What a long, strange trip it’s been for classic rock legend Alice Cooper.
Not only can Cooper lay claim to having ushered in shock-rock in the early 70’s, his seemingly endless string of hits – “School’s Out,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Eighteen,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels” and more – helped make the artist a household name in North America and around the world.
Cooper will bring those hits and more to Casino New Brunswick on Thursday night.
It hasn’t always been easy for Cooper, however. The first two records he released – 1969’s Pretties For You and 1970’s Easy Action – failed to make any kind of impression with audiences.
Teaming up with Canadian producer Bob Ezrin for 1971’s Love It To Death would prove to be the turning point, however. That record, along with subsequent efforts Killer, School’s Out, Muscle Of Love, Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome To My Nightmare would sell more than a combined five million copies in less than five years.
Although he continued releasing records in the interim, 1989’s Trash, led by the hit single “Poison,” introduced Cooper to a whole new generation of music fans.
With more than 30 releases to his credit, Cooper’s latest album is 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a record that reunited the singer with members of his original band.
Despite the enormous success he has seen in the past, Cooper tells The MusicNerd Chronicles he believes his best work is still to come.
“It’s so important to continue to be creative. I’ve always told musicians, if you think that you’ve written your best song, you should probably quit,” Cooper says. “As long as I’ve been making music I still don’t think I’ve written my best song yet. I can almost guarantee that a guy like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney feel the same – that’s why we continue making new music. You always have to be thinking ahead, that the next thing you do is going to be the best thing you do because, once you lose that passion, it’s all over.”
Cooper says that had he chosen to throw in the towel after writing his mega-hit “School’s Out,” he wouldn’t have seen “Poison” top the charts 17 years later.
“How many times did I think to myself ‘I’m never going to have a bigger song than ‘School’s Out,’ but then ‘Poison’ came along and introduced my music to a whole different generation. I have always said that you cannot stop a great song; it is something that is going to have a life of its own.”
Born Vincent Furnier in 1948, Cooper grew up in the industrial city of Detroit, Michigan. While many tend to see the biggest stars in music as having come from bigger metropolises such as New York City or Los Angeles, Detroit was home to a musical revolution of its own.
Not only did Cooper call the city home, it was also the birthplace of Motown and hard-rock band MC5, while punk group Iggy & The Stooges called nearby Ann Arbour home. Asked how such an atypical city proved to be such a hotbed of music, Cooper has a very simple reason:
“Detroit is an industrial city in the American Midwest. Nobody wanted anything to do with soft rock. The people of Detroit wanted their music to reflect the reality that surrounded them.”
Cooper says that despite the vast musical differences between what he was doing and what was emanating from the Motown scene, everyone had one another’s backs.
“You’d have guys like Smokey Robinson coming out to my shows, just like me and the guys in my band would be at his shows. It was like a brotherhood that nobody messed with.”
Having spent the majority of the last two years supporting heavy metal band Motley Crue on their farewell tour, Cooper still found the time to form a new band called the Hollywood Vampires with actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
The group’s name stems from a drinking club started by Cooper in the 1970’s whose membership also included The Who’s Keith Moon, songwriter Harry Nilsson and more.
“Johnny Depp was in London shooting Dark Shadows. One night, we went down to the 100 Club, a place that has hosted Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and countless others. I started telling stories about the Vampires’ drinking club and thought doing a covers record, something I’ve never done before, would be a great way to pay tribute to my dead, drunk friends,” he says.
“It originally started as just something fun to do, but then as the project progressed, it took on a life of its own and we had guys like Paul McCartney and Brian Johnson from AC/DC wanting to appear on the record.”
Performing songs including The Who’s “My Generation,” along with tracks from The Doors and others, the Hollywood Vampires made their live debut in Los Angeles last month.
Though he concedes it would be great to take the band on the road at some point, Cooper says the logistics of planning a widescale tour have yet to be mounted.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think touring with those guys would be a lot of fun, but I think it would take everyone clearing their calendars for a solid two months before we could entertain going on the road,” Cooper says.
What: Alice Cooper
When: Thursday Oct. 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $89.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca