In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Alice Cooper, who celebrates 50 years in music this year.
1: Which comedian played you in a 2018 episode of Sky’s Urban Myths about your friendship with Salvador Dali?
“Black hair. Looks like a rock star. Gosh, what’s his name? He was in a really hilarious comedy duo. I did a few TV shows and went to his local pub with him. Noel Fielding!”
“He’s a very funny guy. In fact, he was asking me questions about Dali so I was aware he was playing me in this thing. I’m great on faces and the worst on names.”
What’s your favourite Dali memory?
“Well, Salvador Dali was a show unto himself. Just him walking into a room was very theatrical. One time, he ordered drinks for us all, then ordered himself a glass of hot water. When it came, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a big jar of honey. And he starts pouring the honey into the hot water and lifts it all the way up – gets a big stream of honey going on – then he pulls out a pair of scissors from his pocket and cuts the stream. (Laughs) He was inherently theatrical and you couldn’t understand a word he said. But he was the greatest technical artist of all time.”
2: In The Simpsons episode ‘I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can’, what does Principal Skinner change the lyrics of ‘School’s Out’ to?
“(Laughs) I didn’t see that one! Rob Zombie, Gene Simmons and I did a Treehouse Of Horror comic book for Halloween for them, and I’ve seen them use ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, but I never saw the ‘School’s Out’ one.”
WRONG. He sings ‘School’s back in session/Let’s begin our lesson!’. Bonus fact: your music has been used in four Simpsons episodes over the years.
“(Laughs) I always tell people – we tried to write ‘School’s Back In’. Nobody was backing it. Every kid went: ‘That’s not the idea. You were right about the first one!’”
3: You recorded a rejected James Bond theme ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. What impressive line-up of backing singers did you have?
“Oh, I had great ones – The Pointer Sisters, Ronnie Spector and Liza Minnelli. And it should have been the theme. Even Christopher Lee [who played villain Scaramanga in the film] listened to both songs and said: ‘Why aren’t we using Alice’s? This is much better’.”
“Liza’s like her mother – she was just built for Broadway. She was uncomfortable anywhere other than onstage – she’s like me on that level.”
Didn’t you once meet Elvis with her?
“Absolutely! Myself, Liza Minnelli, Linda Lovelace [‘70s porn actor] and Chubby Checker were all invited to see Elvis in Vegas in ‘71/’72. Three of us came down in the elevator and one person stayed the night. I don’t know what Elvis and Chubby Checker did all night but…(Laughs). When we got there, he was Elvis – but the real Elvis. He was black leather Elvis. When he walked into a room, he was the guy you wanted to see. He wasn’t bloated or on drugs – you couldn’t have seen a better one. It was an honour to meet him. He took me in the kitchen and said [Adopts a convincing Elvis accent]: ‘I-uh-wanna-sho’ you man, how to take a gun outta’somebody’s hand’. And he hands me a loaded .38. I’m standing there with a loaded .38 on Elvis Presley, and a tiny devil inside me said: ‘Shoot him!’ (Laughs). By the time I could make up my mind, I was on the floor, the gun was on the other side of the room and Elvis’s boot was on my throat! I really liked him. He was self-deprecating, a lot of fun and a classy guy.”
4: Can you name any of your ten campaign pledges from when you revived ‘Alice Elected’ for the 2016 presidential race?
“Oh boy, lemme see! The main one was anybody talking in movie theatres during the movie would be thrown out of the country.”
CORRECT. Among others, you promised: ‘Getting Brian Johnson back in AC/DC’, ‘adding Lemmy to Mt Rushmore’ and ‘a snake in every pot’.
“(Laughs) There was another one too. Guys should have to pass a test to wear Speedos publicly because it’s an eyesore. You should be able to go up to the guy and go: ‘You’re 50lbs overweight and you have a Speedo on, you owe me $50’.”
Talking of money, one of your manifesto commitments was to put your late friend Groucho Marx on the $50 bill…
“Oh Groucho was great and deserved to be on money! He would have been the greatest president of all time. He would be outrageous, but when he was alive in the ‘50s, the presidents of the United States – the Eisenhowers, the Trumans – would call up Groucho and say: ‘Listen, I’m meeting a guy from Holland or Hungary, what’s your take on him?’. He was a Kissinger-like judge of character. A lot of presidents confided in him. As crazy as Groucho was, he was considered a political intellect.”
5: What song of yours did Johnny Rotten lip-sync to in his audition for the Sex Pistols?
“Oh easy! ‘I’m Eighteen’”.
“Even though it wasn’t on his favourite album, which was ‘Killer’ – he said that was the greatest record ever made. But ‘Eighteen’ was the song he and Sid Vicious used to busk in tunnels and subways. Instead of singing Irish folk songs, they’d be doing ‘I Love The Dead’, ‘Eighteen’ and ‘Dead Babies’.”
6: Which Swedish Abba-loving pop group did you duet with on a 2003 cover of ‘School’s Out’?
“A Swedish band?! Wow! I’m trying to think of who that would be. Certainly not Abba!”
WRONG. It was the A*Teens.
“Huh? (A moment, then realising) That’s right! They were like a total toy-band, right? I totally forgot about that. They did this pop version of it that I almost didn’t recognise. Another time that happened was when I was in a elevator, kind of listening to the music playing and I went ‘That’s a good little song’. My wife goes: ‘It’s ‘Poison’!’ It was some little pop band like that band you mentioned – and that song was so out of their league.”
Anybody left that you’d still like to work with?
“I’d still love to write a ballad or mid-tempo song with Burt Bacharach – he’s one of my heroes. As much as I’ve worked with Paul McCartney before on the [Hollywood] Vampires and on his thing, I’d love to write a song with McCartney also.”
7: When your band started out, what fight scene from a musical would you re-enact onstage?
“We did West Side Story. We did the Jets song: (Sings) ‘When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way’. What people didn’t realise back then was those were real switchblades. When we did the fight scene, somebody would get cut every night. But you would never, ever catch Alice Cooper with a rubber knife. Everything I use is real steel. We were drunk and crazy enough to not mind getting cut. If there was blood on the stage, it was from us.”
8: In the 2012 made-for-TV film Bigfoot, you play yourself headlining Deadwood’s First Annual ’80s Flashback Festival. Which bands have pulled out?
“Wow…I wouldn’t even remember that one. I’ve done so many tours. Who pulled out?”
WRONG. The promoter tells you Procol Harum, Jethro Tull and Sting have pulled out.
“Of course! That was when [Spoiler alert!] the Bigfoot ate me at the end and Danny Bonaduce played the promoter. (Laughs) Yeah, you’re right! I did that movie because Syfy showed a new one every Saturday with a different rock star. You know, I watched these movies, as bad as they were – they’re just awful – and I said: ‘Well I want to do one of those!’. They said: ‘OK, great! We’ve got this one with Bigfoot and he eats you in the end.’ And I went: ‘Absolutely! I’m in!’. So we shot it in five hours in Seattle and I was very proud to be eaten by Bigfoot, thank you!”
9: According to your – possibly heavily fabricated – 1976 autobiography ‘Me, Alice’, why should we be wary of accepting a jelly donut from you?
“(Laughs) First of all, that was a great work of fiction. It had little to do with anything! Let’s just say uh…it was something every little boy does and doing in jelly donuts seemed acceptable at the time. But it never happened – I thought it was something Monty Python would have liked.”
CORRECT. You invented the baked-goods fornication plot of American Pie 23 years before the film. What’s been the weirdest rumour about yourself you’ve heard?
“When the chicken incident happened in 1969 – somebody brought a live chicken onstage and I threw it into the audience thinking it would fly, before it plummeted and they tore it to pieces. The next day, it says: ‘Alice Cooper rips chicken apart and eats it onstage’. Everybody was more than willing to believe this. This was pre-internet and everything was urban legend and people needed Alice to be the only villain in rock’n’roll. After that, there was Ozzy and the bat, but the one everybody pivoted on was Alice killing a chicken onstage. We’d get to the next city and they’d say: ‘Well you can’t set a German shepherd on fire tonight!’. (Laughs) And I’d say ‘What?!’. I’m the biggest animal lover ever. I’ve had rumours that I was Eddie Haskell from [US sitcom] Leave It To Beaver; that I was Captain Kangaroo’s son. People keep inventing them – I’ve been the President of Mensa, I’m Illuminati. The trick is not to deny anything!”
10: At an early gig that involved drag troupe The Cockettes and opium suppositories, what shocked the then-head of Warner Bros. Records?
“Well that was our coming out party at the Ambassador Hotel, the place where RFK [Robert F Kennedy] was shot. People didn’t know who Alice Cooper was so we threw this big debutante ball. We had drag queens, The Cockettes were the cigarette girls and we had T.V. Mama – a 400lbs lady – burst out of a cake. It was hellzapoppin’! The record company sat there going ‘This isn’t Jackson Browne’. We wanted to give them a sign – be ready for anything.”
CORRECT. Funky soul diva T.V. Mama jumped naked out of a cake then sang ‘Happy Birthday’ at a disgruntled head of Warner Bros.
“I knew we could have fun with it when we first went to Britain. The British public loved a Hollywood publicity stunt. When we stalled a truck with a billboard of me naked except for a snake coming from between my legs in Piccadilly on Friday rush-hour – and stopped traffic across London, got on the front page of newspapers – I thought we’d get into trouble but we didn’t because the British loved how outrageous it was.”
The verdict: 7/10
“That’s good. And I’m glad I got Noel Fielding’s name that was on the tip of my tongue – otherwise that would have been embarrassing!”
Alice Cooper brings his ‘Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back’ tour to the UK in October