There is a journal entry of mine from ages ago (I was probably twelve) in which I, quite gravely and quite hilariously, declare before the record for future generations, that I will never get into music by people as obviously deranged and terrifying as Alice Cooper. The inspiration, I believe, was this: Alice Cooper Marriott Commercial
I explain in my journal that there is a clear and distinct difference between cool freakiness (as exemplified by my middle school posse and myself, since everyone becomes self-consciously awkward and apart at that age) and bad freakiness, like a grown man who wears streaked makeup and chains and calls himself by a girl's name.
I've retracted a lot of promises I made to myself before I was 16, some of them for the worse, some for the better and some for the heck of it. My dissipation of the anti-Alice Cooper pact occurred that fateful night when Dad gave us the tapes. Among them was Alice's From The Inside album, which he gave to us with an admonition to skip a few tracks. Once I took a break from my constant Bowie-ing, I gave it a listen, and I liked it.
It took a couple years for Alice to really work his way into my playlists, but when he did, boy howdy! There are tapes and tapes from that time, loaded with pieces of Billion Dollar Babies, Killer, From the Inside, and of course, "Poison," of which I could not get enough. It helped that I discovered his radio show, Nights With Alice Cooper (to find a station, click here), and fell in love with his sense of humor. He became my kind of rock & roll sailor uncle, in the sense that I felt like I was sitting at his feet each night listening raptly to stories of legendary people and legendary times. I saw him in concert in Las Vegas promoting his Dirty Diamonds album in October (the 17th, I wanna say?) 2005 with my dad & little sister. Our seats weren't all that great and the acoustics at the Joint were, somehow, even less great, but I had a ball just the same. I wore the concert shirt under my school uniform for the rest of the week, despite its being an XL (all the appropriate sizes were sold out- that shirt hugged my curves like a muumuu).
I think what I love about Alice Cooper is the absolute silliness. He can write a perfectly dandy rock song and yes, it is about a gambler in an insane asylum. He can write a concept album about being sent to to H-E-double-hockeysticks and when it's over you don't feel like he took you there, can you feel me? At the end of the day, Alice Cooper is all about vaudeville, caricature, and gag-grotesque, with a little bit of genuine heart thrown in for good measure (he's included a softspoken ballad on every album starting with "Only Women Bleed" on Welcome To My Nightmare, if I've got my facts right). And you know what? I love the streaked makeup and leather and chains, and his hard-earned girl's name.
He rounds out the Triumvirate of my All-Time Favorite Classic Artists, and are a few reasons why:
For your playlist: Side A
1. "I'm Eighteen" from Love It To Death
2. "Welcome To My Nightmare" from the album of the same name
3. "Generation Landslide" from Billion Dollar Babies
4. "Poison" from Trash (of course)
For your playlist: Side B
1. "Perfect" from Dirty Diamonds
2. "Wish I Was Born in Beverly Hills" from From the Inside
3. "I'm the Coolest" from Alice Cooper Goes To Hell
I have posted this playlist, plus one super secret bonus track by Alice and one of his shock-rock heirs, on Spotify under the name Brats in Battalions: Alice Cooper. <3 Follow me on Spotify to join the listening party, and show me your supportive rock-n-roll devil horns by subscribing to me here if you like what you've heard so far.
Up next: an artist renowned for both his opaque songwriting and his distinctively weird vocals (but who still sold prodigiously in countries where they don't speak English). Guess who?