Ask any millennial about Alice Cooper and you’ll probably get the response, “Who is she?”. I personally want to punch anyone who ever responds like that in the face. Multiple times. But I guess I can understand their confusion on a very elementary level. On the surface, yes, “Alice Cooper” is a girl’s name—and yet, it’s not. Most people with a base knowledge of rock and roll associate that name with a singular man—a dark and sinister man. But it wasn’t always that way. Alice Cooper wasn’t just one person—the girlish name represented a group of five young men. The Alice Cooper Group consisted of Vincent Furnier (Alice), Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith. The band’s mission was to annihilate the hippie movement of the late 1960’s—and they succeeded. Their horrifying, visceral theatrics mixed with heavy rock and roll, proved that music wasn’t about politics—it was about being badass for the sake of being badass. Bassist Dennis Dunaway recently revealed some tasty tidbits about the group in his new memoir, SNAKES! GUILLOTINES! ELECTRIC CHAIRS! MY ADVENTURES IN THE ALICE COOPER GROUP.
Here are six facts from the book that will make your mascara run:
- The band’s first gig was at a high school talent show.
They created a mock-Beatles band called “The Earwigs” and changed the words from Beatles’ songs to lyrics about running cross country. The set list included “Please Beat Me” sung to the tune of “Please Please Me” (Last night I ran four laps for my coach / He said I didn’t even try much). It was an incredibly dorky start for the high schoolers—but after that nerdy performance, they got the itch to be a real band.
- The name “Alice Cooper” was not conceived by a Ouija Board.
A story has permeated rock history that the name “Alice Cooper” was bestowed upon the band by a magical Ouija Board. Not true—for the most part. The band was at a party one night tossing around ideas for a new name when Vince calmly offered up “Alice Cooper.” “It would be like Lizzie Borden, the innocent girl who conceals a hatchet behind her back,” he explained. A few parties later, Vince happened to be playing with a Ouija Board and it spelled out the band’s new name—which he then gave full credit to the spirits. Uh huh.
- Frank Zappa gave the Alice Cooper Group their big break.
Zappa had his own record label and agreed to hear the band out. The appointment was at nine—but ante meridiem or post meridiem was not specified. Naturally, the band didn’t want to be late, so they decided the appointment must be at nine in the morning. Zappa was still asleep when the band arrived, so they set up their equipment outside his bedroom door and started playing. Zappa was slightly annoyed, but appreciated their boldness. He signed them to his label, Bizarre Records.
- Alice did not kill a chicken on stage.
“Alice bit the head off a chicken, sucked its blood out, and spit it on a girl” was just one of many myths that persisted about the band. Live chickens were a small part of the band’s show—Glen Buxton’s guitar parts mimicked cackling chickens at times, to be funny he put live chickens on top of his amp. But in the chaos of one show, Alice picked up a chicken named Pecker and threw him into the air—innocently thinking the bird would fly. The chicken plummeted into the crowd, and the audience pulled the poor thing apart in a frenzy. The audience was to blame for Pecker’s demise, not Alice!
- An abandoned Boa Constrictor became a member of the group.
Fans throw a lot of things onstage, but they don’t usually throw reptiles. Someone threw a live boa constrictor onstage during one gig and Neal adopted the snake, naming her Kachina. Kachina became Neal’s treasured pet and the centerpiece of the group’s live show. You can see her on the cover of their album, “Killer.”
- The album “School’s Out” was recalled due to its packaging.
Never shy to controversy, the band decided to use paper panties in lieu of a dust jacket on their record “School’s Out.” The pastel colored panties horrified parents everywhere. The records ended up being recalled, but not because they were provocative. The paper panties were not flame retardant and had to be shipped back to be treated. The media stuck to the more interesting story of angry parents and the Alice Cooper Group gained more notoriety than ever before.