ALICE COOPER (1968–PRESENT). Alice Cooper (vocals), Mike Bruce (guitar, later replaced by many others), Glen Buxton (later replaced by many others), Dennis Dunaway (bass, later Prakash John, followed by many others), Neal Smith (drums, later Penti Glan, and others).
Alice Cooper started out as a hard rock band formed by high school friends in Phoenix, Arizona, under such names as The Earwigs, The Spiders, and The Nazz. A few years later, in 1969, using the Alice Cooper name, they settled in Detroit. With elements including outrageous drag outfits early on and an impressive stage show that eventually labeled them as “shock rock,” Alice Cooper—led by lead singer Vincent Furnier, who eventually absorbed the Alice Cooper moniker as his stage name—have been one of the most successful hard rock/heavy metal bands and have been active now for four decades. The band started out as an avant garde band playing stripped-down rock and roll. The early records reflect the group’s songwriting process that suited the band best, especially on the third record Love it to Death, which featured the quintessential Alice Cooper track, “I’m Eighteen,” as well as other classic hard rock tracks such as “Long Way to Go.” Killer continued the trend and the School’s Out record yielded the title track, much beloved by stoner high school students to this day.
For the Welcome to My Nightmare record, Cooper added ace guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter and came up with what was arguably his last classic record. The title track in particular found Alice Cooper in a compellingly creepy vibe, and the cameo by Vincent Price on “The Black Widow” cemented both Alice’s reputation as a proto-goth, as well as his movement toward crowd-pleasing moments. Cooper continued to work in show business as well as rock, appearing memorably on The Muppet Show as himself (not to mention appearances on Tony Orlando and Dawn or the Soupy Sales show) working to try have the Muppets sign contracts with the devil.
During the mid-eighties, Cooper decided to go in a more conventional eighties metal direction, imitating some of the very bands that had imitated his sound and look in the first place, gaining him a later period top ten hit and much-played video with “Poison” in 1989. The rest of the nineties saw Cooper floundering in the commercial wilderness, but still a successful live act where his over-the-top theatrics, snakes, and blood went over well with metal audiences, although they must look somewhat tame today compared with GWAR or Marilyn Manson. Cooper continues to make cameo appearances on film and TV (including a notable cameo in Wayne’s World) and to concentrate on his game of golf, and remains an elder statesman of metal to this day, one of the true innovators not just in sounds but in metal fashion and showmanship as well. Cooper is also an unacknowledged influence on the death and black metal scenes, as well as the punk and goth scenes, all of which he predated.
Discography: Pretties for You (Warner Brothers, 1969); Easy Action (Warner Brothers, 1970); Love It to Death (Warner Brothers, 1971); Killer (Warner Brothers, 1971); School’s Out (Warner Brothers, 1972); Billion Dollar Babies (Warner Brothers, 1972); Muscle of Love (Warner Brothers, 1974); Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers, 1974); Welcome to My Nightmare (Warner Brothers, 1975); Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (Warner Brothers, 1976); Lace and Whiskey (Warner Brothers, 1977); The Alice Cooper Show (Warner Brothers, 1977); From the Inside (Warner Brothers, 1978); Flush the Fashion (Warner Brothers, 1980); Special Forces (Warner Brothers, 1981); Dada (Warner Brothers, 1982); Zipper Catches Skin (Warner Brothers, 1982); Constrictor (MCA, 1986); Raise Your Fist and Yell (MCA, 1987); Trash (Epic, 1989); Hey Stoopid (Epic, 1991); The Last Temptation (Epic, 1994); A Fist Full of Alice Live (Capital, 1997); Alice Cooper Live (Delta, 2001); Take 2 (WEA International, 2001); Dragonfire (Spitfire, 2001); The Eyes of Alice Cooper (Eagle, 2003); Dirty Diamonds (New West, 2005); Live at Cabo Wabo 96 (Emi, 2005); Live at Montraux (Rajon, 2005); Live at Toronto (Kala, 2006); Nobody Like Alice Cooper… Live (Cedar, 2006).