While today's fans may think Marilyn Manson is at the cutting edge of
rock theatrics, the young shock rocker borrowed the concept for his name
and his disturbing live act from the godfather of the genre, Alice
Cooper hasn't had any chartbusters lately, but recognition of his
importance has recently arrived in the form of Humanary Stew
(Cleopatra Records), a tribute disc of Cooper hits featuring such
artists as Ronnie James Dio, Dee Snider, Vince Neil and Don Dokken, all
of whom cite Cooper as a major influence. The opening cut, a cover of
Cooper's 1973 top-40 hit "No More Mr. Nice
Guy" (RealAudio excerpt of new version), is sung by the Who's
Roger Daltrey and features Slash on guitar.
Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier 51 years ago today in Detroit. He
was the son of a preacher and began singing in a hard rock band in
Phoenix. The group began as the Earwigs, became the Spiders, and then
the Nazz. But after discovering Todd Rundgren's band, Nazz, Furnier
changed his group's moniker to Alice Cooper -- supposedly because a
Ouija board indicated that was his name in a previous life, when he was
a 17th century witch.
Alice Cooper became known on the L.A.-area bar scene because of their
bizarre stage theatrics. Frank Zappa signed the band to his Straight
Records and released its first two albums, both flops.
After relocating to Detroit, Alice Cooper refined their show, which
included fake executions, live boa constrictors and the chopping-up of
dolls. Warner Bros. Records soon issued their major label debut, 1971's
Love It to Death, which made Alice Cooper a focal point of teen
rebellion. The LP combined the group's then-explicit lyrics with its
potent mix of guitar pop and metal and the singer's raucous vocals. It
also featured the hit teenage anthem "Eighteen," one of Cooper's
School's Out (1972) and its uproarious title song made Alice
Cooper superstars. By then, Furnier had changed his name to the band's
handle and become one of the favorite subjects of rock journalists.
The following year's Billion Dollar Babies spawned "No More Mr.
Nice Guy" and was the band's most commercially successful LP. After the
relative commercial letdown of 1974's Muscle of Love, Cooper
jettisoned his band and kept the name for his solo records.
Cooper's best-selling solo album was his first, 1975's Welcome to My
Nightmare. Cooper toured behind the LP with a spectacle show, and
starred in a TV special based on it. The television program, and
Cooper's appearances on TV game shows such as "Hollywood Squares," weakened
his menacing image. Though Nightmare's first single "Only Women
Bleed" was a hit, it was also a ballad that presaged a series of
slower-tempo songs that diminished his fanbase.
Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976) was his last big success for
quite a while. He spent the rest of the '70s in alcohol rehab (which he
documented on 1978's From the Inside, a collaboration with Elton
John lyricist Bernie Taupin); many of his releases seemed half-hearted.
Cooper shifted to heavier rock on Flush the Fashion (1980), but
was on hiatus for most of the early '80s. When he returned in 1986 with
Constrictor, he returned to heavy-duty heavy metal. He resumed
full-scale touring and did a Halloween special for MTV, both of which
revived his career. Trash (1989) was certified platinum and
yielded the top-10 hit, "Poison."
Cooper also turned to acting and has appeared in such movies as "Wayne's
World" and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare."
Dio said of Cooper: "... he was doing the guillotine job [on himself],
and I was just stunned. I just realized how much he was giving to an
audience with what he was doing, and I wanted to do the same."
Cooper's management said a four-disc box-set anthology of his music will
be issued shortly. Other rockers who have worked with Cooper and cite
him as an influence are Axl Rose, Steve Vai and Rob Zombie (who
contributed a track with Cooper to the "X-Files" TV show soundtrack,
Songs In The Key Of X).
Other birthdays: John Steel (The Animals), 58; Florence LaRue (Fifth
Dimension), 55; Phil Ehart (Kansas), 48; Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie), 47;
Tim Booth (James), 39; and Henry Bogdan (Helmet), 38.