstrated Cooper's still-sharp penchant for theatrics, including the sinister "Black Widow" and the surreal "Escape," where, in live performance, Cooper was chased by a ten-foot-tall one-eyed monster.
In keeping with the punk/new-wave era of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cooper in 1980 released Flush the Fashion. Flush is best remembered for the single "Clones (We Are All)"; its liberal use of the Moog synthesizer and monotone vocal style were both indicative of the popular "cold wave" style of the day. David Fricke of Rolling Stone reported that Flush the Fashion "wisely scrapped the flatulent vaudeville trappings and tragicomic pretensions of [Cooper's] late seventies work and reassumed the punk mantle he wore when the original Alice band was cutting a General Sherman-like swath."
First Substantial Film Role
The year 1982 was a banner one for Cooper. Zipper Catches Skin got good reviews; Melody Maker contributor Steve Sutherland called the record "if not a 'School's Out'-style renaissance, at least a gloriously ghoulish lapse from the wimpy ex-lush confessional back to the ham homicidal." The "ex-lush" characterization made reference to Cooper's 1978 treatment for alcoholism, which he chronicled in that year's From the Inside. Sutherland had earlier characterized Cooper's Special Forces (1981) as "too inoffensive to turn many heads." Also in 1982, Cooper took his first substantial film role, portraying a vampire in a Brazilian gore flick called Monster Dog. Although Cooper later expressed disappointment with the producers for circulating the film outside Brazil, he admitted his excitement at the prospect of satisfying his longtime acting bug.
Although Cooper's impact on the music scene has been strong and fairly consistent throughout his career, reviews of his work have been mixed, and there exists an ongoing debate over the value of Cooper's solo work versus his material with the Alice Cooper band. A Melody Maker review of the 1986 LP Constrictor remarked, "One does not instinctively judge Alice with regard to competition from outside, he is judged simply by his own standards, in competition only with himself." Perhaps Rolling Stone contributor Tom Carson, looking back to a time and persona that Cooper had moved beyond, best illuminated the issue in his review of 1979's From the Inside: "Alice Cooper was our last great juvenile delinquent, and that's what kids loved him for. The trouble with his recent work ... isn't so much a failure of imagination as it is of showmanship. Cooper's still pushing anarchy, but now he wants to do it politely. And who ever listens to a polite anarchist?"
Trash, Cooper's first release for Epic Records, started a tradition of extensive collaboration with other prominent artists. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith accompanied Cooper on "Hell Is Living Without You," a ballad co-written by Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora. "Poison," the smash single from the album, featured the backing vocals of Bon Jovi. Hey Stoopid! (1991) boasted a stellar studio lineup that included metal elder statesman Ozzy Osbourne as a vocalist, and Slash from Guns and Roses, who played guitar on the title track. Guitar aces Joe Satriani and Steve Vai lent dueling guitars to "Feed My Frankenstein," and Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars contributed licks to "Die For You." Hard Force magazine called Hey Stoopid! "the best [album] since Welcome to My Nightmare, a vicious guitar record."
Promotion for Hey Stoopid! was characteristically spectacular. Cooper took to the streets, turning up in various public places to perform songs from the album and generally wreak havoc. He performed at 8:45 in the morning in the parking lot of Los Angeles radio station KLOS, causing a standstill in rush-hour traffic. In New York City he tempted fate by playing in Times Square on Friday the 13th. And in Detroit, onlookers were treated to a concert on the roof of the local Sound Warehouse record store.
Further promotion for Hey Stoopid! came in the form of a cameo role in director Penelope Spheeris's blockbuster film Wayne's World, in which Cooper performed the song "Feed My Frankenstein." Because---or in spite---of his over-the-top image, Cooper's fans have related to Alice. Cooper has endured because he has consistently played the type of villain or monster that audiences can't help but cheer. Melody Maker commented aptly on the universal appeal of Cooper's persona, allowing that "there has to be an Alice Cooper just like there has to be a Father Christmas."
After a three year hiatus, Cooper returned with The Last Temptation in 1994, an album that Barry Weber of All Music Guide praised as a true comeback. "Far surpassing anything Cooper [has] recorded in almost 20 years, The Last Temptation is unquestionably some of his best work." On the album Cooper explored themes of sin, temptation, and redemption, bringing a serious air to his theatrical side. He followed with A Fist Full of Alice in 1997, his first live album since The Alice Cooper Show in 1977. The album included guest appearances from Guns N' Roses' guitarist Slash and singer-guitarist Sammy Hagar. The year, however, ended on a sad note when guitarist Glen Buxton, a founding member of the Alice Cooper Group, died of complications from pneumonia on October 18, 1997.
Cooper released Brutal Planet on the small Spitfire label in 2000 and Dragontown the following year. He also launched the Dragontown tour, a tour that included a controversial show featuring violent stage theatrics. Cooper released Eyes of Alice in 2003 and followed with Dirty Diamonds in 2005 on New West, featuring "Woman of Mass Distraction" and "Sunset Babies (All Got Rabies)."
Besides recording and touring, Cooper currently owns Alice Cooper'stown sports bars in Cleveland and Phoenix, eateries that feature such oddities as the Ryne Sandburger and Megadeth Meatloaf. Cooper has also coached Little League, and during the 1990s he founded an organization to assist needy children. In 2004 Cooper received an honorary doctorate from Grand Canyon University, and in 2005 he launched his own syndicated radio show, Nights With Alice Cooper. Over time, Cooper has maintained his sense of humor. Commenting on politics, he was quoted by Michael Crowley in the New Republic as saying, "If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are." When asked by Sports Illustrated whether he could outlast the Rolling Stones, Cooper replied: "At this point I'm in better shape than all of them put together."
by Barry C. Henssler and Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr
Alice Cooper's Career
Began career during high school as member of the Earwigs; group relocated to Los Angeles, 1968, and changed name to the Spiders, then the Nazz, then Alice Cooper; released first two records on Frank Zappa's Straight Records label; signed to Warner Bros., 1971; launched solo career and released first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare, 1975; moved to MCA records, then to Epic Records, and released Trash, 1989; appeared in films Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1978, Sextette, 1979, Roadie, 1980, Monster Dog, 1982, Decline of Western Civilization Part II, 1988, Wayne's World, 1992, and Nightmare on Elm Street Part VI, 1992; released The Last Temptation, 1994, and the live A Fist Full of Alice, 1997; issued Brutal Planet, 2000, Dragontown, 2001, The Eyes of Alice Cooper, 2003, and Dirty Diamonds, 2005.
- Selected discography
- With the Alice Cooper band
- Pretties for You Straight, 1969.
- Easy Action Straight, 1970.
- Love It to Death Warner Bros., 1971.
- Killer Warner Bros., 1971.
- School's Out Warner Bros., 1972.
- Billion Dollar Babies Warner Bros., 1973.
- Muscle of Love Warner Bros., 1974.
- Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits Warner Bros., 1974.
- Live at the Whisky reissued, Bizarre/Straight/Rhino, 1992.
- Solo albums
- Welcome to My Nightmare Atlantic, 1975.
- Alice Cooper Goes to Hell Warner Bros., 1976.
- Lace and Whiskey Warner Bros., 1977.
- The Alice Cooper Show Warner Bros., 1977.
- From the Inside Warner Bros., 1978.
- Flush the Fashion Warner Bros., 1980.
- Special Forces Warner Bros., 1981.
- Zipper Catches Skin Warner Bros., 1982.
- Da Da Warner Bros., 1983.
- Constrictor MCA, 1986.
- Raise Your Fist and Yell MCA, 1987.
- Trash Epic, 1989.
- Hey Stoopid! Epic, 1991.
- The Last Temptation Epic, 1994.
- A Fist Full of Alice Capital, 1997.
- Brutal Planet Spitfire, 2000.
- Dragontown Spitfire, 2001.
- The Eyes of Alice Cooper Eagle, 2003.
- Dirty Diamonds New West, 2005.
- Eddy, Chuck, Stairway to Hell, Harmony Books, 1990.
- Greene, Bob, Billion Dollar Baby, Signet, 1975.
- The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, edited by Jon Pareles and Patricia Romanowski, Rolling Stone Press/Summit Books, 1983.
- Creem, March 1987.
- Entertainment Design, January 1, 2003.
- Hard Force, October 1991.
- Melody Maker, January 7, 1978; September 19, 1981; October 2, 1982; October 25, 1986; April 16, 1988; November 7, 1987; August 19, 1989.
- New Republic, November 8, 2004, p. 38.
- Rolling Stone, January 6, 1972; March 30, 1972; September 28, 1972; August 21, 1980; October 31, 1991; March 19, 1992.
- Spin, November 1989.
- Sports Illustrated, October 14, 2002, p. 34.
- Variety, June 22, 1977.
- "Alice Cooper," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (January 10, 2006).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from the videocassette Prime Cuts, Epic Video, 1991.
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