A Conversation from the Sickthings mailing list:
I think people here try all too often to portray Alice as being more actively influential than he really was/is.
I'm going to have to disagree. I do agree with you, in that, all rock performers have the right to put on theatrical shows. But, I don't think that anyone's over estimating Alice's influence in this area. In fact, I think the reason that Sickthingers like to bring up Alice's influence on theatrical rock is because the public grossly underestimates Alice's importance in this area, and many of us are frustrated by the incredible ignorance of the public nowadays with respect to Alice's pioneering role in theatrical and glitter rock.
During the early 1970s, EVERYONE credited Alice Cooper with bringing theatrics to the rock concert stage. In those days, Alice was widely recognized by both the public and the media as the forerunner of theatrical and glitter rock. I remember even reading in '16' Magazine that Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson both wanted to do more theatrical shows like Alice.
However, with the passage of time, the truth and facts have grown very distorted. And, I believe that a lot of this distortion may even have come from David Bowie himself. Bowie's popularity in the mid-70s was on the rise and he became the new media darling, while poor Alice was sinking into the bottle of Seagram's VO, and on the receiving end of a media backlash. So, Bowie began to falsely take credit, and many of us watched as rock history began to get distorted and revised.
And, I do blame Bowie for a lot of the distortion that emerged. Bowie's former manager, as well as others who worked closely with Bowie, have made it very clear that Bowie was jealous of Alice, and desperately wanted Alice's crown. And, I think there is little doubt that Bowie is way more POLITICAL than Alice, and that's why he still often wrongly gets credited today. Bowie's rock social-climbing can easily be illustrated by the following example: In late 1973, the Rolling Stones' song 'Angie' became a huge hit. Well, stories emerged that the song 'Angie' was written about Bowie's then-wife Angie. To this day, the Stones have always denied that this song ever had anything to do with Angie Bowie. And, it is now widely believed that this 'story' was in fact fabricated by none other than Angela Bowie, herself.
But, it doesn't matter because the 'story' did what it was supposed to do. It greatly increased David Bowie's fame at the time. Until the rumors about 'Angie', Bowie was largely unknown in North America. And even in the early 1970s, Bowie was very keen on aligning himself with Mick Jagger and calling himself Jagger's 'best friend'. At a time, when Bowie was not a big rock star, while Jagger was/is probably the most powerful rockstar in the world.
The rock media is very political. We've already discussed how Rolling Stone Magazine won't ever dare give the Rolling Stones a negative review again, purely because of politics. And, getting recognition is also very political. And, since Alice has never been as political as Bowie, Alice suffers.
I strongly doubt that he actively influenced every theatrical rock or pop performer out there, even if he DID introduce theatrics to the rock/pop stage.
Once again, I'll agree that every rock star has the right to do a theatrical show on-stage. But, I think it's also fair to say that rock concerts, even nowadays, would probably be very different if it hadn't been for Alice Cooper. When Alice Cooper first emerged on the rock scene, there was a lot of ADVERSITY to theatrics on the rock concert stage. Many felt that theatrics would mean the lessening of the importance of the music. So, Alice Cooper had to break down a lot of barriers. He literally opened the door to a new type of rock concert: a rock concert where the performers wore costumes and makeup, and did theatrics instead of just playing their instruments. I'm sure you're right, in that, when Janet Jackson dances today, she doesn't think about the fact that Alice Cooper introduced theatrics to the rock concert stage. But, that doesn't alter the fact, that without Alice Cooper, the rock concert stage would probably not be what it is today. And, that Alice Cooper made it acceptable for her and others to do a theatrical/dancing type of rock show.
I just don't think that EVERYONE paid much attention to Alice
In the early 1970s, everyone in rock music was paying attention to Alice. They knew that they would have to make their own shows more theatrical to stay competitive. And, as I previously mentioned, even stars like Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson made comments about doing shows that were more theatrical like Alice Cooper. (And we've already discussed how Elton John's shows became more theatrical and glittery after he saw Alice's show and declared it to be the best rock show he'd ever seen.)
But not everyone, at least not to the extent that they set out to 'copy' him in any way.
I disagree. Rock music, nowadays, is very much a rehash of the past. Rock music is not as creative as it once was because Big Business took over in the late 1970s. Nowadays, record companies do analysis and rock groups are made to follow formulas. And, successful formulas are derived from what worked in the past. And, you can bet that every new glittery group, be it Motley Crue in the 1980s, or Marilyn Manson in the 1990s, is following the Alice Cooper Handbook. And, in the 1970s, Kiss and Bowie were also following the Alice Cooper Handbook.
There is no doubt that what Alice did theatrically set a new widespread standard in rock and pop music, but he set that standard many years ago
But, just because it was many years ago, does that really make a difference? Does Alice deserve less credit because he pioneered theatrical rock in the 1970s instead of recently, in the 1990s? In fact, I would argue that the fact that theatrical rock has lasted so long, actually increases Alice's importance. When Alice first emerged, some people thought that theatrical rock was just a fad and that it wouldn't last. The fact that almost all rock stars do theatrical rock nowadays, proves that Alice started something that had lasting appeal, making his accomplishments even more noteworthy.
The point isn't that everyone who uses theatrics is ripping Alice off.
Exactly. The point is that Alice isn't getting enough recognition for starting theatrical rock.
But not until very recently was he given much credit for this.
Unfortunately, I don't think Alice is getting enough recognition for this, nowadays. It was in the early 1970s, actually, that Alice did get the credit because people were aware at that time, as history was actually occurring. It was with the passage of time, that the truth got heavily distorted.
Even if those stars themselves are not aware of how Alice's pioneering efforts made possible what they are doing today (and I would bet that many of them are extremely aware of that fact).
Exactly, many stars might not realize that Alice Cooper started the theatrical rock show, but if it hadn't been for Alice, they wouldn't be doing what they're doing today. Madonna is a perfect example of this. There are so many similarities between her and Alice Cooper: heavy sexual themes including sadomasochism, masturbation and gender-bending, the use of dancers and props, the use of shock, pushing the envelope, etc. I'm really curious if Madonna even realizes how similar she really is to Alice Cooper. In fact, I think she's the female version of Alice Cooper. But, I have never heard her mention Alice ever. And that's probably because Alice doesn't get credited enough nowadays for what he pioneered. So, I'm even wondering if she even realizes that it was Alice who pioneered theatrical rock? On the other hand, I agree with Andy, in that, most rock stars probably are aware of the fact that Alice Cooper started theatrical rock. That's because most stars are still old enough to have been around during the early 1970s. And, anyone who was old enough during the early 1970s, usually knows what Alice Cooper did.
Incidentally, it is often true that the most influential people in the world are not the ones who end up getting credit for the ideas.
Very true. And, that's because there are very dishonest, pathetic people in this world, who are very quick to steal from others and take credit for the ideas of others. And, the true originals are often genius types who don't go around reminding people enough and, therefore, don't get the credit they deserve.
(Susie, Sickthings October 1996)
Susie already explained so I won't rehash. However, one thing that wasn't said, is that Janet has been quoted (and it's obvious) that her biggest influence was her brother Michael. In turn, anyone who doesn't realize that Michael was influenced by Alice is clueless. So, whereas I will agree that it is unlikely that Janet studied Alice videos like her brother did, the influence is there. In politics, it's called the trickle-down effect. Rather than naming individuals, it is easier and perhaps more accurate to say that Alice is the main influence in the genre of theatrical rock. You could name almost any rock'n'roll band and say that they were influenced by Chuck Berry and there is a notion of truth to that. Does that mean that they all were fans and studied his music? Not necessarily.
(Renfield, October 1996)