by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate one of the most outrageous stage shows ever to get our attention! It’s the birthday of Alice Cooper.
The world of pop music didn’t know what to think when Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier February 4, 1948) hit the big time. Up to that point we had performers who ran the spectrum from James Brown with his rubber knees to Arthur Brown with his flaming hair, Pete Townshend with his windmill bloody guitar strokes to Jimi with lighting his guitar on fire.
All that paled in comparison with what Alice brought to the stage. Never had the world seen anything like Alice Cooper, with his stage show featuring electric chairs, fake blood, guillotines, and boa constrictors. From Wikipedia: “Cooper is credited with helping to shape the sound and look of heavy metal, and he is regarded as being the artist who "first introduced horror imagery to rock'n'roll, and whose stagecraft and showmanship have permanently transformed the genre."
Discovered by Frank Zappa (who else?), Alice Cooper (the man and the band) were pure theater from the beginning. While I never liked the faux violence of the act, it certainly got everyone’s attention as the over-the-top theatrical stage show that it became, with Alice’s stage persona morphing through various identities, including some of the first gender-bending performances in pop music history.
They took a stage persona of violent theatrical glam rockers, and transformed the “rock band as bad boys” image, taking it where it had never gone before. So of course millions of the rocking young would love them, while a lot of adults were shocked in ways that created public outrage. He broke through in late 1970 with the teen angst song “I’m Eighteen” and never looked back, creating some awesome rock and roll these past decades.
As an aside - No, he never did bite off the head of a chicken. Somehow a live chicken found its way to the stage (?!) and Alice threw it into the audience thinking it could fly. (Well, he is from Detroit, not someone from Farmland.) Of course, chickens don’t fly and so it fell into the crowd and people freaked out and apparently did some weird stuff. The story was picked up the next day and alleged he had bitten off the head of the chicken. Frank Zappa thought NOT setting the record straight would be good for publicity…..)More from Wikipedia:
“(“School’s Out”) won over devoted fans in droves while at the same time horrifying parents and outraging the social establishment. In the United Kingdom, Mary Whitehouse, a Christian morality campaigner (Ed - made famous when she was called out by Roger Waters in Pink Floyd’s “Pigs – Three Different Kinds”), persuaded the BBC to ban the video for "School's Out" and Member of Parliament Leo Abse petitioned Home Secretary Reginald Maudling to have the group banned altogether from performing in the country.”
Oh my. Pass the smelling salts. Anyway, in retrospect, none of it was as violent as it seemed at the time, and while I wish he had chosen a different stage show, he and the band made some really great Rock and Roll! Today we’ll feature some of his biggest from the 70s and early 80s!Live from 1971 at the Stone Pony, a grainy ancient video of Alice live doing “I’m Eighteen”
From a 1981 French television special, a much slowed down, incredibly macabre live performance of “I’m Eighteen”
From the “Live In The Flesh Tour” of 1987-88, a compelling version of "I’m Eighteen"
Also from “Love It To Death,” live in Detroit in 1971, the oh-so-seductive “Is It My Body”
From “Live in Montreux,” “Poison”
Classic rock and roll from the “Old Grey Whistle Test” in 1971! "Under My Wheels"
Here’s another rocking live performance of “Under My Wheels”
From the 1986 “Nightmare Returns” tour, a magnificent performance of "Be My Lover"
If you don't view any other video today, this is the one!! From the “School’s Out” album, here’s the band, live at Montreux, smashing out "School's Out"
Also from “School’s Out,” a great one! It’s one of my favorite songs of the genre, here’s the awesome “Blue Turk”
From the “Billion Dollar Babies” album, a rocking look at politics!
First, beginning with a guitar riff lifted from Hendrix, a “Brutally Live” performance of "Elected"
(For the sake of comparing the opening riffs, here’s “Dolly Dagger” by Jimi Hendrix)
From Sao Paulo in 1995 at “Monster of Rock,” a great live performance of “Elected”
Here’s the title track from “Billion Dollar Babies” performed on the 1975 “Welcome to my Nightmare” tour: "Billion Dollar Babies"
From the movie “Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper,” a 1973 very raunchy live performance of another hit from “Billion Dollar Babies,” "No More Mister Nice Guy"
Here’s the original album track off of “Billion Dollar Babies” of "Generation Landslide"
Here’s the original studio cut of "Teenage Lament ‘74"
From “Live At Montreux 2005,” Alice performing "Only Women Bleed"
Also from “Live at Montreux 2005,” "I Never Cry"
From 2011 London, "We’re All Clones"
From somewhere live in the mists of time, "How You Gonna See Me Now"
Here’s the original VH1 music video to “Welcome To My Nightmare”
In a special nod to Glen Buxton, the original guitarist for Alice Cooper born Nov 10, 1947 who died in 1997, here’s a great tribute that’s 11 minutes of pure gold! Yes, HE’S the one who gave us the immortal chord progression - Em-A, Em-G, Em-A-G, notes: E,D#,D - that kicked off “School’s Out,” one of the most famous riffs in history.
A Memorial for Glen Buxton (It’ll need to buffer from time to time, so please be patient!)
For a finale, here’s my old friend Arthur Brown (complete with modern flaming hair!) performing in 2011 with Alice Cooper at Alexandra Palace in London doing Arthur’s immortal hit from 1968, “Fire”
(Here I’ll interject that Arthur’s actually a very gentle spiritual man with an amazing sense of humor and deep sense of what’s going on. As you can see, he still plays around a bit from time to time, so catch his show when you can.)
For the encore, we’ll go back to his biggest and best!
From the “Brutally Live” 2000 tour in London, “School’s Out”
And, so you know he rocks as hard as ever these days, here’s the Summer 2012 Bonneroo edition of “School’s Out” (with a little of “Another Brick in the Wall!”)
Thanks for the tunes, Alice! Happy 65, and may you keep rocking on!!
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson
ps - On a personal note, a big Happy also goes out to Mikal Gohring, my Spiritual Brother of 37 years (and the proverbial 10,000 lifetimes!) He's a truly gifted Oriental medical practitioner and acupuncturist in the Hamptons, doing his service for the world. May you have many more, my Brother!!