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(July 03, 2012)
Originally Published: July 03, 2012
Before shock rock had a name, it had an icon in Detroit Rock City's Alice Cooper.
Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, the former Vincent Damon Furnier wore makeup before KISS, sacrificed livestock onstage before Ozzy, and perfected his punk sneer while Iggy Pop was still practising in front of a mirror.
Alice Cooper, the band - the frontman fully and permanently adopted the persona for 1975's Welcome to my Nightmare - formed in a Phoenix High school by five British Invasion obsessed teens in 1964. The Spiders gigged around town, but to break into the exploding L.A. epicentre, they knew they needed a gimmick, and so Alice Cooper was born out of a mash of Bette Davis, Barbarella and Emma Peel. And, of course, Furnier's craggy maw.
Manager Shep Gordon famously discovered the band at a disastrous Venice Beach gig where the band emptied the room after 10 minutes.
Shep got them in tight with Frank Zappa, who gave the band their first contract, and their best early advice.
In the aftermath of the infamous 1969 "Chicken Incident" in Toronto - Cooper tossed a live chicken into the crowd where fans proceeded to tear it limb from limb, and the (erroneous) reports of Cooper biting the beast's head off and drinking its blood made national headlines - Zappa said: "Well whatever you do, don't tell anyone you didn't do it."
Two years of slogging through the acid-stroked L.A. scene proved fruitless, and Cooper moved back home, to Detroit, where he formed an enduring partnership with famed Canadian producer Bob Ezrin.
(Originally published in the Ottawa Sun supplement, Your Complete Guide to Blues Fest, July 3rd, 2012)