Bite the Head off a Birdie? I'd Rather Putt One; Alice Cooper: Heavy on Stage Horror, Gentleman Golfer on the Fairway
Byline: Adrian Thrills
HIS CONCERTS were once notorious for their shock value.
Against a backdrop of pounding heavy-metal chords and theatrical vocals, theywould feature guillotines dripping with fake blood, live boa constrictors andgory vignettes in which baby dolls were brutally impaled on swords.
Even now, as he prepares for an autumn arena tour with Motorhead and Joan Jett,Alice Cooper is hardly planning to tone down his act. His current show includesa grave-robbing scene, a mock street fight between two leather-clad gangs andenough black eyeliner to sink a battleship.
But while the American rocker was once every parent's worst nightmare, a menaceto society who celebrated his notoriety in a song called No More Mr Nice Guy,it is hard to imagine a sweeter individual than the 59-year-old sittingopposite me nursing a soft drink in a London hotel.
Polite, witty and sociable, the singer, who officially changed his name toAlice from Vincent Furnier in 1974, is a happily married, teetotal Christianand golfing addict who claims that he has only ever been interested inproducing great theatre. The Alice persona, he says, was a showbiz creationthat owed as much to classic horror movies and vaudeville as it did to rockmusic.
'My group and I were once dubbed the most evil band in the world,' he chuckles.'But every one of us came from a decent, middle-class family. My father andgrandfather were both pastors. We had no real degeneracy in us whatsoever. Allwe did was portray America at its worst.
ALICE continues: 'My heroes were people who upset the applecartguys like Groucho Marx and Salvador Dali.
Art should shake up the system, so Alice took what the Rolling Stones did andmade them look like choirboys. He brought theatre to rock 'n' roll. And, asbloody as it got, he always had a sense of humour.
'Back in the Seventies, Alice Cooper was half Count Dracula and half InspectorClouseau. He would slit your throat one minute, but he'd slip up on a bananaskin five minutes later.' The man who invented shock-rockand paved the way for Kiss and Marilyn Mansoncan seem oddly detached when he chats about his creation, disconcertinglyreferring to 'Alice' in the third person.
But, as he talks of his formative years, when his unique blend of glam-metaland Detroit garagerock provided a hard-hitting alternative to the Californianhippie scene, he becomes animated.
'The hippies wanted peace and love,' he says. 'I wanted a Ferrari, a blonde anda switchblade. I didn't understand the hippie thing. I was into West SideStory. I didn't want to smoke a joint and chill out to The Mamas And The Papas.I wanted people to gasp when I walked into a room.' Born in Detroit'a tough, blue-collar rock 'n'
roll town'the singer spent much of his childhood in Phoenix, Arizona. He had moved backto Michigan, though, by the time the Alice Cooper band began to create shockwaves during the late Sixties.
The band's reputation for outrage was cemented in 1969 after an infamousToronto gig supporting The Doors and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
Alice says: 'At the end of the show, there was a live chicken on stage. Now, Ididn't bring it in and I wasn't sure what to do with it. I'm from Detroit, andI've never been on a farm in my life. But it was a bird, so I assumed it wouldfly. But when I threw it in the air, it plummeted to the ground.
'The audience tore the poor thing to pieces. The next day all the newspaperheadlines said that I had ripped the chicken's throat out and drank its blood.
'I hadn't done any such thing, but it made me realise that the rock worldneeded a new villain.
They wanted a Professor Moriarty character, and it was easy to feed that fire.There were lots of Peter Pans around, but no Captain Hook. …