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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alice Cooper: Where Have I Been All These Years? Part I

I have recently, after all of these years, discovered Alice Cooper. It's not like I wasn't aware of the man and his band. I remember buying his best record, 1971's Killer, on vinyl when I was 8 years old. I even replaced that record with a cassette version when I was a teenager. Of course I was familiar with his hits, but I can't explain why I never delved deeper in to his vast and varied catalog. I feel like I lost cherished time with one that I love, time that I will never get back. Alice Cooper, the band, has to be divided and dissected in chapters, because they took many stylistic turns, and all of those era's have positive aspects.

The band was formed in 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. The classic lineup with Vincent Furnier(Alice) on vocals, Dennis Dunaway on bass, Glenn Buxton and Michael Bruce on guitar, and Neil Smith on drums, pushed the boundaries from the onset. They were discovered by the late Frank Zappa, who found their mix of androgyny and humorous lyrics very appealing. He signed them to his own record label, and got them gigging around California, where they started to perfect their original brand of shock-rock immediately. After two records on Zappa's label(Pretties For You & Easy Action), they were signed by Warner Brothers Records. Originally Alice Cooper was the name of the band, and the man still went by his god-given name. Fans immediately took to calling Vincent Alice, and he realized the advantages to creating this sick, shocking character.

Their first record for WB was Love It To Death(1970), and spawned the huge hit, I'm Eighteen, and the band was all over the airwaves. To speak honestly, that track does capture the feeling of teen angst better than any I can recall. Killer,followed the next year, and is the bands best record, in my opinion. In eight tracks they capture so many feelings(straight ahead rock, trippy psychedelic songs, anti child-abuse songs), and is one of the most atmospheric records of that time period. School's Out followed in 1972 and the title track was a huge hit as well. The band was already a headliner and selling out the biggest stadiums in the world, but alcohol and ego problems were causing inner turmoil. The other band members were growing tired of Alice being the focal point of the band, and the growing theatrics in the show. 1973 brought the release of Billion Dollar Babies, the record and the tour were the biggest things the band had done to date. The tour was choreographed by Broadway names, and the stage show was so big, it couldn't even fit into some arenas. Parents around the world loathed Alice, and they gave them all the ammunition in the world to hate them with. Alice beheaded people, stabbed babies, raped nuns, you name it, he did it, and the kids ate it up like it was free candy. The tour went on for almost 3 years, and the band was in turmoil upon its completion. The other members wanted to go and record solo albums, to garner their own recognition.

Near the end of 1973, the band pulled it together, and recorded Muscle Of Love, their last record as The Alice Cooper Band. The tour did well, but Glenn Buxton's health was so bad they hired ghost players to fill in for him. At the end of the tour it was decided that the band would take a much needed break. After the vacation they were to recovene and record their best record yet. Instead, they never got back together, and Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and became a solo artist. In the next installment, we will discuss that period and Alice's new wave/art rock period, which I find to be the most apealling and intriguing.

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