If you go
› What: A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper
› Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
› When: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12
› Admission: $34.50, $39.50, $59.50, $79.50, $99.50
› For more information: 423-757-5580
Throughout his entire musical career — one that started as a high-schooler in 1964 who convinced his cross-country teammates to don Beatle wigs and do parody versions of Fab Four hits — Alice Cooper has understood the importance of putting on a good show. And, that means having a band that is capable of blowing your socks off.
"I was an art major," he says, "and so was [original Alice Cooper bandmate] Dennis [Dunaway]. We wanted to be the Yardbirds. An American version of the Yardbirds. We knew there were rock good guys, but we wanted to be the rock villains, and we got to create a character around it, but we always knew the music had to be good. Really good."
Cooper, then known as Vincent Furnier, talked Dunaway and Glen Buxton, John Tatum and John Speer into being his first bandmates for a local talent show. The band would eventually become called Alice Cooper; but as fans and the media kept assuming it was the name of lead singer Furnier, he adopted the name and became the character we know today. And, Furnier (or Cooper) has made it work ever since, which is remarkable considering that he not only helped create shock rock, but is still a much-in-demand performer. Being a pioneer is tough enough. Sustaining it can be tougher.
"That's true," he says.
"Look, when you are going to do something that nobody has done and you are crawling out as far as you can go, if it works you are a a genius. If it doesn't, you are a total moron.
"But the thing is, we always cared more about the music than the theater. Back in the '70s and '80s, you had to be a good live band. We cared about The Who and Led Zeppelin, because we saw those early bands. They were great live, and that's what we knew we had to be."
Cooper, 70, says he feels like he and the band are better today than when he was in his 20s.
"We do seven hours worth of rehearsal and maybe one hour working on the theatrics. It has to be good."
If the great live acts of the '70s and '80s taught him the importance of putting on a good show, the legends of the early years of theater, TV and vaudeville taught him to be a professional.
"When I became a household name and Johnny Carson was making jokes about me, I loved it, because I wanted to meet Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx and George Burns. I knew I would meet the Beatles and the Stones, and that was great, but getting to sit with Groucho Marx for three hours was incredible.
"Those guys were professional. Never go on without rehearsing. Never do bad material. Never be late. I learned so much from them."
Fans at the show Friday, Oct. 12, at Memorial Auditorium will see a classic Cooper show complete with props such as giant spiders, guillotines and electric chairs, but they will also hear a set full of classic rock songs. Casual or new fans might be surprised just how many songs they not only recognize, but know every word to.
Cooper's hits include "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out," "Only Women Bleed," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Feed My Frankenstein, "Hey Stoopid" and "Poison."
He gives much credit to producer Bob Ezrin.
"He insisted that we never have any filler songs. Everything had to be something worthy of being on the radio."
He also says being sober for more than 35 years and becoming a Christian around the same time are largely responsible for his current status. He's been happily married since 1976 to Sheryl Goddard and they have three children, "who all married the right person, never got into drugs or alcohol and who are all funny as hell.
"It took a long time and lot of shaping of my life, but things are good."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Alice Cooper: lead vocals, harmonica, guitar, percussion, synthesizer (1962–present)
Ryan Roxie: lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1996–2006, 2012–present)
Chuck Garric: bass guitar, backing vocals (2002–present)
Tommy Henriksen: rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (2011–present)
Glen Sobel: drums, percussion (2011–present)
Nita Strauss: lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present)