One of Alice Cooper's most famous theatrical effects is the nightly executions, Alice does assorted dastardly deeds during the show and has to pay for them at the end. Below is a list of the various way's he's met his end over thw years, with extra information below.
- 1970 -- Love it to Death tour: Electric Chair
- 1971 -- Killer tour: Gallows
- 1972 -- School's Out tour: Gallows
- 1973 -- Billion Dollar Babies tour: Guillotine
- 1974 -- Muscle of Love: Guillotine
- 1975 -- Welcome To My Nightmare tour: No execution
- 1977 -- King Of The Silver Screen tour: Guillotine
- 1979 -- Madhouse Rock Tour: Electric Chair
- 1980 -- Flush the Fashion tour: No execution
- 1981 -- Special Forces Tour: No execution
- 1986 -- Constrictor Tour: Guillotine
- 1988 -- Raise Your Fist And Yell Tour: Gallows
- 1990 -- Trash Tour: Guillotine
- 1992 -- Hey Stoopid Tour: On Screen Giant Skull
- 1995 -- South America Tour: No execution
- 1996 -- US Summer Tour: No execution
- 1997 -- European Tour: No execution
- 1997 -- US/Australian Tour: Clowns and Sarcophagus
- 2000 -- Brutal Planet Tour: Guillotine
- 2002 -- Decent Into Dragontown Tour: Guillotine
- 2003 -- Bare Bones Tour: No execution
- 2004 -- The Eyes Of Alice Cooper Tour: No Execution
- 2005 - 2006 -- Dirty Diamonds Tour: Guillotine
- 2007 - 2008 -- Psychodrama Tour: Gallows
- 2008-2010 -- Theare Of Death Tour: Gallows, Guillotine, Giant Syringe, Spike Box
- 2011 -- No More Nice Nice Guy 2011 Tour onwards: Guillotine
The Electric Chair
The original Electric Chair was first used during the 'Love It To Death' tour. The original chair was hand built by the band themsleves for use during 'Black Juju'. Alice would sit on the chair, hynotising the audience with an old pocket watch (something he had done before the chair was made as well. Dennis Dunaway still has one of the original watches they used) only to be 'electrified' for his trouble. This original chair now rests in the Paul Brenton collection'.
A new chair was also used on the 'Madhouse Rocks' tour but the effect hasn't been used since. It is understood Alice doesn't think it has the visual impact of the Gallows of Guillotine (he's right).
In the mid 2000s pop star Madonna "shocked" the world when she used an electric chair in her act...
The Gallows first appeared on the 'Killer' Tour of 1971 and was created by Warner Bros. props department.. It was used during the performance of 'Killer' at the end of the show. As the band reenacted the end of the song, Alice was dragged up a scaffold and his head placed into a noose. A piano wire, laced through the hangman's rope was hooked onto a harness that Alice had been wearing throughout the show. To cheers of 'Hang Him, Hang Him', a handle was pulled, releasing the trapdoor beneath and letting Alice fall. The lights went out and a tape of thunder was played through the P.A. system to lighting effects.
The effect was also used on the 1972 'School's Out' tour, 1988's 'Raise Your Fist And Yell' Tour and finally on the 2007 'Psychodrama' tour, continuing until around 2010 and the 'Theatre Of Death' tour.
During rehearsals at Wembley Arena in 1987 the stunt went horribly wrong. The cable snapped and Alice fell to the stage hitting his chin on the edge of the trap door as he went, knocking him out cold. Luckily no permanent damage was done. It was been speculated that this incident was the reason why. despite fans constant requests (many consider it the ultimate Alice stunt when performed from start to finish in the original way), the hanging act wasn't featured in an Alice show again, while the Guillotine returns again and again. However no one was as surprised as Alice when the gallows was brought back in 2007! Nowadays however it seems unlikely Alice would be able to put his bodythrough it ever night at over 70 years old, and the danger to his older body are obvious.
The guillotine is probably the most famous Alice stunt, having now been perfromed on countless tours since 1973. The original was designed by James Randi specifically for Alice Cooper based on an original design by Will Rock. The current guillotine is not the original, as it has been rebuilt several times since 1973. One of the early models now resides in the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' in Cleveland, Ohio.
"There were several safety gimmicks I built into it. I took the original plan from Will Rock. He was a prominent magician at the turn of the century who built this guillotine for a horror show. It is unique in that the head that falls into the basket is the head of the performer, the real head. That takes some explaining, but I'll let you think about that for a while. The performers whole body falls down and there is no substitute for the head until the end when they pull it out. The proof is in the next act, when Alice is back working again. I did build it, but I knew how the original Will Rock one worked. I built a few other safety gimmicks into it to the satisfaction of Coop. He wanted to be very sure he didn't loose his head before the end of the tour."
When the stunt was originally performed to 'I Love The Dead', after Alice would put his head in the guillotine, he no longer had access to a microphone but continued to sing the last part of the song. In fact he ws lip-synching while Michael Bruce imitated Alice's vocals. Nowadays Alice doesn't sing any of the words to the shortened version of 'I Love The Dead', leaving that to bassist Chuck Garric who is clearly seen to be singing.
It's a little known fact that you can actually see a guillotine in photos of the Earwigs as far back as 1965. It was built by a friend of the bands father and was a full, working guillotine with stops to prevent it actually chopping your head off. This original Guillotine remained at Cortez for some years after the band left the school.
The Cage Of Fire
There was one more form of execution the band tried but no one ever saw:
"As soon as we moved to the farm in Pontiac, Charlie Carnal and Mike Allen began to build a death machine. Our first idea was called the "Cage of Fire," which looked like I was being burned to death, and I very nearly was. The cage was made from a bent shower curtain rod. On it we hung forty or fifty tightly rolled, long plastic bags, like you get at the cleaners. At the finale of our show we rolled the cage on stage and I got inside. The rest of the group surrounded me with matches like pixies at a ritual and lit the plastic from the bottom. As the long plastic burned all around me it coagulated into fiery balls and fell to the ground with an incredibly loud 'whssst' sound. When it all got going I looked like I was standing in the middle of a fiery rainstorm, imprisoned in burning bars. It was a great effect for $15, and we billed it as "Can Alice Cooper escape the CAGE OF FIRE?!!" We used the cage only a few times [if ever], fortunately. Club owners and promoters didn't like it because of the fire laws, and the few times we did sneak it on stage we wound up paying for damages we did to the stage floor, and it nearly roasted me like Bavarian shish kabob!"
The Magic Screen
While not really an "execution" the magic screen was really theo ther BIG theatrical efect that has been used in multiple Alice Cooper shows. This effect was created for, and first used, on the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' tour in 1975. It's a special screen which has vertical slits down it. Video is projected onto the screen while the on-stage live action is synchronized with what is appearing on the screen. Alice and the extras can then jump in and out of the screen and pre-determined moments, making it appear as if they are becoming part of the film footage.. On the 'Nightmare' tour, it was used during 'Escape' near the end of the show. It was also used during the "Madhouse Rock" tour, which began with footage of Seagram's bottles on a conveyer belt in a factory. One bottle falls over, the video zooms in on the bottlecap, and Alice leaps through the split in the screen to appear on-stage, creating the effect of Alice popping out of the bottle. At the end of the show, it was also used during 'All Strapped Up' but unfortunately this footage is omitted from the 'Strange Case' video as it didn't work so well on TV.
The last time to date it's ben used was on the 'Hey Stoopid' tour during 'Go To Hell'. Alice had a chase scene with two skeletal figures in monks robes. They run in and out of the screen until they catch him, and strap him in a chair (on the screen). At the end of the sequence, Alice is seen trapped in the mouth of a giant skull, which merges into the on-stage skull prop as the screen is dropped. Alice then bursts out of the real skull for 'School's Out'.
There were rumours (fueled by Alice) that the screen would make a re-appearance in the 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' show in 2012 but the show never happened.