“Welcome to my nightmare.”
Alice Cooper had a big impact on the impressionable mind of the young Doctor Gash. One of my earliest, yet most personality molding television memories as a child was watching the infamous Alice Cooper episode of “The Muppet Show,” which aired on March 28, 1978.
Although I was pushing just five years old and the details are a bit foggy, I seem to recall something like this: I shuffle in front of the sweet, sweet care-giving television set with its warm, welcoming glow and turn the dial (that’s right, physically turn the dial) to the channel for “The Muppet Show.” There weren’t that many channels back then so even at five years old, I’m sure I could have handled it. I was gifted. And (almost certainly clad in footie pajamas and probably a Batman cape) I flop onto a bean bag chair, prepared for laughs and revelry from the harmless cast of puppets.
Much to my surprise, I saw something much different that night. The guest was like nothing I had seen before. He had black paint all around his eyes. He claimed he was sent there to buy the souls of The Muppets for The Devil. He sang songs called “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “School’s Out”. He utterly disturbed the mind of the young Doctor Gash. And I simply could not get enough of him.
Skipping ahead a bit to some time in my formative years, I stumbled upon a copy of Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits and played that cassette until it warped. That recording led to what would become my initial foray into the world of live rock music. And just who did Doctor Gash see at that first concert…that’s right, Alice Cooper.
The year was now 1986, Gash was pushing 13 years old and it was time to pop that metal concert cherry. The Mid-Hudson Civic Center in beautiful downtown Poughkeepsie, New York was presenting the ear-shattering double-bill of Alice Cooper (on his Constrictor Tour) with opening act Megadeth (how’s that for a baptism of fire?). So being a fan of the Friday the 13th series, which Alice was becoming synonymous with for his song “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, the featured song in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, I gladly attended.
I was warned all kinds of things leading up to this show…“He cuts his own head off during the show!…He gets blood all over the first five rows!…He bites the head off a snake! I thought that it’d be pretty cool if he did any of those things. And in a theatrical way, he did. That night, Alice Cooper impacted me just as he must have done to so many others. His music was incredible, but the stage show, that beautifully bloody stage show, put the performance over the top.
He did cut his own head off during that show, guillotine-style. He even had some druid-looking fellow retrieve it from the basket and shake the blood on the front rows of the audience. Now that’s style! And shortly after, he returned in grand fashion wearing a white tuxedo to finish the show. No doubt hitting us with “School’s Out” and the rest of his mainstays to end the show.
But what really elevates Alice Cooper to legendary status is his life-long dedication to horror and the inspiration he’s been to so many musicians we love today. Honestly, do you think Rob Zombie would have been the horrific force he’s become if it wasn’t for Alice Cooper. And Marilyn Manson? Please, Manson is damn near a clone. He’s like Alice Cooper on performance enhancing drugs. Alice paved the way for these guys. Guys like GWAR, Cradle of Filth…Hell, the whole horror-metal sub-genre has to tip their cap to the man who first combined horror and hard rock.
Alice hit it big in 1971 with “I’m Eighteen” (“School’s Out” came one year later in 1972), and in 2011 (yep, that’s 40 years later) he released his 26th studio album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to his legendary Welcome To My Nightmare album. And to put a cherry on his illustrious career, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Things are going well for the Prince of Darkness.
And speaking of Prince of Darkness, let us not forget Alice’s forays into the world of film. Of course one of his most memorable roles was in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, but he’s got to be best remembered cinematically as the scumbag stepfather of the one and only Freddy Krueger in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
He’s blazed a trail that many have followed and provided us with an insane amount of entertainment, both directly through his work in music and film and indirectly though the scores of artists he’s influenced. He is Alice Cooper and he’s still going strong. And it’s with many thanks for all the years of fun that we give Alice Cooper the Tip of the Scalpel. May all your drives be long and in the fairway!
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