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Long before there was an Iron Maiden or a Marilyn Manson, rebellious kids around the world thrilled to the macabre antics of Alice Cooper. Simply put, this pioneering rocker wrote the book on shock-rock by combining the creepy imagery of classic horror movies with a thunderous, energetic hard rock sound. He also brought this sonic spectacle to life in visual form with a theatrical stage show that threw every kind of visceral horror imaginable at the audience. In the process, he created a new set of rules for how to scare people with rock and roll music.
Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier, the son of a minister in Arizona, USA. He dreamed of being as famous as The Beatles and formed a band called The Earwigs with some fellow students in the mid-1960’s. As time moved on, they grew from a garage band into a full-on psychedelic outfit known as Alice Cooper (a name that they reportedly got while playing with a Ouija board). Furnier also adopted Alice Cooper as his own name. They were discovered by Frank Zappa and recorded two albums Pretties For You and Easy Action for Zappa's record label. Both mixed hard-rock elements with a freeform psychedelic sound and strange, comic lyrics.
In 1971, the group produced Love It To Death, the album that would define the Alice Cooper style. This album played up their hard-rock edge and also sharpened the satirical bite of their lyrics as the group tackled subject matter like teenage confusion (I’m Eighteen) and mental illness (The Ballad of Dwight Frye). The album was a success and gave the group its first hit single with I’m Eighteen. Cooper also toured exhaustively behind the album, developing an elaborate theatrical stage show that incorporated snakes, a guillotine and a fake electric chair used to ‘execute’ Alice at the end of the show. Alice also developed a habit of wearing thick, harlequin-like eye makeup that soon became his trademark.
Alice Cooper continued to knock ‘em dead with their next album Killer. This opus developed their sound as they divided their time between good-time rockers like Be My Lover and theatrical epics like Halo Of Flies. They also began to tackle socially conscious issues like child abuse (Dead Babies) and the death penalty (Killer). In 1972, Alice Cooper scored their big breakthrough with the album School’s Out. The title song, a raucous rock tune with tongue-in-cheek anti-school lyrics, became a #1 hit and an anthem of youthful rebellion. The album also paid tribute to West Side Story, an element worked into the stage show by a mock knife-fight during Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets. Alice Cooper reached its peak as a group in 1973 with Billion Dollar Babies, a glam-rock classic that was their biggest hit. It featured two big hit singles in Elected, a rocking send-up of politics, and No More Mr. Nice Guy, an amusing look at how Alice the person is often mistaken with Alice the image. It also featured a pair of elaborate horror-rock epics in Sick Things and I Love The Dead. The group followed this hit album with an equally successful world tour. During the tour, they paused briefly to record the final Alice Cooper group album, Muscle of Love. This LP produced a big hit in Teenage Lament ‘74, a power ballad about the hassles of teenage life that featured Liza Minelli on backup vocals.
By 1975, the original Alice Cooper group had split up. Furnier decided to continue on as a solo artist using the Alice Cooper name and released the album Welcome To My Nightmare. This horror-rock opus was built around the thread of Alice's working his way through a nightmare. Though it boasted plenty of full-throttle rockers like Cold Ethyl and Department Of Youth, it earned its biggest hit with Only Woman Bleed, a surprisingly poignant ballad that dealt with the subject of spousal abuse. Welcome To My Nightmare was also transformed into a successful television special that featured horror icon Vincent Price (who had narrated portions of "Black Widow" on the album). The TV spectacle brought the album to life in music-video form, thus anticipating the rise of MTV.
Alice Cooper continued in his theatrical-rock style with albums like Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, which had Alice battling Satan for his soul, and Lace and Whiskey, in which Alice reinvented himself as a tough-guy detective. He also continued to score hits with ballads like I Never Cry and You And Me.
After Lace and Whiskey, Alice Cooper went into rehab to deal with alcoholism. When he got out, he used the experience to create what many critics consider to be one of his finest albums, From The Inside. The title track was a scorching rocker that vividly painted his decline into alcoholism, while songs like Jackknife Johnny told the tragic tales of the other patients. It also featured a hit in the confessional ballad How You Gonna See Me Now.
As the 1980’s began, Alice Cooper went ‘new wave’ on albums like Flush The Fashion and Special Forces. He retired from the music scene for a while in the mid-1980’s to deal with an alcohol problem, but soon bounced back with Constrictor in 1986. This album was a return to the old-fashioned shock rock tactics and even included a tribute to the Friday the 13th film series in The Man Behind The Mask. He continued to record and scored a major hit in 1989 with Trash, an album that featured contributions from the members of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith. It also contained a hit power ballad in Poison.
As the 1990’s began, Alice Cooper rocked out on albums like Hey Stoopid and The Last Temptation, the latter of which inspired a comic book penned by famous fantasy author Neil Gaiman. In between music projects, Cooper also took a little time out to open a sports-themed restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona called Cooperstown. Cooper continued to tour on a regular basis, releasing the live album A Fistful Of Alice in 1997, which featured special guests like Slash of Guns N’ Roses. Recently, he released the album Brutal Planet. This 2000 album has been critically praised for its combination of bone-crunching and social satire. The followup album, Dragontown is as brutal as the previous album. With songs like Dragontown, Sex Death And Money, Disgraceland and the amazing Every Woman Has A Name, Alice proves that he was, is and will always be the undisputed Master of Shock Rock.