70s Music

Introduction to Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper’s career in a summary

Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper speaking at a dinner in Glendale, Arizona on April 27, 2013. (Source: Wikipedia)

Alice Cooper is an American hard rock/heavy metal rock singer-songwriter, actor and radio disc jockey. He has led a band that adopted his very own stage name. He has a career that has spanned five decades. Cooper is known for his extravagant and often bizarre stage shows that involve fake blood and large snakes. Cooper and the band are famous for their song “School’s Out” in 1972.

The birth of “Alice Cooper”

Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan, to a pastor father. His family moved to California and later to Arizona. At that early age Furnier developed a passion for music.

During his high school days he formed his first band in order to join a local competition. Since they didn’t know to play any instruments at that time they instead went on to mimic bands like the Beatles as part of their schtick. They eventually won the contest. They liked the experience of being on the stage so Furnier and his band mates began to seriously study in order to be able to play real instruments.

By then the band had called themselves The Spiders and made their first record, a cover of the Blackwells’ “Why Don’t You Love Me.” Later they renamed themselves as The Nazz. Eventually the band started to make their rounds in Los Angeles, often accompanied by several road trips. The group later found out that Todd Rundgren already had a band with the same name, so they sought unlikely help from a Ouija board session which picked the names “Alice Cooper.” They adopted “Alice Cooper” as their official band name; it seemed to be the lucky charm for them. Furnier also adopted the band name as his own, too.

The classic lineup consisted of Cooper, Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass), and Neal Smith (drums).

On the way to hard rock stardom

Alice Cooper and his eponymous band finally developed their own unique sound — dark, angry, brooding and malevolent. Critics and audiences who paid to see their gigs were turned off by their sound. But this was exactly what artist and record producer Frank Zappa was looking for, so he signed Alice Cooper band right away to his own label Straight Records. In 1969 Alice Cooper (the band, that is) released their debut album under the label Pretties For You. It was followed by Easy Action(1970) and Love It to Death (1971), the latter having been released by Straight’s distributor, Warner Bros. Records. The album performed successfully enough (peaking at #35 on the Billboard 200) to warrant another Warner release Killer (1971). The album peaked at #21 on the Billboard 200 and #27 on the UK album chart that year.

 

Alice Cooper released what was to be their breakthrough album, School’s Out(1972). It featured the title track which was written by all of the band members. It was the band’s first and most successful single, peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 and topped the UK singles chart that year.

Aside from the songs, the group gained an infamous reputation as bizarre, outrageous live performers. As part of their stage gimmick, the band would employ things like a fake guillotine, fake blood, fake electric chairs, real dead birds and boa constrictors, and baby dolls. There was even a stunt where Cooper killed the chicken and drank its blood. The level of grossness was just unbelievably abominable. Because of these theatrical, macabre and controversial stunts Alice Cooper himself earned the title of “The Godfather of Shock Rock.”

Solo career

In 1974, Alice Cooper drifted away from his band mates to establish a solo career, still using his stage name. He released his first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975, which went platinum in the US, silver in the UK and double platinum in Canada. It featured the Top 20 hit single “Only Women Bleed.”

He followed this up with subsequent LPs: Alice Cooper Goes To Hell (1976), Lace And Whiskey (1977), From The Inside (1978), Flush The Fashion (1980), Special Forces (1981), Zipper Catches Skin (1982), DaDa (1983), Constrictor (1986), andRaise Your Fist and Yell (1987), with his last three albums released on MCA label.Lace And Whiskey‘s single “You and Me”, written by Cooper and rock songwriter/guitarist Dick Wagner, went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.

Having risen from his “dark years” which were rigged with alcohol addiction and his stay at the sanatorium, Cooper had come out clean thanks to his becoming a born-again Christian and his newfound passion: golf.

 

In 1989 Cooper released his first album on Epic label, Trash. It became his most successful album on a global scale, going platinum in the US, Canada and Finland. The success of the album was largely helped by the glam/hard-rock single “Poison” which climbed to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Since then, Cooper has enjoyed considerable success in his career, and he branched out his talents in different outlets. He had also established himself as an actor, having appeared in several films “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” “Roadie,” “Wayne’s World,” and “Dark Shadows.” He also scored for the indie horror movie Silas Gore together with his daughter Calico Cooper and his longtime professional partner Wagner.

Since 2004 Cooper has been hosting the syndicated radio show Nights with Alice Cooper. The show has even augmented Cooper’s popularity. Cooper has also been busy with his restaurant business. In recent years Cooper reunited with his old band mates, the latest reunion being in 2006 for one of Cooper’s annual Christmas charity events in Phoenix, Arizona. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

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