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“The Godfather of Shock Rock,” American singer-songwriter and musician Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) has had a career in hard rock that spans over five decades.
Born in Detroit, Michigan on 4 February 1948, Furnier originally started Alice Cooper as a band (later adopting the name as his own) consisting of him on lead vocals, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. The band started out playing various small gigs around Los Angeles, but with their “controversial” stage antics they did so without success; that is, until they signed with Frank Zappa’s new Straight Records label. In 1969, they released their first album, “Pretties For You,” and despite it reaching Number 1 for a week, it was considered a failure.
For the band, their success and fame came from their live shows. Deemed the “chicken incident” where rumors were made that a chicken head was bitten off on stage, the band used the attention to further their career, adopting the new “shock rock” subgenre of rock and roll. It wasn’t until their third album “Love It To Death” that they saw success in record sales, the first of what was to be a string of successful records both as a band, and as a solo artist. The tour that followed in 1971 featured their unique stage theatrics, including an electric chair execution at the end of the show; not to mention their androgynous fashion styles.
The summer of 1972 saw the release of their most iconic single, and album to date, “School’s Out.” It also saw a change of their on-stage presence with Cooper taking on a more machismo-type attitude. With the continuing achievement in their album sales and tours, the band put out yet another commercially successful album, hitting their peak with their last album as a group “Muscle of Love.” Due to constant disagreements and various other issues, the band went on a ‘temporary hiatus’ in 1974, a hiatus that they would never come back from.
It was in 1975 when the still Vincent Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper, to continue making music as a solo artist; with his first album, “Welcome To My Nightmare” becoming a huge success. It was from this album the basis for the stage show television special “The Nightmare” was conceived, later gaining a Grammy nomination for best Long Form Music Video and setting rock history. However, by 1977 Cooper had hit his lowest point in his battle with alcoholism and was checked into a sanitarium to sober up.
Using his experience in the sanitarium, a newly sober Cooper released “From The Inside” and set his stage show for the album as the inside of an asylum. Unfortunately the sober Cooper didn’t last very long, with almost all of his albums from the 80s being deemed ‘blackout albums’ due to being under the influence of various drugs; consequently, the albums, which had a much different sound were not as commercially successful as his previous solo albums. It wasn’t until 1986 and the release of “Constrictor” that Cooper found his career back on top.
The 90s found Cooper touring more than spending time in the recording studio. The touring continued into the 2000s with the lengthy break in studio recordings broken with his release of “Brutal Planet.” By December 2010 it was announced the Alice Cooper (the band) would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, seeing a reunited band perform for the first time in a long time.