background
David Bowie

In a book written by one of Bowie's former managers, he says that Bowie, during the early 70s, was closely watching Alice's career and that Bowie was insanely jealous of Alice because Alice was so much more popular. At that time, Bowie saw Alice as his main competition and his former manager claimed that Bowie made the public claim to be gay (he now denies that he is) because he wanted to out-shock Alice. He goes on to say, that Bowie told Alice "to become a tv star", totally out of jealousy and to try to get rid of the competition
(Susie, September 1995)


DAVID BOWIE (About Glam Rock) [taken from "Popular 1" mag, Mar. 1994, the year 'The Last Temptation' had reached #4 in the UK album charts]:

"The Glam Rock era was splendid, It was about using the imagination when making music and putting it into a show or on stage. Everybody wanted to do something to stand out in anyway. Then there were a whole group of musicians -or pretending to be musicians-with that outrageous look; some of them were great like Marc Bolan & T.Rex or Brian Ferry and Roxy Music, and even Lou Reed when he recorded "Transformer". But there were others who were real "bluffs" and no-one seems to remember them, though they tried to be rock stars by all possible means, doing any extravangaza. Do you remember that guy, err... what was his name? Elizabeth Cooper, maybe? Well, it doesn't matter. The question is that nobody remembers or knows who is he."

ALICE COOPER (About David Bowie) [taken from "Popular 1", Aug. 1994; The Interviewer told Alice about Bowie's words]:

"Well, I don't know why David said that about me. There's somethin wrong here. Publicity, or a joke, maybe. We're friends since many years ago. Both of us had the same problems with our shows, our music, and even the abuse of alcohol and drugs. I knew him since he went to our shows, when he was just an average boy and wore jeans and shirts, before he put make up on his face and had the hair dyed red. I seem to remember him sat there, looking over us with his eyes and mouth open wide when he was nobody".


Bowie is another matter, and it has always been my impression that Bowie was initially more influenced by the music scene in London in the '60s and that the "theatrics" he later did during the Ziggy Stardust, Aladin Sane and Diamond Dogs era wasn't much more than extravagent costumes which were a part of his own lifstyle and the influence of Angie rather than Alice.

Just because that's your impression, doesn't make it true. According to Bowie's former manager, Tony Zenyatta, and other well-informed sources, Bowie was closely watching Alice Cooper's career. Zenyatta even said that Bowie made the statement that he was gay because he realized that doing something shocking would get him the kind of attention that Alice Cooper was getting. Angie did convince Bowie to change his image from folk rocker to glitter rocker. That was because Bowie's career was going nowhere, and everyone was talking about the latest rock sensation, the Alice Cooper group.
In 1971, Alice was already the talk of th rock world, as the singer who wore spidery black eye makeup, had a woman's name, and even did such things on stage as use a strait jacket and electric chair. Bowie only became Ziggy in 1972.

I always felt that Bowie got recognition for the quality of his music, the profoundness of his lyrics (if you can ever decifer some of them) and his ambiguous sexual preferances. I would hesitate to say that there was a lot of AC influence

Alice was flirting with sexual ambiguity as early as 1969. One only needs to look at the 'Pretties For You' cover. And there's also the female name. Also, when Alice became really famous in 1971, he was originally known more for sexual ambiguity than horror. At this point, almost everyone thought Alice was gay. And, Alice wouldn't publicly admit that he was heterosexual until 1973, deliberatly leaving the public guessing. So Bowie claiming to be gay in 1972, wasn't really that revolutionary.

Especially considering that Bowie became a household name slightly before Alice.

Wrong . Wrong. Wrong. You're getting your history totally mixed up. Alice was a household name way before Bowie and this can be easily proven. Almost every major publication including Life, Time and Newsweek, as well as the rock publications including Rolling Stone, Circus, Creem, etc. can demonstrate that Alice was featured and written about, well before Bowie.
Furthermore, in 1972-73, Alice Cooper became the biggest rock concert attraction and was selling out arenas and stadiums. His 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour became the biggest grossing tour of all time, even out-grossing the previous record held by the Rolling Stones. Bowie, was playing hall-sized venues at this time. Even in Britain where he was much bigger than he was in the US, he was only playing the Hammersmith Odeon as late as 1973. (The Hammersmith is a theater-sized venue.) As early as 1972, Alice was playing the Wembley Arena in Britain. And, Bowie was only playing theaters in the US whereas Alice was selling out and setting records in arenas and stadiums in North America.

Despite his inactivity at the top of the charts, Bowie has retained a lot more popularity than Alice which is really down to the Marketing/record promotion which was never Alice's forte since going solo.

I don't disagree with you here. Bowie has handled his career better than Alice has since the mid-1970s. Bowie, for example, has been better at keeping his mystique and has manipulated the rock world better into thinking he's an artist. Alice spends too much time telling the world that he's just an act, thus diminishing the rock world's treatment of him.

Personally I like Alice's stuff better but it has to be said that Bowie will always be seen as a much more crucial figure in the history of Rock.

I don't know that Bowie is really considered more crucial. Alice is respected by other rock legends and his early 1970s albums/shows are considered to be brilliant by the vast majority of rock critics.
(Susie, January 1997)


This letter was sent by Renfield to the BBC after their documentory, 'Dancin' In The Streets', showed an unacceptable bias towards Bowie. It shows well the tendencies of the press to ignore Alice's part in history and the way Bowie is often mistakenly given credit he doesn't deserve. He never received a reply.

Dear Gentlemen,

 
I hope this finds you well. I hope you remember me as Alice Cooper's personal assistant from when I met some of you when Alice was interviewed for your documentary. I have been meaning to write to you ever since the Rock 'N Roll (aka 'Dancin' In The Streets' ) documentary first aired on PBS here in the States. I realize that the series is long finished but it recently re-ran here and I felt the need to contact you as I believe it is never too late to share information.

I'm sure you've had your fill of praises and criticism on the series. As we know, you can't please all the people... However, I must tell you how very disappointed and surprised I was by the content of the segment on "The Seventies". Actually, it might have been more appropriate if you had titled the segment, "David Bowie--He Started Everything". It was amazing how incredibly biased the show was towards Bowie (this seems to be a running theme with many British-based histories of rock.)

Granted, Bowie is a very important figure but the prejudiced and exaggerated slant taken towards him in your documentary was mindboggling and in some cases, simply factually incorrect. The most glaring and ludicrous of these factual inaccuracies was the contention that Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs' show was the first time that someone in rock 'n roll had used a "full stage set" and Broadway designers.

Quote from Rock 'N Roll : "The new ingredient that helped sell Bowie when he returned to America was his revolutionary use of a full stage set."

WRONG. What do you base this absurd claim on? Have you never heard of the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour??? The 'Billion Dollar Babies' show was the revolutionary production to use a full stage set in rock 'n roll. This is not my opinion. This is documented fact. For your information, the 'Billion Dollar Babies' tour was done in 1973 ('Diamond Dogs' was 1974/5) and sold-out arenas around the United States. It was designed and co-produced by a gentleman named Joe Gannon who was hired by the Alice Cooper organization solely due to his experience in Broadway show design.

If you doubt me, I can provide you with multitudes of documentation on the 'Billion Dollar Babies' show that describe the "full stage set" and production. Many periodicals and publications described the show at the time as a "Broadway extravaganza". Just because it wasn't performed in the United Kingdom, does not mean it never existed. I'm more than happy to provide you with photos as well. (I would have done this at the time your documentary was in development but I unfortunately was under the impression this was covered. I do know that you had the Alice Cooper video "Prime Cuts" which has such footage of Alice in 1973.)

I am curious as to what exactly you can inform me about 'Diamond Dogs' that would qualify it as preceding 'Billion Dollar Babies' as being "the first". Granted, perhaps 'Diamond Dogs' may have been a bit more extravagant when it was done but bear in mind that the Bowie designers had a full year to learn and develop it after Alice had already done the trailblazing and made rock'n roll history. 'Diamond Dogs' was by no means revolutionary in light of what Alice Cooper had already presented to the rock audience.

By the time Bowie did finally do a full stage production with 'Diamond Dogs', Alice had already moved on to his NEXT full stage production called 'Welcome To My Nightmare' (this was in 1975 and yet again another reason of why it is a complete falsehood that Bowie was first).

Alice's innovations and originality in being the forerunner of rock theatre were never brought up during your show. Why? The same old chicken story that most everyone has already heard was. Why? As notorious of a story as that may be; is that really the most significant aspect of Alice's contributions to the evolution of rock 'n roll to be highlighted in a rock'n roll history? Of course not. That would have been like reducing Bowie's career to the story of when Angie Bowie discovered David in bed with Mick Jagger. In contrast to the trivial chicken story, I found it interesting that many details about Bowie's career were covered extensively (from his folk roots to Warhol to RCA Records to Tony DeFries to songwriting to Ziggy to Mick Ronson to 'Diamond Dogs' to Berlin to recording methods, etc., etc.) while Alice's career was largely ignored and other significant artists of the genre were completely ignored (e.g.. Marc Bolan).

Not at issue, but for the record; the actual amount of time in the series devoted to Bowie is approximately 20 minutes compared to approximately 4 minutes and 30 seconds to cover Alice Cooper's role in history. I seem to recall that the interview that Alice gave at the Rainbow Bar in Hollywood was quite lengthy (well over an hour).

Perhaps the biggest slap in the face in Rock 'N Roll is the part after the inaccurate section on the 'Diamond Dogs'. The narrator reads, "(Alice Cooper) too had come to develop a bigger stage show." This is insult to injury. From the way that passage is worded and the way the documentary is structured, one is strongly led to believe that Alice Cooper only started to do bigger stage shows during and due to the advent of David Bowie. Never is it indicated that Alice Cooper had been doing stage shows all along and prior to Bowie. Alice is included almost as an afterthought. To the viewer, who I assume you are trying to educate, one would easily construe this to mean that Alice was basically riding on Bowie's coattails. You can't believe that to be the case, do you? Of course not. If you get the chance, go back and listen to that section of the show and see if it doesn't seemed terribly slanted towards the falsehood of Bowie doing rock theatre first.

In addition to the aforementioned 'Billion Dollar Babies' show, it is important to realize and remember that Alice Cooper had already pioneered rock theatre with the 'School's Out' show, the 'Killer' show and the 'Love It To Death' show; all of which were produced during 1970-1972. While these shows were not necessarily the full stage productions that Alice came to conceive in 1973, these various productions were the original theatre rock concerts that included such legendary Alice Cooper trademarks such as the electric chair, make-up, straight jacket, gallows, swords and baby dolls, outrageous costuming, gang fights, snakes, and blood along with themes of sex, death, resurrection, and money. Alice's legendary appearance at the Rainbow Theatre in the early 1970's was even attended by Mr. Bowie.

It's also silly that your documentary makes a point of David Bowie's androgynous image and how he claimed he was gay/bisexual in a Melody Maker interview. The narrator neglects to mention that this was in 1972. Alice Cooper had already turned the world of rock 'n roll upside-down with androgyny and taking it to its logical extreme long before that. The name "Alice Cooper" alone. Need I list all the other aspects of androgyny that Alice cavorted with between 1969 and 1972? Your documentary even shows a picture of Alice wearing woman's clothing but fails to point out that this photo was taken in 1969, long before anyone had ever heard of Bowie (as a matter of fact, he was still known as David JONES at the time) and before Bowie decided to follow in Alice's platform bootsteps.

Quote from Rock 'N Roll : "Bowie's meteoric success had spawned a whole new movement known as glam rock." Gentlemen, is it possible that Alice Cooper could have had the slightest hand in that spawning? He had already toured England (including a sold out performance at Wembley), appeared on The 'Old Grey Whistle Test' and 'Top Of The Pops', and had a #1 single there with "School's Out". According to the documentary though, it seems ALL eyes and ears were on David Bowie. Why would Bowie get all the credit?

During the interview filmed for Rock 'N Roll, David Bowie says, "At the time, one was borrowing heavily from the American influence, but of course, being coming filtered though this British system it came out more vaudeville, more Robert Smith, than... MC5." Interesting (and telling) that Bowie doesn't cite another legendary band from Detroit. Interesting also that Alice Cooper was being described as being "vaudeville rock" as early as 1971 by Newsweek and Life magazines. And Robert Smith??? What does he have to do with anything? No one had ever heard of that particular black eye make-up wearing singer until the 1980s. Talk about Bowie going out of his way not to mention a certain rock pioneer!!!

During the segment on Bowie's "Berlin" period, much ado is made of the connection between Bowie and the old Cabaret days of Germany. Again, I can easily provide you with interviews with Alice from 1973 drawing comparisons to his own stage show and the Cabaret era of Berlin.

I could go on, but I won't. This letter is not an attack but rather a missive of total bewilderment and frustration at the widespread refusal and ignorance of much of the public and many rock "historians" to acknowledge certain facts concerning Alice Cooper as being the original and influential artist that he is. Again, I must stress that I have gone out of my way in this letter not to express any personal opinions and only documented fact. I hope someone will be able to explain all of this to me. Perhaps someone at the BBC can make me see the light as to why I might be so wrong and why everything about Bowie is so correct.

Also, please know that I write this letter strictly as a private party and it is not done with the participation or involvement of Alice Cooper or his management. I will admit that I'm was quite pleased that you at least took the effort to include Alice Cooper in your program at all as other producers might have ignorantly skipped over him completely. I would be delighted to receive a response and to know what your thoughts are about all the factual inaccuracies presented in Rock 'N Roll.

Sincerely,

Brian Nelson


Mick Ronson was the guitarist in David Bowie's Spiders from Mars.

'There was the scene at London's Heathrow airport, where Ronson met shockhorrormeister Alice Cooper, for instance. "As we were going through the terminal, Alice came out of a sport shop," said Kevin Cann. "Mick and Alice talked like old mates; it was musicianly talk, very lovely. When we walked away, I said, 'I didn't know you knew Alice Cooper.' And he said he'd actually seen him in a supermarket in America, but hadn't talked to him before."
(from "Play, Don't Worry: The Mick Ronson Story" by Ralph Heibutzki in the June 9, 1995 issue of 'Goldmine')


Excerpt from 'Stardust' by Henry Edwards and Tony Zenetta (submitted by unknown Sickthing)

I thought a lot of you might be interested in reading this. These are qoutes from the 1986 book, "Stardust", by Henry Edwards and Tony Zanetta. Tony Zanetta was president of Main Man Ltd., which was Bowie's production company, or something. Some of it is interesting, some not.

Page 152: (Talking about the end of the Ziggy Stardust show, 1972) "The encore, "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", is performed while posters are tossed over the heads of the audience, an homage to the Alice Cooper show."

Page 153: (Bowie to Rolling Stone photojournalist, Mick Rock, 1972) "David explained that Ziggy Stardust was a "cartoon," and told Rock that he was gay although he wasn't a queen. Those who pretended they were homosexual, like Alice Cooper, distressed him."

Page 163: (Bowie to journalist, 1972) "It's a brave new world, and we either join it or we become living relics," he said. "There are people who are aware of this, and there are people who are spearheading the future on one level or another....Alice Cooper, Marc Bolan, myself, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed- we all anticipated it almost a few years too early. Now we're all starting to emerge at the same time, which is interesting."

Page 215: (Talking about Zanetta's idea to "unretire" Bowie, 1973) "Tony Zanetta had read an article about a prospective Alice Cooper appearance at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. The evening would be called "Alice at the Palace". The idea was born to bring David to Broadway in an evening called "Bowie on Broadway".

Page 282: (On ABC's censoring "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" for TV, 1974) "The word "suicide" was bleeped from "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"...Probably the feeling was that after a Canadian adolescent hanged himself after watching himself Alice Cooper enact an onstage suicide, the word itself might be enough to inspire members of the viewing audience to take their lives."

Pages 283-284: (Bowie and Zanetta use Alice to entertain themselves, 1974) "Zanetta sensed they were both bored. David needed some new audience members in the room; neither his "servants" nor his "family" satisfied him anymore. Finally the phone rang. Alice Cooper and a rock music journalist friend were in the lobby. Cooper seemed the ideal new blood. David signaled to Zanetta to have them come up.
It was an interesting encounter. Although David had adopted Alice's theatrics as his own, he resented the inevitable comparisons. He felt obliged to "father" Alice, as he fathered other confused stars such as Marc Bolan and Bette Midler.
"I've abandoned theatrics," he said quietly. "It gives me more options. It's easy to get trapped by your stage presentation; the secret is to find a way to move on."
Cooper, riveted by David's quiet intensity, listened carefully. They made a very odd father-son combination.
(Text skipped)
Zanetta felt like needling Alice. David was always receptive to a bit of theatre.
"Alice, what you are is a vaudevillian," began Zanetta. :You'd be great on television, you could be a comedian. David, on the other hand, is a great 'artiste'. Alice, you're 'show business.' David has made an art out of performance.".... "You could have a brilliant future in television," (David) said politely. "You are a great comedian."....David fixed Alice with a penetrating stare and continued to offer career guidance.....


And to Hammer the point home:

From an interview with former Bowie/Spiders bassplayer Trevor Boulder explaining what inspired them (Spiders) to "glam it up"

Together this band made Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and - without Woody - Pin-Ups. All of which hardly needs comment: the mix of Aladdin Sane may be crap but apart from that, this is the most perfect sequence of albums ever made. More difficult than the music, however, was persuading a bunch of Northern blues-rockers that they ought to glam up.
After initial reluctance, the band were taken out by Bowie to a gig:
'We went to see Alice Cooper and they were wearing make-up on stage and they were really heavy,' remembers Trevor. 'The music they were playing was great, I thought at the time, and it didn't look too bad, so we agreed to do it. It was a big jump from being a blues band in t-shirts and jeans with long hair and beards to wearing make-up and flashy clothes.'

From Uncut Magazine 2009:

MICK ‘WOODY’ WOODMANSEY: The whole Bowie and the Spiders look was David’s idea. We’d watched A Clockwork Orange, seen Alice Cooper live and it was a fusion that fitted the whole space/alien concept. At first we were very reticent about the outfits and the make-up. Mick Ronson hated the outfits. In fact, he packed his bags and left. David asked me to go after him and handle it. I spent a good hour or so on Beckenham train station with him!

Bowie Himself in 2002

"Alice Cooper had been over to the UK earlier that year [1972] but what I saw was something terribly reminiscent of British act Screaming Lord Sutch and his funny but extremely silly' blood and guts' pantomime. Allowing for his terrific sound and strong sounds, Cooper was all gallows, Frankenstein make-up and Boa constrictors. Not long after seeing him, I started wearing the drag queen feather boa as a rather feeble visual pun." - David Bowie (2002).