He comes running on stage with a giant toothbrush to fend off two enormous teeth. Victory is snatched from his grasp as a maniacal dentist ties him to a chair and comes at him with a six foot drill with flashing lights. “The teeth are okay but the gums gotta go.”
He prances in tattered red long johns while behind him female spiders climb a web. Dark toys, all claws and fangs, emerge from a large toy chest, bringing with them a healthy helping of childhood neurosis and phobias.
Spinning on a heel he spears a camera man, plunging a microphone stand through his body. The man jerks in death throes. Behind him a masked dominatrix cracks a whip. Meeting that challenge, he soon faces another, a nurse who will force him to tackle his dark side by shooting him with psychotropic medication as she secures the strait-jacket. He’ll escape though, and kill her...the disturbed, broken man who sings about necrophilia, dying babies, and serial murder.
But in the end, all his onstage evil will be punished. For this, above all else, is a morality play. He will face the guillotine. And then be reborn and redeemed in a white tuxedo.
Of course, I’m talking about an Alice Cooper concert. How could I let Halloween pass without pausing to pay tribute to one of my musical heroes? Marilyn Manson, I love ya. But Alice is the Grand Master. He gave voice to generations raised on “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and “Friday The Thirteenth”, and continues to do so, by singing absurdly about the dark side of our personalities, reveling in our angst, and letting us know that at the pit of all darkness is redemption or punishment. He is humanity writ large.
You think I am overstating the importance of Alice in rock and roll history? Perhaps you imagine I am absurd in lauding his lyrical content? Take a look at “Welcome To My Nightmare”. While it is a collection of anthem rock on one hand, on the other hand there is an underlying theme in that album that deals with the pain of self-destructive relationships in the face of dehumanization. Don’t believe me? Consider these songs: “Devil’s Food” ( subtext: fear of ego destruction in a relationship where both parties are wrestling for dominance); “Cold Ethyl”(while on the surface a song about necrophilia, below it is easily a story about objectification of women and frigidity); “Only Women Bleed” (a song about domestic violence).
Now I will grant you that not a lot of Alice fans sit in coffee shops and quietly discuss the subtext of “Go To Hell” or “Eighteen”. It’s enough that those songs just kick ass. But the subtexts are there. It’s what has kept Alice Cooper a presence in popular music for over thirty years. Stop and look behind the music and behold an astonishing talent. See him in concert and you will see the best that vaudeville has to offer.
Rent a dvd. If you want to see him at his best, there is a re-issue available now called The Nightmare Returns (his eighties comeback---filmed Halloween Night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit). It doesn’t get better than that
Which brings me to my one gripe. It’s Halloween. Alice Cooper hasn’t played around Detroit for a Halloween show in some six or seven years. Alice come home. Damn it.
Isn’t that our mom calling?????????
tags: halloween Alice Cooper Detroit