Before you start reading this one, you need to know the background for someone mentioned in the article. Leo Abse (1917–2008) was a Welsh lawyer and politician. He was a Welsh Labour Member of Parliament for nearly 30 years. In 1973 Abse requested that the government ban the rock singer Alice Cooper and his group from performing in England, claiming that Cooper was “peddling the culture of the concentration camp”. Abse claimed: “Pop is one thing, anthems of necrophilia are quite another”.
So now you know – and here is yet another great article from those golden years. Keep reading on.
ALICE: death of a killer, birth of a lover
Steve Peacock reports from New York
Take heart, Mr. Leo Abse, Alice Cooper really likes you – even if you don`t like him and you don`t want him to come and play for us. It`s true Mr. Abse – he said so.
“I like him, I don`t know why he doesn`t like me – and I never met him either,” says Alice slyly, “so I can`t make any judgement. I think his main thing was that we were promoting violence, which is totally not right – he hadn`t seen the show, and he was still judging it. That`s something that I totally don`t understand. But I`m sure they`re not going to ban us over there or anything – we are just a rock and roll band.”
Alice hasn`t been in England for a long while now – we haven`t even seen the “Billion Dollar Babies” show yet, and the new album is all recorded and ready to go: did they have the power to ban Alice from England?
“I don`t know – it would really bother me if they did, but I think the people would stand up for us. I have letters from parents that are really pro, saying they shouldn`t do it because we`re presenting an intelligent piece of theatre, and if they ban me why don`t they ban just about 90 per cent of all the other rock bands. All I do is a little more theatre.
“We`re certainly not promoting violence, that`s one thing I really want to get across to the public, and if they think we are then they`re really misconstruing what we are doing. We use a lot of American violence in the show because that`s what`s happening over here, like American TV, anything like that: that`s what we grew up in and that`s what immediately bounces off us, but we`re more or less doing it as a catharsis. We`re doing it for the audience, and when they leave they should be worn out – if we`re doing our job right then when they leave that audience should be totally worn out – they`re not going to get in a fight or go out and get in these things.
“But I guess it was like this all the time… like Bela Lugosi, they`d expect him to be wearing a black cape and biting people on the neck when he`s off stage. It`s the same with me – it`s a role I`m playing, it`s nothing more than entertainment and it shouldn`t have any social effect on anybody. And I know that when I saw movies on sex or violence… after seeing certain movies on sex you`re not in the least bit horny, because they already did it up there and you`re already off it.
“The same with violence – you see a movie like `The Wild Bunch` or `El Topo` or something, and by the end, God… you`re abhored by it, you don`t want anything to do with it. So I want to see an audience really exhausted, because then I know I`m sitting backstage so tired I can hardly breathe, but I know then that I really did my job right. That`s what Judy Garland must have done, work your ass off `till the audience just can`t take any more – that`s an entertainer`s dream.”
A case of misunderstanding then – but although Alice may have, as he says, one of the cleanest shows in the world and although a great deal of his reputation has been built up by story-hungry pressmen, he isn`t beyond a little myth-making himself. Rumours start, get blown up, and he leaves them be – he doesn`t deny them.
“Oh sure – I`m a great liar, I know that, but the thing is that you can say something, and by the time it gets round the room it`s completely different. Like that Eddie Haskell thing – “Leave It To Beaver”. Somebody asked me once what I was like offstage, and I said `Oh, I`m like Eddie Haskell` – and the next thing was everyone was saying `he used to be on “Leave it to Beaver”, he was Eddie Haskell`… that`s how crazy it got. But then you say OK, that`s a fun thing – I`ll be Eddie Haskell for a while. And the chicken thing… I don`t kill chickens on stage, it`s just not in me. Alice might, but I wouldn`t.”
Let it be said at this point that the off-stage Alice was looking extremely fit and healthy, Hawaii-tanned, developing an interest in golf, and sitting in his New York office in a splendid silver suit. There wasn`t a de-capitated baby in sight, and although he was drinking chicken noodle soup such an act deemed decidedly un-sinister. Had you seen him three months ago, it might have been a different story altogether: he`d been living with Alice for 62 American concerts, guillotined nightly, and was wasted: That tour must have been – to coin a phrase – a killer.
“I was actually shaking I was so out of it. It just took so much out of me, I must have gained ten years on that tour, just from the travelling and just from every night knowing that I had to do the same thing over and over and over again. It was like a blitzkrieg – we were going to do the whole country and then take a long time off, and it just didn`t seem that hard when we planned it, but by the middle of the tour we were all delirious. A lot of pressure.
“Every night you realise that you`re in a different city, and that they`re not going to see you again for another year, so you`re aware that this show has to be better than the last one, and the next one has to be better than this one, so by the end you`re just destroyed. It`s really more emotional energy than physical, because you realise that with 20,000 people you`ve got to reach that guy right at the back – you have to really over-emphasise everything to get to him, so by the end I was shaking. Because I`m not really an emotional person, so it was very hard for me to get across.”
That`s the end of the blitzkrieg method then – they`re going on the road in the States again soon, but just for 13 dates. “We figured `why kill yourselves`?”.
And speaking of killing yourself – as you know, Alice dies every night on stage. First it was by the rope, in the recent show by the guillotine, very realistically – had he had any accidents?
“Oh you can`t – if you have one accident with the guillotine it`s all over. I only have had one safety device on that thing, and if that breaks I`m dead – the blade weighs 40 pounds and it`s razor sharp, so if I`m not out of there when it comes down it`s gonna really do it. But it certainly is exciting – they get their five dollars worth.
Every night I get up there thinking `oh no, I`ve got to do that again`, but it`s an exciting thing for me too – it sounds real masochistic, but I find it really exciting because I put my head under and I think `wow, this really could be it`. And for the people in the audience – I mean what a show that could be. They`d be able to say they were at the show when it didn`t work.
The hanging at least, if it broke, it would just snap my head back – in fact that happened twice, when it just knocked me cold, but the guillotine… I get to the end of the show and I look at it, and it brings out all the drama in me, it brings out so much in my acting that people feel it. It`s like the Barnum and Bailey circus, drum rolls, `is he gonna make it?`… but wait till you see the thing I have planned next – I can`t tell you now, but just wait.”
There had been a plan for using Alice as a human cannonball – what happened to that? “It blew up – I was in it and it blew up. It works on a dynamite charge, just a little bit in the back which compresses and shoots you out into a net, so I said `OK, I`ll try it`, and they put too much dynamite in it. Luckily, they had the safety catch on, so when it blew up, the charge hit and it blew the whole back end of the cannon off. But the inside of the cannon is made of metal, so when it blew my ears were going boyyyyyyyng!!! I couldn`t hear for three days, so I said OK, enough of the cannon. We were gonna send it to the Rolling Stones – here, you work on it.”
All of which makes recording a new album seem rather tame, but it`s done, called “Muscle Of Love”, and ready to roll. Alice digs it, says it was recorded in a really loose, spontaneous way, and he enjoyed it better than any he`s done in a long time: “We were going totally for feeling”.
Among the guests on it were Liza Minelli, Ronnie Spector, the Pointer Sisters and LaBelle: “Liza`s just terrific, and Ronnie… I had Ronnie on a song called “Teenage Lament” about a kid that doesn`t want to look like Alice Cooper or David Bowie, doesn`t want his hair orange and doesn`t want to wear make up, but everybody else does so he has to, but his whole thing is that he`s going against it. The last true individualist – it`s a very ironic type of thinking. It`s great – just the big wall of voices.
“Then we had them on hallelujahs on “Muscle Of Love”, the title track. It goes “Holy muscle of love, my heart`s a muscle of love”, and their doing “Hallelujah, Hallelujah… King of Kings, Hallelujah, Hallelujah” at the end of the song.
“See, everybody thought “Muscle Of Love” was going to be dirty, but it wasn`t, it was a romantic song. I didn`t say “Muscle Of Love” was anything other than the heart.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, John Lennon, Free, Ronnie Lane, Ozzy Osbourne, Carlos Santana, Average White Band, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, Magna Carta.
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