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My sister is obsessed with Alice Cooper and having spent so much time at my house over the last year she has roped me in too and I have to admit to thinking he is pretty amazing. I couldn't decide which of his albums to tell you about so I figured why not just review the man himself.
A bit of background first. Alice was born Vincent Furnier in detroit in 1948. In the 60's he formed a band which was called "The earwigs". They changed their name to "The Spiders" and then "The Nazz". They then learned that there was another band of the same name and so they changed their name a final time and stuck with "Alice Cooper". Aparently there was no particular reason for this name, Vincent just happened to like it.
The band released several albums and were rather successful until they split in the early seventies and Vincent began his solo career and changed his own name to "Alice Cooper". Alice as he was now known became an alcoholic and spent some time in rehab in the late seventies. Following this he released more albums and eventually became popular again in the late eighties/early nineties.
So what is this guy all about? Most people know that he wears hideous amounts of makeup and performs amazing stage shows often including his own execution, but a lot of people I know don't know lot about his music. With over 20 albums and almost as many "Greatest Hits" type compilations released there is certainly a lot of music by this man and I will tell you about some of it.
The main genre for Alice's music is rock, and the aim of most of it is to shock. He covers many taboo subjects and controversial topics in his songs. Many of the songs are simply superficial, fun songs with little meaning but ranking high on the "shock factor". These include titles such as "Thrill my gorilla", "Feed my frankenstien", "Sick things" and "I love the dead".
There are many songs which have a deeper meaning and there are several themes throughout a lot of the music. A good example of this is would be the songs about insanity. This is a one of the most prominant themes in his music. Songs such as "Steven", "The balad of Dwight Fry" and "Wind up toy" all follow this theme. A lot of it is based upon his time in rehab which he likened to being in a mental hospital and this is reflected in much of the music. The album "From the inside" which was released immediately after his time in rehab comes from his own experiences and is very personal. "The quiet room" in prticular is a good example of this.
Another theme in Alice's music is death with songs such as "Pick up the bones" about the aftermath of a mass killing and "Dead babies", a haunting song about an unwanted toddler who died and nobody cared.
Domestic violence is another subject portrayed in Alice's songs, a topic that is not often touched upon in music. "Only women bleed" is the best of these songs but there are others including "Take it like a woman" and "Every woman has a name". These songs handle the issue sensitively although remain their shock power due to the subject matter.
How could you claim to be a rock star if you didn't sing about sex? Well Alice has really gone to town on this one. Theres "Love's a loaded gun", about a prostitute to "I'm your gun" in which Alice basically tells you all about his penis, "Dirty dreams", well thats pretty self explanitory, and "Bed of nails" to name but a few.
Alice also has a sensitive side which is apparent in some of his music. Songs like "Might as well be on mars" about unrequited love, "This house is haunted" about a man who lives with the ghost of his wife, and "You and me" which was allegedly sung by Frank Sinatra during a concert of his although it was never recorded.
Other controversial stuff includes herion addiction in "Hey Stoopid", "Wicked young man", a song about Hitler and one about Elvis, "Disgraceland". I'll stop there as there are so many songs I could tell you about and I would be here for hours.
A little about Alice Cooper himself now. He loves to perform, and touring is one of his favourite things, he spends a lot of time travelling around holding concerts all over the world and thouroughly enjoys it. He puts on lavish shows often including his own death by hanging, slitting his wrists or beheading himself with a guilotine. He also has a snake on stage with him often, and there are various routines for a lot of the songs such as a sword through a load of dollar bills which he throws into the crowd for "Billion dollar babies", a pool cue he smashes in "Eighteen" and a life sized doll he throws around the stage for "Cold ethel".
One famous event in one of the early concerts was "The chicken incident" as it is now known. I believe Alice's version of the story is that a fan threw a chicken onto the stage and he, not knowing they couldn't fly, threw it back into the audience, who then ripped it to pieces. The press ran stories claiming that Alice had bitten the head off the chicken and drank its bloodand other such elaborations. Alice didn't deny any of these claims and the truth of what actually happened is no longer clear. A friend of Alice's claimed that they had discussed an different event involving a rubber chicken in another bands concerts and he speculated that perhaps Alice decided to do his own take on the idea. I guess the truth of the matter has been lost but the event is infamous even so.
Another famous event in one of his shows is the time when he fell of the stage. He had sung the first song of his gig when he fell. He was wrapped in bandages but chose to return to the stage and finish his concert. He did so, then was rushed to hospital where he had 16 stitches in his head and was diagnosed with concusion and six broken ribs. Three days later he did another gig against his doctors advice, however he collapsed after half an hour. Aparently nobody asked for a ticket refund although they were offered. He then continued the rest of his tour with no further troubles.
What the world sees of Alice Cooper is very much an act or a front. Fuelled by the press, this fictional character if you will has emerged and is played out by Alice. The song "Hard hearted Alice" kind of explains this, saying that everyone expects a hard hearted guy so thats what he is giving them. It would be fair to say that this man who calls himself Alice is in fact playing the part of "Alice Cooper", a character who is an eternal eighteen year old, facing the troubles of not fitting in with the others, and who sees being "different" as his greatest asset but also his greatest downfall. Alice frequently refers to himself in interviews in the third person as though he is discussing the character and not himself, and has even been to known to answer questions about something he has supposedly done with comments like "Alice would do something like that".
So what about the "real" man behind this front then? Who is this man when he is not putting on this elaborate act for the public? Well Alice is happily married with a three children and regularly enjoys a game of golf! Not very rock and roll but there you have it. He met his wife Sheryl when she was dancing for one of his tours and she has since continued to take part in his stage shows, as has his daughter Calico who starred in the concert i went to see a few weeks ago in London.
I hope I haven't bored you all to death, I didn't mean to write that much it just happened! Thanks for reading. Kate xx
Alice Cooper 'Old School'. 4 CDS. CD1 Treasures 1 includes: Price Tag; Fields of Regret; ... more
Killer. CD2 Treasures 2 includes: School's Out; Teenage Lament '74; Muscle of Love. CD3 In Their Own Words - Alice Cooper Interview disc. CD4 Killer Live St Louis '74 includes: Be My Lover; I'm Eighteen; Dead Babies.