Cooper on songwriting, persona, TigersWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Forget the song and larger-than-life image — Alice Cooper is a nice guy.
Vincent Furnier was born in Detroit in 1948 and later changed his name to Alice Cooper. He went on to change the music scene, staging theatrical concerts that shocked and rocked.
Cooper will bring his Dirty Diamonds Tour to Stranahan Theater at 8 p.m. July 9. Tickets are $45, $38.50 and $30.
The likeable legend took a few minutes last week from his Phoenix home for an interview.
Toledo Free Press: You’re known for your clever lyrics. When did your love of words begin?
Cooper: Probably when I first started listening to rock. I was a journalism major, so I was always very good with words. I was a good short story writer, so it was easy for me to move right into lyrics, because all you’re doing is putting a story together in three minutes. And the trick is it’s got to fit a certain meter, it’s got to rhyme. I mean, it should rhyme, and it should be clever. So I listened to two of the best songwriters who do that. Chuck Berry was an amazing lyric writer. If he couldn’t figure out a word, he would just make one up. Like he would say “Don’t give me no botheration.” There’s no word “botheration,” but what a great word! And the other one was Ray Davies of The Kinks who wrote “Lola” about a guy who picks up a cross-dresser; it was a great pop song and you really pictured what was going on. So I kind of learned how to write lyrics from that, and I got really good at it. The trick is you write the punch line first. On a song like “I’m 18,” for example, when you’re writing an angst-riddled song — I’m a boy, I’m a man, I’m sexually confused, I can fight in the war but I can’t vote — and normally you’d say “I’m 18 and I just hate it.” And this went “I’m 18 and I like it.”
TFP: As a shock rock icon, you’ve blazed trails for so many. What are you most proud of?
Cooper: I think the fact that people have put up with me for 28, 29 albums and they still support me, they still come to the shows. I think Alice — it’s the character I’m talking about — is woven into Americana. … I think the thing I’m most guilty of is making people use their imaginations. If that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done, well, great. I think an album should make you sit and wonder and think about it. I think a stage show should do that, too.
TFP: Where did the character of Alice
Cooper come from?
Cooper: It was created a long time ago. I was a rock singer, just like every other rock singer. And as an artist, I looked around and — Alice Cooper is not a hero. Look at all the rock heroes. Look at the Paul McCartneys, John Lennons, and the Neil Youngs and the Bruce Springsteens — all rock heroes. Where are the rock villains? And this was at a time when there were no rock villains. And I looked at it as a world of all Peter Pans and no Captain Hooks is not fun. So I gladly became Captain Hook, and I created Alice to be rock’s arch villain. Now there are other villains come and gone, but not this villain. He’s always still here.
TFP: What can Toledo fans expect with the Dirty Diamonds Tour?
Cooper: I would say my show is the closest thing to rock vaudeville or maybe even rock cabaret because there is comedy in the show, there is a certain amount of mock violence. There are parts of the show that are absolutely beautiful, and there are parts of the show that are grotesque. But it’s all done to hard rock music. I look at the lyrics as being the script for the show. If you say “Welcome to My Nightmare,” don’t just say it, give them a nightmare.
TFP: Are you a Detroit Tigers fan?
Cooper: Are you kidding? I’ve been a Tiger fan all my life! I’m just a little bit delirious right now. The fact that they have the best record in baseball — I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it would be absolutely amazing if the Tigers won the American League and were in the World Series.