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Shock rock pioneer revered for his over-the-top shows
Before he became the dark prince of ’70s shock rock, Alice Cooper was Vincent Damon Furnier, a kid born in Detroit and raised there until the age of 11, when his family moved to Phoenix.
While attending Cortez High School, Furnier and his mates played parodies of Beatles’ songs in a talent show, calling themselves the Earwigs. Enjoying it so much, they formed a band for real named the Spiders. A few years later, in search of a more gimmicky identity, they decided to go by the wholesome-sounding “Alice Cooper” and found inspiration for their look from the movie What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? It starred Bette Davis in caked on makeup with black liner smudged beneath her eyes.
Their debut album Pretties For You arrived in 1969. As a band, Alice Cooper released six more albums between 1970 and 1973. They became famous for their 1972 track School’s Out, which went to No.1 on the UK singles chart, with the album of the same name reaching No.2 on the US charts. Their last album, 1973’s Billion Dollar Babies, was group’s biggest selling record, landing at No.1 in both the UK and US and spawning such hits as No More Mr. Nice Guy, Elected and Hello Hooray.
In 1975, however, Alice Cooper the band broke up and Furnier legally adopted the name as his own, launching his solo career shortly after with the concept album Welcome To My Nightmare. Its songs played in sequence all formed a journey through the nightmares of a child called Steven. His 1976 follow-up album, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, was a continuation of Steven’s story.
Over the next 35 years, Cooper released 17 more albums. Among his most well-known songs are Under My Wheels, Poison, Feed My Frankenstein, Desperado and Only Women Bleed.
Cooper also became famous for his grand theatrical hard rock performances. Influenced by everything from horror movies to vaudeville, his shows are always full of dark humour. On stage Cooper has hung himself, chopped off his head, gotten zapped in an electric chair, paraded around with a gigantic boa constrictor and much more.
In 2011, Cooper – alongside the surviving members of the original band – were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. These band members also contributed to his follow-up solo album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, released later that year.
He was the subject of the biographical documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper in 2015, and it won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.
A tireless performer, Cooper has travelled the world countless times and continues to tour regularly, taking his dark and horror-themed shows all over. In 2019, he brought his Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back tour to the UK to mark 50 years since the release of his debut album Pretties For You.
In February 2021, Cooper revealed his 21st solo album Detroit Stories about his origins in music and the history of hard rock in his hometown. Produced by Bob Ezrin (Lou Reed, Aerosmith, Phish) and containing contributions from former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, it peaked at No.4 on the UK albums chart.