Alice Cooper—the master of the macabre and the original shock rocker—exploited the innocence of the Love Generation and carved a musical niche that has prevailed for more than forty years. His brand of heavy metal and glam Rock ‘n’ Roll and his horror-filled showmanship took the nation by theatrical storm.
Cooper explained, “The late ’60’s and early ’70’s were a breeding ground for exciting new sounds because easy listening and folk were taking over the airwaves. I think it was a natural next step to take that blissful, easy-going sound and strangle the life out of it.”
You might not remember that Alice has sold more than 50 million records with 26 studio albums (six going platinum and two gold), 46 singles, 10 live albums, and 21 compilation albums, but you will never forget the black greasepaint around the eyes and sides of mouth, the fake blood, the boa constrictors, the guillotines, the beheaded baby dolls, and the electric chairs that turned his concerts into mind-blowing experiences.
Born Vincent Damon Furnier, he created the innocuous name Alice Cooper for his band as an ironic contrast to the on-stage devilment. Frank Zappa, legendary performer of Mothers of Invention, “discovered” the band and produced their first album in 1969.
From “Love It to Death,” “Killer,” “School’s Out,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Muscle of Love,” the band was mega-successful by 1974, but then Furnier went solo, legally changed his name to Alice Cooper in 1975, and recorded his own breakout album, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” In 2011, the original band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Today, at 65, Alice continues to rock and roll, but his private life is without its early excesses. He founded the Hollywood Vampires, a drinking club that included such members as Mickey Dolenz (Monkees), Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr. The club’s main goal was to determine who would be the last man standing.
He voluntarily went into rehab and said he then replaced his addiction to alcohol with his addiction to golf. His recent book, “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster,” details all the significant events, including his relationship with Ely Callaway, for whom he made a number of commercials.
I tracked down Alice Cooper at the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs where he was playing in the pro-am with a six handicap. He was gracious, engaging, and articulate. Whatever happened to “No More Mr. Nice Guy”?
NEGM: From the days of the Hollywood Vampires, what will you always remember about Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Jim Morrison?
AC: You mean besides the fact that they were all pretty good drinkers? Yeah, they were the real legends, the prototypes, the best of the best. Nobody played like Jimi, on and off the stage. He had an incredibly reckless attitude. John was the quintessential song writer and was always fun to be around with his biting wit and great insights. There’ll never be another Jim Morrison, a unique performer with an ingrained attitude of self-destruction. He could not separate his stage persona from his real life. What else will I remember? They all died way too young.
NEGM: Of what musical accomplishments are you most proud?
AC: Three in particular. The first time I heard my record [“Reflected,” 1969] played on the radio next to a Rolling Stones song. That was pretty special. I couldn’t believe it. I almost felt as if I never should have been there. But 25 or so albums later, I realized I did belong there. Two, the first time I had a #1 album [“School’s Out,” 1972]. Last, the first gold album [“Muscle of Love,” 1972].
NEGM: What are your impressions of golf in New England?
AC: I love golf in New England, especially finding those rural, out-of-the way courses that are great in their own right and lots of fun to play. I also had fun at The International in Bolton, where we played it all the way back, around 8400 yards or something like that. I’ve never done anything so ridiculous like that since.
NEGM: Who would be in your Dream Foursome of today? Of any time period?
AC: I’ve already played with them—John Daly, Lee Trevino, and Fuzzy Zoeller—and I would play with them again. Great golf and hysterical antics. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis.
NEGM: How did Ely Callaway become an influence in your life?
AC: I met Ely at a party, and we hit it off immediately. He was discussing how to market Callaway clubs to the average Joe, and I said, “Well, why not let me do some humorous commercials.” Many commercials later the average Joe was buying Ely’s equipment, and the stock was going through the roof. That party was the beginning of our 25-year friendship. He was a remarkable visionary and took golf equipment to the next level.
NEGM: What inspired you to write “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster?”
AC: I wanted to write my autobiography anyway, and my life has been a marvelous combination of Rock ‘N’ Roll and golf. I connected those two passions. Basically, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had invented me, so I was the Rock Zombie on stage and an addicted golfer off stage. My life story, about the golf monster, was easy to write.
NEGM: What will you always remember about your early years on stage as the original shock rock star?
AC: Mainly that there were no boundaries. The more absurd our behavior was on and off stage and the more trouble we got into, the more records we sold. But then again, people never expected an Image Band like ours to have the type of music we did—it was good and it was powerful—to back up our absurdities. I like to think that we were the band that drove the stake through the Love Generation!