When a young Ronnie James Dio saw Alice Cooper perform for the first time, it was the early 1970s. Quintessential shock-rocker Cooper was hanging himself onstage. Or so it appeared ...
"Shortly after that, he was doing the guillotine job [on himself], and I was just stunned," said the 48-year-old Dio -- former lead singer for the archetypal heavy-metal band Black Sabbath. "I just realized how much he was giving to an audience with what he was doing, and I wanted to do the same."
Nearly three decades later, Dio is paying homage to Cooper by contributing a song to the Alice Cooper tribute album, Humanary Stew. The 11-track album, slated for a winter release, was produced by Bob Kulick (Meatloaf, Michael Bolton). It features a wealth of hard-rockers and heavy-metal types -- including members of the Who, Gun n' Roses, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Megadeth -- interpreting various Cooper favorites.
Cooper, a.k.a. Vince Furnier, began fronting his band, also known as Alice Cooper, during the mid-'60s in Phoenix. Joined by guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith, the group released six albums prior to Cooper going solo. With hits such as "Eighteen," "School's Out" and "No More Nice Guy," the quintet had a reputation for creating defiant rock anthems to accompany its graphic stage show.
The tribute album offers some intriguing combinations of artists and material: Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson sings "Black Widow," Roger Daltrey of the Who teams with Guns n' Roses guitarist Slash on "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine takes the vocal helm on "School's Out."
Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen worked with singer and bandmate Joe Elliot on "Under My Wheels," with Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band sitting in on sax.
"The reason we done ['Under My Wheels'] is it's always been our favorite," said Collen, 40. "We love all the glammy sort of stuff. I first heard Alice Cooper on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test.' It used to be the only outlet for music [on British television]. Back then in England, there were like two TV stations or something, and it would come on once a week for about an hour. We saw Alice Cooper, and we loved it. It was very trashy, very different from ... the standard rock stuff."
Dio chose to cover "Welcome To My Nightmare." "[It] seemed to be ... not more my style, because I don't really think I have a style, but I thought it would give me more of a chance to sing," Dio said. "Some of the songs are a bit more rappy.
"I get asked to do a lot of these projects, but most times, there's no reason for me to do it. I've seen just about every tour [Cooper has] done. Alice Cooper sent me on the road to doing big stage productions, and he wanted me to do [the tribute album] as well."
Don Dokken toured with Alice Cooper last summer and happily joined the project, lending his vocal prowess to "Eighteen." Although Dokken said he didn't do tribute albums "as a rule," this one was different
"I said if I could do one of the cherries on it, I'd do it," Dokken said. "I'm a big-time fan. I toured with him last summer, and the whole time, I was remembering seeing him play when I was a little kid.
"Back then, I thought he was a nut. He was playing with Iggy Pop, and Iggy Pop put peanut butter all over himself. Then comes this other guy looking like some kind of a macabre carnival freak-show.
"All last summer, I kept thinking how cool it was to be playing with him."