When it came exploding out of the dashboard radio in May 1972, “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper was louder, brasher, with more swagger than anything we’d ever heard on the Top 40. The first time it was premiered on CKLW, Detroit it was presented with the kind of spotlight that a new Beatles single would have been debuted three years earlier, and even though personally I had graduated high school a year prior, the timing certainly was not lost on me. But with the Woodstock Generation inheriting a world of endless Viet Nam War escalation, Richard Nixon landslide re-election, while astronauts golfed on the moon, “School’s Out” ominously was a sobering reality check for millions as well.
Detroit’s blue-collar bars and cheap motels along Woodward Avenue may be less than 200 miles away from the steps of the modernistic I.M.Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but it turned out to be a forty year odyssey for Alice Cooper. Only in rock’n’roll can a preacher’s son named Vincent Furnier dress up in make-up, leather, and fishnet stockings while simulating his own execution by hanging, beheading, and electric chair as 10,000 mesmerized fans gladly pay for the macabre experience.
When I first saw Alice Cooper (that was the band‘s name then, as well) shortly after the March 1971 release of their third album Love It to Death, he was genuinely menacing. Trust me, the audience never rushed the six-foot stage that night, fearing that Alice’s dark intimidating prowling would escape the invisible boundary that separated our hippie peacenik world from his. There was no hint of the clever humor that would inform Billion Dollar Babies merely two years later. At a time when Mick Jagger and David Bowie were sporting eyeshade and feather boas, Alice Cooper was appearing in a straitjacket draped in a REAL boa constrictor. Alice proved that you can project practically any fringe, edgy, sociopathic image in rock and get away with it – as long as you deliver the hits. And with “School’s Out”,”Elected”,”No More Mr Nice Guy”,”Welcome to My Nightmare”, and “Only Women Bleed”, Alice Cooper indelibly changed the rock world and revolutionized the American top forty radio.
Alice Cooper was the first rock star to fall to substance abuse…and survive. Think about it: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, Elvis Presley. To 99% of us, the first indication that these titans of rock had a dangerous addiction was when we read the headlines that they were dead. Following his long-overdue induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, Alice Cooper returns with me In The Studio to discuss, in frank detail in this classic rock interview, his descent into the personal hell of alcoholism which threatened not only his career and marriage but even his very life.– Redbeard