(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
Important Note: You will need to click this icon to download the free needed to view most of the images on this Web site - just a couple of clicks and you're "good to go." For reasons why - go here.
A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
[This is a summary by Larry Blakeley of the original article by Jeffrey Morgan]
"The sicker our fans get, the sicker we'll get."
Of course, when Alice said that, he knew full well that he was sowing the seeds not only of North America's cultural demise but also of the world's. Laugh if you will, but once you've finished drying your eyes, take a good look at what's going on around you and try telling me that Alice Cooper wasn't there first.
DecaSexual gender bending? Hey, any guy can dress like a girl these days, but it took a real man to change his name to Alice and have it accepted the world over as one of the most masculine monikers in the history of popular culture.
Sex and violence? Are you kidding? Everyone takes a back seat to Alice when he unleashes the dark and sinister side of his personality, everyone. When's the last time you saw anyone else chopping up babies with an axe? Or defiling a deceased dame in front of an open fridge?
he audacious, precedent-shattering, inspirational, taboo-defiling hoodlum flamboyance of Alice Cooper did more than forever alter the face of rock 'n' roll as we now know it. He virtually invented rock as theater, created new fashion trends, sparked a new sexual revolution, established higher standards for teenage decadence, and found time on top of all this to write and record a library of classic rock 'n' roll albums. The fact that Alice Cooper is rock 'n' roll's foremost legendary statesman of outrage is far beyond reproach
Still, there was one vital piece of the puzzle missing. When news from Philly arrived that a young whiz kid by the name of Todd Rundgren had the temerity to name his new band the Nazz, necessitating still yet another name change, that last piece finally fell into place. For little did Arizona's Nazz know that this time their new name would soon become universally synonymous with outrage, delinquency, and immorality on an international scale.
It was 1968, and it was about time.
Just as there are a million stories in the Naked City, so are there at least as many theories as to how Vincent Furnier transmogrified into the legendary entity doomed to be revered and reviled the world over as Alice Cooper.
First and foremost of these is the story of what happened late one night while the group was visiting Dick Phillips (aka Dick Christian), their manager at the time. Phillips, a colorful character in his own right, had been urging the group to break out of their run-of-the-mill mold. That evening, just for laughs, his mother pulled out a Ouija board to do a reading. As soon as it began, however, the letter indicator began wildly skipping across the board, spelling out the name A-L-I-C-E C-O-O-P-E-R.
From that little incident, the boys concocted a tale that would only serve to enhance the Alice Cooper legend in the years to come: that Vince was the reincarnation of a young woman of the very same name--a woman who had been burned alive at the stake hundreds of years ago for being a witch!
Then again, Alice has been known to change his stories from time to time. . .
Sometimes he claims to have chosen the name because it had "a Baby-Jane/Lizzie-Borden-sweet-and-innocent-with-a-hatchet-behind-the-back kind of rhythm to it." At other times, he maintains: "Alice Cooper is such an all-American name. I loved the idea that when we first started, people used to think that Alice Cooper was a blonde folk singer. The name started simply as a spit in the face of society. With a name like Alice Cooper, we could really make 'em suffer."
Regardless of which story you choose to believe, of far more importance is the fact that the word suffer doesn't even begin to describe the damaging, senses-shattering assault that these guys inflicted on the mores of common decency. The Alice Cooper manifesto was an unrelenting, rampant commitment to the wholesale slaughter of every civilized tenet known to society. They created a designed-to-shock dynasty of decadence by pushing the limits of both rock 'n' roll and theatricality. The Alice Cooper Group's relentless pursuit of a higher level of satirical sonic brutality took outrage to its inevitable extreme.
Keep in mind that, back in 1969, the only excuse a couple of rednecks needed to blow away Captain America and Billy at the end of Easy Rider was the fact that they both looked like a couple of hippies. Given how that was the climate across much of middle America at the time, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how well the spectacle of five tough lookin' cross-dressin' guys (one of 'em named Alice) with hair down to their waists, wearing mascara and jewelry--and grinding out a sonic exuberance of noise to boot--was likely to have gone down a full year earlier.
And just how they didn't end up with their brains shotgunned across some steaming macadam in one of the Southern towns they were so fond of invading is anyone's guess.
Which isn't to say that the reaction in Los Angeles was any more open-minded. By now, the group was performing an alarming Dadaist din that gained them the reputation of, in Alice's words, "the most hated group in Los Angeles." No less a connoisseur of chaos than Frank Zappa deemed the group's auditory abrasiveness to be so sufficiently twisted that it deserved a spot on his new record label, Straight, alongside such esteemed labelmates as The GTO's and Wild Man Fischer.
How corrosive was the Alice Cooper Group? Just ask any of the Los Angeles audience who were inside the Cheetah Club the night Alice Cooper took the stage as the first act to perform as part of a memorial concert in honor of haunted monologist Lenny Bruce.
All it took was a couple of songs before the throng, almost as one, stood up and headed for the door in disgust. When the feathers had settled from the group's onstage pillow fight, there were only four people left. Alongside two of The GTO's and Zappa was an aspiring entrepreneur who was more than impressed by what he saw. Shep Gordon realized that any group capable of evoking so negative a reaction that it could clear a room of 2000 people in the space of a few songs was not only a force to be reckoned with but also a group destined for truly great things.
Consequently, along with Joe Greenberg (his partner at the time), Shep introduced himself to the group and offered to become their manager. When he promised them that he wouldn't give up hustling on their behalf until they were all millionaires, the fact that he knew absolutely nothing whatsoever about how to manage a rock group didn't matter.
He knew enough.
It was at this critical juncture in the group's fledgling career that three key events occurred in rapid succession--events that would lead to the group becoming a worldwide phenomenon of legendary proportions. The first of these events was the decision to relocate the group to Alice's own hometown of Detroit.
"The reason our music changed when we got to Detroit was because the audiences there were literally raising fists at us instead of making peace signs," recalls Alice. "That's the difference right there. I've said it before, and it's absolutely true: we were the group that drove a stake through the heart of the love generation."
The second event concerned the group's notorious Varsity Stadium appearance at the 1969 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival when, during their set, a live chicken was thrown on the stage by an audience member. As he patiently explains each and every time the subject comes up--and as evidenced in the documentary footage featured in the Alice Cooper career retrospective video/DVD, Prime Cuts-The Alice Cooper Story--Alice, believing that chickens could fly, swooped up the hapless bird in mid-waddle and gracefully arced it into the air, fully expecting it to take flight. Alice was mistaken. The chicken landed somewhere within the first ten rows, whereupon it was promptly torn to pieces by rabid fans.
Alice's protestations notwithstanding ("Believe the humor, not the rumor"), once the press got hold of the story, they ran with it. The next morning you couldn't pick up a newspaper without seeing the sordid story of how a sick, depraved male rock star with a woman's name bit a chicken's head off onstage and drank its blood.
As a result, the ASPCA began monitoring the group's performances to safeguard against possible future fowl atrocities. The truth of the matter, however, is that the inadvertent chicken sacrifice was never repeated again. That is, until Ozzy Osbourne "borrowed" the idea years later when he allegedly bit the head off a live dove.
In any event, it was the kind of myth-making publicity that legends are made of. Thus began an unprecedented spate of press items that would continue.
Of course, not everyone was gullible enough to believe such a story. One person who did fall for it, though, was Who guitarist Pete Townshend. Shocked about what had supposedly happened, a misinformed Townshend literally went on record to denounce the group by writing, "There are bands killing chickens" in The Who's "Put The Money Down."
Beliefs such as these are indicative of the kind of extreme reactions that the Alice Cooper Group brought out in people. Many other rock bands, rock journalists, and, yes, even rock fans hated the group because of how they looked, what they sounded like, and what they stood for.
The third and most vital event involved an appointment that Shep Gordon had made while the group was in town. Toronto's Nimbus 9 was world-renowned as the recording studio where The Guess Who cranked out hit after hit. In a desperate attempt to get someone to help the group attain a more palatable sound that would appeal to a wider audience, Shep hoped to secure the services of Nimbus 9's in-house producer, Jack Richardson.
Like it did everywhere else Shep went, the group's reputation had preceded him: Richardson wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the Alice Cooper Group in any way, shape, or form. Shep, however, wouldn't take no for an answer. In a last-ditch attempt to get Gordon off his back, Richardson asked his production assistant to go to New York and see the group perform live, knowing full well that the resultant negative review would finally get rid of the manager, once and for all. What Richardson hadn't counted on, however, was that not only would his assistant be totally captivated by the group's stage act, but he'd also want the assignment of producing them himself. His name was Bob Ezrin.
Their days at Cortez and Camelback may have been over, but the bell was just about to ring for the most important class the Alice Cooper Group would ever attend. For months the group went to summer school--first on a rented farm in Pontiac, Michigan, and then in a studio in Chicago. Under Ezrin's tutelage, they were re-educated in the Three R's: rehearsing, writing, and recording.
Concerning the role Ezrin played in the group's restructuring, Alice says, "He helped create Alice Cooper. He took us apart and put us back together again, even though he didn't know exactly what he was doing."
He knew enough.
At the end of the semester they emerged with two things they'd never had before: a stage show so tight you could bounce a dime off it and a master plan for world domination.
They called it Love It To Death.
Love It To Death was the foundation for an astonishing and unparalleled ascent that, within two years, would culminate in the crowning of Alice Cooper as the undisputed #1 heavyweight champion rock 'n' roll act in the world.
There was something else, as well. Teenage years are never the easiest of times, which is why "I'm Eighteen" was such a revelation. Never before had anyone ever talked to teens on their own level about the awkward pain and loneliness of growing up and mutating into something altogether . . . different. But Alice did. And this time, when Alice talked, the youth of the world listened. And what they heard was that Alice understood. And the reason he understood was because he was just as messed up as they were! He was one of them. It was that bonding between artist and audience that helped "I'm Eighteen" climb to #21 on the pop singles chart.
At the time, Steve Demorest wrote in his Alice Cooper biography: "Vincent Furnier's anthem had been The Who's `My Generation.' But for a whole new generation, that anthem would be `I'm Eighteen.'" Echoing that sentiment years later, Detroit journalist Gary Graff explains: "With `I'm Eighteen,' Cooper created a `Smells Like Teen Spirit' for the posthippie generation." The Village Voice proclaimed: "`I'm Eighteen' changed Alice Cooper from the group that destroyed chickens to the group that destroyed stadiums." And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has enshrined the anthem as one of the 50 most important songs in the history of rock 'n' roll.
But if "I'm Eighteen" was the tender morsel that first drew people into the Alice Cooper web, it was "Ballad Of Dwight Fry" that paralyzed them into staying longer than they had planned. "Ballad" is named after character actor Dwight Frye (the actual spelling of his name) who, in 1931, appeared as a lunatic in both Universal Pictures' Dracula and Frankenstein. A six -and-a-half-minute harrowing descent into one man's madness, "Dwight Fry" is a torment made all the more chilling by Alice's superb vocal stylizations and adept skill at concocting various personas.
Bob Ezrin explains: "I always considered Alice to be as much an actor as a singer. With many of his songs, he was playing a role; sometimes multiple roles within one song or multiple facets of a single role. And one of the best ways for us to portray that was through the use of a different subscore. Just as you would shoot scenes in a movie by using different lighting or lenses, on the records we would use different microphones, different vocals sounds, and different styles of delivery. We'd also surround Alice with different-sounding tracks. Switching from vocal to vocal or sound to sound signified that there was something going on with this character."
In the group's new stage show, Alice portrayed the ultimate insane asylum inmate--a raving mad lunatic who sang "Dwight Fry" from the confines of a straitjacket, only to break out of his restraints during the song's climax and strangle the nurse assigned to look after him.
For all the bloodletting prevalent in the group's performances, however, it must be remembered that at the center of the action was a morality play: Alice was always executed at the end of each show. At first, during the Love It To Death tour, he went to the chair and was electrocuted. Then, as his transgressions escalated from bad to worse, so did the punishments: on the Killer tour he was hung nightly from the gallows; by the time of the Billion Dollar Babies tour, he was being strapped into a life-size working guillotine and beheaded.
Of course, Alice had to die as a way of absolving the audience from the sin of vicariously reveling in his crimes. No one, however, ever said that, having been killed, he had to stay dead. Keep in mind that resurrection is an important element of the Cooper oeuvre. Accordingly, Alice always rose from the dead just in time for the encore.
With increased sales, the Coopers could now invest more time and money into making their stage production bigger and better. Their goal: to give their audience the most creative show they could imagine.
The most important change, however, was in the evolution of Alice's eye makeup from mincing to menacing. The fem-demented spider-eye design was gone. In its place were now two dark, malevolent orbs of death, which--along with a newly carved on clown frown--would instantly become known as Alice's trademark visage. Accordingly, his new persona was as chief atrocity exhibitor of a new brand of dementia: Evil as a commodity.
While the Coopers were making headlines as social misfits and world outcasts, they were also doing something else that, at the time, went quite unheralded. As a touring act, they were single-handedly expanding and raising the standard of rock concert productions.
Go back and take another look at that long list of performers who owe a debt to Alice Cooper. Study it carefully, for they all had their greatest successes after the advent of Alice. David Bowie may have worn a dress on the cover of The Man Who Sold The World in 1971, but Alice had already flirted with transvestism in 1969. Marc Bolan admirably defined Gangster Glam on Bolan's Zip Gun in 1975, but Alice had already been there and gone by 1973. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood may have refined the punk rock look in 1977, but guess who invented it by wearing S&M gear as well as the slashed 'n' shredded safety pin look as early as 1972? The freshly dug-up Gothic gloom 'n' doom look of Siouxsie And The Banshees? Alice. The grease-paint personas of Kiss? Alice. The bloodletting of Gwar? Alice. Marilyn? Alice. Everyone else? Alice, Alice, Alice.
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters put it this way: "No one in this band can play a guitar like Eric Clapton or a stage like Alice Cooper." Nobody ever before looked like him, sounded like him, or acted like him. And nobody could shred the speaker of an AM transistor radio like Alice Cooper. He was a first-class hit disturber--and his greatest class disruption exploded onto the airwaves in the summer of 1972 with all the subtle impact of ten fingernails shrieking across a classroom chalkboard.
And then there's the title track itself, "School's Out," the #1 single that Entertainment Weekly deemed one of the Top 10 Greatest Summer Songs ever, right behind The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City" and The Beach Boys' "California Girls." Not bad company for a song that contains some of the rawest, snarkiest, punkiest, and wittiest rock lyrics ever written--including the brilliant: "Well we got no class! And we got no principles! And we got no innocence! We can't even think of a word that rhymes!"
As Alice often explains: "We always made fun of three things, and that's sex, death, and money." So far, they had the first two bases covered in spades. Now it was time to steal third and head home.
"The whole idea behind the album," said Alice, "is to exploit the idea that everyone has sick perversions. But they've got to be American perversions; we're very nationalistic, you know."
Forbes magazine, the bible of capitalism, put Alice on their cover for a story about the big business of rock 'n' roll entitled "A New Breed of Tycoon." "I'm the most American rock act!" Alice bragged with justification. "I have American ideals: I love money!"
Their set designs resulted in the most elaborate stage and light presentation of any rock show ever, setting the standard in terms of sheer massive size.
But as Brown, Esbensen, and Geis state in the textbook Criminology: Explaining Crime And Its Context, their 1991 treatise on the subject: "Crime and deviance continually test societal constraints, thus forcing an ongoing evaluation of group norms. This confronting of the legal limits introduced the possibility for social change. Think, for example, of the changes in society brought about by such `criminals' and `deviants' as Socrates, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Alice Cooper."
By 1973 ..... It was at this point in his career that Alice decided to pull his most infamous scare tactic yet by declaring in interviews, "Alice is just a character I play. Offstage, I'm just a normal guy!" This set the scene for the King of Shock Rock's most horrifying role. It wasn't played out, however, before tens of thousands in a sports arena. Rather, it was enacted before a television audience of millions when Alice Cooper showed up on a couple of episodes of The Hollywood Squares game show.
This was Alice at his most subversive, and, in an ironic way, it made him as twisted as ever. Most fans, though, didn't get the joke. Indeed, many still regard this period as the low point of Alice's career. The punch line to these appearances, of course, was the fact that, by now, there truly was no escaping Alice. No matter where you went, there he was. Parents who screamed at their kids to turn down his records now couldn't avoid the rock star themselves--not even in the supposedly safe sanctuary of their favorite TV show.
After all, what could possibly be worse for straitlaced contestants with a hate-on for the long-haired freak than to have them end up being forever in Alice's debt because he was the one who had provided them with the grand prize-winning answer?
In addition to the title track, Welcome To My Nightmare also contained such other Cooper classics as the anthemic "Department Of Youth" and the coolly satiric "Cold Ethyl," a song that so totally offended advice-slinger Ann Landers with its theme of NecroSexuality that she devoted one of her syndicated newspaper columns to it, railing against its vulgarity. Good thing Ann didn't listen carefully to Alice's massive hit single "Only Women Bleed." This was his most deceptive song yet, not just because it was a ballad but also because of its neo-feminist subtext.
"Disco drove me to drink," Alice would later say in jest, but his battle with the bottle was no joke. Alice's penchant for hitting the sauce had evolved from being a harmless pastime and diversion to being a serious hindrance and problem. This was also when fans next saw Alice in the legendary (for all the wrong reasons) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. Committing himself into an institution served two purposes. First, it allowed Alice to dry out in suitable surroundings; and second, those surroundings inspired his next album, From The Inside.
Working with producer David Foster and collaborating with drinking pal Bernie Taupin, From The Inside features some of Alice's most personal lyrics. From "Jackknife Johnny" and "Millie And Billie" to that object of intimate inmate desire, "Nurse Rozetta," every character study on the album came from an actual inpatient Alice met while incarcerated. Only the names were changed to protect the deviant dipsomaniac.
Once again, Alice hit the road to bring his latest album to life with a manic stage show dubbed the Madhouse Rock tour. The new Cooper extravaganza was performed on a stage decked out as an insane asylum, upon which, in addition to dealing with his fellow mental ward psychos, Alice chillingly dramatized his bout with the bottle by literally duking it out with giant bottles of scotch and rye.
By 1980 disco had already begun its slow maturation into all forms of hybrid dance music. Punk, meanwhile, proved to be far too raw and radical for mainstream tastes after all. Accordingly, it was immediately castrated by the major record conglomerates who called their new neutered version new wave.
Once again, he found himself releasing albums into a rapidly changing marketplace where hard rock itself was floundering as a viable commodity.
Once again, the famed Alice Cooper road show was back in its full gory glory. As always, Alice could expect his longtime fans to be in attendance. This time, however, a whole new slew of MTV-weaned headbangers--who, up until now, had only heard fabled rumors about Alice--showed up to actually see the legend perform in person for themselves.
The Nightmare Returns is how the new tour was billed, and it was an advisory not to be taken lightly, for Alice had concocted his goriest and most violent stage show yet. "We make sure that the first 20 rows are soaked in blood," Alice bragged as he went from town to town. And he made good on his threat. The opening night concert was broadcast live from Detroit as an MTV Halloween special, and a year later the tour climaxed explosively with a final show headlining at the Reading Festival in England.
In 1988 the German state of Bavaria actually did manage to censor Alice's doll chopping performance of "Dead Babies" by threatening him and his cohorts with imprisonment should he proceed with his act as planned. Meanwhile, back home in the land of the free, Tipper Gore's record-rating PMRC immediately installed Alice at the top of their Most Wanted list. As always, Alice wore their disgust as a badge of honor.
There was no denying that the old dynamics of sex and romance had, over the years, severely mutated into something scarier than even Alice could ever have envisioned. It was a source of inspiration just waiting to be used.
Enlisting esteemed hitmaker Desmond Child to cowrite and produce his new album, Alice once again headed into the studio, accompanied by Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, both of whom were recruited to sit in on a few tracks. The result was Trash, which spawned the megahit "Poison" and became the biggest-selling album of Alice's career.
The Last Temptation, a harrowing theological account of lost innocence, rounded out Alice's trilogy of terror for Epic Records. From Dave McKean's disturbing cover photocollage to Sandman author Neil Gaiman's accompanying graphic novel, it was more than apparent that this time Alice Cooper wasn't fooling around. "The Last Temptation is the first album I've done in a long time that's a true concept album," says Alice. "In the '90s, there are certain words we avoid or think we've outgrown. Words like temptation, sin, redemption. These words are old words, but they're not dead. These are words that I wanted to explore with this new album."
In addition to hard-edged fan-favorites like "Lost In America" and "Bad Place Alone," The Last Temptation also made good use of the unique songwriting ability and corrosive vocal cords of Soundgardener Chris Cornell, who helped nail home Alice's various points of view on the dual duets "Stolen Prayer" and "Unholy War."
Next came a new live album, A Fistful Of Alice, specifically designed to update his only prior in-the-flesh offering, 1977's The Alice Cooper Show. Recorded at Cabo Wabo, Sammy Hagar's infamous Mexican watering hole, the album was aided, abetted, and ably executed by guest guitarists Sammy and Slash. Even everybody's favorite cool ghoul Rob Zombie (who'd also teamed up with Alice to record the Grammy-nominated X-Files track "Hands Of Death (Burn Baby Burn)" crawled out of his casket and braved the harsh Mexican sun, just to hang out and perform with his horror hero.
But of all the indignities Alice Cooper has inflicted upon an unsuspecting public over the years, arguably none has had as wide-ranging an impact in tight-laced conservative circles as his well-publicized unholy alliance with the symbol of All That Is Good--that white-bucked denizen of decency, the Anti-Alice himself, Mister Pat Boone.
There can be no denying that this is nothing less than the gripping story of one of rock 'n' roll's most exciting heroes. The chronicle of Alice Cooper's vastly influential career is as sensationally spellbinding as the very life it depicts.
His accomplishments herald Alice Cooper as a true original in an era where originality is disdained. The triumphs and tribulations heard on Alice Cooper's albums continue to thrill millions all over the world to this day, with his name and image remaining an inextricable part of our language and culture, as familiar as they are enduring.
Indeed, no better example of Alice Cooper's timelessness can be found than in the fact that he still sings "I'm Eighteen" with all the passionate fervor and belief that he first brought to the song. For as long as there is a part of us that will always remain 18, we will all have far more in common with Alice Cooper than we might realize--or dare to publicly admit.
After all, you're still here, and so is Alice. Rocking out like all get out. And ain't that what it's all about?
Remember The Coop, huh?
Jeffrey Morgan is a freelance journalist and rock critic who specializes in all aspects of historical and contemporary popular culture. From 1975 to 1990 he was the Canadian Contributing Editor of Creem magazine.