Alice Cooper (band)
Alice Cooper was an American rock band formed in Phoenix, Arizona in 1964. The band consisted of lead singer Vince Furnier (stage name Alice Cooper), Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards), Dennis Dunaway (bass guitar), and Neal Smith (drums). Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and has had a solo career under that name since the band became inactive in 1975. The band was notorious for their elaborate, theatrical shock rock stage shows. In 2011, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Alice Cooper Killer Tour 1972
|Origin||Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.|
(reunions: 1999, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017)
|Associated acts||Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies|
After several years of little success, the Alice Cooper band rose to fame in 1971 with the hit single "I'm Eighteen" and the album Love It to Death. Success continued with the popular single "School's Out" and the album of the same name in 1972. The band peaked in popularity in 1973 with their next album Billion Dollar Babies and its tour, which broke box-office records previously held by The Rolling Stones.
The band consisted of former members of the garage rock band the Spiders, formed in Phoenix with three of the eventual five Alice Cooper members (Furnier, Dunaway and Buxton), who were classmates in high school. They created everything as a group and wrote virtually the lion's share of what was to become the classic Alice Cooper canon. Neal Smith's sister Cindy Smith Dunaway (Dennis Dunaway's wife) designed the band's costumes and performed in the stage show (she was the "dancing tooth" on the Billion Dollar Babies tour).
The band officially relocated to Los Angeles in 1967, having traveled there frequently for shows, and were briefly renamed Nazz. In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another name. The legend is that the name "Alice Cooper" came from a session with a Ouija board and was the name of a 17th century witch. However, Furnier described the incident with the ouija board as an urban legend. He said, "It was like, just pure urban legend...but it was a great story." Furnier stated the name was chosen simply as a gimmick, because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's image and music.
The band was the subject of media criticism after Furnier threw a live chicken into the audience during the 1969 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival Festival. The audience ripped the chicken to shreds. The band appeared on a Warner Bros sampler album, Zapped, featuring acts produced by Frank Zappa. "Frank was the only one who stuck out his neck for us, for me," recalled Alice himself. "He was the one who said, 'Here's a band that everybody in the business is laughing at – I like 'em.' … He was the outcast in L.A. and so were we." The first three Alice Cooper albums were released on Zappa's Straight label.
Slow sales of the band's first two albums, as well as Californians' indifference to their act, led the band to relocate again in 1970, this time to Pontiac, Michigan near Furnier's original home town of Detroit. Here, their bizarre stage act was much better received by Midwestern crowds accustomed to the proto punk styles of local bands such as the Stooges and the MC5. "L.A. just didn’t get it," Furnier stated. "They were all on the wrong drug for us. They were on acid and we were basically drinking beer. We fit much more in Detroit than we did anywhere else."
Hooking up with young producer Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper released the single "I'm Eighteen" in late 1970, and it became a surprise Top 40 hit. The single's success convinced Warner Bros, which had recently purchased Straight Records from Zappa, that the band could be a viable commercial act, leading to much stronger investment in the third Alice Cooper album, Love It to Death.
With Love It to Death having charted well, Alice Cooper released four more hit albums and headlined major tours from 1971 to 1974, before breaking up. The original band played their final show on April 8, 1974 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There are varying reasons former band members have given for the breakup. Smith said the members wanted to take a year off to slow down and possibly do solo projects, and just never reunited. Cooper said there was disagreement over how much money to sink back into stage shows, which had become costly. Bruce contends that Buxton's issues with substance abuse, which at one time led him to pull a switchblade on the band's tour manager, likely hastened the breakup.
The breakup was made public in 1975. Vincent Furnier took "Alice Cooper" as his own name and carried on with a new group of musicians, the original band becoming officially defunct. Furnier later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves.
Bruce, Dunaway and Smith would go on to form the short-lived band Billion Dollar Babies, producing one album - Battle Axe - in 1977. While occasionally performing with one another and Glen Buxton, they would not reunite with Alice until October 23, 1999, at the second Glen Buxton Memorial Weekend for a show at CoopersTown in Phoenix (Buxton having died in 1997). They reunited for another show, with Steve Hunter on guitar, on December 16, 2010, at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix. This lineup would perform together again (televised) on March 14, 2011, at the induction of the original Alice Cooper group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as on May 11, 2011, at London's Battersea Power Station at the Jägermeister Ice Cold 4D event (webcast). Bruce, Dunaway and Smith appeared on three tracks they co-wrote on Alice's 2011 album Welcome 2 My Nightmare.
A documentary about the band entitled Super Duper Alice Cooper premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17, 2014, and was scheduled to be screened at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival a week later.
On October 6, 2015, a surprise reunion show took place in Dallas at Dunaway's book signing session. He was joined by Bruce, Smith, Cooper and Ryan Roxie, who replaced the late Glen Buxton. The surviving members of the band were set to record and release an album. However, the only material to surface was two bonus tracks on Cooper's 27th studio album Paranormal.
Original band members
- Vincent Furnier a.k.a. Alice Cooper – vocals, harmonica
- Glen Buxton – lead guitar (died 1997)
- Michael Bruce – rhythm guitar and keyboards
- Dennis Dunaway – bass
- Neal Smith – drums
Additional members 1973–1974
- Mick Mashbir – guitar
- Bob Dolin – keyboards
- Studio albums
- Pretties for You (1969)
- Easy Action (1970)
- Love It to Death (1971)
- Killer (1971)
- School's Out (1972)
- Billion Dollar Babies (1973)
- Muscle of Love (1973)
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