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 (Editor’s note - 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 Detroit Tubeworks, Alice live doing “I’m Eighteen”
At the Beat Club, a compelling version of "I’m Eighteen"
Also from “Love It To Death,” live in 1971, the oh-so-seductive “Is It My Body”
Classic rock and roll in 1971! Last year I had their performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test, but this year it’s gone. However, I found this classic video! "Under My Wheels"
Here’s another rocking live performance of “Under My Wheels”
Here’s a magnificent video clip of "Be My Lover," “Only Women Bleed,” and “I Never Cry,
I found it again! Here’s an early live performance by Alice Cooper in 1972 on the UK television Top of the Pops cranking out their major hit from the School’s Out album, "School's Out." Here’s the reprise on TOTP 2000! "School's Out"
Live at Hofstra University, a great b/w video from 1972 of “School’s Out”
Also from “School’s Out,” a great one! It’s one of my favorite songs of the genre, here’s the original studio version of the awesome “Blue Turk”
From the “Billion Dollar Babies” album, a rocking look at politics!
First, beginning with a guitar riff lifted from Hendrix, from Bonnaroo 2012, "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 their entire set from Sao Paulo in 1995! Alice Cooper - Live In Sao Paulo, Brazil - 1995 Monsters Of Rock
Last year I had a link to this title cut from their 1973 tour, but it’s disappeared. So this year we have three great performances from other tours! First, in b/w at the Capitol Theater in 1981, Alice looking severely emaciated as he performs "Billion Dollar Babies," followed by another great video of the tune with no year attributed. "Billion Dollar Babies." And here’s yet another great live performance by Alice and the band in 1990 of “Billion Dollar Babies”
Also from the 1981 Capitol Theater performance, “Clones (We’re All)," the Arthur Lee classic “7 and 7 Is” and “I Never Cry.” We move into “Guilty” followed by “Generation Landslide” and we close this short set with “School’s Out”
Last year I had “No More Mr. Nice Guy” from the movie Good to See You Again, but it’s disappeared, as did the 1973 clip. But I did find this clip from 1979 in San Diego of the very raunchy hit from Billion Dollar Babies, "No More Mister Nice Guy"
Live on Letterman, here’s Alice cranking out "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
Here’s the official music video for "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
Last year I had the original 1974 music video for "Teenage Lament ‘74" but this year it's gone, so instead here's the original audio-only studio version of "Teenage Lament ‘74"
Thanks to Alexei, here's "School's Out" - Live at Montreux 2005
From 2011 London, "We’re All Clones."
Also in 2011 in the UK, here’s Alice and the Foo Fighters in front of 70,000 people doing “School’s Out” and “I’m Eighteen”
Here’s the original music video to “Welcome To My Nightmare”
From the same tour, in Germany, performing “Halo of Flies”
From 1979, Alice does 26 minutes on The Midnight Special tv show! Alice Cooper on the Midnight Special
Though I gave you a bunch of single clips earlier, here’s the entire 1981 Capitol Theater show in Passaic, NJ! Alice Cooper Live in NJ – 1981
From 1972, a French documentary on the band. Alice Cooper – Paris, France 1972
In a nod to his gigs with the Muppets, here’s Alice singing to “Miss Piggy” "You and Me" and here's Alice on the Muppet Show doing “Welcome to My Nightmare.” We'll close with Alice and the Muppets dancing to “School’s Out”
In a special nod to Glen Buxton, the original guitarist for Alice Cooper born Nov 10, 1947 who died in 1997, last year I had "A Memorial for Glen Buxton" that was 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. This year it's gone, so maybe next year!
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.)
One show from long ago, and two recent shows!
First, an hour and 44 in Toronto on the 2002 Dragon Tour! Alice Cooper Live in Toronto 2002
Our next treat features 90 minutes live from Dresden! Alice Cooper Live in Dresden 2017
The third is 88 minutes of Alice Cooper Live in Canberra 2017
For the closer, from 2011 in the UK, here’s Alice and the Foo Fighters in front of 70,000 people doing “School’s Out” and “I’m Eighteen”
Our first encore is another great performance of his biggest and best! From the 2012 “Golden Gods Awards,” Slash on guitar backing Alice in a ripping version of “School’s Out”
For our second encore, just 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!”)
For our third encore, also thanks to Alexei, an entire 1 hour 21 show! Alice Cooper Live at the AVO
Thanks for the tunes, Alice! Happy 70, and may you keep rocking on!!
© Copyright 2018 Robert Wilkinson
ps - On a personal note, a big Happy also goes out to Mikal Gohring, my Spiritual Brother of over 40 years doing his service for the world. May you have many more, my Brother!!