Alice Cooper – 21 Reasons To Love Alice Cooper
There’s something endearing about the notion of one of the Great Wild Men Of Rock playing golf with the late dry-as-dust comedian George Burns. But Alice Cooper – born Vincent Furnier – has some intrinsic skills that have ensured his staying power as a performer.
He knows that this is all ShowBiz. He recognises talent in others e.g. Bob Ezrin, he has a good ear for a tune, he has an enduring black sense of humour. He attracts the greatest players…who wouldn’t kill to get on stage and play material like Alice’s? There is a variety in his recorded work and his song arrangements.
But overall Cooper is a True Man Of The People in the way that Iggy Pop is and that one could reasonably argue Paul Weller has become AND Alice has one of the greatest rock voices. Nobody ever mentions Cooper’s voice, but it is wonderful. Rich, deep, full of character and it sounds great over wailing guitars and thunderous drums…and horns, for that matter. SO…as we do from time to time, let’s list for you some of our favourite Alice Cooper works. You may care to listen to them if new to you or revisit them.
What this round-up in NOT is any kind of pompous lesson or attempt at a definitive rating. Surprisingly, when we did a list on The Tubes – who you might think would have intelligent fans? – taking care to explain the concept, some of them just didn’t get it! One halfwit said our song choices were ‘wrong’, causing much amusement at JLTT headquarters. What a zombie!
Anyhow for what it’s worth, here are some AC recordings we love..and why……..
IT’S HOT TONIGHT kicks off with a snakey Yardbirds-style riff, Alice appears, voice riding the guitars. The chorus includes a cool staggered passage. It sums up a sweaty evening in AnyTown and a lyrical guitar solo starts @ 2:00. Cooper often stalks a song and this is a cool example
LOVE’S A LOADED GUN has a kick-ass electric guitar solo from Stef Burns as Alice sings about his lover being with another man. Released in October 1991, it was one of the singles from the ‘Hey Stoopid’ album and the angry lyrics come across perfectly. Interestingly, Alice chose to cover Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ for the single’s B-side.
FROM THE INSIDE is pure Goth indulgence, creepy harpsichord, strings and twisted Brian Wilson style chorale. Cooper delivers the vocal from the top of his mouth, as if he knows something we don’t. What a ham ! What fun ! Lovely horn chart, too
WHO DO YOU THINK WE ARE is all clipped guitars, like a warped guitars and Cooper switches from mean squeeze to almost auditioning-for-Footloose. ‘We don’t care !’ he snarls, daring us to.
IDENTITY CRISES takes a slow Motown pace and then Alice shows Billy Idol and the like how to sing with edge. I always wondered whether he had Iggy Pop in mind when he came up with this ? Because Cooper may be a longtime Phoenix resident BUT his early years were in Detroit and in my view, that’s never left him
HITCH HIKE is by the early ensemble The Spiders and has a youthful Vincent delivering a crisp take on Marvin Gaye’s Hitch Hike. The song found its way onto an early album by the Rolling Stones, of course. Even back then, the man could put a song over…
MR & MISDEMEANOR stomps in on a bed of fuzz and by now Alice has the throaty thing really working. The arrangement is a touch prissy but this was before the full-blooded sound was attained. The guitar figures nod to Robby Krieger’s slide playing.
CAUGHT IN A DREAM has such a purposeful sound and Alice sings with authority as the accomplished guitars thread through the upbeat mid-paced number and the piano-laced chorus sounds fabulous, still. Just enough of the Stones but the band uses that as an ingredient and Cooper never apes Jagger.
I have seen Alice Cooper perform several times. The first time was likely their debut in London, at The Rainbow Theatre. Heaven knows what they were on, but they were awful. And toppling off their platform boots, except for Alice. By contrast when he played what was Hammersmith Odeon a few years later his band were Texans and really great musicians so every song sounded ace. The last Hammersmith show I saw was a treat, at the end he saw a dope in a Marilyn Manson t-shirt and made him turn it inside out !!
I’M EIGHTEEN remains a stark and moody ballad. I love this song and throw it into solo shows if the room has any resonant qualities. Cooper sounds at once confident and achingly lost as the chorused arpeggio guitar rings out the minor chords. Excellent bass and drum work complete the picture. The song floats and hits home.
IS IT MY BODY is a while ahead of Rod Stewart mining a similar theme to a disco beat. A superbly constructed rock song, every part defined but meshing into a punchy song with cross-time elements. Obviously one to perform, for the leader and he took the chance to define his stage character further. The fine separation of guitar tones in this era lends a terrific dynamic presence
UNDER MY WHEELS is still a great thundering song. The guitar chords hang, dirty smoke falls, the drums evoke early Mitch Ryder and the horns blare over the curling guitar runs and squeals. The key change seems effortless. Surely one of the best rock and roll performances ever captured in a studio !
SCHOOL’S OUT is truly the anthem of the disaffected. It is said that even Johnny Rotten dug it. Whenever I meet someone who claims to have enjoyed their schooldays I know they are not going to be my friend. Maybe it was the era I was born into, but the thought of school still makes me shudder. Alice is not with the swots and creeps – and informers in my schools – and stands up for those with contempt for the teachers and the establishment. Slashing guitar riffs, a stomping beat and rebel-rouser vocal..all this plus rolling horns and a bunch of schoolkids you DON’T want to strangle for once ! And revived every year since by the wretched school calendar..yeah !!!
ELECTED sure sounds great again as with most of our countries deep in elections the vile manoevering politicians coat is with their desperate promises of what they will deliver. A pox on your insincerity and patronising drivel ! WE see you for what you ARE, we don’t like it. And neither did Cooper, putting together this insistent tumbling song deriding the lot of them in a blur of electric guitars, booming drums and horns. It is also an example of his superior rock singing
NO MORE MR NICE GUY in construction does sail close to the Stones as it starts but then the song becomes pure Alice. He sounds angry, the chorus is one of our planet’s best loved and once again the separation on the guitars is dazzling. Such dynamics with a radio hit single..rivals Bowie and the likes of Rebel Rebel or Golden Years.
MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is the track that should be better known – cut for James Bond film but not used when the movie was released, with Cooper handling the song’s nuances very well indeed. The arrangement shifts up a gear @ 1:20 with emphatic bass but no problem to this crew. It’s high time the Bond Franchise signed up someone who can sing !!
WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE reminds me of buying this album and carting it home, eager to hear the Vincent Price contribution. The spidery chords and stealthy bass have lost none of their eeriness. As an introduction to the album it works so well and Cooper adds 10% James Morrison to his vocal delivery. The drumming is skilful and just right as the staccato horn charts dig in.
I NEVER CRY is a slow AC song that I always much preferred to Only Women Bleed – which I found mawkish. There is again much more than a hint of Brian Wilson in the chords and arrangement, but this is a shadowy song with no sunshine. As tender as Alice ever got.
GO TO HELL was from the Welcome album of course and found the band stomping its way to Hades, added percussion here and there. Unhurried and calm as the distorted guitars crash in. Ascending chords underline the growled chorus. A CooperFest…
I GOT A LINE ON YOU is a song by one of my favourite groups ever, Spirit. Cooper’s version not only shows his great taste on other rock outfits but ups the rockiness a little and he sings it his way, losing none of the melody or punch. He also did Love’s Seven & Seven Is, it’s on a UK single I own.
POISON is such a great melodic rock song that Tarja Turunen used to include a version in stage shows. Maybe his most catchy song and radio-friendly, the vocal here is typically forceful and the chorus irresistible. It’s hard to think of a rock song that uses dynamics better than this song.
FEED MY FRANKENSTEIN is attack attack attack, Cooper savours the lyric – he doesn’t want pizza – and the riff has always reminded me of The Tubes, though it likely predates them. A cool deep bassline keeps one this on track.
OK readers, this can never be a comprehensive list of fine Alice Cooper moments but it’s our best shot for now, so no sniping at us on the choices. You will have your own favourites, we’re sure. This man’s music is to be enjoyed, shared, celebrated!
(I will probably do a Part Two on AC from 2000 onwards, at some point. The later album I would recommend to you is Brutal Planet)
For artist info and tour dates (including his Autumn 2017 UK Arena Tour with Special Guests The Tubes and The Mission) go here: http://www.alicecooper.com/
***Alice Cooper has a radio show on Planet Rock. It is sharp and very funny.***