Alice Cooper

Originally, there was an entire band called Alice Cooper led by a singer named Vincent Damon Furnier. Under his direction, Alice Cooper pioneered a grandly theatrical and violent brand of Heavy Metal that was designed to shock. Drawing equally from horror movies, vaudeville, as well as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and The Stooges, the group created a stage show that featured electric chairs, guillotines, fake blood, and huge boa constrictors, all co-ordinated by the heavily made-up Furnier. Furnier would go on to adopt the band's name for his androgynous on stage personality. While the visuals were extremely important to the group's impact, the band's music was nearly as distinctive. Driven by raw, simple riffs and melodies that derived from '60s guitar Pop as well as showtunes, it was Rock 'n' Roll at its most basic and catchy, even when the band ventured into Psychedelic and Art Rock. After the original group broke up and Furnier began a solo career as Alice Cooper, his actual music lost most of its theatrical flourishes, becoming straightforward Heavy Metal, yet his stage show retained all of the trademark props that made him the king of Shock Rock.

Furnier formed his first group, The Earwigs, as an Arizona teenager in the early '60s. Changing the band's name to The Spiders in 1965, the group was eventually called The Nazz (not to be confused with Todd Rundgren's band of the same name). The Spiders and The Nazz both released local singles that were moderately popular. After discovering there was another band called The Nazz in 1968, the group changed its name to Alice Cooper. Although it has been rumored for years that the band took its name after consulting a Ouija board, vocalist Vincent Furnier said in an interview with the VH1 TV series Behind The Music "I remember we were sitting around talking about band names. I was eating Doritos and just said the first name that came to mind. Which was Alice Cooper." Comprised of vocalist Furnier, guitarist Mike Bruce, guitarist Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith, the group moved to California in 1968. In California they met Frank Zappa and his manager, Shep Gordon, who signed Alice Cooper to their new label, Straight Records.

Alice Cooper released their first album, "Pretties for You" in 1969. "Easy Action" followed early in 1970, yet it failed to chart. The group's reputation in Los Angeles was slowly shrinking, so the band moved to Furnier's hometown of Detroit. For the next year the group refined their bizarre stage show. Late in 1970, the group signed with Warner Brothers and began recording their third album with producer Bob Ezrin. With Ezrin's assistance, Alice Cooper developed their classic Heavy Metal crunch on 1971's "Love It to Death", which featured the number 21 hit single "Eighteen". The album peaked at number 35 and went Gold. The success enabled the group to develop a more impressive, elaborate live show which made them highly popular concert attractions across the U.S. and eventually the U.K. "Killer", released late in 1971, was another Gold album. Released in the summer of 1972, "School's Out" was Alice Cooper's breakthrough record, peaking at number two and selling over a million copies. The title song became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and a number one single in the U.K. "Billion Dollar Babies", released the following year, was the group's biggest hit, reaching number one in both America and Britain. The album's first single, "No More Mr. Nice Guy", became a Top Ten hit in Britain, peaking at number 25 in the U.S. "Muscle of Love" appeared late in 1973, yet it failed to capitalize on the success of "Billion Dollar Babies". After "Muscle of Love", Furnier fired the rest of Alice Cooper, retaining the name for a solo career. The rest of the band released one unsuccessful album under the name Billion Dollar Babies. In the Fall of 1974, a compilation of Alice Cooper's five Warner albums, entitled "Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits", cracked Billboard's Top Ten.

For his first solo album, Cooper hired Lou Reed's backing band from Rock 'N' Roll Animal, guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, bassist Prakash John, keyboardist Joseph Chrowski, and drummer Penti Glan, as his supporting group. "Welcome to My Nightmare", Alice Cooper's first solo album, was released in the Spring of 1975. The record wasn't a great departure from his previous work and it became a Top Ten smash in America, launching the U.S. #12 hit, "Only Women". Its follow-up, 1976's "Alice Cooper Goes Tto Hell", was another success, going Gold in the U.S. After "Alice Cooper Goes to Hell", Cooper's career began to slip, partially due to changing trends and partially due to some personal problems. He entered drug rehabilitation in 1978, writing an album called "From the Inside" (1978) about his treatment, with Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist. During the early '80s, Cooper continued to release albums and tour, yet he was no longer as popular as he was during his early '70s heyday.

He made a successful comeback in the late '80s, sparked by his appearances in horror films and a series of Pop/Metal bands that paid musical homage to his classic early records and concerts. "Constrictor", released in 1986, began his comeback, but it was 1989's "Trash" that returned Cooper to the spotlight. Produced by the proven hit maker Desmond Child, "Trash" featured guest appearances by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and most of Aerosmith. The record became a Top Ten hit in Britain and peaked at number 20 in the U.S., going Platinum. "Poison", a ballad featured on the album, became Coopers first Top Ten hit since 1977 when it peaked at #7 in the Fall of 1989. It would also prove to be his final Billboard Top 40 appearance.

The Coop also made many a movie and television appearance alongside such stars as Helen Hayes, Mae West, and Gene Wilder, among others, including, most notably, Wayne's World, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, Roadie, John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness and Something Wilder. His Guardian Records release, "A Fistful Of Alice", was a paint-blistering live album recorded in Mexico that features special guests Slash, Rob Zombie, and Sammy Hagar, and is guaranteed to break leases and shatter noise by-laws every time it's cranked up to full volume. Also issued was Prime Cuts: The Alice Cooper Story, a 90 minute home video shockumentary of Alice's career. This was followed in 1999 by the long-awaited release of the definitive multi-CD box set, "The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper", an authoritative and comprehensive chronicle of Alice's entire musical history.

As he continued to tour into the new millenium, Alice Cooper was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland in the Spring of 2011. "The real honor is that you're nominated and voted in by your peers, not the general public," said Alice. "Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and Jeff Beck get a ballot. So if you get voted in, it's by your teachers. We learned every Beatles song growing up, we learned every Stones song, we learned every Kinks, Yardbirds and Who song. Those guys were like our professors." Cooper was also involved in the design of a haunted maze titled Alice Cooper's Welcome to my Nightmare featured at Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights event in 2011.

In July, 2013, the now 65-year-old musician announced that he was working on an early-to-mid '70s Rock covers album, tentatively called "Raise the Dead". The LP pays tribute to his former drinking pals, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Mickey Dolenz, Bernie Taupin and others. The album was released in the Fall of 2014. Alice had a heavy tour schedule for 2015 with stops slated for New Zealand, Australia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden before returning to the U.S. for over thirty shows. In September, Cooper announced that he had signed on to narrate Peter And The Wolf In Hollywood, an updated version of the classic children's tale for a New York based production company called Giants Are Small. In October, the original members of Alice Cooper, comprised of Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce were joined by Vincent Furnier for a surprise, seven-song show after a Dunaway book signing in Dallas. Furnier was in town a day early for his show opening for Motley Crue.

In January, 2016, Vincent announced plans for his Spend the Night With Alice Cooper tour which consisted of fourteen North American dates. He was also slated to appear in London at the O2 for two performances in June. He was back in the news again in mid-August when, with tongue firmly in cheek, he announced that he was running for President Of The United States. He told CNN that his campaign slogan is "I can do nothing as well as they can do nothing," referencing current Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, adding that his platform is "nonexistent." In early December of that same year, Vincent revealed that he was working on demo tapes with original band members bassist Dennis Dunaway, guitarist Michael Bruce and drummer Neal Smith in preparation for a possible new album.

For 2017, the band was still heavily booked for appearances across the United States and Europe. In mid-May, Vincent announced that a new album called "Paranormal" was slated for release on July 28th. The twelve track collection features contributions from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Deep Purple's Roger Glover, and U2's Larry Mullen Jr. Just before that happened, Furnier was back in the news when The Guardian reported that he had discovered an Andy Warhol silkscreen print that could be worth millions of dollars rolled up in a tube in a storage locker. He and Warhol became friends in the early seventies after the musician moved to New York City. The print, titled "Little Electric Chair", was part of Warhol's Death And Disaster series and had been laying around for over forty years alongside Cooper's seventies-era electric chair stage prop. In mid-October Vincent announced a new string of shows slated to run through the end of March, 2018. Following that, he was scheduled to portray King Herod in the made-for-TV production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar which will air on NBC on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018. A tour in support of "Paranormal" was slated to kick off August 3rd at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin and wrap September 7th at the York Fair in York, Pennsylvania. A double disc, 'live' album called "A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris" was slated for release on August 31.

For more, be sure to read Gary James' interviews with Alice Cooper band members
drummer Neal Smith
guitarist Michael Bruce
bassist Dennis Dunaway