Alice Cooper has been a stalwart of the rock music scene for decades. Despite finding fame in the late seventies and early eighties, championing his own special brand of shock rock revelry, Cooper has actually been circulating the rock and roll scene for far longer. It means he has often crossed paths with the finest minds in 20th-century music, sharing drinks and anecdotes with anyone from John Lennon to David Bowie. It makes it all the more curious that Cooper has never got to ask one of his idols, the freewheeling troubadour Bob Dylan, one simple question.
Alice Cooper’s stories about his time as the leading light of horror rock are varied, vast, and more often than not, pretty vulgar. But that doesn’t mean he has no regrets. In fact, one of his biggest regrets is not being able to pin down his hero Dylan for a conversation about the industry. The reclusive ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ singer has seemingly swerved all of Cooper’s advances thus far.
Cooper has spent the recent months collecting conversations with some of the rock world’s brightest talents. “When you get two rock stars talking, they’re gonna go off in a million different directions,” Cooper said, reflecting on why he attempts to ensure that conversations between the two stars leave the audience feeling as though they accidentally stumbled in on a private conversation. “I think people would much rather feel like they’re voyeurs and they’re listening to a private conversation that they shouldn’t be listening to between two guys. I think that’s a more interesting interview,” he added.
“But if it is something where they’re really trying to sell something I’d say, ‘Okay, let’s get that out of the way so we can just riff from then on.’ And I think that makes it a more comfortable interview for everybody and a more unique interview, because you kind of feel like you’re getting away with something. You’re listening to Alice talk to this guy about this city and that person.” But what about the idol, Bob Dylan.
It would appear, just like David Bowie before him, that Cooper has a special admiration for Dylan’s insistence at performing huge tours whenever possible. While Bowie found it simply fascinating that he had such a rich canon of work to draw from, Cooper was captivated by the mechanics of actually remembering so many songs.
“Somebody told me that he doesn’t use a teleprompter,” Cooper told Forbes in an interview last year. “That’s 400 songs, okay? Everybody in that band has to know every song because he does an audible [instruction] — he doesn’t just give them a setlist. He’ll get done with a song and say, ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ And they have to know that. If he’s not using a teleprompter, it’s one of the most amazing memories of all time.”
If Cooper was given the opportunity to ask Dylan one question he “would ask him if he does use a teleprompter … because as a singer I would be lost without my teleprompter. And I know those songs. I still like to have it on. So I would ask him, ’Is it just whatever song you want to play right at that moment? It is just an audible?’”
Leonard Cohen called it a “strange experience“, David Bowie thought his ream of songs was the most desirable thing in rock music, and Alice Cooper believes Bob Dylan may have the greatest memory of all time. All of this adds up to one steadfast fact — Bob Dylan may be the greatest live performer of his generation.