Alice Cooper, also known as Vincent Damon Furnier, formed his first group, the Earwigs, as an Arizona teenager in the early ’60s. Changing the band’s name to the Spiders in 1965, the group was eventually called the Nazz (not to be confused with Todd Rundgren’s band of the same name). The Spiders and the Nazz both released local singles that were moderately popular. In 1968, after discovering there was another band with the same name, the group changed its name to Alice Cooper. 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, guitarist Mike Bruce, guitarist Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith, the group moved to California in 1968. There, the group met Shep Gordon, who became their manager, and Frank Zappa, who signed Alice Cooper to his Straight Records imprint.
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 psychedelic 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.The group’s reputation in Los Angeles was slowly shrinking, so the band moved to Furnier’s hometown of Detroit. For the next year, the group refined their bizarre stage show. Late in 1970, the group’s contract was transferred to Straight’s distributor Warner Bros., and they began recording their third album with producer Bob Ezrin. With Ezrin’s assistance, Alice Cooper developed their classic heavy metal crunch on 1971’s Love It to Death, which featured the number 21 hit single “Eighteen”; the album peaked at number 35 and went gold. The success enabled the group to develop a more impressive, elaborate live show, which made them highly popular concert attractions across the U.S. and eventually the U.K. Killer, released late in 1971, was another gold album.
Released in the summer of 1972, School’s Out was Alice Cooper’s breakthrough record, peaking at number two and selling over a million copies. The title song became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and a number one single in the U.K. Billion Dollar Babies, released the following year, was the group’s biggest hit, reaching number one in both America and Britain; the album’s first single, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” became a Top Ten hit in Britain, peaking at number 25 in the U.S. Muscle of Love appeared late in 1973, yet it failed to capitalize on the success of Billion Dollar Babies. After Muscle of Love, Furnier and the rest of Alice Cooper parted ways to pursue other projects. Having officially changed his name to Alice Cooper, Furnier embarked on a similarly theatrical solo career; the rest of the band released one unsuccessful album under the name Billion Dollar Babies, while Mike Bruce and Neal Smith both recorded solo albums that were never issued. In the fall of 1974, a compilation of Alice Cooper’s five Warner albums, entitled Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, became a Top Ten hit.The Eyes of Alice Cooper appeared in 2003 and found Alice and company playing a more stripped-down brand of near-garage rock. Dirty Diamonds from 2005 was nearly as raw and hit the streets around the same time Alice premiered his syndicated radio show, Nights with Alice Cooper. In 2011 Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a sequel to his 1975, conceptual classic of the same name, was recorded with longtime co-conspirator Bob Ezrin, and featured 14 brand new cuts that spanned multiple genres and relied on the talents of a host of previous members of the Alice Cooper band including Steve Hunter, as well as a guest spot from pop superstar Ke$ha. Currently, Alice is back in action and touring around the US and Canada, so catch the native Detroiter before his tour ends! If you miss this tour, don’t worry, you can also catch him rockin with actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in their new band Hollywood Vampires.