I spent a good chunk of my early life knowing exactly who Alice Cooper was yet having zero knowledge of his music. He is such a pop culture icon, that infamous black eye makeup as familiar as Elvis’ jumpsuits and Jason’s goalie mask, and yet few people outside of classic rock fans pay much attention to his actual music. Even now he’s probably better known to a segment of the population for being a surprisingly good golfer for a rock ‘n’ roll freak.
Eventually, though, I came to learn more about this original wild man of rock. Like many too young to have been fans as the material was being released, my first taste of Alice Cooper was “School’s Out” sometime in high school thanks to the new Classic Rock radio format. That anthem will always appeal to the tortured teenage brain as will “I’m Eighteen” the inevitable next song we all fall for. A spattering of other Cooper tunes made their way to my ears like “Only Women Bleed” and “Billion Dollar Babies”, not to mention the resurgence of Alice thanks to “Poison” in the mid-eighties hair metal period.
Unfortunately, few people venture deeper into the Alice Cooper history and catalogue. If they did, they’d find a sprawling collection of fantastic rock music that truly didn’t get its due. They’d also learn that Alice Cooper was first a band and then a solo artist. It’s a weird story.
In retrospect, the fact Alice Cooper wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2011 is kind of a travesty. He, or they, isn’t the Rolling Stones or Beatles, but they’ve had an impressive impact on rock music. They basically invented rock ‘n’ roll theatrics. Sure, it’s not necessarily the most tasteful or family friendly theatrics, but it’s there nonetheless. Bowie, Elton, Kiss, Gwar, Marylin Manson, hell even Lady Gaga, all owe a little of their success to the groundbreaking Alice Cooper.
And what would theatrics be without a concept album? I think this record remains underrated though it gets more praise now than when it was first released. I think it’s terrific, from the voice overs of Vincent Price to the teenage anthems to the eerie laments of the title character, Stephen. And then there’s the seemingly misplaced add-on at the end. It may not have fit with the rest of 1975’s Welcome To My Nightmare, but it’s a great song to crank up and shake away the creepy feeling the previous songs leave in your gut. I’m kicking of your weekend with “Escape” by Alice Cooper.