From a slightly younger generation, there was immediate acceptance as some thing that was new, exciting with verve, flash and glamour . Those kids that didn't`t know Woodstock or the lost ideals of the Summer Of Love found themselves a leader, a position Alice was never convinced he Wanted. Jagger was too old, Townshend was too intellectual and deep, that left Bowie, Bolan and Alice. With him Alice Cooper brought, thrills and sensation, glamour, colour and controversy and of course, some of the greatest music ever pressed on vinyl. After a leaden late `60`s, musically and visually, Alice Cooper was one of the focal points of the ludicrously labelled glam rock movement. In the '70`s, Alice Cooper became America`s biggest musical export along with The Jackson`s, The Carpenters and The Osmonds. An imteresting combination of acts . . . . .
Although admitting to being a sensationalist and McLarenesque 'media-manipulator`, Alice felt that beneath the gimmicky presentation, his work had merits of its own. That he was considered to be a symbol of the degeneracy that society had slipped into was expected. He looked 'weird` and so became a threat. Either way, the hysterical reactions from the media helped shift units and put bums on seats. intentionally or not, he mirrored the society he saw off TV newsreels and the movies. It was the society that had spawned him and its operations left their mark on him. It became his playground and his kindergarten and within it he became the original `Billion Dollar Baby`, a child of the world`s most affluent nation. "An All-American clown gone nuts" he once said. America was his mother, his protector and his great love. As this column is being prepared, the new single is `I Love America`, a tongue in cheek look at the country he so obviously loves. In reflecting the barrage of Americana in the bulk of his albums and stage shows, Alice didn`t use the gentle, sardonic methods of Laurie Anderson who has a vision of the States as Mother figure and techno-military industrial complex, nor the baiting satire of his former mentor Frank Zappa, who savagely attacks the ` American Way`. Alice in the context of `rock`, showed America as a nation made up of diverse cultures with the predominant one being the culture of Hollywood, the success of movies such as "STRAW DOGS" and "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" (the fore-runners of video `nasties`); Alice saw a nation in the crazed throes of the Vietnam War, he saw the prostitution, the junkies, the massage parlours, the porn shows, the cheeseburgers, tv dinners and the power of the almighty dollar. These were images and influences that he used to calculate shock to ensure his success. Years after Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Alice presented forth the sleaze beneath the glamour, the shit beneath the gloss. But, to the disapoint of many, there was no message to all this, no rights or wrongs, just observations. Alice became lion among the Christians, a gladiator in the modern arena, a graven image of the America he adored.
While he prevoked these rather predictable reaction, the carnage of Vietnam and the worlds other trouble spots pored out of the TV screens. The daily rapes, muggings and murders went unnoticed in a jaded, blase society. In theatres, bloody plays like `King Lear` and `Macbeth` were acclaimed as classics and rightly so, despite featuring blood lusts on a massive scale. Yet hypocritically, alice became a no-no, something to be tucked away as a `threat to the minds of the young`. Yet Alice new that society would later become blase to his antics and that they would be accepted. An essay by the noted American essayist, Gore Vidal entitled "Sex, Death & Violence" convinced Alice that his timing was spot on. He sat back and waited for the dollars to flood in. The hype became part of the performance. Of course, money was a prime motive in the scheme of things. It was the oldest trick in the book. You find a market, exploit and sell your product. Easy. Alice wanted every possible cent from us. And why not? The product was and still is of a high quality and we can`t get enough. No-one gets ripped off, satisfied customers all round.
Although never denying this `commercial approach`, Alice wanted and received artistic and critical success for his work. Beneath the make-up was a highly intelligent and articulate song-writer, singer and stagemaster. You don`t sell millions on outrage alone.
Following the initial successes of the early `70`s, Alice refused to state his message except to endorse fantasy and sensation. His later exposure as a bourgeoise, well read, middle class, connoisseur of the arts shocked the more impressionable sections of his audience who deep down really wished that he was some kind of necrophiliac, child molesting fag. They wanted time to stand still at `Killer`, `Schools out` and `Billion Dollar Babies`. They deserted him in droves and as a result, record sales in the U.S.A. and U.K. dwindled. Sales suffered as W.E.A. promoted the product less and less and Alice, to the majority of those who have eyes and ears, became a faint but happy memory. But to the few, Alice is still potent and vital. He is still the majestic artist of bygone years. He is no `Wild man of rock` a la Ozzy Osbourne or countless others, many of whom are caught up in the myth of the rock star as self-perpetuating fantasy.
Alices own self doubts about his onstage persona and his records only came to the fore around 1977, when he withdrew into his own self-contained world of alcoholism. He emerged from his rehabilitation as a songwriter, singer and performer of the highest order only to go through an unconfirmed, moronic flirtation with cocaine. He remains well settled into his domesticated lifestyle with his wife of 7 years, Sheryl and his 2 1/2 years old daughter, Calico, high up in the Hollywood hills. His dwelling there is symbolic of his belief in the fake glamour of that tacky tinseltown that so nearly destroyed and did destroy many of those living in its shadow. But Alice is not eternally damned - he knows the absurdity and crassness of Americas preoccupation with escapism and the sought after `American Dream`. Alice Cooper was yet another by-product of it. Another American image alongside George Burns, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny and others. As long as you recognise the shit, you`re ok. After all who can watch TV 24 hours a day and still remain 100% sane...?
While punk and the new wave raged in London, Alice was considered a sun-tanned, L.A. beach bum, hanging out with the hated rock hierarchy of Elton John, Keith Moon and Rod Stewart. Even worse, he became seen with pillars of the establishment and playing golf with Gerald Ford, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. "Alice has sold out" screamed former fans. To Alice it was all one big pop art joke. He was now the establishment, those who hated him now wanted to be seen in his company. But Alice had proved his point, He was an entertainer, and America loves those who use any device to provide them with escapism and entertainment. The spirit of Hollywood meets Rock`n`roll. That`s how we can introduce Alice.
In the `80`s, Alice is still functioning. Preaching to the converted perhaps. Trading on past glories? Only on a bad night. gone is the outrage and shock, but when you`ve shocked once, to shock again smacks of contriteness of the most despicable kind. When you hear the records, old and new, you will not be disapointed; if you see him live, you will see a consummate showman, attracting your attention with his sinister if gawky stage presence. An old dinosaur anachronism? No way. Alice Coopers 15 minutes are not yet up. His self created persona is ageless and timeless. It exists in us all even though some of use don`t want to unleash it. With Rock`n`roll, Alice found a vehicle to unleash a character he never knew existed within him until he had to bring him out to achieve his recognition. That character is only half the story, the other half is made up of its creator, his associates, the events as they happen and you the fans. Welcome to Issue 1, "you know you feel at home, `cos you belong here".......(C) Andy Michael...December 1983