Wednesday, December 13, 2006

History of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal: Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper brought theatricality and the stage show to hard rock and his influence on the world of heavy rock has affected everyone from Kiss to Mudvayne.

Originally, there was a band called Alice Cooper led by a singer named Vincent Damon Furnier. Under his direction, Alice Cooper pioneered a grandly theatrical and violent brand of heavy metal that was designed to shock.

Drawing equally from horror movies, vaudeville, heavy metal, and garage rock, the group created a stage show that featured electric chairs, guillotines, fake blood, and huge boa constrictors, all coordinated by the heavily made-up Furnier.

By that time, Furnier had adopted the name for his androgynous on-stage personality. While the visuals were extremely important to the group's impact, the band's music was nearly as distinctive. Driven by raw, simple riffs and melodies that derived from '60s guitar pop as well as show tunes, it was rock & roll at its most basic and catchy, even when the band ventured into psychedelia and art rock.

After the original group broke up and Furnier began a solo career as Alice Cooper, his actual music lost most of its theatrical flourishes, becoming straightforward heavy metal, yet his stage show retained all of the trademark props that made him the king of shock rock.

According to band legend, the name came to Furnier during a ouija board session, where he was told he was the reincarnation of a 17th-century witch of the same name. Comprised of vocalist Furnier — who would soon begin calling himself Alice Cooper — guitarist Mike Bruce, guitarist Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith, the group moved to California in 1968.

After a string of unsuccessful albums the band broke in 1971 with the Bob Ezrin-produced Love It to Death which produced the hit single, "Eighteen."

The group followed Love It to Death with more hit albums throughout the early seventies: Killer, School's Out, Muscle of Love and the No. 1 album Billion Dollar Babies.

Cooper went solo in 1975 with Welcome to My Nightmare, which was a huge hit. Alice stayed popular all throughout the 70s and 80s with his shock rock brand of hard rock.

Alice Cooper continues to make records but has achieved most of his success lately from his syndicated radio show, "Nights with Alice Cooper," which began in 2005.

Check out this classic Alice Cooper tune:

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