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The Telegraph

Alice Cooper interview: ‘None of us ever thought about getting past 30’

In 1970, Alice Cooper decided to leave Los Angeles. Stymied by commercial failure, in two fruitless years the theatrical rocker had caught the ear of almost no one. “I don’t get what you’re doing,” Frank Zappa had told him, “and I think that’s great.” Few agreed. With “20,000 groups from around the world heading to [LA],” in the first revolutionary act of a career that has endured for more than half a century the singer moved to Detroit. In the Motor City, he found his crowd. “As a hard rock band we didn’t really fit into Los Angeles,” Cooper tells me. “LA was The Doors and bands like that. Detroit, though, now that was a blue collar town. That was the hard rock capital of the United States. The people in the blue collar parts of that town did not want soft rock. They only wanted hard rock. And we gave it to ‘em.” These days are recalled on Detroit Stories, the singer’s 21st album, released last week. Produced by long-time collaborator Bob Ezrin and co-written by Wayne Kramer, the guitarist in Detroit punk-rock band MC5, the 15-song collection is both a love letter to the city in which Alice Cooper (real name, Vincent Furnier) was born, and in which he lived until he was 10, and his best record this century. In the Motor City, Alice Cooper and his band were welcomed with open ears. In LA, they could clear a room in the space of a single song. Striking up in front of 6,000 people at the Cheetah club, in Venice Beach, the band opened their set with a muscular version of The Who’s Out In The Street that saw the audience decamp to the street until the whole noisy business had blown over. Part of a bill curated to celebrate the birthday of comedian Lenny Bruce, it says something that “Coop” was able to outdo the most controversial comic in the history of the United States. “The people in Detroit wanted their bands to sound like the machinery that they were working with in the Ford factories, or at Chrysler,” Cooper says. “It was a very masculine kind of society. It was tough. If you were in a band you also had to know how to fight. Nobody ever went out alone.” It is, though, all too easy to overdo this stuff. In this tale of two cities, Los Angeles is inevitably cast as the easygoing nirvana while Detroit plays the role of a combustible heartland city at war with everyone, including itself. Such broad strokes overlook the fact that in 1969 LA’s good vibrations turned bad. That August seven people were murdered at the behest of the white supremacist hippy cult leader Charles Manson. The Motor City was many things, but minded to kill you with free love it was not. Out west, “suddenly the hippies became potential murderers,” Cooper says. “You saw a hippy and you thought, ‘Well, he may be on drugs like Charles Manson, he may be the most dangerous guy in the world.’ So now they were being looked at totally differently. Not that we really related to the hippies, to be honest with you. We were a band, so we didn’t really understand why the hippies wanted to be hippies. We were much more interested in Ferraris and making money.”


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