Thursday, March 12, 2015

2002, Bang Your Head by David Konow, Alice Cooper chapter

"Bang Your Head"
The Rise And Fall Of Heavy Metal
by David Konow


Back Cover

This book covers many bands labeled metal, hair metal even AOR.
Some interesting stories from behind the scenes.
Other bands I'll post on That EvenSpot Blog soon.

They have twenty pages on Alice Cooper.
I found one error I had to correct on the spot.

Alice Cooper
Pg 28

Pgs 29 - 48

“Everyone needs a gimmick. Let’s see how far you get without one”
- Alice Cooper

IN 1967, A YOUNG MUSICIAN named Vincent Fumier looked
around at what was going on during the “Summer of Love” and dubbed
it the “year of the follicle.” He and his struggling band all had hair
longer than even hippie length, but that was about all they had in com-
mon with the booming counterculture. Sick to death of the peace-and-
love generation, Fumier felt rock and roll had more heroes than it knew
what to do with. The time was right for a true rock villain. His band
would shortly transform themselves into Alice Cooper, with Furnier
taking the Alice surname for himself and proudly proclaiming that it
was he who drove the final stake through the heart of the Woodstock
generation. As far back as high school. Vincent realized if he couldn’t fit
in by being normal, he could stand out by being abnormal. He once said,
“I fear mediocrity more than death.”

The man who would eventually become rock and roll’s prince of
darkness was born in Detroit in 1948 with severe asthma. His family
moved to Phoenix when he was three, hoping the dry, desert air would
make it easier for him to breathe. Vincent’s father worked as a used-car
salesman but was often between jobs, making it tough for the family to
make ends meet as they bounced around between Phoenix, Detroit, and
Los Angeles. Compounding the family’s problems was his father’s heavy
drinking. The elder Furnier eventually went on the wagon and become
an ordained minister in 1961. He performed missionary work on the
local Indian reservations, and sometimes the family would spend up to
seven days a week in church.

When Vincent was thirteen, he came down with a severe case of ty-
phoid. When the doctors told his parents he wasn’t going to make it,
Vincent’s father prayed for his son’s survival, and eventually he pulled
through after spending over a year in bed. His illness left him with a
curvature of the spine and hunched shoulders After a year in isolation,
all Vincent wanted to do when he started high school was to fit in.
Already an awkward teenager. self-conscious about his crooked teeth
and “the cursed Fumier nose,” he admitted, “I was not exactly a front-
runner.” Witty and charming, he was still able to make friends.

Furnier has carried a strong faith in God with him throughout his
life, even after he became a rock star. Yet as a teenager, he stopped going
to church because of the hypocrisy he found there. He was disgusted
with being taunted because of his long hair. “I knew more about reli-
gion than most of them. I believed with more conviction than most of
them. That I was even walking around was a miracle.”

A great irony of the Alice Cooper band is that every member was a
four-year varsity letterman who had met while on the track team. Usu-
ally the jocks beat up the freaks in high school. In this case, the jocks
later became the freaks. In 1963, Vincent, Michael Bruce (guitar), Glen 
Buxton (guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass), and Neal Smith (drums) formed 
their first band, called the Earwigs. The band worshipped the Beatles
and played their first gig wearing “moptop” toupees, singing spoofs of 
the Fab Four’s tunes with modified lyrics about the track team. They 
even hired girls to scream for them, just like Beatle fans. 

When they practiced, the band would drive out to the desert with a
case of beer, plug a power generator into the last telephone pole they
came to on the road, and rehearse into the night. Their only audience
was often a large group of stray cats whose countless tiny green eyes
would stare back at them through the darkness. Sometimes, though,
their loud, blaring music would wake up the migrant workers sleeping 
in the nearby orange groves, who would shout at them and call the 
police to shut them down. When the band recorded their first albums, their 
goal was to recreate the vibe of those late-night jams in the desert. 
Going through several name changes during their early years, the
Earwigs became the Spiders and recorded what is now a highly collec-
table single called “Don’t Blow Your Mind.” They then became the
Nazz, only to learn that Todd Rundgren already had a band by that
name. So in the spring of 1968, they became Alice Cooper. Legend has
it the band got their name when a Ouija board told Fumier that he was
reincarnated from a seventeenth-century witch named Alice Cooper.
The truth is actually much more mundane. The band liked it because it
had a nice ring to it, like Baby Jane or Lizzie Borden, a combination of
sweet and evil. Shortly after coming up with the name, they decided
that Fumier would actually become the character of Cooper, a decision
that several in the band would rue in years to come.

A fan of horror movies as a boy, Fumier always rooted for the
villains—for Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, for
the monsters like Godzilla and King Kong. Because of his struggles
growing up, he equated being a villain with being an outsider, an under-
dog, just like heavy metal musicians and fans alike. With Cooper, Fumier
now had a whole new persona he could step into at will. He could say
and do outrageous things and blame them on Cooper, always being
careful to refer to his alter ego in the third person. “Most people have a
light side and a dark side,” he would say. “My dark side gets to go on-

Like most parents of the time, Furnier’s folks were shocked by the
Beatles and the Rolling Stones. His goal was to come up with some-
thing that would really shock people and make those groups seem tame
in comparison. It was guitarist Glen Buxton who first put dark circles
under his eyes with cigarette ashes, and soon everyone in the band was
wearing makeup, none more ghoulish than Cooper’s thick, black, drip-
ping eyeliner, which would become his trademark. His dirty mascara
made him look like an evil harlequin whose eyes and mouth were bleed-
ing (his early makeup also made his eyes look like they were crawling
with worms). The band’s stage clothes were also completely outrageous
One night they went onstage in plastic see-through pants; when they
started to play, the pants fogged from sweat, obscuring their genitals
from the audience. Their look was so outrageous for the time that many
thought they were gay or, at the very least, transvestites.

By 1968, the band had moved to Los Angeles They couldn’t afford
to live in Laurel Canyon, where a lot of rock stars like Joni Mitchell and
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young would eventually set up digs Nor could
they afford to live in Beverly Hills. Instead, they moved into a Topanga
Canyon home that was literally sliding down the hill. The band played
regularly at the Cheetah, a club located at the end of the Santa Monica
Pier. They opened for the Doors when “Light My Fire” was on its way
to becoming a hit single. Cooper and Jim Morrison became friendly and
would often sit at the end of the pier, talking for hours. Already Cooper
could see the burden of fame was affecting Morrison and couldn’t re-
member a time when he wasn’t drunk.

Alice Cooper wasn’t welcomed to LA. with open arms, however.
People walked out on them in droves, and they quickly gained a rep as
“the worst band in LA.” According to Cooper, they once cleared out a
room of 6,000 people in three songs Yelling “Fire” couldn’t have emp-
tied the room faster. It soon became trendy to say that you walked out
on Alice Cooper. A few who couldn’t stand to sit through even a couple
of songs would buy tickets and simply not go to the gig. Then they
would show off the ticket stub and brag that they had walked out on an
Alice Cooper show.

At one show where the audience did its usual exodus, one of the few
who stayed was an enterprising young man named Shep Gordon. Gor-
don had just come out to L.A. after graduating from the University of
Buffalo in upstate New York and wanted to start managing bands Mi-
chael Bruce’s sister* was an acquaintance of Gordon’s and recommended
he check out her brother’s band.
(*Evenspot note: Editor’s mistake it was Neal Smith’s sister Cindy)
 Gordon figured he would try to reverse
what had just happened, with thousands of people rushing in to want to
see the band instead of fleeing.The band was not an easy sell, to say the
least. None of the local record labels was interested in signing them,The
band had one meeting at Sound Records at which they were told they
could have a deal, but only if they got rid of “that Vince guy.”

During their time in L.A., Cooper had become friendly with the
GTOs, “Girls Together Outrageously,” a gang of groupies led by leg-
endary “band-aid” Pamela Miller (who later became Pamela Des Barres).
Miss Christine, a member of the GTOs, baby-sat Frank Zappa’s daughter
Moon Unit while Zappa was putting together his own label, Straight
Records. Straight was an ironic name: Zappa was looking for “freak”
bands to sign. He should have been careful what he wished for. Miss
Christine introduced the Alice Cooper band to Zappa, who told them to
come by his house the next day at seven o’clock. The band arrived at
7 A.M. the following morning and started jamming in Zappa’s basement.
He came down the stairs in his underwear, groggy and confused, with a
mug of coffee in his hand. “I meant 7 at night!” he told them. Zappa, no
stranger to weird music, found Alice Cooper’s truly bizarre. He signed the
band to Straight for $6,000. All our struggles are over, thought Cooper.

On September 13, 1969,  Alice Cooper played the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll
Revival festival. The Doors headlined the show, and it was the first time
John Lennon performed solo without the Beatles. During the band’s
stage show, a trademark Cooper trick was to break open a pillow and fill
the theater with feathers. While Cooper was thrashing his pillow about
during the Toronto show, a chicken was thrown onstage. Cooper had
never come across a live chicken in his life and figured if it had wings,
it could fly. He threw it up in the air, expecting it to soar away to free-
dom. Instead, the bird fell straight into the audience, and a frenzy of
hands began grabbing it. Before anyone could figure out what was hap-
pening, the chicken was torn to pieces. Its legs, wings, and head flew
into the air, along with a healthy amount of blood. The next day, head-
lines across the world read that Alice Cooper had sacrificed a chicken
and drunk its blood onstage.

With nothing left to lose, the band decided to move to Detroit,
Cooper’s original hometown. As hard as the band had tried, no one in
Los Angeles had any idea what they were trying to do. But the minute
they hit Detroit, Alice Cooper were immediately accepted and became
kindred spirits with other revolutionary Motor City acts like the MC5
and Iggy Pop. “That was the original metal audience,” said Cooper of
the Detroit fans. They were middle-class, hard-working, hard-drinking
kids. Aerosmith called the Detroit fans “the Blue Army” because when
you looked out into the arena, you’d see waves of blue like a gigantic
denim ocean. It’s not surprising that Cooper became a star in a working-
class environment: He always felt the band was an all-American phe-
nomenon. “Our band is the epitome of everything that’s American,” he
said. “We like girls with big tits, which is typically American. You can’t
find anybody in the band who’ll eat gourmet food. Hamburgers, cheese-
burgers, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box­—everything that’s typically
American for this period of time, we are. Beer, football, everything,”

There was, however, one more element that needed to be in place be-
fore Alice Cooper broke. They needed a hit record. The band had
recorded two albums for Zappa’s Straight label, Pretties for You and Easy
Action. Both albums were musically abstract, and neither sold well. By
1970, Zappa sold his Straight label to Warner Bros. to offset its losses.
For $50,000, Warner got James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, and Alice Cooper.
The record company wasn’t exactly thrilled to get Alice Cooper, but Shep
Gordon believed that if he could find the right producer for the band,
they could fulfill the promise he had always seen in them.

Bob Ezrin was a native of Toronto. He began taking music lessons
when he was five years old, studying classical piano, jazz piano, and
composition. He first met Cooper while working as an assistant to
Jack Richardson, producer for the Guess Who. Shep Gordon thought
Richardson—who had his own production company, Nimbus Nine—
would be the perfect producer for Alice Cooper. When Gordon brought
in the first two Alice Cooper albums, everyone in the office was morti-
fied. “Forget it,” they screamed. “We’re not doing this!”

But Shep Gordon would not take no for an answer. He got a partner,
Leo Fenn, to keep pestering Richardson, who finally relented, saying, “If
my assistant likes them, I’ll talk to the band.” Fenn got Ezrin’s phone
number and called him forty times a day. Ezrin hated Easy Action but 
finally agreed to go see the band at Max’s Kansas City, a New York club.

When he arrived at the club, “I walked into an underworld filled with
spandex, spider eyes, people who looked stranger than any group of
people I’ve ever seen in my life,” he recalls. The audience was all bone-
thin with pasty white skin, black fingernails, long muttonchop side-
burns, and tons of bracelets and rings.

Ezrin and Fenn sat down right in front. Cooper appeared onstage, his
hair filthy and stringy, wearing mascara and high heels, and pounding a
sledgehammer while singing a song called “Sun Arise.” A policeman
came in and threatened to break up the show, but Fenn stood up and
screamed at him, “You have no right to stop this show! This show is not
obscene! Stay off the stage!”

Alice Cooper’s live performance completely assaulted Ezrin. After the
band left the stage, he wondered aloud, “What the fuck was that?”
“I don’t know, but l think I liked it,” said Fenn.
“I think I loved it,” said Ezrin.
Ezrin also knew that with a lot of work, the band could have hit sin-
gles. Never before had he seen an artist tap into so much adolescent pain
and confusion and physically manifest it in songs and stage perfor-

The next day, an ecstatic Ezrin called Nimbus Nine, saying the pro-
duction company had to do the record. “You’re fired,” they replied. Now
it was Ezrin who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He flew back to
Toronto, stormed into ]ack Richardson’s office, jumped on his boss’s
desk, and delivered his impassioned plea. Alice Cooper wasn’t just about
music, Ezrin said. It was a cultural movement with an audience that
looked just like the band. They would be foolish not to jump on this.

Finally, the honchos at Nimbus Nine told Ezrin: if you like them so
much, you do it. “That’s how I became a record producer,” he says Like
Mike Clink, producer for Guns N’ Roses, Ezrin was the only one brave
enough to work with Alice Cooper, and it would make both his and the
band’s career.

In the early stages of a band’s development, having the right pro-
ducer is crucial. The right producer for a hard rock or metal band often
has to be like the band he works with: young, hungry, and maybe a lit-
tle nuts. A good producer, like a good manager, is like an additional
member of the band. He can become part of the trusted inner circle of
a band and party with them until dawn. But he should also be disci-
plined and know when to crack the whip when the job has to be done.
A band needs someone of a like mind who can bring out its best and be
its reality check from making mistakes. Ezrin wouldn’t just produce
Alice Cooper’s best work—he would play a strong hand in reinventing
the band from the ground up.

Warner Bros told Gordon and Ezrin that the label would not finance
an Alice Cooper album unless it heard songs with commercial potential.
Many had thought the band was Frank Zappa’s in-house joke on the
Straight label, so Alice Cooper was determined to prove itself musically.
Ezrin and the band retreated to a barn in Pontiac, Michigan, for two
months, rehearsing ten to twelve hours a day. There was a prison yard
right next door to the property. Some days, they’d leave the barn door
open so the prisoners hanging out in the yard could hear their music. If
the prisoners in the yard liked the music and cheered for it, the band
knew they were on to something.

Ezrin helped re-create the band from scratch, much like piecing to-
gether a Frankenstein monster. ‚“We kept a lot of the madness—we just
controlled it, aimed it,” says Ezrin, who approached the process like
Method acting. He once told Cooper, “Pretend you’re desperate for a
drink. Sing like a sponge.”

At first, the band was apprehensive about the new musical direction
in which they were headed. As Cooper recalled, “I argued with him
every step of the way, even after I heard it on tape and knew it sounded
good. l wasn’t sure it was right for us. Then suddenly, ‘Eighteen’ hap
pened, and it was a sound.”

When the band performed “Eighteen,” Ezrin thought Cooper was
singing, “I’m edgy, and I don’t know what I want.” This is great, Ezrin
thought. Let’s put out a really edgy song. And it’s even called “Edgy!”
He eventually found out the song was actually called “Eighteen,” and
his instructions to the band to sound edgy fit perfectly.

In 1971, “Eighteen” was released as a single. Warner Bros agreed that
if the song did well, the band could record an album. It became
an instant teen anthem, perfectly capturing the confusion of growing
up, when you’re legally an adult but mentally and emotionally still a
child—something many rock stars, including Cooper, could relate to
well into their twenties. But Gordon didn’t leave things to chance. He
reportedly paid people a dollar for every time they called a radio station
requesting the song. The band even made hundreds of calls themselves.
which “built up a phone bill a mile long,” according to guitarist Michael
Bruce. lt all paid off when the song became a national hit, peaking at
No. 21 on the charts The band was loading up their equipment in De-
troit when they first heard “Eighteen” on the radio. It was playing on an
AM station, “That was the boner right there,” said Cooper in his autobi-
ography, Me, Alice. AM radio meant that everybody was listening.

With the success of “Eighteen,” Alice Cooper were able to record
their debut album for Warner Bros, Love It to Death, which included their
hit single. They immediately began touring nonstop, and their fortunes
reversed practically overnight. By the summer of 1971, the album and
the tour had made so much money that the band was able to buy a
forty-two-room mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, recently vacated
by actress Ann-Margret, where the band wrote music and lived together
for the next several years

“ ‘Eighteen’ changed Alice Cooper from the group that destroyed
chickens to the group that destroyed stadiums.” proclaimed The Village
Voice. “ ‘Eighteen’ became our license to kill,” added Cooper. “Probably
the most dangerous thing anybody ever did in the business was give
Alice Cooper a single.” Yet even with the breakthrough of the Love It to
Death album, Warner Bros still wasn’t fond of Alice Cooper and con-
sidered their success a fluke.

The theatrics that dominated Alice Cooper’s live show had developed
early on in the band ‘s club days “We started to incorporate theatrics into
our show as a way of distracting the audience from the fact that we
weren’t very good musicians,” said Michael Bruce. They also found it
kept them from getting bored performing the same songs every night.
Cooper especially was heavily influenced by Hollywood, not just its
horror films but musicals like West Side Story as well. He felt there was a
whole generation-out there that wasn’t even aware of Busby Berkeley,
the famous musical director from the 1930s, and wanted to bring that
style of old-time entertainment into a rock context. On the Billion Dol-
lar Babies tour, he even had Kate Smith belting out “God Bless America”
from the P.A. at the end of each show.

The addition of a giant boa constrictor would become an Alice
Cooper trademark. The first snake, Kachina, was featured on the cover
of the Killer album. Cooper liked the symbolism of the reptile. When he
would bring the snake onstage, one person might see something deadly
and dangerous, another something phallic and sexual. At first Cooper
was terrified of snakes, but he became so comfortable with Kachina that
he eventually posed nude with her lying in his lap for a photo that be-
came a famous poster. The next snake after Kachina was named Angie
Boa, after David Bowie’s then-wife, Angie. One night when Angie had
to be left at the Canadian border in quarantine, a substitute snake was
brought in. Cooper tried rehearsing with it, but it kept opening its
mouth uncomfortably wide whenever it got near his head. There was no
snake that show.

Alice Cooper’s live shows were well-rehearsed, and mishaps were
rare, but one was particularly nasty. Cooper often brought out a sword
as a prop, and one night, he accidentally rammed it through his leg. The
audience went nuts, thinking it was part of the show. Like a pro, Cooper
finished the gig. Back at the hotel, a doctor showed up to give him a
tetanus shot. Even though he had just rammed a dirty, rusty sword
through his leg, Cooper refused to get a shot—he was terrified of nee-
dles. Instead he grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured it over his

At first, the stage props were all “low-budget radical,” as Ezrin put it.
But as the band grew more successful, their stage show grew equally more
complex. One of the band’s early props was a huge, heavy, wooden elec-
tric chair with sheets of corrugated steel on the back. Cooper used to sit
in it like a king when the band would rehearse. “He loved his electric
chair,” remembers Ezrin.

Cooper looked at their shows as a rock and roll morality play, and in
the end, he had to be punished by being put to death. “Shakespeare
would have been my biggest fan,” he said. For the Killer tour, Cooper
hung himself from a fake gallows built by the Warner Bros prop
department. On later tours he was decapitated in a guillotine built by
magician James “The Amazing” Randi. Even though there was no way
Cooper could have gotten hurt because of the fail-safes built into the ap-
paratus, the band told the press that there was only one hinge preventing
their frontman from losing his head.They wanted the audience to believe
that the show they were watching could potentially be Cooper’s last.

To choreograph the band’s increasingly elaborate stage show, Cooper
hired a Broadway producer who had previously worked with Liza Min-
nelli. The theatrics became such an important part of Alice Cooper that
the band’s lighting director got an equal cut of the tour dividends Ac-
cording to some accounts, the band members were divided about the
extreme theatrical direction they were moving in. When the band finally
broke up in 1975, Cooper said it was because his bandmates didn’t want
to do his wild stage show anymore, but Michael Bruce said he didn’t
mind the extravagant theatrics as long as it didn’t become “a dancing
musical.” Drummer Neal Smith countered, “The whole band was into
theatrics 150 percent. We loved it. That’s what made us different.”

There was no question that Alice Cooper’s theatrics would set a

strong benchmark for countless bands to come. “I think we liberated
a lot of acts that wanted to be theatrical but couldn’t,” said Cooper.
“David Bowie used to come to our shows in England when he was a
folk singer. Elton John was this nice piano player who came to our show
at the Hollywood Bowl and sat in the front row. The next time I saw
him he was in a Donald Duck outfit, wearing huge glasses and doing
Dodger Stadium.”

While Alice Cooper’s stage show was becoming legendary, their
music was catching on as well. With the Killer album, released in
November of 1971, the band came close to cracking the Top Twenty,
peaking at No 21. But their real commercial breakthrough came the
following year with School’s Out, which zoomed to No 2 on the album
charts. With the song “School’s Out,” Cooper wanted to capture “the
happiest, most exhilarating moment of the year. .. when the clock is
one minute to three on the last day of school, and then it finally goes
click.” As with “Eighteen,” it was another archetypal teenage anthem,
and would become the band’s first TopTen single, peaking at No. 7 in
the United States and No 1 in England. The School’s Out album featured
a pair of women’s panties stretched over the cover. When the band
headlined the Hollywood Bowl, hundreds of panties rained down from
the skies, dropped from helicopters.

On “School’s Out,” producer Ezrin employed a choir of children
singing, “No more pencils, no more books . . .” “One of the best moments
in rock history, I think, is when those kids come on that record,” says
Ezrin, who called a New York casting agency and had them send over
“five stage-brat kids with their stage-brat parents. I had to explain to the
parents why it was okay for this group of kids to sing with this group
of completely twisted individuals. And the kids were scared to death,
but I got them all to relax and by the end of it, the kids were all laugh-
ing and giggling. They loved Alice.” A choir of children would become
one of Ezrin’s trademarks, and he would use it to great effect years later
on Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two).”

The following year, Alice Cooper settled in at their mansion in Con-
necticut to record their next album, Billion Dollar Babies. They finished it
at Morgan Studios in England, where folk hippie singer Donovan was
recording as well. Donovan walked down the hall to the Cooper session
and put in a guest appearance on the Babies album, providing the echo-
ing schizophrenic voice inside Alice’s head on the title track, with the
harmonies structured like the children’s song “Row, Row, Row Your
Boat.” Billion Dollar Babies would prove to be their biggest seller to date,
going to No I in both the United States and United Kingdom.

By the time Alice Cooper set out on the Billion Dollar Babies tour, the
band was sick of the road, having spent much of the past three years
touring. With a No. 1 record, they hoped that by the end of the tour
they would have made enough money to retire and get out. They sched-
uled sixty-four concerts in fifty-nine cities in ninety days—grueling
pace—and anticipated a gross of around $20 million.

Chicago Tribune journalist Bob Greene came along with them to write
a book about the tour. What he saw was a band that was starting to fall
apart right in front of him. Being the most notorious frontman in rock
and roll had taken its toll on Cooper, and he drank heavily to deal with
the pressure. “If Alice Cooper was destroying anyone, he was destroying
me,” Cooper recalled in his book. “It bothered me every time I was crit-
icized. I made my own bed, and l was being paid handsomely to sleep
in it. But even if you’re grossing $20 million a year, it begins to drive
you crazy when you get called a degenerate. I was tired of being the
rebel. I was tired of being thrown out of church. I made my point, all
right. Now what?”

When a fourteen-year-old Canadian boy was found dead in his room,
having hung himself near a photo on his wall of Alice hanging from his
stage gallows, the parents naturally blamed Cooper. It was one of the
first incidents of heavy metal being blamed for teenage suicide, and
Cooper and Ezrin were deeply troubled by the boy’s death.

“I thought if we had anything to do with [the suicide], we needed to
take a really close look at what we were doing,” says Ezrin. “In fact, it
changed my attitude toward what we were doing. Up until then, it was
goofy and fun, but at that point, I started to take very seriously the re-
sponsibility of the rock star. We made sure from that point on that any-
thing we did was really cartoony.”

On the Babies tour, the band was now flying the Starship, the deluxe
airplane that Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones used when they were
on tour. The Starship’s interior resembled a gaudy Las Vegas lounge. The
plane had a giant couch, a study, a shower in the bathroom, and a large
bedroom that was quite popular. In fact, it’s probably the heavy metal
and hard rock groups of the ‘70s that opened the first branch of the
Mile High Club. The Starship also had one of the first VCRs and a
videotape library before video technology was readily available. Deep
Throat had recently come out and was a popular film on the Starship.
The bands that used the plane had watched it so many times they had
worn out two copies. Their first time on the Starship, the band put on
Deep Throat before takeoff. As Greene wrote, “We sped down the run-
way and up into the air, just as Linda Lovelace was giving the first
demonstration of her oral dexterity.” Cooper preferred watching the
Marx Brothers.

Tensions were high during the Babies tour, and Greene witnessed a lot
of blowups among the band members. Bruce and Neal Smith constantly
vented to Greene that they felt like a backup band and weren’t getting
the attention they felt they deserved. “I write No. 1 songs, and Alice
ruins them,” Bruce told Greene, complaining that the band was holding
him back. “I wrote ‘School’s Out’ and ‘I’m Eighteen.’  Then Alice takes
them and puts his own weird lyrics in them, and they’re not No 1 songs
anymore, they’re just songs that fit the stage image we’ve built up.”

Bruce had always resented Cooper and Ezrin making changes to his
music, even though their changes took the band to a whole new level of
success. Nor did Bruce get along with Shep Gordon, despite the fact
that Gordon was also a big driving force in the band’s success. “Shep
doesn’t care about the music,” he said. “All Shep cares about is pushing
Alice, making Alice a bigger and bigger star on his own.” Bruce wanted
everyone in the band to be known equally, like the Beatles.

Yet in spite of the band’s internal strife, Greene felt, “they did not
hate Alice; they did not hate Shep. The band and the managers had been
together for so many years that they were all virtually the only real
friends they had. The years on the road, in their effort to achieve the
heights, had made them absolutely dependent on each other for every
kind of support.”

Greene also felt that underneath all the ego battles and the com-
plaining, the band was genuinely afraid of Alice leaving. “Now that
they were on top, it seemed that the rest of the group was realizing
for the first time that Alice really could, if he wanted, get along without
them,” Greene continued. “The same could not be said for the other
four, who would be right back where they started without the Alice
Cooper name.”

Beside the emotional turmoil in the band, the tour also left them
physically wrecked. The tour also wasn’t the big financial windfall that
everyone had hoped for either, grossing $4 million—huge by 1974
standards, but $3.5 million of it went toward touring expenses

As anyone who’s watched more than two episodes of VH-l’s Behind
the Music can tell you, the grind of being on the road has fractured many
a band. Artists don’t stay on the road anywhere near as long as metal
and hard rock groups routinely did in the ‘70s and ‘80s, mainly because
the process is too mentally and physically exhausting, Bands usually
went from the stage to the hotel and back again, repeatedly, for years,
and rarely had time to even see the world they were circling. It was all
one big blur outside the window of the tour bus. Cooper used to say
that whenever someone asked him where he lived, he’d point to the
nearest Holiday Inn.

After the Billion Dollar Babies tour, the band decided to write a quick.
no-frills record, do a small tour, and then take a much-needed break. The
follow-up to Babies, Muscle of Love, was a big disappointment, both crea-
tively and commercially. Ezrin didn’t produce the album, supposedly
because he was going through a divorce. As much as Bruce didn’t get
along with Ezrin and complained he streamlined their sound, he felt
one reason the album didn’t jell was because Ezrin wasn’t behind the
boards. The band also realized they had peaked with Babies, and it was a
tough album to follow up.

Like most band breakups, Alice Cooper’s was a train wreck that was
a long time coming. Many heavy metal bands have a tragic figure, and
in Alice Cooper, it was guitarist Glen Buxton. It was Buxton who taught
Dennis Dunaway how to play the bass; he wrote the classic riff to
“School’s Out.” Dunaway felt that it was Buxton’s spirit that really drove
the band, but he had been drinking heavily since he was fifteen and was -
up to a quart of whisky a day by his high school graduation. Years of al-
cohol abuse had wrecked his digestive system. He eventually had to be
brought to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, and his pancreas had to
be drained. Buxton looked far older than his twenty-six years, and by
the Billion Dollar Babies tour he was seriously falling apart. He was no
longer capable of playing, and two guitarists had to play behind a cut-
tain for him. Buxton was also deteriorating mentally: During the Muscle
of Love tour, he pulled a knife on their tour manager. As Buxton’s be-
havior became more and more erratic, he became alienated from the rest
of the band. Bruce felt that it was ultimately Buxton’s downfall that
gave Cooper the final incentive he needed to leave and pursue a solo ca-
reer. Buxton died on October 19, 1997, from pneumonia.

Cooper’s subsequent solo project, Welcome to My Nightmare, would be 
his rebirth. On the eve of the Nightmare tour, Cooper’s four former band-
mates signed legal agreements of officially breaking up the original band. 
“Shep said we didn’t have an employment contract so we couldn’t force
Alice back into the group,” said Bruce. The band left the door open for
Cooper to come back, but when the realization sunk in that he wasn’t
going to return, they all went their separate ways.

“Alice is a good guy, and I considered him my best friend,” said Den-
nis Dunaway. “As far as not being on stage and not touring, that doesn’t 
bother me as much as the fact that somebody who I thought was my
best friend could just sort of eliminate me and eliminate everything that
I had worked for creatively, overnight.”

As Alice embarked on his new solo career, his former bandmates
struggled to find a new identity. Bruce recorded a solo album that
couldn’t get an American deal. A year later, he formed Billion Dollar
Babies with Smith and Dunaway. Their debut album went overbudget,
ran late, and was completely ignored upon its release. They sank a lot of
money into a tour that lasted only four dates. They built a huge stage
like they’d used in the Alice Cooper glory days, but with the album
flopping and the tour canceled, it ended up sitting in a warehouse.
Bruce didn’t realize what he had with Cooper until it was gone. “It was
only then that I saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “Okay, so maybe
I had never really received the recognition I thought I deserved, but
who was I without the band?”

Cooper himself was nervous about going out on his own, unsure
if the fans would accept him as a solo artist. To alleviate his fears,
he brought Ezrin back into the fold to produce the album, and Ezrin
brought a hot new band in for him, including guitarists Steve Hunter
and Dick Wagner, who had played with Lou Reed. In addition he spent
close to half a million dollars to set up the subsequent tour. Cooper fig-
ured the Nightmare album would either be his greatest triumph or his
most embarrassing failure. As luck would have it, Nightmare turned out
to be a tremendous success. Despite some complaints that the chemistry
of the original band was gone, Nightmare would become one of Cooper’s
quintessential albums, one of the first albums many of his fans bought
or got into.

The song “The Black Widow” has a spoken-word introduction by
Vincent Price, who leads Steven, a young boy who is the main charac-
ter of the Nightmare album, through a spider museum. Price works him-
self into a frenzy, guiding the boy through all the different species of
arachnids until he comes to the black widow, maniacally predicting how
it will one day swarm the earth. The pitch to Price to appear on the
record was simple: Ezrin called him and asked, “Mr. Price, how would
you like to make your rock and roll debut?” He couldn’t pass it up. The
entire speech was written by Price and Ezrin over the phone and
recorded in an hour from separate studios

Right before the Nightmare album reaches its halfway point, the
album softens with the ballad “Only Women Bleed.” Many felt the song
offered a grim view of being an abused woman. “Alice must have had
some pretty good drugs back then, because he really put himself in a
woman’s position to write that song,” said Lita Ford, who covered
“Bleed.” Ironically, Ike and Tina Turner also covered the song while they
were married. Cooper claimed the lyrics were never really about do-
mestic violence, but feminists latched onto the song. Gloria Steinem is
rumored to have thanked Cooper by telegram for writing the song.

With Cooper’s solo success, he discovered that he could exist and
thrive outside the confines of a band. He would soon adopt a revolving-
door policy, changing lineups between albums and tours. “When Alice
decides to do a tour from one golf tournament to the other, he gets his
band together, whoever it might be, and goes on tour as Alice Cooper,”
said former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. “So whoever is available and
whoever is not is replaceable in Alice’s mind.” (Besides Cooper, Ozzy
Osbourne, and Gene and Paul of Kiss would usually remain the focal
points of their bands, while other musicians would come and go)

Besides his triumph in going solo, it was also in the mid-1970s that
Cooper’s obsession with golf took hold. From the airplane, he’d look
out the window and call to his road manager Joe Gannon, “Joe! There’s
a course down there! We gotta get in nine holes before the show
tonight!” He even kept his clubs in the equipment truck. Cooper’s love
of golf continues to this day.

At this point in the ‘70s, Cooper also started becoming friendly with
a number of old-time Hollywood stars such as George Burns and Grou-
cho Marx. Marx, who often stayed up all night, would call Cooper
whenever a Marx Brothers movie was coming on TV, invite him over,
and tell him behind-the-scenes anecdotes while they watched the film
together into the wee hours of the morning. Cooper loved old-time
Hollywood so much that he and Shep Gordon contributed to the cam-
paign to save the famous Hollywood sign from decay. Cooper’s do-
nation helped preserve the second O in Wood, which he dedicated to
Groucho’s memory.

More and more, Cooper was stepping away from his stage persona in
public, something Shep didn’t want him to do at first. For years Gordon
wouldn’t let Cooper go on the Tonight Show, even though Cooper was
dying to do the show, because it would have compromised his mystique.
“Do you know how many people that’s going to turn off?” asked Gor-
don, Michael Bruce said that when the band was at its peak with the 
Babies album Cooper felt trapped in his alter ego, locked into a role when
the other guys in the band clearly weren’t. Cooper got tired of being
treated like the Antichrist by the unknowing public who didn’t under-
stand that the character was just part of his perfonnance.

Little by little, Cooper began appearing out of character in public,
playing golf with celebrities and eventually on television. In late 1976,
The Midnight Special did a tribute to Alice Cooper. lnstead of coming out
in dripping black eyeliner with a dismembered baby doll in his hand, he
appeared with no makeup at all, wearing shorts, a tanktop, and sneak-
ers. His hair was its natural color, brown, instead of dyed jet black.
Cooper looked like he just stepped off of a tennis court rather than out
of a dungeon.

The fans were crushed; they really wanted to believe he was that
monster on stage twenty-four hours a day. But keeping his onstage and
offstage personas separate was something Cooper had always insisted
on. He once said part of the reason he made that decision was from ob-
serving Keith Moon killing himself trying to be “Keith Moon” twenty-
four hours a day. A lot of heavy metal and hard rock musicians have felt
obligated to live up to the crazed rock-star stereotypes of groupies,
drugs, wrecked hotel rooms—all the trappings that come with success
in the music industry. The problem is that it gets harder and harder to top
the last feat of outrageousness, and the stereotype becomes harder to es-
cape. “l think [Cooper] drank more and more as there was increasing
pressure on him to be more outrageous and upstage the last thing he
did,” said Bruce in his autobiography, No More Mr. Nice Guy.

It would take Ozzy Osbourne years to live down his “madman” per-
sona, and much of his recent press has focused on his family life. Gene
Simmons’s onstage persona was such an extension of his personality that
when Kiss took off their makeup in 1983 he felt lost without it.

Cooper was smart enough to realize that not separating who you are
onstage with who you are offstage can be very dangerous “If you’re not
careful, the whole world will push you into being that character,” says
Steve Hunter, who played guitar for Cooper from 1975 to 1979. “I knew 
when I got onstage with Alice and looked him in the eye, he was
a different guy. I liked that.”

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