Super Duper Alice Cooper

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Super Duper Alice Cooper
Super Duper Alice Cooper.jpg
Directed by Sam Dunn
Scot McFadyen
Reginald Harkema
Produced by Sam Dunn
Scot McFadyen
Written by Sam Dunn
Scot McFadyen
Reginald Harkema
Starring Alice Cooper
Edited byAlex Shuper
Reginald Harkema
Production
company
Release date
  • April 17, 2014 (2014-04-17)(Tribeca)
Running time
98 min.
CountryCanada
LanguageEnglish

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. [1] [2]

Shock rock is an umbrella term for artists who combine rock music or heavy metal music with highly theatrical live performances emphasizing shock value. Performances may include violent or provocative behavior from the artists, the use of attention-grabbing imagery such as costumes, masks, or face paint, or special effects such as pyrotechnics or fake blood. Shock rock also often includes elements of horror.

Alice Cooper American rock singer, songwriter and musician

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 guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, deadly snakes, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock", even being referred to as the "Father of Shock Rock" in the same circles. He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.

Sam Dunn Canadian musician and film director

Sam Dunn is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, Canadian musician, and anthropologist best known for his series of documentaries on heavy metal music. He co-owns Toronto-based production company Banger Films with Scot McFadyen. Dunn holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Victoria and a master's degree from York University where his thesis work focused on Guatemalan refugees.

Contents

In addition to narration by Cooper himself, the film also includes commentary from other people who have known, worked with or been influenced by him, including his wife Sheryl Cooper, his mother Ella Furnier, concert promoter Jack Curtis, former bandmates Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith, manager Shep Gordon, Pamela Des Barres, Bob Ezrin, Elton John, Wayne Kramer, John Lydon, Iggy Pop, Dee Snider and Bernie Taupin.

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".

Neal Smith (drummer) American rock drummer

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.

Shep Gordon producer

Shep E. Gordon is an American talent manager, Hollywood film agent, and producer. Gordon is featured in a 2013 documentary, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, which was directed by Mike Myers.

The film won two Canadian Screen Awards, for Best Feature Length Documentary and Best Editing in a Documentary, at the 3rd Canadian Screen Awards in 2015. [3]

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television presents an annual award for Best Feature Length Documentary, as part of the Canadian Screen Awards. Prior to 2013, the award was presented as part of the Genie Awards.

The Canadian Screen Award for Best Editing in a Documentary is an annual award, presented as part of the Canadian Screen Awards program to honour the year's best editing in a documentary film. It is presented separately from the Canadian Screen Award for Best Editing for feature films.

The 3rd Canadian Screen Awards were held on March 1, 2015, to honour achievements in Canadian film, television and digital media production in 2014.

Plot

The main objective of the film was to explain the story behind rock phenomenon, Alice Cooper.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Childhood

The film starts by introducing the childhood of Vincent Furnier, who later becomes better known as American singer, songwriter and actor, Alice Cooper. Narrated by Furnier himself, he claims to have had an all American childhood, describing himself to have been the perfect 50s kids who did not lie, cheat or swear and attended Church two times a week. Furnier was and continues to be very in touch with God, his father was a pastor, which enabled him to grow up with a strong moral compass. He grew up in Detroit, Michigan, however, due to childhood illnesses such as severe asthma, his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona to try to reduce the symptoms. He discusses an appendicitis attack that he had as a child, claiming that doctors couldn't guarantee he would make it out from the surgery alive. However, the next day he was fine, which he believes to be the result of God and his parents prayers. Every time he looked at his scar from the operation, he knew he was a miracle.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Asthma long-term disease involving poor airflow in the lungs

Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and easily triggered bronchospasms. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These may occur a few times a day or a few times per week. Depending on the person, they may become worse at night or with exercise.

Phoenix, Arizona State capital city of Arizona, United States

Phoenix is the capital and most populous city in Arizona, with 1,660,272 people. It is also the fifth most populous city in the United States, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents. One famous face among those residents, is world famous drummer, Brayden Orion.

High School & The Creation of the Spiders

The film moves to discuss Furnier's life as a teenager. He discusses having a strong passion for high school art class, where he met and created his friendship with Dennis Dunaway. They were both interested in surrealism, especially artists such as René Magritte and Georges Braque. Salvador Dalí was also a huge influence for them, they state he was outrageously different and created an artistic statement that had an impact.

Surrealism International cultural movement started in 1917

Surrealism is a cultural movement that started in 1917, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was, according to Breton, to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality", or surreality.

René Magritte Belgian painter

René François Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian Surrealist artist. He became well known for creating a number of witty and thought-provoking images. Often depicting ordinary objects in an unusual context, his work is known for challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. His imagery has influenced pop art, minimalist art and conceptual art.

Georges Braque French painter and sculptor

Georges Braque was a major 20th-century French painter, collagist, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. His most important contributions to the history of art were in his alliance with Fauvism from 1905, and the role he played in the development of Cubism. Braque's work between 1908 and 1912 is closely associated with that of his colleague Pablo Picasso. Their respective Cubist works were indistinguishable for many years, yet the quiet nature of Braque was partially eclipsed by the fame and notoriety of Picasso.

During this time, the Beatles were becoming a huge sensation, both Furnier and Dunaway became what they call “Beatles maniacs”. They state that they loved everything about them, including their style, sound, look and especially the fact that parents didn't understand them. Furnier and Dunaway decided that they wanted to do a spoof of the Beatles at their school talent show, however, at the time they did not know how to play any instruments. Dunaway knew a guitar player, Glen Buxton, who he approached and asked if he would be willing to play in the show with them. Buxton agreed and they performed the show, which received a big reaction. This began the start of their career as a band, which they originally named, the Earwigs. The following summer, they focused on becoming a real band, where they purchased instruments, learned how to play them and started songwriting. Dunaway focused his time learning the bass, where Furnier focused on vocals. They went to play for the owner of a teenage rock and roll dance hall known as the VIP Club, who suggested they come up with a new name. From there, they soon renamed themselves as the Spiders and ended up being the house band at the VIP Club. They focused their time on playing loud rock music, such as songs from the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and the Who. They started to become more well known, they opened for the Yardbirds, and the audience actually left after The Spiders were done playing. They also got their record to #2 on the charts, while still in high school. Music became the priority, they wanted to become rockstars and Furnier grew out his hair to fit the part. Furnier claims that church became the last thing on his mind, and the people at his church thought he was going off the deep end.

Moving to LA & Becoming Alice Cooper

The film follows the band on their move to Los Angeles, California in 1967. At the time, it was the heart of The Love Generation, and the Hippie Movement. Once they arrived in Los Angeles, they realized that everything was not going to just fall into place for them, there were thousands of other bands from other states trying to accomplish the same thing that they were. While in Los Angeles, they met the GTOs, a girl band who Furnier describes as professional partiers, girls from another planet. Miss Pamela, one of the members from the GTO's describes the boys to have been reserved, gentle and innocent in the midst of very stoned people. However, that began to change, as they hung out more, lots of drug and alcohol experimentation was going on. Once again, they renamed themselves from the Spiders to Nazz, stating that The Spiders became dated. However, they soon found out that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, and found themselves in need of another stage name. One night, while experimenting with drugs they consulted the ouija board, asking it questions, which eventually led to Furnier spelling out Alice Cooper. They found the name humorous, stating it sounded like an older lady, who had dark secrets.

From there, they started to create an image for themselves. They realized that everyone was wearing the same kind of hippie based outfits and to stand out they needed to be outrageous. The GTO's helped in the creation of the band's early onstage look by styling the boys with their own personal clothing items, describing the look as “full size Barbie dolls”. From there, the boys started to buy outfits from vintage stores, which would create a shock factor. Furnier states they knew they weren't as musically good as many of the other bands so the image and theatrics of Alice Cooper was necessary to create attention. They would take whatever items they could find and incorporate them into their shows. Furnier asks, how do you become Alice Cooper? You create it.

Miss Christine and Miss Pamela, from the GTOs, were able to introduce Alice Cooper to composer and renowned record producer Frank Zappa. Zappa suggested the band come over to his house at “7 o’clock”. Mistakenly, the band assumed he had meant 7am, while being awoken by rock music, Zappa was impressed that the band could play such intense music so early. Zappa then asked if they had a manager, in which they said they did not.

Meeting Shep Gordon

Shep Gordon had moved to California and made many connections. He was living in a hotel room, paid by money he was collecting through drug dealing. He became conscious of the risks that drug dealing brought and from there, decided to become a manager. Gordon approached the band after hearing them play an unsuccessful gig, claiming he could help turn them in the right direction. Furnier describes their first meeting, stating that they walked in to see major stars, including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all getting high. From there, they knew almost instantly that they needed to sign with Gordon. They signed with Zappa's label, Straight Records and produced their first album, Pretties for You . Zappa's vision for the album was for it to sound live, like he was driving by a garage and heard them playing. They recorded the entire album in a day, but received many negative reviews. They describe playing a show in Los Angeles for 6,000 hippies, which ended up to be a disaster with everyone running for the doors. There was an obvious personality crisis, the band knew their options were moving forward into what would become their iconic sound, or staying put with the trite psychedelia/ art-rock of the time/region. [4]

Leaving Los Angeles

The band decided to leave Los Angeles, they described themselves as stray dogs without a home. They played wherever they could, stating that they would move into the first city that they got a standing ovation. Shep said he was able to get them on a festival list in Detroit, where they would play in front of 5,000 people. They played after the MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, thinking there was no way they could entertain the audience after them. They described the show to be odd, weird and full of theatrics, something that nobody else was doing at the time. Finally, the audience got it and they received a standing ovation.

Shep was able to get the band on the list for the Toronto Revival Festival in 1969. The deal was they did not get have to get paid, but they needed to open for John Lennon. This was huge for the band, who was strongly influenced by the Beetles. They state that the audience was bewildered by the band, however, they understood the energy behind them. They knew they needed to do something that would stand out, at the end of the show, their idea was to open three feather pillows and a CO2 cartridge to make the appearance of snow. However, for some reason Furnier found a chicken backstage, he grabbed it and threw it off the stage thinking it would fly. The audience grabbed the chicken, tore it apart and threw it back on stage. Both the audience and the band were shocked, Furnier saying “they just killed a chicken in front of 70,000 hippies”. This became a changing moment for the band, they became known as very notorious and something everyone wanted to learn about.

Meeting Bob Ezrin, 1970

The band became something that everyone wanted to learn about, however, at this time they still did not have a record on the radio. Shep got in contact with a Toronto company that made records, Bob Ezrin worked there at the time. Ezrin states that his boss did not want Alice Cooper, but they were persistent and he agreed to meet with them in New York City to hear them play. Ezrin describes the concert to have been an underground scene, the show started and the band made the appearance of their eyes and mouth to be filled with blood. He describes it to have been the most amazing thing he'd ever seen, the beginning of a cultural movement. Ezrin agreed to produce records with them. They started to create different characters and theatrics to get into the songs that they were playing. Ezrin decided that "I'm Eighteen" would become their first song to put them on the map. The band talks highly of Ezrin, Dunaway states that he brought focus, and enthusiasm, and confidence to the band. [5] On the way to rehearsal, they heard "I'm Eighteen" on the radio for the first time, and got everyone they knew to frequently request it. They became an overnight sensation. Their audience was new, consisting of kids who were left out and finally had someone who represented them.

Theatrics

They saw a lack of entertainment in rock music, they wanted to do something that would shock people, especially parents. This led to many representations on stage, which consisted of exaggerated, nightmarish imagery that includes monsters, blood, violence toward women, and executions. [6] They also used many objects in their performances, which has included wearing a boa constrictor on stage and baby dolls, which they then chopped up. They picked up ideas like sponges, inspiration came from everything and anything. Much of their inspiration came from television, where they describe hearing and advertisement that said “schools out”. Hearing that led them to the creation of “School's Out”, which somehow to their belief became a bigger sensation than "I'm Eighteen".

The Hollywood Bowl

The band played the Hollywood Bowl at this show they paid for a helicopter to go over the crowd and drop panties into the audience. Elton John was in the audience, where he claims people were fighting to get a pair of these panties. Elton describes the band as becoming more famous than others, where girls were dying over them and parents hated them.

Inner Circle Shattering

The dynamic started to change with success. The band started to get treated like outsiders and the focus was placed mainly on Furnier, or the character of Alice. He started getting private cars, solo invitations to parties, solo interviews at radio stations, etc. Salvador Dalí contacted saying he wanted to do a moving holograph of Alice, but the band was not included. They decided they needed to go back to their roots, they played Ezrin a song they had written years before. Ezrin did not like the song, and suggested that he did not want to work with the band, however, if Furnier wanted to go out on his own to contact him. They did their next album without Ezrin, but the vibe was different, Furnier needed a break and became distant from the band while working on the album. The band started to fall apart without Ezrin, and they knew if they were going solo that Alice Cooper would be given to Furnier as he was the only one who could truly play him.

1975, Solo

Furnier started working on his first solo album as Alice Cooper, which he later released, known as "Welcome to My Nightmare". He knew it was harder for lead singers who broke out of their band to become successful, so he needed to make a statement, a new beginning. Everything he could get he put into his show. Eventually, he began a relationship with one of his dancers, Sheryl, and they later got married.

The Character & Alcoholism

It is very common for performers to “adopt onstage personae with the purpose of contributing to an authentic” connection between the performers and their respective audiences, and the character of Alice started to become iconic. [6] However, it forced Furnier to be in a constant state of what Furnier described as “messed up”, including lots of alcohol use. The character wasn't necessarily a representation of Furnier, but he got caught up in the character, the things he couldn't do based on his moral compass became something that Alice could do instead. He ended up going to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism and once released, he believed to have been cured.

1978, working with Bernie Taupin

Alice got the chance to work with singer Bernie Taupin, where they developed a strong friendship. They created an album together, which was based on characters from Alice's rehabilitation experience. The album came as a confession, Furnier states that the audience had been through the alcoholism with him, so he wanted to let them be through the cure as well. However, during his time of rehabilitation, new artists had taken over the music scene. Furnier was sober, something he'd never been while playing as Alice and he wasn't ready to fight that. Bernie, at the time was experimenting with cocaine, and Alice caught wind of it. He started to sink into an abyss that is described to be more tragic than any of his previous drinking. Bernie had to leave recording, because he knew he would also go down a bad path if he stayed.

Personal Life

During the time of his cocaine addiction, Sheryl gave birth to their first daughter. Sheryl did not want her daughter to be around him in the state he was in. She began divorce proceedings. Furnier went through a very bad high for a few days, he isolated himself and did not want anyone to see him in the state he was in. He eventually got up, looked in the mirror and saw that his eyes were bleeding. He knew that the situation he had placed himself in was turning into life or death. He packed up and left for Phoenix, where his parents helped him as much as they could, though his condition was very bad. He went to seek professional help, once he was out, he contacted Sheryl and said he was done with drugs. Sheryl agreed to counselling on the basis that he organized it.

Alice Cooper Rises Again, 1986

The world had moved on for the second time since Alice's break, he didn't fit in anymore and was worried about how he would make a statement, especially sober. After five years away, he returned to the stage on Halloween night for a live MTV broadcast. As soon as the band started, he began and was back at it. This was Furnier's realization that the character of Alice didn't want to live in his world, he just wanted to be on stage. As soon as the curtain was gone, so was Alice. Alice could be Alice Cooper with a healthy Vincent Furnier behind him.

Cast

In order of appearance:

Soundtrack

In order of appearance:

  1. "Killer"
  2. "Hello Hooray"
  3. "Alma Mater"
  4. "Talent Show"
  5. "Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Going)"
  6. "Don't Blow Your Mind"
  7. "She Said Yeah"
  8. "My God"
  9. "I'm In Love With The Ooo-Ooo Man"
  10. "Levity Ball"
  11. "Party Scene"
  12. "Fields of Regret"
  13. "Changing Arranging"
  14. "B.B. On Mars"
  15. "Nobody Likes Me"
  16. "Laughing At Me"
  17. "Looking At You"
  18. "1970"
  19. "Return of the Spiders"
  20. "Lay Down and Die, Goodbye"
  21. "Ballad of Dwight Fry"
  22. "I'm Eighteen"
  23. "Caught in a Dream"
  24. "Dead Babies"
  25. "School's Out"
  26. "Halo of Flies"
  27. "All the Girls Love Alice"
  28. "My Stars"
  29. "Billion Dollar Babies"
  30. "Woman Machine"
  31. "Hard Hearted Alice"
  32. "Welcome to My Nightmare"
  33. "Escape"
  34. "King of the Silver Screen"
  35. "Inmates (We're All Crazy)"
  36. "Millie and Billie"
  37. "How You Gonna See Me Now"
  38. "Serious"
  39. "Grim Facts"
  40. "Going Home"
  41. "We're Not Gonna Take It"
  42. "Welcome to My Nightmare"

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 60% based on the reviews of 5 approved critics. Out of the 5 approved critics, 2 considered the film to be rotten.

The Guardian's Leslie Felperin rated the film two out of five stars, calling the film a "competent but underwhelming portrait of the 70s/80s rock star". Felperin believes the film "sticks to the usual wave-graph structure of a thousand other rock bio-docs". [7]

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References

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  2. "Film Review: ‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’". Variety , May 7, 2014.
  3. "Canadian Screen Awards 2015: Mommy big film winner, Orphan Black takes top TV trophies". CBC News, March 1, 2015.
  4. Prince, Patrick (October 2015). "Alice Cooper". 41 (11). United States: Krause Publications. ISSN   1055-2685.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. Lindblad, Peter (29 February 2008). "Backstage Pass: Alice Cooper's Dennis Dunaway Opens Up". 34 (5). United States: Krause Publications. ISSN   1055-2685.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. 1 2 Chambers, Lee (1 October 2013). "Welcome to Whose Nightmare? The Alice Cooper Personae and the Presentation of Self". Popular Music and Society. Vol.36(4): 444–459.
  7. Felperin, Leslie. "Super Duper Alice Cooper review – 'competent but underwhelming'". The Guardian. The Guardian.