Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Alice Cooper: School's Out ... For Several Generations Now

June 1972.  I had a freshly minted graduation certificate from McKemy Junior High School in Tempe, Arizona.  As my friends and I rode our bikes home from school that one last time, we scream-sang a new hit "School's Out Forever." 

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks

Like me, Alice Cooper fka Vincent Damon Furnier was born in the midwest and his parents eventually moved to Arizona where he attended high school.  He was active in the the Order of DeMolay.  I was in the corresponding organization for girls, Job's Daughters. 

A couple days ago, I mentioned to my mom that I'd finally gone to see Alice Cooper at the USANA Amphitheater in Salt Lake City on Monday.  Attending an Alice Cooper concert wasn't something I could've pulled off during my teen years, even if I'd known of one.  My parents were protective and conservative.  I was their only daughter and the oldest.  Sending me to see America's original horror "heavy metal" rock star would have been met with unilateral objection from both my parents.  (Maybe if they'd known he was a card carrying Republican ...)  There would have been a lengthy discussion in the living room, and maybe as a consolation more blandish fare, perhaps the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, and Neil Diamond may have emerged as alternatives to the vampirish Cooper.  But that was then, and this is now.

Cooper could've easily become a "one hit wonder," for in so many ways "School's Out Forever" defined him and put him on the rock n' roll map, so to speak.  For four decades, there's been no other song that so clearly expresses the jubilation and sense of exhilaration at the end of the school year, whether junior high or graduate school, or whether it was my graduation or that of my kids, for that matter.   But the hits kept on coming, and recently, Cooper was nominated for the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Not a surprise.

Now 62, Cooper gives no hint of halting his tour.  During an interview in 2005, Cooper noted "I look at Mick Jagger and he's on an 18-month tour and he's six years older than me, so I figure, when he retires, I have six more years. I will not let him beat me when it comes to longevity."
Storm clouds threatened but the rain had come and gone, and we were left with a chilly, mostly clear evening.  Cooper quickly got the sparse but enthusiastic crowd overheated when he opened his show with "School's Out."  Every fan was on their feet, fixated on Cooper and in anticipation of what song was coming next.  Cooper has the roar and unyielding energy of a twenty year old.  With hits such as "Billion Dollar Babies," "Only Women," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and "Dirty Diamonds" he won me over yet again .
The biggest surprise, perhaps, was how short the numbers were.  Unlike more contemporary artists with their long-winded set of about ten to fourteen songs, Cooper growled his way through a string of two minute songs.  I suppose when you have as many hits as he does, that is the only way to pack the program with over 20 songs and still get to bed by 9 pm.  Incidentally, he performed before Rob Zombie, and we were making guesses about whether Cooper had in his contract an early bedtime. 

Known for gore, blood, and guts, guillotines, and gigantic syringes, Cooper's macabre stage theatrics and songs like "I Love the Dead" and "Feed My Frankenstein" paved the way for today's edgy heavy metal bands like Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold.  Nurse Rozetta made her appearance.  But Cooper's antics were almost like watching Barnabas Collins in an episode of Dark Shadows.  Perhaps it was all very horrifying back in the day, but the ghoulish dramatics were almost of a cult rock concert quality, and not disappointingly so.

Cooper ended the concert wearing a sparkling jacket and with the hit "I'm Eighteen" (and I don't know what I want).  Oh and by the way, that was me until I was about 35.  But at 18, Cooper did seem to have a fragile grasp on his destiny ... when he started his band back in the late 1960s, he wanted to drink beer, meet girls, and play music.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Disclosure: I was a volunteer at this concert. I received NO compensation for this review.

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