Years: 1963 – present
Styles: Art Rock, Classic Rock, Garage Rock, Glam Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, New Wave, Pop Rock, Power Pop, Psychedelic Rock, Soft Rock
Alice Cooper - Backing vocals, Harmonica, Lead vocals, Synthesizer (in band: 1975 - present)
Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over five decades. With his distinctive raspy voice and a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, deadly snakes, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.
Originating in Phoenix, Arizona, in the late 1960s after he moved from Detroit, Michigan, "Alice Cooper" was originally a band consisting of Furnier on vocals and harmonica, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and drummer Neal Smith. The original Alice Cooper band released its first album in 1969 but broke into the international music mainstream with the 1971 hit "I'm Eighteen" from their third studio album "Love It to Death", which was followed by the even bigger single "School's Out" in 1972. The band reached their commercial peak with the 1973 album "Billion Dollar Babies".
With the 1974 disintegration of the original Alice Cooper group, Alice was free to launch a solo career. He wisely decided to re-enlist the services of Bob Ezrin for his solo debut, "Welcome to My Nightmare", which was a concept album tied into the story line of the highly theatrical concert tour he launched soon after the album's release. While the music lost most of the gritty edge of the original AC lineup, "Welcome to My Nightmare" remains Alice's best solo effort -- while some tracks stray from his expected hard rock direction, there's plenty of fist-pumping rock to go around.
Following the success of his first solo album, "Welcome to My Nightmare", Alice Cooper followed it up with another concept album, "Goes to Hell", similar in style to its predecessor. Again, longtime Alice producer Bob Ezrin was on board, and while there are a few highlights, "Goes to Hell" signaled an Alice era where he pretty much forsook the raw garage rock of his early days ("Killer", "School's Out") in favor of polished studio glitz. That said, the title track is worthy of any headbanger's time (and remains one of Cooper's most overlooked rock tunes), while "I Never Cry" was another Alice ballad that found a place near the top of the charts. Other highlights include such tracks as the disco-rock-boogie of "You Gotta Dance" and the laid-back yet sinister funk groove of "I'm the Coolest." Elsewhere, the musical experiments aren't as successful -- the old-time sounds of "Give the Kid a Break," "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," and the album-closing "Going Home" are about as far removed from the expected hard-rocking AC direction as you can get. The gold-certified "Goes to Hell" would prove to be Alice's most commercially successful solo album for quite some time.
In 1978, a sobered Cooper used his experience in the sanitarium as the inspiration for his semi-autobiographical album "From the Inside", which he co-wrote with Bernie Taupin; it spawned yet another US Top 20 hit ballad, "How You Gonna See Me Now". The subsequent tour's stage show was based inside an asylum, and was filmed for Cooper's first home-video release, "The Strange Case of Alice Cooper", in 1979.
Cooper's albums from the beginning of the 1980s have been referred to by Cooper as his "blackout albums" because he cannot remember recording them, owing to the influence of illicit substances. "Flush the Fashion", "Special Forces", "Zipper Catches Skin" and "DaDa" saw a gradual commercial decline, with the last two not denting the Billboard Top 200. "Flush the Fashion", produced by Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker, had a thick, edgy new wave musical sound that baffled even longtime fans, though it still yielded the US Top 40 hit "Clones (We're All)". "Special Forces" featured a more aggressive but consistent New Wave style, and included a new version of "Generation Landslide". 1982's "Zipper Catches Skin" was a more pop punk-oriented recording, containing many quirky high-energy guitar-driven songs along with his most unusual collection of subject matters for lyrics. However, by the time of its release. and to receive the support of family and friends. 1983 marked the return collaboration of producer Bob Ezrin and guitarist Dick Wagner for the haunting epic "DaDa", the final album in his Warner Bros. contract.
In 1986, Alice Cooper officially returned to the music industry with the album "Constrictor." The album spawned the hits "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" (the theme song for the movie "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives"; in the video for the song Cooper was given a cameo role as a deranged psychiatrist) and the fan favorite "Teenage Frankenstein". The "Constrictor" album was a catalyst for Cooper to make a triumphant return to the road for the first time since the 1981 "Special Forces" project, on a tour appropriately entitled The Nightmare Returns. The "Constrictor" album was followed by "Raise Your Fist and Yell" in 1987, which had an even rougher sound than its predecessor, as well as the Cooper classic "Freedom".
In 1988, Cooper's contract with MCA Records expired and he signed with Epic Records. Then in 1989 his career finally experienced a legitimate revival with the Desmond Child produced and Grammy-nominated album "Trash", which spawned a hit single "Poison", which reached No. 2 in the UK and No. 7 in the US, and a worldwide arena tour.
Alice Cooper hadn't had a hugely successful album in over a decade when, in 1989, he teamed up with Bon Jovi producer Desmond Child for "Trash" -- a highly slick and commercial yet edgy pop-metal effort that temporarily restored him to the charts in a big way. Fueled by the irresistible hit single "Poison," the album temporarily gave back to Cooper the type of visibility he deserved. There's nothing shocking here, and Cooper's ability to generate controversy had long since faded. But while the escapist "Trash" -- which was clearly aimed at the Mötley Crüe/Guns N' Roses crowd -- may not be the most challenging album of Cooper's career, and isn't in a class with "School's Out" or "Billion Dollar Babies", it's fun and quite enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the return to the high end of the charts that Alice Cooper enjoyed with 1989's "Trash" was short-lived. On his similar follow-up -- another slick pop-metal effort -- Cooper no longer had the input of hit producer/songwriter Desmond Child, and worked with Peter Collins instead. The result is an album that, although generally enjoyable and far from bad, isn't essential. The CD's more memorable offerings include the clever and amusing "Feed My Frankenstein," the dramatic "Love's a Loaded Gun," and the inspired title song -- which admonishes rockers not to self-destruct. But despite its strong points, "Hey Stoopid" is for only Cooper's more devoted followers.
Though Alice Cooper's 1989 comeback gave him his first hit album in over a decade, the "Trash" record left some diehard fans disappointed, as did 1991's "Hey Stoopid". Many listeners felt that Cooper had sold himself short, now completely focusing on sleazy sexual anthems, making him just another face in the heavy metal crowd. By the time "The Last Temptation" was released in 1994, the hair band fad that had fueled Cooper's return was dead, and Cooper was obviously aware of its downfall -- the album sounds almost nothing like its two predecessors. Instead of relating to such albums as Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood", "Last Temptation" seems more similar to Ozzy Osbourne's "No More Tears". Thematically, the record returns to mostly conceptual songs, such as "Nothing's Free," "You're My Temptation," and "Cleansed by Fire." Far surpassing anything Cooper recorded in almost 20 years, "The Last Temptation" is unquestionably some of his best work.
The lengthy break between studio albums ended in 2000 with "Brutal Planet", which was a return to horror-lined heavy metal, with industrial rock, and with subject matter thematically inspired by the brutality of the modern world, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, and also inspired by a number of news stories that had recently appeared on the CNN news channel.
"Brutal Planet" was succeeded by the sonically similar and widely acclaimed sequel "Dragontown", which saw Bob Ezrin back at the helm as producer. The album has been described as leading the listener down "a nightmarish path into the mind of rock's original conceptual storyteller" and by Cooper himself as being "the worst town on "Brutal Planet". Like "The Last Temptation", both "Brutal Planet" and "Dragontown" are albums which explore Cooper's personal faith perspective (born again Christianity). It is often cited in the music media that "Dragontown" forms the third chapter in a trilogy begun with "The Last Temptatio"; however, Cooper has indicated that this in fact is not the case.
Cooper again adopted a leaner, cleaner sound for his critically acclaimed 2003 release "The Eyes of Alice Cooper". Recognizing that many contemporary bands were having great success with his former sounds and styles, Cooper worked with a somewhat younger group of road and studio musicians who were very familiar with his oeuvre of old. However, instead of rehashing the old sounds, they updated them, often with surprisingly effective results. A continuation of the songwriting approach adopted on "The Eyes of Alice Cooper" was again adopted by Cooper for his 24th studio album "Dirty Diamonds", released in 2005. "Dirty Diamonds" became Cooper's highest charting album since 1994's "The Last Temptation".
In July 2008, after lengthy delays, Cooper released "Along Came a Spider", his 25th studio album. It was Cooper's highest charting album since 1991's "Hey Stoopid", reaching No. 53 in the US and No. 31 in the UK. The album, visiting similar territory explored in 1987's "Raise Your Fist and Yell", deals with the nefarious antics of a deranged serial killer named "Spider" who is on a quest to use the limbs of his victims to create a human spider. The album generally received positive reviews from music critics, though Rolling Stone magazine opined that the music on the record sorely missed Bob Ezrin's production values.
In 2015, Cooper premiered Hollywood Vampires, a supergroup featuring Johnny Depp and Joe Perry with a new studio album of rock covers, featuring many guest artists including Paul McCartney, and live dates at L.A.'s Roxy Theatre and at Brazil's Rock in Rio festival in September.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Cooper
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 249 - Greg Prato
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 249 - Alex Henderson
4. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 249 - Barry Weber
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