Alice Cooper is a man who has seen and done it all. One of the most unique figures in rock, he took the genre down a more theatrical path, and his anthemic style of music was augmented by his complex set-pieces and jaw-dropping stunts.
A true performer with a penchant for the macabre, Cooper set the stage for the likes of Slipknot and Gorgoroth and other artists who would push the live setting to its limits, a contribution that cannot be understated. Cooper is the master of shock rock and is rightly lauded as one of the best in the business.
Born into humble beginnings in Detroit, Michigan, Cooper developed his art in a band of the same name, taking the rock mode of the day and adapting it into something that nobody had ever heard before. Together, they released their debut album, Pretties for You, in 1969, to limited chart success, but people would quickly cotton on to their refreshing sound. Eventually, they were handed their first break with the 1970 single ‘I’m Eighteen’, a track that was taken from their third album, Love It to Death, and it had such an impact that Ramones, Sex Pistols, and Anthrax have all cited the song as an influence.
The band would go from strength to strength, and in 1972, they hit unreached heights with School’s Out, a departure from their earlier sound, which saw Cooper and the band start to follow the shock rock direction that we know and love them for today.
Given that Cooper is such a legend of the game, he has many stories to tell, and one of the most famous is that he once claimed that former Beatle and peace advocate John Lennon went to great lengths to make the apolitical rocker more political in public.
“The Hollywood Vampires would meet at the Rainbow Bar and Grill every single night,” Cooper said. “And we would go up there, and I don’t remember anybody ever talking about music. Because I think this was our escape from music. You had all these guys that would just like to drink. And Harry(Nilsson) and John (Lennon), after they drank five or six drinks.”
The vocalist explained further, adding: “I’d have to sit between them. Because if John said ‘black,’ Harry would say ‘white.’ If Harry would say ‘Republican,’ John would say ‘Democrat’”. The ‘School’s Out’ mastermind postulated that the pair intentionally set themselves out to contradict each other as a bit of fun and that they weren’t actually in disagreement. This is a reasonable assertion, as there was certainly much camaraderie between the two. It is well known that both Lennon and Cooper were practically joined at the hip for much of the ’70s, as their collaboration on Harry Nilsson’s rather surreal 1974 record Pussy Cats confirms.
Today, however, Cooper’s life could not be further away from the days of tearing up the Sunset Strip with Lennon and Nilsson. He is teetotal and an avid golfer, and he even credits the sport with helping him to overcome his alcoholism. Cooper’s change in lifestyle is one of rock’s most famous success stories, and it’s something that his most hell-raising peers are acutely aware of.
The fact he doesn’t drink is something that Wood’s bandmate, Keith Richards, hasn’t forgotten, and nor has he that Alice Cooper isn’t his real name. Making his best impression of the English axeman, Cooper told Wood: “Keith never called me Alice, ever. He’d always go ‘Vinnie, Vinnie Vinnie, Vinnie’. He says, ‘How long has it been since you’ve had a drink?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, 20 years’, and he goes, ‘Ah! Begs the question… why?'”