Like my DM colleague, Richard Metzger, I am a big fan of Alice Cooper, the band. But unlike Richard, I’m also a fan of Alice Cooper, the artiste, and have followed Vince Furnier’s solo career with a mixture of joy and frustration.
But back to Alice Cooper the band. In the early seventies they were utterly superb, and their albums from Love It To Death to Billion Dollar Babies were all near perfect.
My introduction to the band came in 1972, when Alice Cooper had conquered most of Europe, and their single “School’s Out” had spent the summer at the top of the UK charts. There followed the albums, the singles, the sell-out concerts, and the usual teenage hysteria, with some tut-tutting from TV news reports on the outrage caused.
Now an interesting footnote to all this excitement happened in November of that year, when Derek Jarman was introduced to Alice Cooper’s manager, who suggested to the young designer and filmmaker, “as he spooned cocaine like rat poison” that he stage Alice on Broadway.
As Jarman later explained in his memoir Dancing Ledge, he joined the band briefly on their tour of Europe.
I joined the band a couple of months later in Copenhagen. There were thirty or more of them, resembling a gang of Davy Crockett trappers. They travelled in a private jet, took over floors of an hotel, and played long-running table-tennis tournaments as they downed an infinite supply of Budweiser.
Jarman was rather prissy about all the anarchy, sex, drugs and drink, and after seeing the band perform in Germany, where “Alice, python and beer can, cavorted around the stage singing ‘School’s Out’ before hanging himself,” he took a plane back to England, to work on his ideas for Alice Cooper’s Broadway show.
I sent a letter explaining a staging for Alice, who was to arrive on a huge articulated black widow spider. It would crawl out of a steely web on to the Broadway stage with Alice at its helm holding a gold and leather harness, dressed in rubies from head to foot, like Heliogabalus entering Rome—and that was that. I never heard from them again.
December 1972, Alice Cooper played the Olympia Theater in Paris. A documentary crew were in tow, who filmed the band’s arrival in the City of Lights, and a selection of songs from the show, including “Public Animal #9,” “Eighteen,” “Is It My Body,” “Gutter Cats vs. The Jets,” “Killer,” and “Elected.”