What band exudes the eerie aura of All Hallows’ Eve more than Alice Cooper does? There was a mystique—jejune and over-the-top as it now may seem—surrounding the band that once thrilled young rock fans and filled their parents with absolute dread.
It has been perhaps forgotten in these latter days of sanguine and violent images, blatant sexuality, and perverse language—and I am only referring to children’s TV programming!—that in the early 1970s Alice Cooper was deemed highly offensive and downright dangerous to the Moral Majority, as the self-righteous prig Mary Whithouse, whom Roger Waters savaged in the Pink Floyd song "Pigs", actually got the song "School's Out" banned in Britain. Even today, I’d be willing to bet playing the song “Dead Babies” could make many a listeners' skin crawl--nearly 40 years after it was first released on the Killer album (1971).
From a personal standpoint, my adoration for The Coop started in 1972, when I was snuck out of my house under false pretenses and brought surreptitiously to an Alice Cooper concert by my older (and infinitely cool) cousins. As a naïve and rather nerdy twelve-year-old at the time, Cooper gave me a vision of what one could do with Rock-and-Roll. He sang to a boa constrictor! He hacked up baby dolls! He was hung upon a gibbet in the middle of the stage! Oh, good lord, I had seen the Promised Land!
Upon returning home after the concert, I drew Alice Cooper eyes on all my sister's dolls, started growing my hair and borrowed money from my parents to buy a guitar, a used $35 Silvertone acoustic with strings about a half-inch off the fret board—my fingers bled for weeks! Life ain't been the same since, and I sincerely thank Alice Cooper for my blessed conversion to the dark side!
And that was the subversive enticement of Cooper to kids, and the dangerous foreboding to their shocked parents: lewd and crude rock, rebellion, individualism, and, of course, a little mayhem. I can recall getting the Cooper album School’s Out confiscated at the Catholic school I once attended. You see, the cover was a replica of an old oaken school desktop, carved with band members’ initials and a stylized Alice Cooper insignia (a knife stabbing down through a heart). But that wasn’t the problem. Open the school desk, and lo and behold! The record sleeve was a pair of women’s panties. Needless to say, the nuns were not as appreciative of high art as I was.
Alice Cooper was very artistic in a theatrical sense, and countless bands (KISS, Twisted Sister, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, GWAR, etc.) owe him a debt of gratitude as a visionary and groundbreaker—or gravedigger, as it were. But I come not to bury Cooper, I come to praise him (or them, as early in their career the entire band was known by the odd name, supposedly divined from a Ouija board).