The originator of “shock rock” is brining his live act back to the stage in 2006, and Alice Cooper is sure to create the same frenzy he always has. Cooper’s past acts on stage are famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view, but one thing that’s indisputable is that his show is one that every member of the audience remembers. Cooper’s sound is as memorable as his live act, and a look at his life may help explain how his persona came to be.
Vincent Damon Furnier was born in Detroit on February 4, 1948. His heritage was quite interesting, in that his grandfather was an ordained Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ and his father was an elder in the same church. After spending the first few years of his life in Detroit, the family decided to move to Phoenix, which was where Vincent spent his formative years.
Furnier enrolled at Cortez high school in Phoenix, and became known by his peers as a columnist in the school newspaper. His tone in these columns was quite sarcastic, and two of his loyal readers became his closest friends of the time – Glen Buxton and Dennis Dunaway. Buxton and Dunaway would play a large role in Furnier’s musical career down the road.
Furnier, Buxton and Dunaway were motivated by one thing in high school – gaining the attention and adulation of the female students at Cortez. Their first foray into the musical world occurred during a school talent show where they donned wigs and gave a mock performance of songs by The Beatles. Even though their show was definitely amateur in nature, the group discovered that music was definitely the way to go if they wanted to be popular.
The trio was joined by another friend, Michael Bruce, and the quartet formed a band named The Earwigs. The group’s musical influences included The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and especially Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. The name “Earwigs” didn’t last long, as the band soon became known as the Spiders.
The Spiders released a single, “Don’t Blow Your Mind,” that was a hit on Phoenix radio, and as a result, the band once again changed their name to The Nazz and traveled to Hollywood to pursue larger goals. Despite years of struggle in Los Angeles, The Nazz did manage to play opening acts for such bands as The Doors and The Yardbirds. The final change came in 1968, when Todd Rundgren named his band The Nazz, forcing Furnier and his crew to rename their band “Alice Cooper.”
Alice Cooper Days
In 1969, the band Alice Cooper released their first album, Pretties For You, which sold reasonably well but was seen as an outlandish work at the time. One of the reasons was the legendary story that the band showed up still reeling from a night of heavy drinking to record the album. This legend helped play into the overall theme of craziness that the band embodied going forward.
The band Alice Cooper released a total of five albums, but they split up in 1974. Furnier then became known as Alice Cooper, and released his first album, Welcome to My Nightmare, in 1975. The album became a top ten hit, and Cooper was on his way to stardom.
Since then, Cooper has released more than 30 studio, live and compilation albums, and has sold millions of records worldwide. His onstage legend has never waned. Even though he denies biting the head off a chicken and drinking its blood, the story made waves all over the world and is still a subject of discussion in many interviews.
Cooper’s outrageousness is definitely part of why he is known, but he is also one of the top-selling artists of his time. He has always flown a bit under the radar, but his shock rock innovations have been admired and to an extent imitated by the likes of Judas Priest, Kiss, Megadeath and Marilyn Manson.
One thing is sure – to see Alice Cooper is to see a show you’ll never forget.