Experiencing Alice Cooper: A Listener’s Companion by Ian Chapman, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, US $35.00, Pp 204, March 2018, ISBN 978-1442257702
American singer, songwriter, and actor, Alice Cooper is known for his distinctive raspy voice and a stage-show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, deadly snakes, baby dolls and dueling sword. Alice Cooper was born Vincent Furnier and known affectionately a “Coop” among his fans all over the world. Alice Cooper whose career spans more than five decades was born in 1948 and rose to fame as soon as the mid-1960s. He is considered ‘The Godfather of Shock Rock.’ In Experiencing Alice Cooper, Ian Chapman takes a deep look at the life and music career of rock music’s self-styled arch-villain, covering his career from the mid-1960s.
Chapman says that Alice Cooper is a one-off performer, a mold-breaker, an innovator and a rock ’n roll pioneer. He is also an enigma in that he is not only a rock star like no other, but also a fanatical and talented golfer and committed Christian, philanthropist, tireless youth worker, and very popular radio host with his own internationally syndicated radio show, Nights with Alice Cooper. Once the villain extraordinaire of rock music, feared by parents across the world as they muttered under their breath about the subversion of the nation’s youth while confiscating their son’s or daughter’s black mascara and hiding the family’s pet snake. Today, Alice Cooper is a revered elder statesman of rock, with continued popularity equal to only a handful of other performers.
Prior to his controversial emergence in the late 1960s and subsequent elevation to unlikely and unprecedented stardom in the early 1970s, rock n roll had seen nothing like him. Or like them because at this stage Alice Cooper was a band consisting of five musicians and not just a single performer even though he alone bore the name within the group as well. During the 1970s “glam rock” era – known as “glitter rock” in the United States – erroneous comparisons were often made to the United Kingdom’s most outrageous performer. David Bowie, while KISS famously modeled themselves on the notion that if one Alice Cooper was bringing such success for its architect, what could a team of our similarly attired Alice Cooper semi-clones accomplish? In later years, Marilyn Manson was deemed by some to have taken up the Cooper shock rock mantle. But none of these comparisons really work because of Cooper’s inherent uniqueness.
It is highly unlikely that any rock band or artist could achieve through music today what Alice Cooper did back in his heyday. In the early 1970s, as it had been in the preceding decade, rock music was the form of youth expression. Today there are the multiple distractions and options offered by the internet: gaming for one and therefore no single rallying point exist any longer. There is no flag-bearer behind whom columns of like-minded individuals might rally. Alice Cooper remains one of those rare figures, and a lot of fans owe him a debt of gratitude for that. Alice Cooper has maintained his high profile presence at the forefront of rock ‘n’ roll, achieving what one might term godfather status. The band’s inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 is deserved proof of that.
Despite critical acclaim for the first four post-millennium albums, Alice Cooper’s commercial fortunes have undeniably fallen. If there is one absolute truism regarding the career of Alice Cooper it is that he is never predictable. Always possessing the ability to surprise his audience, in 2008, he did exactly that once again with his twenty-fifth studio album, ‘Along Came a Spider.’ Rekindling the concept Album — something he had proven himself to be a master at in the past – would not only bring critical acclaim but would also go a very long way toward restoring the Alice Cooper name to the forefront of the rock business, ultimately providing a springboard that would bring him right back to the top of the heap with his subsequent release.
Experiencing Alice Cooper is as outrageous as Alice Cooper himself. Ian Chapman shows why Rock ‘n’ Roll would not have existed today as we know it without the elderly statesman of rock. Chapman also shows why he is as much reviled as he was revered. Chapman shines a light on the unexplored parts of Alice Cooper’s personal life such as his problems with alcohol and idiosyncratic music career. With his encyclopedic knowledge, Ian Chapman provides deep insights into his music career in its entirety, beginning with the Alice Cooper Band’s first record, ‘Pretties for you’ (1969) to ‘Paranormal’ (2017), going through many other hits such as ‘I’m Eighteen,’ ‘School’s Out,’ ‘Only Women Bleed,’ about domestic violence against women. It is like an encyclopedia-and-a-Bible-in-one on Alice Cooper and his music.