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(October 29, 2003)
Originally Published: October 29, 2003
Author: Gillian Crawley
Alice Cooper invented Ozzy Osbourne-style shock rock stage acts. But unlike Ozzy, you wouldn`t catch him cleaning up dog poo on TV
With all the attention - not to mention millions being lavished on rocker-turned-TV star Ozzy Osbourne, you'd forgive Alice Cooper for feeling a bit peeved.
After all, he started the whole shock-rock bandwagon, he had an epic drink problem and Mary Whitehouse tried to ban him for being an evil influence on our youth. So why isn't there a reality TV show featuring Alice, wife Sheryl and kids Calico, 22, Dashiell, 18, and Sonora Rose, 10?
'You give up way too much mystique when you do that,' he says. All of a sudden, people know too much about Ozzy. I think it's a funny show. It's a British family in America. American families don't swear nearly as much as British families do. When you hear Jack and Kelly swearing at their parents... if that happened in America, they'd get their heads knocked off. That was what shocked everybody, like: "They let their kids talk to them like that?" And look - in the end, Jack's in rehab. Well, yeah! You can't let your kids just go out and do anything they want. Come on!
'I've got three kids and I'm Dad. I'm Alice Cooper but I'm Dad when it comes down to it. And I haven't had any problems with the kids. They're great. I'm not strict. I'll go to any movie they want. If they want to see Marilyn Manson, let's go. But let's talk about what it is. I don't think it's possible to be your kids' best friend. You can't be their enemy either, but at the same time you have to be a parent.'
Alice, 55, has given us a glimpse of sorts into his lovely home, though. He's just made a TV advert for Sky+, the digital TV recorder, with Ronnie - Corbett. The joke is that they're so different, but once their favourite programmes are revealed on their Sky+ planner, they're closer than you'd think. Both are keen golfers and Alice turns out to be a fan of The Two Ronnies, who he grew to love when he was over here in the 70s. 'Ronnie's a fantastic storyteller,' says Alice. But the tales of excess Alice tells of his party days are a bit I more rock'n'roll.
'I used to go out and drink with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Keith Moon lived at my house. Janis Joplin stayed in the same hotel. I knew every one of those people and those guys are dead,' he says. 'We were surprised Jim Morrison even made it to the age of 27. People like us have to stop living the image and just live our lives. Hopefully some of us have learned that.'
The problem is the fans never will. They love the 'live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse' cliché. Alice says: 'I tell fans: "You want to see Alice, come to the show tonight. Two hours - I'll give you so much Alice you won't be able to sleep tonight. But if you see me today walking down Oxford Street, I'm not going to have a snake around my neck and I'm not going to be chasing around with an axe because I play Alice."
'There's this great dream that we just burn out and die and then people go: "Wasn't it great?" No, it's not great. It's not great that Kurt Cobain is dead. It's legendary, but so what? He's dead. They all are. That means they're not going to make any more records and they're not going to tour any more because they're very dead. Their image lives on, but it's not doing anybody any good.'
But 30 years after School's Out, Alice's first UK hit, he's still going strong. The singer, born Vincent Furnier, has just released his latest album The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and is set to play live in the UK next spring.
Alice Cooper came about in the late 60s when Vincent, the son of a preacher, spotted a gap in the market. 'When I created Alice, rock didn't have a villain,' he explains. 'We had a lot of Peter Pans, but no Captain Hooks. The Monkees, the Jackson 5 - everybody was so nice. They were good bands but there was nobody to scare you. So I thought: "Man, this is my spot."
'I keep Alice real specific.Alice is a hard rocker-rock's premier villain. That's all I ever wanted him to be.'
But the image became misconstrued. Alice, perhaps because of his God-fearing background, seems genuinely offended that people ever thought Alice might be the Antichrist.
'He was never satanic,' he says, almost primly. 'Marilyn Manson flirts with satanism. Alice Cooper does anything but that. I think that my image is more indefinable. He's burlesque, like The Phantom Of The Opera. 'Sure, I can see the influences. It's automatic. I was influenced by everything from Salvador Dali to horror movies. There's no way that Marilyn Manson or any similar artists weren't totally influenced by Alice Cooper. But to me, it's just a theatrical movement. 'I don't think Marilyn Manson does anything like Alice Cooper, either. The makeup and the girl's name, that's a little close! but when it comes to the music it's really nothing like us.'
Alice thinks his real successors are bands such as The White Stripes, The Strokes and The Vines. 'Their music feels very familiar to me, since that was my original sound,' he says. 'There are a lot of good bands now that are pure rock'n'roll. I know if I looked in their record collections I'd see Alice, Iggy Pop and Led Zeppelin. We're their big brothers.'
However, he reserves real pity for the squeaky-clean young hopefuls who are chewed up and spat out by shows such as Pop Idol and Fame Academy.
'It's really nice music, but it has nothing to do with rock'n'roll,' he says. 'They'd never give a rock band a chance. It would have to be someone that looks great and sounds 'nice. Unfortunately they put the screws to these people so that if they make one mistake they shatter like porcelain. That's a little bit high pressure for a kid of 15.
'Back then, we had a chance to fail. This is a big beef of mine right now with the music business. Music has become like McDonalds. They want it fast, they want it now and when the artist is gone, they don't care. You need room and time to make mistakes. We all made mistakes - Bowie, Alice, Elton and the Stones. But now it's one strike and you're out.'