Alice Cooper (band)

Last updated
Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper Killer Tour 1972.jpg
Alice Cooper on the Killer Tour in 1972
Background information
Origin Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Years active1964 (1964)–1975 (1975)
(reunions: 1999, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2017)
Associated acts Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies
Past members

Alice Cooper was an American rock band formed in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964. The band consisted of lead singer Vince Furnier (stage name Alice Cooper), Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar, keyboards), Dennis Dunaway (bass guitar), and Neal Smith (drums). Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and has had a solo career under that name since the band became inactive in 1975. The band was notorious for their elaborate, theatrical shock rock stage shows. [2] In 2011, the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [3]


After years of obscurity, the Alice Cooper band rose to fame in 1971 with the hit single "I'm Eighteen" and the album Love It to Death . Success continued with the popular single "School's Out" and the album of the same name in 1972. The band peaked in popularity in 1973 with their next album Billion Dollar Babies and its tour, which broke box-office records previously held by The Rolling Stones.


Formative years

The band consisted of former members of the garage rock band the Spiders, formed in Phoenix in 1964 with three of the eventual five Alice Cooper members (Furnier, Dunaway and Buxton), who were classmates in high school. Michael Bruce and Neal Smith joined in 1966 and 1967, respectively. They created everything as a group and wrote virtually the entirety of what became the classic Alice Cooper canon. [4]

The band officially relocated to Los Angeles in 1967, having traveled there frequently for shows, and were briefly renamed Nazz. In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another name. The legend is that the name "Alice Cooper" came from a session with a Ouija board and was the name of a 17th century witch. However, Furnier described the incident with the ouija board as "just pure urban legend...but it was a great story." [5] Furnier stated the name was chosen simply as a gimmick, because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's image and music.

After a 1968 gig at the Cheetah club in Venice, California, where most of the club's patrons left after hearing the band play just ten minutes, they were approached by music manager Shep Gordon, who saw the band's negative impact that night as a force that could be turned in a more productive direction. [6] Shep arranged an audition for the band with renowned musical artist and record producer Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. Zappa told them to come to his house "at 7 o'clock" for an audition. The band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o'clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of music at seven in the morning impressed Zappa enough for him to sign them to a three-album deal. [6] "Frank was the only one who stuck out his neck for us, for me," recalled Alice himself. "He was the one who said, 'Here's a band that everybody in the business is laughing at – I like 'em.' … He was the outcast in L.A. and so were we." [7] The first three Alice Cooper albums were released on Zappa's Straight label.

Another Zappa-signed act, the all-female GTOs, were encouraged to dress up the Alice Cooper band members in women's clothing and heavy makeup, and played a major role in developing the band's early onstage look. [8]

The band was the subject of media criticism after Furnier threw a live chicken into the audience during the 1969 Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival Festival. The audience ripped the chicken to shreds. [9] In 1970, the band appeared on a Warner Bros sampler album, Zapped, featuring acts produced by Zappa.

Finding success

Slow sales of the band's first two albums, as well as Californians' indifference to their act, led the band to relocate again in 1970, this time to Pontiac, Michigan near Furnier's original home town of Detroit. Here, their bizarre stage act was much better received by Midwestern crowds accustomed to the proto punk styles of local bands such as the Stooges and the MC5. "L.A. just didn’t get it," Furnier stated. "They were all on the wrong drug for us. They were on acid and we were basically drinking beer. We fit much more in Detroit than we did anywhere else." [10]

Hooking up with young producer Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper released the single "I'm Eighteen" in late 1970, and it became a surprise Top 40 hit. The single's success convinced Warner Bros that the band could be a viable commercial act, leading to much stronger investment in the third Alice Cooper album, Love It to Death . The album was initially released on Straight Records, but was reissued on the Warner label following its buyout of the imprint from Zappa, giving Alice Cooper even greater exposure. Under Ezrin's direction, the band's sound moved from psychedelic rock to a tighter, guitar-driven hard rock sound, even as much of the lyrical content continued to explore "decadence, perversion and psychosis." [11]

With Love It to Death and its follow-up album Killer both charting well, the band was able to afford a more elaborate stage show, including sophisticated props and elements of gothic horror, and they became a highly popular concert attraction in the US and UK over the next few years. [12] Calls by members of British Parliament in 1972 to have the group banned from performing in the UK only solidified the band's legend, [13] and the next year's Billion Dollar Babies tour broke box office records. Cindy Dunaway (Neal Smith's sister who married Dennis Dunaway) designed the band's costumes and occasionally performed in the stage show (she was the "dancing tooth" on the Billion Dollar Babies tour). [14] [15]

Following Killer, Alice Cooper released three more hit albums – all three charting in the US Top Ten – and headlined major tours from 1972 to 1974, before breaking up.

Breakup of the original band

The original Alice Cooper band played their final show on April 8, 1974 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [16] There are varying reasons former band members have given for the breakup. Smith said the members wanted to take a year off to slow down and possibly do solo projects, and just never reunited. Cooper said there was disagreement over how much money to sink back into stage shows, which had become costly. Bruce contends that Buxton's issues with substance abuse, which at one time led him to pull a switchblade on the band's tour manager, likely hastened the breakup. [17]

The breakup was made public in 1975. [18] Vincent Furnier took "Alice Cooper" as his own name and carried on as a solo artist with a new group of musicians, [15] [19] the original band becoming officially defunct. Furnier later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves. [20]

The four surviving original members of Alice Cooper at Wembley Arena in November 2017 Alice Cooper - SSE Arena Wembley - Thursday 16th November 2017 AliceCooperSSE161117-101 (37651359815).jpg
The four surviving original members of Alice Cooper at Wembley Arena in November 2017

Bruce, Dunaway and Smith would go on to form the short-lived band Billion Dollar Babies, producing one album – Battle Axe – in 1977. While occasionally performing with one another and Glen Buxton, they would not reunite with Alice until October 23, 1999, at the second Glen Buxton Memorial Weekend for a show at CoopersTown in Phoenix (Buxton having died in 1997). They reunited for another show, with Steve Hunter on guitar, on December 16, 2010, at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix. [21] This lineup would perform together again (televised) on March 14, 2011, at the induction of the original Alice Cooper group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as on May 11, 2011, at London's Battersea Power Station at the Jägermeister Ice Cold 4D event (webcast). Bruce, Dunaway and Smith appeared on three tracks they co-wrote on Alice's 2011 album Welcome 2 My Nightmare .

A documentary about the band entitled Super Duper Alice Cooper premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17, 2014, and was scheduled to be screened at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival a week later. [9]

On October 6, 2015, a surprise reunion show took place in Dallas at Dunaway's book signing session. He was joined by Bruce, Smith, Cooper and Ryan Roxie, who replaced the late Glen Buxton. [22] [23] [24] The surviving members of the band were set to record and release an album [25] . However, the only material to surface was two bonus tracks on Cooper's 27th studio album Paranormal.

The four surviving original members reunited again for a five-song set on May 14, 2017, at a show in Nashville, Tennessee. [26] The four reunited yet again later that same year for a UK tour. [27]

The Spiders

The Spiders
The Spiders (American rock band).JPEG.jpg
Background information
Origin Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Years active1964 (1964)–1968 (1968)
Associated actsAlice Cooper
Past members
  • Vincent Furnier
  • Dennis Dunaway
  • Glen Buxton
  • John Tatum
  • John Speer
  • Michael Bruce
  • Mike Hughes
  • Neal Smith

The Spiders were a 1960s garage rock band consisted of Vincent Furnier, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, John Tatum, John Speer and Michael Bruce. [28] Formed by Furnier and Dunaway, both high school friends at Cortez High School in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1964, they later evolved into the band Alice Cooper, which, in turn, Vincent Furnier eventually took to be his stage name. [28]

In 1964, 16-year-old Furnier was eager to participate in the local annual Letterman's talent show, so he gathered four fellow cross-country teammates to form a group for the show: Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, John Tatum and John Speer. [29] They named themselves The Earwigs. [28] They dressed up in costumes and wigs to resemble the Beatles, and performed several parodies of Beatles songs, with the lyrics modified to refer to the track team: in their rendition of "Please Please Me", for example, the line "Last night I said these words to my girl" was replaced with "Last night I ran four laps for my coach". [30] Of the group, only Buxton and Tatum knew how to play an instrument—the guitar—so Buxton and Tatum played guitars while the rest mimed on their instruments. [31] The group got an overwhelming response from the audience and won the talent show. As a result of their positive experience, the group decided to try to turn into a real band. They acquired musical instruments from a local pawn shop, and proceeded to learn how to play them, with Buxton doing most of the teaching, as well as much of the early songwriting. [31] They soon renamed themselves The Spiders, featuring Furnier on vocals, Buxton on lead guitar, Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dunaway on bass guitar, and Speer on drums. [28] Musically, the group was inspired by artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Doors, and the Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider's web as their backdrop, the group's first stage prop. [28]

In 1965, the Spiders recorded their first single, "Why Don't You Love Me" (originally performed by the Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for the song.[ citation needed ] The single's B-side track was the Marvin Gaye Tamla Records hit, "Hitch Hike". The single was released by local record label, Mascot Records, owned by Jack Curtis, a concert promoter who also owned the Stage 7 teen club which later became the VIP Club where the Spiders were the house band.

In 1966, the Spiders graduated from high school and after North High School footballer Michael Bruce replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band released their second single, "Don't Blow Your Mind", an original composition which became a local #1 hit, backed by "No Price Tag". The single was recorded at Copper State Recording Studio and issued by local micro-imprint, Santa Cruz Records. [28]

By 1967, the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles to play shows. They soon renamed themselves Nazz and released the single "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now", backed with future Alice Cooper track "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye". At around this time, drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith. By the end of the year, the band had relocated to Los Angeles. [28]

In 1968, the band learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name. Furnier also believed that the group needed a gimmick to succeed, and that other bands were not exploiting the showmanship potential of the stage. [28] The legend is that the name "Alice Cooper" came from a session with a Ouija board, largely chosen because it sounded innocuous and wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's image and music. However, in an interview with Mark Radcliffe on the Radcliffe and Maconie show on BBC Radio 2 on 30 November 2009 Alice described the incident with the ouija board as an urban legend. He said "We literally got that whole story about the witch thing the way you guys got it. It was like just pure urban legend. I heard about the witch thing probably the same day you did, but it was a great story. [5] "Alice Cooper" was a character on Mayberry R.F.D. (played by Alice Ghostley) at the time, probably coincidentally. Eventually Furnier adopted this stage name as his own. He later stated that the name change was one of his most important and successful career moves. [20] The classic Alice Cooper group line-up consisted of Furnier, lead guitarist Glen Buxton, rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith – all former members of the Spiders. This lineup stayed intact well into the 1970s. [28]

Band members

Vincent Furnier a.k.a. Alice Cooper Alice Cooper.jpg
Vincent Furnier a.k.a. Alice Cooper

Original band members

Additional members 1973–1974


Alice Cooper (band)


Studio albums

Related Research Articles

Alice Cooper American rock singer, songwriter and actor

Alice Cooper is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With his distinctive raspy voice and a stage show that features numerous props, including guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, reptiles, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.

Neal Smith (drummer) American musician

Neal Smith is an American musician, best known as the drummer for the rock group Alice Cooper from 1967 to 1974. He performed on the group's early albums Pretties for You and Easy Action, their breakout album Love It to Death and the subsequent successful albums Killer, School's Out, and Billion Dollar Babies. The last new studio album with the five original Alice Cooper group members participating in new music was Muscle of Love in 1973. The original group's Greatest Hits studio album was released in 1974. In 2018, a live performance album Live From The Astroturf, Alice Cooper recorded in 2015 was released, featuring four of the original group members performing eight of their hit songs, with long-time Alice Cooper solo band guitarist and friend Ryan Roxie interplaying lead guitar parts with original group rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, on behalf of original group lead guitarist Glen Buxton, who died in 1997 of pneumonia three weeks before his 50th birthday.

Michael Bruce (musician) American rock musician

Michael Owen Bruce is an American rock musician, best known as a member of Alice Cooper.

Glen Buxton American guitarist, songwriter

Glen Edward Buxton was an American musician and composer, best known as lead guitarist for the original Alice Cooper group. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Buxton number 90 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. In 2011, he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the original Alice Cooper group.

Dennis Dunaway is an American musician, best known as the original bass guitarist for Alice Cooper . He co-wrote some of the band's most notable songs, including "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out".

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Alice Cooper album) 1974 greatest hits album by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits is the only greatest hits album by American rock band Alice Cooper, and their last release as a band. Released in 1974, it features hit songs from five of the band's seven studio albums. It does not include any material from their first two albums, Pretties for You and Easy Action.

<i>Muscle of Love</i> 1973 studio album by Alice Cooper

Muscle of Love is the seventh and final studio album by rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1973.

<i>Love It to Death</i> 1971 studio album by Alice Cooper

Love It to Death is the third studio album by American rock group Alice Cooper, released in March 1971. It was the band's first commercially successful album and the first album that consolidated the band's aggressive hard-rocking sound. The album's best-known track, "I'm Eighteen", was released as a single to test the band's commercial viability before the album was recorded.

<i>Pretties for You</i> 1969 studio album by Alice Cooper

Pretties for You is the debut studio album by American rock band Alice Cooper, released on June 25, 1969 by Straight Records. At this time, the name "Alice Cooper" referred to the band and not its lead singer Vincent Furnier, although he was also known as Alice Cooper. The album has a psychedelic flavor to it; the group had yet to develop the more concise hard rock sound that they would become famous for. Most of the tracks feature unusual time signatures and arrangements, jarring syncopation, expressive dynamics, sound effects, and an eclectic range of music influences. A few songs, such as "Levity Ball", show the influence of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, with whom the band hung out during the British group's U.S. tour. Alice Cooper guitarist Glen Buxton stated he could listen to Barrett's guitar playing for hours on end.

<i>Easy Action</i> 1970 studio album by Alice Cooper

Easy Action is the second studio album by the American rock band Alice Cooper, released by Straight Records in March 1970. The title comes from a line from one of the band's favorite films, the musical West Side Story. As with Pretties for You, the band's debut from the previous year, Easy Action was neither a commercial nor critical success. Singles include "Shoe Salesman" and "Return of the Spiders".

<i>Classicks</i> 1995 compilation album by Alice Cooper

Classicks is a compilation album by Alice Cooper, released by Epic Records in September, 1995. This release was to mark the end of Cooper's record contract with Epic Records, which had spanned three studio albums. Alice suggested its title.

Alice Cooper filmography

Note: This is an incomplete filmography of appearances by Alice Cooper in movies, television, and other visual media. Music videos, archived videos, commercials, and other "video shorts" are not included.

<i>The Strange Case of Alice Cooper</i> 1979 video by Alice Cooper

The Strange Case of Alice Cooper is a live concert video released in September 1979, of Alice Cooper performing with his backing band The Ultra Latex Band. The concert was filmed on April 9, 1979 during Cooper's 'Madhouse Rock' Tour in San Diego, California, at the San Diego Sports Arena, in support of the album From The Inside.

Billion Dollar Babies (song) Alice Cooper song

"Billion Dollar Babies" is a popular 1973 single by the rock group Alice Cooper, taken from the album Billion Dollar Babies. It was released in July 1973, months after the album had been released. The track is a duet between Alice Cooper and Donovan, who provides the falsetto vocals. BMI lists the composers of "Billion Dollar Babies" as Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce and Reggie Vinson. Some sources list the composers as Cooper, Bruce, drummer Neal Smith, and "R. Reggie", the latter being an allusion to Vinson's nickname "Rockin' Reggie Vinson".

<i>School Days: The Early Recordings</i> 1973 compilation album by Alice Cooper

School Days: The Early Recordings is a compilation album by Alice Cooper, released in 1973. It contains the band's first two albums, Pretties for You and Easy Action. The original albums were released by Straight Records, but since Warner signed the band later on, they got the rights to re-release the material.

Halo of Flies (song) original song written and composed by Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, Alice Cooper, Neal Smith

"Halo of Flies" is a 1973 single by rock band Alice Cooper taken from their 1971 album Killer. The single was only released in the Netherlands, two years after the song appeared on the album. The song was, according to Cooper's liner notes in the compilation The Definitive Alice Cooper, an attempt by the band to prove that they could perform King Crimson-like progressive rock suites, and was supposedly about a spy organization.

Reflected (song) Alice Cooper single

"Reflected" is the first single by the rock band Alice Cooper, released in 1969 from their debut album Pretties for You.

<i>Super Duper Alice Cooper</i> 2014 Canadian biographical documentary film

Super Duper Alice Cooper is a 2014 Canadian biographical documentary film about shock rock musician Alice Cooper, written and directed by Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen and Reginald Harkema.

<i>Paranormal</i> (Alice Cooper album) 2017 studio album by Alice Cooper

Paranormal is the twentieth solo album by Alice Cooper, released on July 28, 2017. It features three tracks performed by the "classic" line-up of the Alice Cooper band plus Larry Mullen Jr. from U2, Roger Glover from Deep Purple, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Swedish songwriter and session guitarist Tommy Denander, Alice Cooper bandmate Tommy Henriksen, Steve Hunter and more.

Live From The Astroturf, Alice Cooper is the 12th live album by rock group Alice Cooper, released on November 23, 2018.


  1. P. Auslander, Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006), ISBN   0-472-06868-7, p. 34.
  2. Waksman, Steve (2009). This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. University of California Press. p. 76. ISBN   978-0-520-94388-9.
  3. "Rock Hall makes it official: Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond among new class". SoundSpike. December 15, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  4. Tom Larson. "History of Rock and Roll". p. 188. Retrieved 2015-10-13 via Google Books.
  5. 1 2 "The Radcliffe and Maconie Show." Guest Alice Cooper. BBC Radio 2. Episode 30 November 2009.
  6. 1 2 Super Duper Alice Cooper. Dir. Reginald Harkima, Scott McFayden, and Sam Dunn. Banger Films in association with Eagle Rock Entertainment, the Movie Network, and Movie Central. 2014 – documentary
  7. "Alice Cooper". Mojo . March 2002.
  8. "Miss Christine". SickthingsUK. November 5, 1972. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  9. 1 2 Howell, Peter. "Toronto 'chicken incident' sparked rage". Toronto Star, 24 April 2014.
  10. Dominic, Serene (October 8, 2003). "Alice doesn't live here anymore. But he can't forget the Motor City". Metro Times . Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  11. "Alice Cooper – American Rock Group". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  12. Earlwine, Stephen Thomas. "Artist Biography – Alice Cooper". allmusic. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  13. "Loads More Mr Nice Guy". Alice Cooper eChive. October 19, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  14. Walker, Michael. What You Want Is in the Limo: On the Road With Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, and the Who in 1973, the Year the Sixties Died and the Modern Rock Star Was Born. Random House LLC, 2013.
  15. 1 2 Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists – Pete Prown, HP Newquist – Google Books. 1948-03-16. Retrieved 2014-08-09 via Google Books.
  16. "Early Days On The Road – Tour Dates – Alice Cooper eChive". Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  17. Rodgers, Larry (March 8, 2011). "Rock lifestyle caught up with Cooper guitarist Glen Buxton". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  18. "40 Years Ago: The Alice Cooper Band Release Their Final Album". Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  19. Edmonson, Jacqueline. "Cooper, Alice (1948 – )".Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories That Shaped Our Culture. ABC-CLIO, 2013.
  20. 1 2 "Alice Cooper's name change". November 7, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  21. "Alice Cooper – Dennis Dunaway Interview". 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  22. "Good Records – Original Alice Cooper Group Snakes! Book..." Facebook. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  23. "Check Out Exclusive Photos + the Inside Story on Alice Cooper's Surprise Reunion". Ultimate Classic Rock. October 7, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  24. "Video Footage Of ALICE COOPER's Surprise Reunion". October 8, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  25. DiVita, Joe (May 11, 2016). "Original Alice Cooper Band to Reunite for New Album". Loudwire. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  26. "ALICE COOPER Reunites With Original Band Members For Nashville Performance (Video)". May 14, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  27. "ALICE COOPER REUNITES ORIGINAL BAND FOR 2017 UK TOUR". September 29, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Harkima, Reginald, Scott McFayden and Sam Dunn, dir. Super Duper Alice Cooper. Banger Films, 2014. DVD.
  29. Cooper describes in detail in his first autobiography, Me, Alice, how he was tasked with organizing an act for the show.
  30. Masley, Ed (June 6, 2015). "Alice Cooper bandmates reflect on their historic past". The Arizona Republic.
  31. 1 2 Rodgers, Larry (October 1999). "Rock lifestyle caught up with Cooper guitarist Glen Buxton". The Arizona Republic.