Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier; February 4, 1948) is an American rock singer, songwriter and musician whose career spans more than four decades. With a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors and baby dolls, Cooper has drawn equally from horror movies, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a grandly theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock.
Alice Cooper was originally a band consisting of Furnier on vocals and harmonica, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and drummer Neal Smith. The original Alice Cooper band broke into the international music mainstream with the 1971 hit "I'm Eighteen" from the album Love it to Death, which was followed by the even bigger single "School's Out" in 1972. The band reached their commercial peak with the 1973 album Billion Dollar Babies.
Furnier's solo career as Alice Cooper, adopting the band's name as his own name, began with the 1975 concept album Welcome to My Nightmare. In 2008 he released Along Came a Spider, his 18th solo album. Expanding from his original Detroit rock roots, over the years Cooper has experimented with many different musical styles, including conceptual rock, art rock, hard rock, new wave, pop rock, experimental rock and industrial rock. In recent times he has returned more to his garage rock roots.
Alice Cooper is known for his social and witty persona offstage, The Rolling Stone Album Guide going so far as to refer to him as the world's most "beloved heavy metal entertainer". He helped to shape the sound and look of heavy metal, and is seen as being the person who "first introduced horror imagery to rock'n'roll, and whose stagecraft and showmanship have permanently transformed the genre". Away from music, Cooper is a film actor, a golfing celebrity, a restaurateur and, since 2004, a popular radio DJ with his classic rock show Nights with Alice Cooper.
On VH1's "100 Greatest artists of Hard Rock", Cooper was ranked #20..
Childhood and early life
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Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ella Mae (n?Še McCart) and Ether Moroni Furnier. He was named after one of his uncles and the writer Damon Runyon. While in Detroit, Furnier attended Nankin Mills Middle School, which is now Lutheran High School Westland. His grandfather, Thurman Sylvester Furnier, was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ based in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Vincent Furnier's father was an Elder in The Church of Jesus Christ. Furnier has some distant French Huguenot ancestry; the remainder of his ancestry is English and Scottish. The young Vincent was very active in the Church of Jesus Christ at the ages of 11 and 12.
After a series of childhood illnesses, Furnier and his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. After Washington Elementary School, Furnier attended Cortez High School in northern Phoenix. He was also a member of the Order of DeMolay.
In 1964, at the age of 16, Furnier was eager to take part in the local annual Letterman's talent show and gathered fellow cross-country teammates from the school to form a group for the show. They named themselves The Earwigs, and since they didn't know how to play any instruments at the time, they dressed up like The Beatles and mimed their performance to Beatles songs. As a result of winning the talent show and loving the experience of being onstage, the group immediately proceeded to learn how to play instruments they acquired from a local pawn shop and soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals and harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, John Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and John Speer on drums. Musically, the group were inspired by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider's web as their backdrop, the group's first stage prop. In 1965, they also recorded their first single "Why Don't You Love Me" (originally performed by The Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for the song.
In 1966, the members of The Spiders graduated from Cortez High School. After North High School footballer Michael Bruce replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band scored a local #1 radio hit with "Don't Blow Your Mind", an original composition from their second single release. By 1967, the band had begun to make regular roadtrips to Los Angeles, California to play shows. They soon renamed themselves The Nazz and released the single "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now", backed with future Alice Cooper track "Lay Down And Die, Goodbye". It was around this time that drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith, and by the end of the year the band had relocated to Los Angeles permanently.
In 1968, upon learning that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, the band were again in need of another stage name. Furnier recognized that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage. He subsequently chose Alice Cooper as the band's name and adopted this stage name as his own.
Early press releases claimed that the name was agreed upon after a session with a Ouija board, during which it was revealed that Furnier was the reincarnation of a 17th century witch named Alice Cooper. However, it is now widely accepted that this story was in fact a publicity stunt???Cooper in later interviews confirmed that the name actually came out of thin air, conjuring an image of "a cute and sweet little girl with a hatchet behind her back". (The name was also once said to be an inside joke associated with a character in the television show Mayberry R.F.D.; Alice Cooper is also the name of Betty Cooper's mother in the Archie comic strips).
In later interviews, Cooper admitted that "Alice Cooper" was only intended to be the name of the band, as Cooper himself used his birth name (Vincent Furnier) during the band's early days. However, as the band played more shows, numerous fans were coming up to Cooper and saying, "Hey, Alice!" Cooper was unaware that the fans were addressing him, and was taken aback by the notion that the fans were mistaking the band's name for his own.
Nonetheless, at the time Cooper and the band realized that the concept of a male playing the role of an androgynous witch, in tattered women's clothing and wearing make-up, would definitely have the potential to cause considerable social controversy and grab headlines. Furnier would later admit that the name change was one of his most important and brilliant career moves.
The classic Alice Cooper group line-up consisted of singer Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier), lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith. With the exception of Smith, who graduated from Camelback High School (which is referred to in the song "Alma Mater" on the School's Out album), all of the band members were on the Cortez High School cross-country team, and many of Alice Cooper's stage 'effects' were inspired by their cross-country coach, Emmett Smith (one of Smith's class projects was to build a working guillotine for slicing watermelons). Cooper, Buxton and Dunaway were also art students, and their admiration for the works of surrealist artists such as Salvador Dal? would further inspire their future stage antics.
One night, after an unsuccessful gig at a club in Venice, California called The Cheetah, where the band emptied the entire room of patrons after playing just ten minutes, they were approached and enlisted by music manager Shep Gordon, who ironically saw the band's seemingly negative impact that night as a force that could be directed in a more positive direction. Shep then managed to arrange an audition for the band with composer and renowned record producer Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. For the audition, Zappa told them to come to his house "at 7 o'clock", however, the band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o'clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of psychedelic rock at seven in the morning (a time unbeknownst to most in the rock music world) impressed Zappa enough to sign them on a three-album deal. It was another Zappa signed act, the all-female GTOs, who liked to "dress the Cooper boys up like full size barbie dolls", that played a major role in developing the band's early onstage look. Alice Cooper's first album Pretties for You was released in 1969 and, though it touched the US charts for one week at #193, ultimately met with critical and commercial failure.
After an unrehearsed stage routine involving Cooper and a live chicken garnered attention from the press, the band decided to capitalize on tabloid sensationalism, creating in the process a new subgenre, shock rock. Cooper claims that the infamous 'Chicken Incident', which took place at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert in September 1969, was in fact an accident. A chicken somehow made its way on stage during Alice Cooper's performance; not having any experience around farm animals, Cooper presumed that, since the chicken had wings, it would be able to fly. He picked it up and threw it out over the crowd, expecting it to fly away; the bird instead plummeted into the first few rows of the crowd occupied by disabled people in wheelchairs, who reportedly proceeded to tear the animal to pieces.
The next day, the incident made the front page of many national newspapers, and Zappa phoned him to ask if the story, which reported that Cooper had bit the head off the chicken and drunk its blood on stage, was true. Cooper denied the rumor, whereupon Zappa told him, "Well, whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it", obviously recognising that such kind of publicity would be priceless for the band.
Despite the publicity the band received from the Chicken Incident, their stronger second album, Easy Action, released in 1970, met with the same fate as its predecessor. Music label Warner Bros. Records then purchased Straight Records from Frank Zappa, and the Alice Cooper group was set to receive a higher level of promotion from the more major label. It was around this time that the band, fed up with Californians' indifference to their act, relocated to Cooper's birthplace, Detroit, where their bizarre stage act was much better received. Detroit would remain their steady home base until 1972. "LA just didn???t get it. They were all on the wrong drug for us. They were on acid and we were basically drinking beer. We fit much more in Detroit than we did anywhere else..."
In 1970, after two failed albums, the Alice Cooper group was teamed up with fledgling producer Bob Ezrin for their third album, the last in their contract with Straight Records, and the band's last chance to create a hit. That hit soon came with the single "I'm Eighteen", released in November 1970, which reached number 21 in the Billboard Hot 100. The album that followed, Love it to Death, released in February 1971, proved to be their breakthrough record, reaching number 35 in the US Billboard 200 album charts. It would be the first of eleven Alice Cooper group and solo albums produced by Ezrin, who is widely seen as being instrumental in helping to create and develop the band's definitive sound. The band's trailblazing mix of glam and increasingly violent stage theatrics stood out in stark contrast to the bearded, denim-clad hippie bands of the time. As Cooper himself has stated: "We were into fun, sex, death and money when everybody was into peace and love. We wanted to see what was next. It turned out we were next, and we drove a stake through the heart of the Love Generation".
Sporting tight sequined costumes by the prominent rock fashion designer Cindy Dunaway (sister to band member Neal, and wife to band member Dennis) and stage shows that involved mock fights and Gothic torture modes being imposed on Cooper, the androgynous stage role now presented a villainous side which posed a potential threat to modern society. With Cooper needing to be punished for his immoral ways, the first of a number of methods of execution were incorporated into the show: the Electric Chair.
The success of the band's single, the album, and their tour of 1971, which saw their first and hugely successful tour of Europe (audience members reportedly included Elton John and David Bowie), provided enough encouragement for Warner Bros. to offer the band a new multi-album contract.
Their follow-up album Killer, released in late 1971, continued the commercial success of Love It To Death and included further single success with "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover" in early 1972, and "Halo Of Flies", which became a Top 10 hit in the Netherlands. Thematically, Killer expanded on the villainous side of Cooper's androgynous stage role, with its music becoming the soundtrack to the group's morality-based stage show, which by then featured a boa constrictor hugging Cooper onstage and the murderous axe chopping of bloodied dead baby dolls. In addition, the method of execution had developed into death by hanging: The Gallows. By mid-1972, the Alice Cooper show had become infamous, but what the band really needed was a big hit single.
That summer saw the release of the appropriately titled single "School's Out". It went Top 10 in the US, was a #1 single in the UK, and remains a staple on classic rock radio to this day. School's Out the album reached #2 on the US charts and sold over a million copies. The band now relocated to their new mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. With Cooper's on-stage androgynous persona completely replaced with brattiness and machismo, the band's traveling carnival of filth and terror cemented their success with subsequent tours in the US and Europe, and won over devoted fans in droves while at the same time horrifying parents and outraging the social establishment. In England, Mary Whitehouse, a well known campaigner for values of morality and decency, succeeded in having the BBC 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. However, this seemed to have little effect on the band's popularity, as they were selected to be the first band to appear on the television series ABC In Concert in September 1972, and in February 1973 Billion Dollar Babies appeared, which was the band's most commercially successful album. It reached #1 in both the US and UK, and is also viewed by many critics as representing the band's creative peak. "Elected", a 1972 Top 10 UK hit from the album, which inspired one of the first MTV-style story-line promo videos ever made for a song (three years before Queen's promotional video for "Bohemian Rhapsody"), was followed by two more UK Top 10 singles, "Hello Hooray" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy", the latter of which was the last UK single from the album; it reached #25 in the US. The title track, featuring guest vocals by Donovan, was also a US hit single. Due to Glen Buxton's health problems around this time, Mick Mashbir was added to the band (who also played, without credit, on Muscle of Love).
With a string of successful concept albums and several hit singles, the band continued their grueling schedule and toured the US once again. Continued attempts by politicians and pressure groups to ban their shocking act only served to fuel the myth of Alice Cooper further and generate even greater public interest. Their 1973 US tour broke box office records previously set by The Rolling Stones and raised rock theatrics to new heights; the multi-level stage show by then featured numerous special effects, including Billion Dollar Bills, decapitated baby dolls and mannequins, a dental psychosis scene complete with dancing teeth, and the ultimate execution prop and highlight of the show: the guillotine. The guillotine and other stage effects were designed for the band by magician James Randi, who appeared on stage during some of the shows as executioner. The Alice Cooper group had now reached its peak and it was among the most visible and successful acts in the industry. (Cooper's stage antics would influence a host of later bands, including, among others, Kiss, Blue ??yster Cult, GWAR, W.A.S.P. and, later, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie.) Beneath the surface, however, the repetitive schedule of recording and touring had begun to take its toll on the band, and Cooper, who was under the constant pressure of getting into character for that night's show, was consistently sighted nursing a can of beer.
Muscle of Love, released at the end of 1973, was to be the last studio album from the classic line-up, and marked Alice Cooper's last UK Top 20 single of the 1970s with "Teenage Lament '74". A theme song was recorded for the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, but a different song of the same name by Lulu was chosen instead. By 1974, the Muscle of Love album had not matched the top-charting success of its predecessor, and the band began to have constant disagreements. Cooper wanted to retain the theatrics in the show that had brought them so much attention, while the rest of the group thought they should be toned down so that they could concentrate more on the music which had given them credibility. Largely as a result of this difference of opinion, the band decided to take a much-needed hiatus.
During this time, Cooper relocated back to Los Angeles and started appearing regularly on TV shows such as Hollywood Squares, and Warner Bros. released the Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits compilation album which featured classic artwork and which performed better than Muscle of Love, reaching the US Top 10. However, the band's feature film Good To See You Again, Alice Cooper (mainly concert footage with a faint storyline and 'comedic' sketches woven throughout), released on a minor theatrical run mostly to drive-in theaters, saw little box office success.
As some of the Alice Cooper band's members had commenced recording solo albums Cooper decided to do the same himself, and 1975 saw the release of his first solo album Welcome To My Nightmare. Its success marked the final break with the original members of the band, with Cooper collaborating with their producer Bob Ezrin who recruited Lou Reed's backing band, including guitarist Dick Wagner to play on the album. Spearheaded by the US Top 20 hit "Only Women Bleed", a ballad, the album was released by Atlantic Records in March of that year and became a Top 10 hit for Cooper. It was a concept album, based on the nightmare of a child named Steven, featuring narration by classic horror movie film star Vincent Price (several years before he guested on Michael Jackson's "Thriller"), and serving as the soundtrack to Cooper's new stage show, which now included more theatrics than ever (including an eight foot tall furry Cyclops which Cooper decapitates and kills).
However, by this time alcohol was clearly affecting Cooper's performances. During the Welcome to My Nightmare tour in Vancouver, and only a few songs into the routine, Cooper tripped over a footlight, staggered a few paces, lost his bearings and plunged head first off the stage and onto the concrete floor of the Pacific Colosseum. Some fans, thinking it was all part of the act, reached through the barriers to pull at his blood-matted hair before bouncers could pull him away for help. He was taken to a local hospital, where medical staff stitched his head wound and provided him with a skullcap. Cooper returned to the venue a couple of hours later and tried to perform a couple of more songs, but within minutes he had to call it a night. The opening act, Suzi Quatro, had already left the building and the remainder of the concert was cancelled.
Accompanying the album and stage show was the TV special The Nightmare, starring Cooper and Vincent Price in person, which aired on US prime-time TV in April 1975. The Nightmare, the first rock music video album ever made (it was later released on home video in 1983 and gained a Grammy Awards nomination for Best Long Form Music Video), was regarded as another groundbreaking moment in rock history. Adding to all that, a concert film, also called Welcome to My Nightmare and filmed live at London's Wembley Arena in September 1975, was released to theaters in 1976. Though it failed at the box office, it later became a midnight movie favorite and a cult classic. Such was the immense success of this solo project that Cooper decided to continue alone as a solo artist, and the original band became officially defunct. It was also during this time that Cooper co-founded the legendary drinking club The Hollywood Vampires, which gave him yet another reason to indulge his continued ample appetite for alcohol.
Following the 1976 US #12 hit "I Never Cry", another ballad, two albums, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and Lace and Whiskey, and another ballad hit, the US #9 "You and Me", it became clear from his performances during his 1977 US tour that he was in dire need of help with his alcoholism (at his alcoholic peak it was rumoured that Cooper was consuming up to two cases of Budweiser and a bottle of whiskey a day). Following the tour, Cooper had himself hospitalized in a New York sanitarium for treatment, during which time the live album The Alice Cooper Show was released. His experience in the sanitarium was the inspiration for his 1978 semi-autobiographical album From The Inside, which Cooper co-wrote with Bernie Taupin. The release spawned another US Top 20 hit "How You Gonna See Me Now", which peaked at #12, and was yet another ballad, based on his fear of how his wife would react to him after his spell in hospital. The subsequent tour's stage show was based inside an asylum, and was filmed for Cooper's first home video release, The Strange Case of Alice Cooper, in 1979. Around this time, Cooper performed "Welcome To My Nightmare", "You and Me", and "School's Out" on The Muppet Show (episode # 3.7) on March 28, 1978 (he played one of the devil's henchmen trying to dupe Kermit the Frog and Gonzo into selling their souls). He also appeared in an against-type casting in the campy role of a piano playing, disco bellboy in Mae West's final film, Sextette. Cooper also led celebrities in raising money to remodel the famous Hollywood Sign in California. Cooper himself contributed over $27,000 to the project, buying an O in the sign in memory of friend and comedian Groucho Marx.
Cooper's albums from the beginning of the 1980s, Flush the Fashion, Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin, and DaDa, were not as commercially successful as his past releases, and Cooper has claimed that, suffering from acute alcoholic amnesia, he has no recollection of recording the latter two of these albums. Flush the Fashion, produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, had a thick, edgy New Wave musical sound that baffled even long-time fans, though it still yielded the US Top 40 hit "(We're All) Clones". The album Special Forces featured a more aggressive but consistent form of New Wave style, and included a new version of "Generation Landslide". The following album, Zipper Catches Skin was a more power pop-oriented recording, with lots of quirky high-energy guitar-driven songs. While those three albums engaged the experimental New Wave sound with energetic results, 1983 marked the return collaboration of producer Bob Ezrin and guitarist Dick Wagner with the haunting epic DaDa, the final album in his Warner Bros. contract.
In 1983, after the recording of DaDa, Cooper was re-hospitalized for alcoholism. In a deathly state of health, he relocated back to Phoenix, Arizona, in order to try and save his marriage from collapse and so that he could receive the support of family and friends. Cooper was finally clean and sober by the time DaDa and The Nightmare home video (of his 1975 TV Special) were released in the fall of that year; however, both releases performed below expectations. Even with The Nightmare scoring a nomination for 1984's Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video (he lost to Duran Duran), it wasn't enough for Warner Bros. to keep Cooper on their books, and in 1984 Alice Cooper became, for the first time in his career, a free agent.
After over a year on hiatus, during which time he spent being a full-time dad, perfecting his golf swing everyday on the course, and also finding time to star in the Spanish B-grade horror movie production Monster Dog, Cooper sought to pick up the pieces of his musical career, and in 1985 he met and began writing songs with guitarist Kane Roberts. Cooper was subsequently signed to MCA Records, and appeared as guest vocalist on Twisted Sister's song "Be Chrool To Your Scuel". A video was made for the song, featuring Cooper donning his black snake-eyes make-up for the first time since 1979, but any publicity it may have given to Cooper's return to the music scene was cut short as the video was promptly banned due to its graphically gory make-up (by Tom Savini) of the innumerable zombies in the video and their insatiable appetite for gorging on human flesh.
In 1986, Alice Cooper officially returned to the music industry with the album Constrictor. The album spawned the hits "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" (the theme song for the movie Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives; in the video of the song Cooper was given a cameo role as a deranged psychiatrist) and the fan favorite "Teenage Frankenstein". The Constrictor album was a catalyst for Cooper to make (for the first time since the 1982 Special Forces tour) a triumphant return to the road, on a tour appropriately entitled The Nightmare Returns. The Detroit leg of this tour, which took place at the end of October 1986 during Halloween, was captured on film as The Nightmare Returns, and is viewed by some as being the definitive Alice Cooper concert film. The concert, which received rave reviews in the rock music press, and which was also described as bringing "Cooper???s violent, twisted onstage fantasies to a new generation" sees a reborn and sober Cooper who is leaner, meaner, fitter and in imperious form, and demonstrating a complete mastery over the stage and his music, in a series of meticulously choreographed and flawlessly executed songs that span his career up to that point, and which feature his full repertoire of stunts, special effects, darkly black humour, horror and gore. The Constrictor album was followed by Raise Your Fist and Yell in 1987, which had an even rougher sound than its predecessor, as well the Cooper classic "Freedom". The subsequent tour of Raise Your Fist and Yell, which was heavily inspired by the slasher horror movies of the time such as the Friday the 13th series and Nightmare on Elm Street, served up a similar shocking spectacle as its predecessor, and courted the kind of controversy, especially in Europe, that recalled the public outrage caused by Cooper???s public performances in America in the early 70s. In Britain, the Labour member of parliament David Blunkett called for the show to be banned, saying "I'm horrified by his behaviour ??? it goes beyond the bounds of entertainment". The controversy spilled over into the German segment of the tour, with the German government actually succeeding in having some of the gorier segments of the performance removed. It was also during the London leg of the tour that Cooper met with a near fatal accident during the hanging execution sequence at the end of the show. Needless to say the attendant publicity served only to increase public interest and ensure that the tour was completely sold out.
Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell were recorded with lead guitarist Kane Roberts and bassist Kip Winger, both of whom would leave the band by the end of 1988 (although Kane Roberts played guitar on "Bed Of Nails" on 1989's album Trash). Roberts would continue as a solo artist while Kip Winger would go on to form Winger.
In 1987, Cooper made a brief appearance as a vagrant in the horror movie Prince of Darkness, directed by John Carpenter. His role had no lines and consisted of generally menacing the protagonists before eventually impaling one of them with a bicycle frame. Cooper also appeared at WrestleMania III, escorting wrestler Jake 'The Snake' Roberts to the ring. After the match was over, Cooper got involved and threw Jake's snake Damien at The Honky Tonk Man's manager Jimmy Hart. Jake considered the involvement of Cooper to be an honor, as he had idolized Cooper in his youth and was still a huge fan.
In 1988 Cooper's contract with MCA Records expired and he signed with Epic Records. Then, in 1989, his career finally experienced a real revival with the Desmond Child produced album Trash, which spawned a hit single "Poison", which reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the US, and a worldwide arena tour.
1991 saw the release of Cooper's 19th studio album Hey Stoopid, however, amidst the grunge rock explosion, it failed to have the same commercial impact as its predecessor, Trash, though several of rock music???s glitterati again guested on the record. The same year also saw the release of the video Alice Cooper: Prime Cuts which chronicled his entire career using in depth interviews with Cooper himself, Bob Ezrin, and Shep Gordon. One critic has noted how Prime Cuts demonstrates how Cooper had used (in contrast to similar artists who succeeded him) themes of satire and moralisation to such good effect throughout his career. It was in the Prime Cuts video that Bob Ezrin delivered his own summation of the Alice Cooper persona: "He is the psycho killer in all of us. He's the axe murderer, he's the spoiled child, he's the abuser, he's the abused; he's the perpratrator, he's the victim, he's the gun slinger, and he's the guy lying dead in the middle of the street".
By the early 1990s Cooper had become a genuine cultural icon, guesting on records by the most successful bands of the time, such as the Guns N' Roses album Use Your Illusion I, (on which he shared vocal duties with Axl on the track "The Garden"); making a brief appearance as the abusive stepfather of Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street film Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991); and making a famous cameo appearance in the 1992 comedy film Wayne's World, in which he and his band intellectually discuss (after a performance of the song "Feed My Frankenstein" from Hey Stoopid) the history of Milwaukee in surprising depth. In a now famous scene, the movie's main characters Wayne and Garth, on seeing Cooper, kneel and bow reverently before him while chanting "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"
Cooper released in 1994 The Last Temptation, his first concept album since DaDa, which dealt with issues of faith, temptation, alienation, and the frustrations of modern life, and which has been described as "a young man's struggle to see the truth through the distractions of the 'Sideshow' of the modern world". Concurrent with the release of The Last Temptation was a three-part comic book series written by Neil Gaiman, fleshing out the album's story. This was to be Cooper???s last album with Epic Records, and his last studio release for six years, though during this period the live album A Fistful of Alice was released, and in 1997 he lent his voice to the first track of Insane Clown Posse's The Great Milenko. In 1999, the four-disc box set The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper appeared, which contained an authorized biography of Cooper, Alcohol and Razor Blades, Poison and Needles: The Glorious Wretched Excess of Alice Cooper, All-American, written by longtime Creem magazine Canadian editor Jeffrey Morgan.
During his absence from the recording studio, Cooper toured extensively every year throughout the latter part of the 1990s, including, in 1996, through South America, which he had not visited since 1974. Also in 1996, Cooper sang the role of Herod on the London cast recording of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
The 2000s has seen a sustained period of activity from Cooper, in which, in the decade that he turned sixty, he has toured extensively and released (after a significant break) a steady stream of studio albums to favorable critical acclaim. During this period Cooper has also been recognized and awarded in various ways: he received a Rock Immortal award at the 2007 Scream Awards; was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003; he received (in May 2004) an honorary doctoral degree from Grand Canyon University; was given (in May 2006) the key to the city of Alice, North Dakota; he scooped the living legend award at the 2006 Classic Rock Roll of Honour event; he won the 2007 Mojo music magazine Hero Award; and fans have twice tried to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The lengthy break between studio albums ended in 2000 with Brutal Planet, which was a return to horror-lined heavy metal, with a vicious injection of industrial rock, and with subject matter thematically inspired by the brutality of the modern world, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, and also inspired by a number of news stories that had recently appeared on the news channel CNN. The album was produced by Bob Marlett, with longtime Cooper production collaborator Bob Ezrin returning as Executive Producer. The accompanying world tour, which included Cooper???s first concert in Russia, was a resounding success, introducing Alice Cooper to a new audience and producing the live home video, Brutally Live, in 2001. During one memorable episode in Brutally Live, Britney Spears (being played by Alice Cooper???s real life daughter, Calico), and representing "everything that my audience hates - the softening of rock and roll...the sweetness of it" is executed by Cooper.
Brutal Planet was succeeded by the sonically similar and widely acclaimed sequel Dragontown, which saw Bob Marlett back at the helm as Producer. The album has been described as leading the listener down "a nightmarish path into the mind of rock's original conceptual storyteller" and by Cooper himself as being "the worst town on Brutal Planet". Like The Last Temptation, both Brutal Planet and Dragontown are albums which explore Cooper's personal faith perspective (born again Christianity). It is commonly perceived in the music media that Dragontown forms the third chapter in a trilogy begun with The Last Temptation; however, Cooper has himself indicated that this is in fact not the case.
Cooper again adopted a leaner, cleaner sound for his critically acclaimed 2003 release The Eyes Of Alice Cooper. Recognizing that many contemporary bands were having great success with his former sounds and styles, Cooper worked with a somewhat younger group of road and studio musicians who were very familiar with his oeuvre of old. However, instead of rehashing the old sounds, they updated them, often with surprisingly effective results. The resulting Bare Bones tour adopted a less-orchestrated performance style that had fewer theatrical flourishes and a greater emphasis on musicality. The success of this tour helped support the growing recognition that the classic Cooper songs were exceptionally clever, tuneful, and unique.
Cooper's radio show, Nights with Alice Cooper, began airing on January 26, 2004 in several US cities. The program showcases classic rock, Cooper's personal stories about his life as a rock icon, and interviews with prominent rock artists. The show appears on nearly 100 stations in the US and Canada, and has also been sold all over the world.
A continuation of the songwriting approach adopted on The Eyes of Alice Cooper was again adopted by Cooper for his 24th studio album, Dirty Diamonds, released in 2005. Dirty Diamonds became Cooper's highest charting album since 1994's The Last Temptation. The Dirty Diamonds tour launched in America in August 2005 after several European concerts, including a performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 12. Cooper and his band, including Kiss drummer Eric Singer, were filmed for a DVD released as Alice Cooper: Live at Montreux 2005. One critic, in a review of the Montreux release, commented that Cooper was to be applauded for "still mining pretty much the same territory of teenage angst and rebellion" as he had done more than thirty years previously.
In December 2006, the original Alice Cooper band reunited to perform six classic Alice Cooper songs at Cooper's annual charity event in Phoenix, entitled "Christmas Pudding".
On July 1, 2007 Cooper performed a duet with Marilyn Manson at the B'Estival event in Bucharest, Romania. The performance represented a reconciliation between the two artists; Cooper had previously taken issue with Manson over his overtly anti-Christian onstage antics, which included tearing up bibles, and he had sarcastically made reference to the originality of Manson???s choosing a female name and dressing in women's clothing. Cooper and Manson have been the subject of an academic paper on the significance of adolescent antiheroes.
In January 2008 he was one of the guest singers on the new Avantasia album The Scarecrow, singing the 7th track, "The Toy Master".
In July 2008, after lengthy delays, Cooper released Along Came a Spider, his 25th studio album. It was Cooper's highest charting album since 1991's Hey Stoopid, reaching #53 in the US and #31 in the UK. The album, visiting similar territory explored in 1987's Raise Your Fist and Yell, deals with the nefarious antics of a deranged serial killer named "Spider" who is on a quest to use the limbs of his victims to create a human spider. The album generally received positive reviews from music critics, though Rolling Stone magazine opined that the music on the record sorely missed Bob Ezrin's production values.
Influences and fans
During an interview for the programme Entertainment USA in 1986, Cooper stunned interviewer Jonathan King by stating that The Yardbirds were his favorite band of all time. Perhaps King should not have been so taken aback, as Cooper had as far back as 1969 gone on record as saying that it was music from the mid-sixties, and particularly from British bands The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, as well as The Yardbirds, that had had the greatest influence on him. Cooper would later pay homage to The Who by appearing in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who in 1994 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and performing a cover of "My Generation" on the Brutal Planet tour of 2000.
During an interview that Cooper himself conducted with Ozzy Osbourne on his radio show Nights with Alice Cooper in 2007, Cooper again affirmed his debt of gratitude to these bands, and to The Beatles in particular. During their discussion, Cooper and Osbourne bemoaned the often inferior quality of songwriting coming from contemporary rock artists. Cooper said that in his opinion the cause of the problem was that certain modern bands "had forgotten to listen to The Beatles".
On the 25th Anniversary DVD of Cabaret, Liza Minelli stated that her good friend, Alice Cooper, had told her that his whole career was based on the movie Cabaret.
Evidence of Cooper's eclectic tastes in both classic and contemporary rock music, from the 1960s to the present, can be seen in the track listings of his radio show; in addition, when Cooper appeared on the BBC Radio 2 programme "Tracks of My Years" in September 2007, he cited his favourite tracks of all time as being the following: "19th Nervous Breakdown" (1966) by The Rolling Stones, "Turning Japanese" (1980) by The Vapors, "My Sharona" (1979) by The Knack, "Beds Are Burning" (1987) by Midnight Oil, "My Generation" (1965) by The Who, "Welcome To The Jungle" (1987) by Guns N' Roses, "Rebel Rebel" (1974) by David Bowie, "Over Under Sideways Down" (1966) by The Yardbirds, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" (2003) by Jet and "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) by The Beatles.
In a 1978 interview with Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan stated, "I think Alice Cooper is an overlooked songwriter".
In the foreword to Alice Cooper's CD retrospective box set The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper, John Lydon of The Sex Pistols pronounced Killer as the greatest rock album of all time, and in 2002 Lydon presented his own tribute programme to Cooper on BBC radio.
The Flaming Lips are longtime Alice Cooper fans and used the bass line from "Levity Ball" (an early song from the 1969 release Pretties for You) for their song "The Ceiling Is Bending". They also covered "Sun Arise" for an Alice Cooper tribute album. (Cooper's version, which closes the album Love It To Death, was itself a cover of a Rolf Harris song.)
In 1999 Cleopatra Records released Humanary Stew: A Tribute to Alice Cooper featuring a number of contributions from rock and metal all-star collaborations, including Dave Mustaine, Roger Daltrey, Ronnie James Dio, Slash, Bruce Dickinson, and Steve Jones. The album was notable for the fact that it was possible to assemble a different supergroup for each cover version on the record, which gave an indication of the depth of esteem in which Cooper is held by other eminent musicians within the music industry.
Heavy metal rocker Jon Mikl Thor, also known as Thor, stated in an interview that Alice Cooper was his idol and hero.
A song by alternative rock group They Might Be Giants from their 1994 album John Henry entitled "Why Must I Be Sad?" mentions 13 Cooper songs, and has been described as being "from the perspective of a kid who hears all of his unspoken sadness given voice in the music of Alice Cooper; Alice says everything the kid has been wishing he could say about his alienated, frustrated, teenage world".
Non-musician fans of Cooper's have included Groucho Marx and Mae West, who both saw the early shows as a form of vaudeville revue, and artist Salvador Dal?, who on attending a show in 1973 described it as being surreal, and made a hologram entitled First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain.
In the period when the Alice Cooper group was signed to Frank Zappa's Straight label, Miss Christine of the GTOs became Cooper's girlfriend. Miss Christine (real name: Christine Frka), who had actually recommended Zappa to the group, died on November 5, 1972 of an overdose. Another long-time girlfriend of Cooper's was Cindy Lang, with whom he lived for several years. They separated in 1975. Lang sued Cooper for palimony, and they eventually settled out of court in the early 1980s. After his separation from Lang, Cooper was briefly linked with sex symbol/actress Raquel Welch. Cooper then reportedly left Welch, however, to marry, on March 20 1976, ballerina instructor/choreographer Sheryl Goddard, who performed in the Alice Cooper show from 1975 to 1982. In November 1983, at the height of Cooper???s alcoholism, Sheryl filed for divorce, but by mid-1984, she and Cooper had reconciled, and the couple have remained together ever since. In a 2002 television interview, Cooper claimed that he had "never cheated" on his wife in all the time they had been together. In the same interview, he also claimed that the secret to a lasting and successful relationship is to continue going out on dates with your partner. The couple have three children: eldest daughter Calico Cooper (born 1981) is an actress and singer and has been performing in the Alice Cooper show since 2000; son Dash (born 1985) is an ASU student and plays in a band called Runaway Phoenix; and youngest daughter Sonora Rose was born in 1993.
Cooper, a huge fan of The Simpsons, was asked to contribute a storyline for the September 2004 edition of Bongo Comics's Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror, a special Monsters of Rock issue that also included stories plotted by Gene Simmons, Rob Zombie and Pat Boone. Cooper's story featured Homer Simpson being a Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th style killer and Alice and the citizens of Springfield are being stalked by Homer.
On June 20, 2005, ahead of his June???July 2005 tour, Cooper had a wide-ranging interview with interviewer of celebrities Andrew Denton for the Australian ABC Television's Enough Rope. Cooper discussed various issues during a revealing and frank talk, including the horrors of acute alcoholism and his subsequent cure, being a Christian, and his social and work relationship with his family. During the interview, Cooper remarked "I look at Mick Jagger and he's on an 18-month tour and he's six years older than me, so I figure, when he retires, I have six more years. I will not let him beat me when it comes to longevity".
In 1986, Megadeth were asked to open for Alice Cooper for dates on his US tour. After noticing the hardcore drug and alcohol abuse in the band, Cooper personally approached them to try to help them control their demons, and he has stayed close to front man Dave Mustaine ever since; Mustaine in fact considers him his "Godfather". Since conquering his own addiction to alcohol in the mid 1980s, Cooper has continued to help and counsel other rock musicians battling addiction problems, who often turn to him for help. "I've made myself very available to friends of mine - they're people who would call me late at night and say, 'Between you and me, I've got a problem.'" In recognition of the work he has done in helping other addicts in the recovery process, Cooper received in 2008 the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the fourth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert in Los Angeles.
In early 2009 Cooper appeared in adverts to publicise the insurance company Norwich Union's change of name to Aviva, quoting his own change of name.
The actual ownership of the Alice Cooper name is often cited by intellectual property lawyers and law professors as an example of the value of a single copyright or trademark. Since "Alice Cooper" was originally the name of the band, and not the lead singer (e.g. Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, etc.), and it was actually owned by the band as whole, Cooper paid, and continues to pay, a yearly royalty to his original bandmates for the right to use the name commercially. Although the exact amount is not known, insiders agree that it is a significant enough sum for the other band members to live comfortably on.
Religion and politics
Although he originally tended to shy away from speaking publicly about his religious beliefs, Cooper has in recent years been quite vocal about his faith as a born-again Christian. He has avoided so called "celebrity Christianity" because, as Cooper states himself: "It's really easy to focus on Alice Cooper and not on Christ. I'm a rock singer. I'm nothing more than that. I'm not a philosopher. I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians. So, don't look for answers from me".
When asked by the British Sunday Times newspaper in 2001 how a shock-rocker could be a Christian, Cooper is credited with providing this response "Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's real rebellion!"
Throughout his career Cooper's philosophy regarding politics is that it should not be mixed with rock music, and he has consistently kept his political views to himself, sometimes even speaking out against musicians who promote or opine on politics. Things took a slightly dramatic turn, however, in the run up to the U.S. presidential election, 2004, when he declared that the then crop of rock stars campaigning for and touring on behalf of Democratic candidate John Kerry were "treasonous morons". This outburst caused a certain amount of controversy, and led to Cooper releasing an official statement, clarifying and reiterating that the "treason" concerned in the above label was not against the state but against the ethos of rock itself.
In a 2008 interview Cooper described Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as "a breath of fresh air", but that he also flitted between being a supporter of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Love of golf
Cooper has on several occasions credited golf as having played a major role in helping him to overcome his addiction to alcohol, and has even gone as far to say that when he took up golf, it was a case of replacing one addiction with another. The importance that the game has had in his life is also reflected in the title to his 2007 autobiography: Alice Cooper, Golf Monster. Cooper, who has participated in a number of Pro-Am competitions, plays the game six days a week, and plays off a handicap of either three or four. Since 1997, he has hosted an annual golf competition, the Alice Cooper Celebrity AM Golf Tournament, all proceeds from which go to his charity, the Solid Rock Foundation. Cooper has also appeared in commercials for Callaway Golf equipment, was a guest of veteran British player and broadcaster Peter Alliss on the programme A Golfer's Travels, and he wrote the foreword to the Gary McCord book, Golf for Dummies. In August 2006, Cooper took part in an annual celebrity golf version of the Ryder Cup called the All*Star Cup in South Wales. He won his match on the first day, but lost his match on day two. The competition was shown live on UK television, and commentators made numerous references to Cooper being the best player, and to the fact that he played the game six days a week back home in Arizona. In an interview with VH1, friend and fellow golfer Pat Boone said that Cooper was "'this close to being a pro".