Alice Cooper’s roots are in Detroit, Michigan; the band broke into the mainstream of rock music with the 1971 hit “I’m Eighteen” and 1972’s hit “School’s Out”. The commercial peak of the Alice Cooper band’s success was with 1973’s album Billion Dollar Babies. (For this and the following information , see Wikipedia.) In the year 1975, Alice Cooper came out with one of the most conceptual albums of the time, called Welcome to my Nightmare. Ask any rock fan from the 70s era, and most likely they have a copy of that album. In 2011, Alice Cooper released Welcome to My Nightmare 2, and in 2011, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The original Alice Cooper band members are Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier) on vocals and harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and Neal Smith on drums. This original band’s roots can be traced back to 1964 when Vincent Furnier at age 16 was eager to enter the annual high school talent show and gathered up some of his classmates to form a group for the show. They called themselves The Earwigs, obtained some used instruments from a local pawn shop in the Detroit area, and mimed their way through some Beatles’ songs, dressing up as the Beatles. The group won the talent show, and loved the experience of being onstage, so they formed a more permanent rock group while still in high school and called themselves The Spiders. Alice Cooper has said that the band’s musical roots include not just the Beatles, but also The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Doors, and The Yardbirds.
In 1966, the Spiders graduated from High School and the band scored a #1 hit on the radio
with “Don’t Blow Your Mind.” By 1967 the band was making regular trips to L.A. to play gigs. They renamed themselves Nazz and relocated to Los Angeles by the end of the year. In 1968, the band called Nazz had to change their name when they came across the fact that Todd Rundgren already had a band with that name. Furnier thought that the band needed a gimmick to succeed, and chose the name Alice Cooper, because it sounded innocent, in contrast to the band’s look and sound. Later, Cooper nee Furnier said that the name change was one of the most exigent career moves that the band made. To grab more headlines and generate more controversy, the Alilce Cooper band decided to push the concept of a male villain dressed as a murderess in tattered women’s clothing and makeup. Alice Cooper in his 2007 book Alice Cooper, Golf Monster said that his look was inspired by film, such as Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane”, where Bette wears caked makeup and smeared eyeliner. (Alice Cooper at one time had difficulty with alcoholism and to become sober took up the game of golf, thereby “trading one addiction for another” hence the self-imposed title “golf monster.”
After an unsuccessful gig in California, the Alice Cooper band was approached by music impresario Shep Gordon, who arranged an audition with bizarro rock star, Frank Zappa, who was looking to add another act to his record label. Zappa told the band to come to his house at “7 o’clock” for the audition; the band mistakenly thought he meant 7am. Being awakened at 7 in the morning for the Alice Cooper band’s unique hard-rocking sound impressed Frank Z. enough to sign the band to a three record deal. Afterwards, Alice Cooper’s brand of “Shock Rock” happened by accident due to an onstage antic with a stray chicken. Alice Cooper later developed this concept of “Shock Rock” to the hilt, such as the 1971 tour which featured gothic torture models, and a staged execution by electric chair. Taken in its entirety, along with the band’s tight, sequined outfits, and Glam Rock style costumes (designed by rock fashion icon Cindy Dunaway) persuaded Warner Brothers to offer Alice Cooper a multi-recording contract.
The Alice Cooper band’s first hit was “I’m Eighteen” on the third album Love It to Death. The next album Killer featured hit songs “Under My Wheels” and “Be My Lover.” More hits followed; however, the biggest hit of all, and one that anyone who was a teenager in the 70s recalls precisely, was “Schools Out”, which reached #2 on the charts, and sold over 1 million copies. The next album was Billion Dollar Babies, featuring the hit of the same name, as well as “Elected” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Around this time, the British parliament sought to ban Alice Cooper from performing! due to the stage show where Alice sported a boa constrictor snake, accompanied by the murderous axing of bloodied baby dolls.
The original Alice Cooper band’s last studio album was 1973’s Muscle of Love with A.C.’s last hit single “Teenage Lament ’74”. In 1975, Alice Cooper released his first solo album Welcome to My Nightmare. To avoid legal complications, Vincent Furnier adopted “Alice Cooper” as his legal name. What followed was a successful solo career with subsequent albums such as Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (1976), Lace and Whiskey (1977). The albums in the 1980s were not as successful, and these included Flush the Fashion (1980), Special Forces (1981), and Zipper Catches Skin (1982). Alice Cooper’s alcohol consumption began to cause considerable problems on tour, affecting Cooper’s onstage performances. During the Welcome to My Nightmare tour in Vancouver, A.C. tripped over a foot light and plunged several hundred feet onto the concrete floor amidst fans, who thought it was all part of the act. However, Welcome to My Nightmare also preceded another ground-breaking event in rock history, which was a prime-time television special called The Nightmare, starring A.C. and Vincent Price, which aired in 1975, and garnered a Grammy nomination.
The latest update on Alice Cooper, which can be viewed on http://www.alicecooper.com: After finishing up his tour with heavy metal artists Iron Maiden, and continuing to tour around the world this fall, Alice opened up a dedicated maze at Universal Studio Hollywood’s based on A.C.’s album Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. Earlier in the year, A.C. joined on allstar Glam Metal jam with Queens’ Brian May, Deep Purple’s Ian Paice, Whitesnake former guitarist Micky Moody, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.