Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011, 9:55 AM
Alice Cooper said it from the get-go and said it again before hanging up the phone after an amiable chat: âI'm proud to be from Detroit.â
On the line from Arizona to talk about Monday's overdue induction of theAlice Cooper Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cooper expressed his bubbly enthusiasm for the Great Lakes State before I even had a chance to ask about his Michigan roots.
âIt's another Detroit band (being inducted), which is good,â the legendary shock-rocker said. âI like the fact that we're representing Detroit. It's nice to be in that group. Those are the bands that we really are the most connected with: Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, MC5. We lived there and played there during Detroit's golden era. It's great to bring home a prize to Detroit.â
Take that, L.A. and New York.
And guess what milestone moment stands out the most for the guy who pretty much invented theatrical rock, who has nine Top 40 albums and 11 Top 40 singles to his credit, who paved the way for other makeup-heavy, drama-styled rockers such as KISS, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails?
It was hearing his band's single, âEighteen,â for the first time in 1971 on powerhouse AM radio station CKLW while cruising the streets of Detroit.
âWe were in a car and we literally stopped the car,â Cooper, now 63, recalled. âEverybody in the band went, 'Are you kidding me?' (CKLW disc jockeys) would say, 'This is the pick hit that week' and it was 'Eighteen.'
âYou were up against The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles and everyone else out there who had a commercial record. You had to fit your rock 'n' roll record into that Top 40 and make it work.â
Now, Alice Cooper and his original band â guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith â will join those very same Supremes, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles and a host of other icons in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Longtime pal, heavy metal star and shock-rock pupil Rob Zombie will induct the group during ceremonies at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel â an event that will also welcome Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits into the hall (plus pianist Leon Russell, who'll deservedly receive a musical excellence award).
Seems rather strange company for band members who, as the Hall of Fame puts it, âpioneered the dark spectacle of heavy metal with their huge blues-rock sound and extravagant stage show.â
But as far as engaging fellows and great interview subjects go, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, even if Cooper's fond of roaring âNo More Mr. Nice Guyâ at his bloody, scary Halloween-styled concerts.
Born Vincent Damon Furnier, Cooper remembers being mesmerized by the music of Chuck Berry, The Skyliners and doo-wop groups growing up in the Detroit area. After moving to Arizona with his family because of his asthma problems while still a youngster, Cooper and his band moved back to Detroit in the late 1960s to join the burgeoning rock scene there.
And, he maintains, there wasn't a better, more special time in Michigan's musical history. His band would perform frequently at Detroit's famous Grande Ballroom with acts ranging from Brownsville Station to Fleetwood Mac to MC5.
âIt really was the healthiest rock scene going anywhere,â he recalled. âOne weekend, it was Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, Alice Cooper, Iggy & the Stooges and The Who. All for $4.â
âIt's always got that Detroit grunge sound to it and I was very happy to be counted to be one of those Detroit garage bands. We just took it to a different theatrical level. You couldn't out-punk Iggy and you couldn't be more theatrical than Alice. Even though we were competing with each other, we were still cheering each other on.â
The band also was the first to introduce audiences to the kind of theatrical, wild and creepy shows that eventually earned it attention across the globe with its guillotines, hangings, snakes, electric chairs and more.
âBefore us there really was nothing,â said Cooper, who has his own nationally syndicated radio show, âNights with Alice Cooper.â
âTo me, it was really important to add a couple of extra elements to change the look of rock 'n' roll. We even got hassled for that âŚ for being Vegas. I said, 'If you think my show is Vegas, come and see it.' We totally corrupted those Vegas elements and made it totally Alice.
âWe pioneered all that stuff. Now, you don't go to a rock concert unless every band has that stuff. âŚ KISS acknowledged that. I told them where to get their makeup. They said, 'If one Alice works, then four ought to work.' I get that. They were four comic-book heroes to my 'Phantom of the Opera.' They did create their own entity.â
(Cooper said he's even gotten acknowledgment from Lady Gaga for influencing her wild stage show.)
While Cooper would move to New York in the early 1970s to continue a career that was soaring and eventually part ways with the rest of the band, he said there was never âany bad bloodâ between them.
Indeed, the original group (minus Buxton, who died in 1997) recently reunited for a holiday performance at one of Cooper's âChristmas Puddingâ charity fund-raising events in Phoenix, when members got the good news the band had made the Hall of Fame.
They plan to perform three songs together at Monday's ceremony, choosing, he said, between big hits such as âEighteen,â âSchool's Out,â âUnder My Wheelsâ and âElected.â
Zombie, he said, was chosen to introduce them âbecause of the fact he was in our genre. I've been his mentor for all these years and we're very good friends.â
After battling and overcoming alcoholism (âGod finally took it away from me and healed meâ), turning his passion for golf into a book and an annual charity event in Arizona (which he's long called home), and still performing as many as 100 concerts a year, Cooper is clearly tickled and ârelievedâ to finally join the Hall of Fame.
Eligible for induction for 14 years, Cooper noted many fans and fellow musicians assumed he already was a member, especially considering that his band has two enduring rock anthems -- "School's Out" and "Eighteen" -- to its credit.
âWe were sort of like Pete Rose. For some reason, we werenât even getting a nod,â he said. âNow that weâre in, you start championing other guys. What about the Moody Blues? What about Deep Purple? Iâve gotta start campaigning.â
âNo More Mr. Nice Guyâ? Not hardly, Alice. As one of the good guys, itâs great to see you finally get âElectedâ to rockâs hallowed hall.
Because guess what? Michiganâs proud youâre from Detroit â and happy to hear you're not nearly ready to call it quits.
In fact, Cooper contended he's ready to churn out three more albums and at least four more tours before he'll even think of retiring.
âI never have outgrown the Pete Townshend power chords. I've never outgrown my love for being on the stage,â he told me. âI miss it when I'm not on stage. We're still drawing sellout crowds, so there's no reason to stop. You're a totally different guy, you're bigger than life, you're playing music you love and the crowd's going crazy.
âWhat's not to like?â
E-mail John Sinkevics: email@example.com
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