I thought we’d gotten over this, but there seem to be people in this world who still want to throw Alice Cooper in the same pile of classic rock bands you’re not supposed to listen to if you’re hip. David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed are cool. Alice is not. I know Alice didn’t do much to help his reputation when he released albums like Constrictor, Trash and Hey Stoopid, but let’s overlook those things. After all why does Bowie get the pass with Let’s Dance???
Anyhoo, this is supposed to be a movie review and not a bitchy rant about how Alice needs to be reevaluated by cool, arty kids. By the way, why was every early Bowie and Stooges album reissued, while two of rock’s masterpieces, Love It to Death and Killer, only have used vinyl and cheap, early Warner Bros. CDs to represent them? And for that matter, why all the MC5 worship? What did they do except preach a bunch of Maoist nonsense, get arrested a few times and release loud, but otherwise straight-forward, bluesy rock records? Yeah, REAL revolutionary!
Okay, okay, rant is over. I was being somewhat facetious and hyperbolic, and I love all of above mentioned artists. I’m just bitter at the way some other blogs have talked about Alice Cooper as if he/they is/are just showy with little in the way of memorable songs outside of a few classic hits. Let’s talk about the movie Super Duper Alice Cooper, which I dropped seven dollars to watch last night.
Honestly, as a hardcore fan, if the movie was three or four hours long, I’d probably have been more satisfied with it. Filmmakers Sam Dunn, Reginald Harkema and Scott McFadyen do a serviceable job stuffing Alice Cooper’s 40 year career into 95 minutes… that is if you’re a merely casual fan or just have some passing interest. However I can’t help but notice one, obvious, glaring, FUCKING OMISSION!!! Where in all of this was MICHAEL BRUCE – ya know the guy who wrote or co-wrote “I’m Eighteen”, “Ballad of Dwight Fry”, “Under My Wheels”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and played guitar AND keyboard on all of the band’s early recordings?! He wasn’t mentioned once, yet you clearly see a fifth guy in all the early band photos! That’s like doing a documentary on Iggy Pop and omitting Ron Asheton or talking about Ozzy Osbourne and forgetting to mention that band he was in for ten years.
But yes, the 95 minute film tells the Alice Cooper story from his childhood growing up in Detroit and his various illnesses, through his teen years in Phoenix, AZ, where he met best friend and bassist Dennis Dunaway and started the band that would be Alice Cooper along with local juvenile delinquent kid and lead guitarist Glen Buxton; their various names were Earwigs, Spiders and Nazz and the phases they went through were 60s garage, psychedelia and hard rock before becoming a household name. After that band collapsed, Alice started a solo career, dealt with alcoholism, got married and later found God (which is implied, but not explicitly said) and redemption. They don’t really talk about the earliest members of the group or how drummer Neal Smith joined either but I suppose only the hardcore fans give two shits about original rhythm guitarist John Tatum, who was replaced by Michael Bruce and original drummer John Spear, who was replaced by Neal Smith or their two singles as the Spiders and one single as the Nazz.
I’ll give the filmmakers their due; they make every attempt to keep the film interesting and move things at a very quick clip. They use this new, 3-D still shot technique to give photographs a “living” quality. It does help put you in the time frame since, I’m assuming, 60s performances of the Spiders or the Nazz don’t exist. Alice’s story is also juxtaposed with shots from the 1920 adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to further illustrate his onstage/offstage personality and how the former began to take over the latter. Newbies might be surprised to learn about Frank Zappa’s direct involvement with the group’s early history; from his discovering the group in L.A. and claiming that their flashy, trashy appearance made them the male equivalent of the GTOs to his signing them to his Straight label in 1968 just because they were so darn weird. Also, what the fuuuu… Alice did coke and free based??!! I thought he was just a drinker!!! Arrghghhg, my mind is blown!!!
Furthermore the early live footage is just amazing. There’s copious amounts of early club and festival footage when the group used weird props to entertain confused crowds of stoned out hippies and I just couldn’t believe it when Alice got creamed in the face!
Hell, you won’t believe it either! It happens at 9:18.
While the main narrator of the film is Alice Cooper, former members Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, producer Bob Ezrin and manager Shep Gordon also help tell the story. Furthermore we get very brief commentary from Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon and Dee Snyder as well. For some reason the film doesn’t use any talking heads, which is fine as far as I’m concerned.
The film glosses over a lot and omits some interesting tidbits because, as I said, to tell it all, you’d need three or four hours and I don’t know how interested the casual fan or curiosity seeker would be in Alice talking about his work on the Spanish horror film Monster Dog. I almost wish this documentary was never made and that Alice did what Iron Maiden did; release for fans only DVD documentaries that cover specific eras of his/their career in thorough detail. I personally would love a documentary or book strictly on the original band and then another one about his early 80s, new wavey period. But that’s me.
Here are some fun facts that were omitted that even non-fans might find interesting:
1. Alice Cooper opened for the Doors in 1968 and managed to empty out the entire venue except for Frank Zappa, Shep Gordon and a couple GTOs
2. The reason the group had to change its name from the Nazz to Alice Cooper was because Todd Rundgren had a band called the Nazz at the time.
3. By the way, the group got the name the Nazz from the Yardbirds song “The Nazz Are Blue.”
4. Groucho Marx attended an early Alice Cooper gig and called it good vaudeville.
5. Frank Zappa initially wanted Alice Cooper to change their name to Alice Cookies in order to further fit his stable of “weird” bands at Straight records (Alice Cookies and His Magic Band???). Thank goodness they didn’t go for it!
6. Alice Cooper had the number one record in the States with Billion Dollar Babies yet had gigs cancelled and were banned in certain parts of the Bible Belt.
7. Donovan is the other voice on “Billion Dollar Babies.”
8. Liza Minelli and the Pointer Sisters sing on “Teenage Lament ’74” from the Muscle of Love album.
9. Alice appeared on Hollywood Squares in 1974.
10. Alice appeared on the Muppet Show in 1977.
11. Alice performed the Beatles song “Because” in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band from 1978.
12. Alice sings on and appears in the video for the Twisted Sister song “Be Chrool to Your Scuel.”