I was a few years shy of eighteen when Vincent Damon Furnier, a.k.a. Alice Cooper, released Love It to Death. For better of worse, my life would never be the same again. A new day in music was upon us. The Alice Cooper Band (ACB) was Vaudeville meets Rock and Roll — electric guitars meet the Broadway stage.
Long before shock rockers KISS, Marilyn Manson, and Ozzy, there was Alice Cooper. And long before there was Alice Cooper, there was Vincent Furnier, born February 4, 1948. He was the son of a preacher in the Latter Day Saints movement. Furnier grew up in a small community in Michigan, but after a series of childhood illnesses, moved to Phoenix, Az., with his family.
It was there, at Cortez high school, he met future bandmates, Glenn Buxton and Dennis Dunaway. There were all cross-country runners on their high school track team together. (Alice running sprints?)
Sixteen year old Furnier pushed his friends to join him in a local talent show in 1964. At the time none of the guys knew how to play instruments. They mimed their performance to Beatles music, won the show, and the seed that would grow into Alice Cooper was planted.
After the excitement of winning the talent show, the guys hit-up a local pawn shop, bought instruments, learned to play, and launched their first band, The Spiders.
After high school, Michael Bruce on guitar and Neal Smith on drums, replaced other band members and began playing Phoenix and the surrounding area. By 1967 the band was making regular trips to Los Angeles to play shows. It was there Vincent Furnier decided that the best opportunity to hit it big was to find some kind of gimmick, something that would allow them to take advantage of theatrics onstage.
He would later say that changing his stage persona to Alice Cooper was one of his most important and successful career moves. Early press releases claimed that the name was agreed upon after a session with a Ouija board, during which it was revealed that Furnier was the reincarnation of a 17th century witch named Alice Cooper.
Early album projects, Pretties for You, their first Alice Cooper album, and Easy Action (1970), saw little commercial success.
In 1971 the ACB went into a Chicago studio with Warner Brother’s producer, Bob Ezrin, and recorded Love It to Death. Releasing in January of 1971, LITD rocketed Alice Cooper into a commercial, rock & roll phenom.
The next four albums, Killer (1971), School’s Out (1972), Billion Dollar Babies (1973), and Muscle of Love (1973), were all recorded under the watchful eye of Bob Ezrin. These three years of grueling touring and recording, took their toll on the lineup. The ACB went their separate ways in 1974 before Cooper went to work on his upcoming solo release Welcome to my Nightmare, also to be produced by Ezrin.
Alice Cooper as a solo act endures to this day, but never again enjoyed the same level of success of the original ACB lineup. In a recent Rolling Stone magazine interview when asked about the original band being inducted, Cooper said, “I was so happy that the nomination was for the original band. It’s too bad that Glen [Buxton] passed away, because he was our Keith Richards. He lived that life and just lived it ’til it killed him, which was too bad.”
And what about the rest of the original band?
Throughout the late 70s and 80s, ACB Guitarist and songwriter, Glenn Buxton, played occasional club gigs with bands like Shrapnel and Virgin.
He continued to maintain a low-profile in the 90s where he lived in Clarion, IA. Buxton died on October 19, 1997, just a few weeks shy of his 50th birthday. He had recently spent time with ACB bandmates, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith.
Michael Bruce, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter for the ACB, penned a few Alice Cooper songs including, Be My Lover, Caught in a dream, and No More Mister Nice Guy.
After the ACB breakup in 1974, Michael Bruce and fellow ACB alumnus formed the short-lived Billion Dollar Babies band.
It is reported that Bruce will work be working with Cooper again on the upcoming Welcome to my Nightmare 2 release.
Dennis Dunaway, ACB Bassist and Cooper high school classmate continues to make music with his bands, Blue Coup and 5th Avenue Vampires. Dunaway will also join Cooper on the Welcome to my Nightmare 2 production.
There is an old joke that goes something like this. A private plane crashed killing every member of a big rock band. The headline read, “Four musicians and a drummer killed in crash.”
Neal Smith, former drummer of the ACB, probably would not find that funny, considering at the time he was considered one of the best in the business. His phenomenal drumming ability shines through as he set the beat for many classic ACB tunes.
After his stint with Alice, Smith went on the play for The Billion Dollar Babies, The Plasmatics, Buck Dharma, Deadringer, Bouchard, Dunaway & Smith, Cinematik and his most recent solo project KillSmith.
Today Neal Smith is also established as a successful Realtor in New England. Everyone wants to buy a house from Neal.
Neal Smith will put away his contracts and yard signs for awhile to climb behind the drum set again and set the beat for the Welcome to my Nightmare 2 project.
The Alice Cooper Band is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The 26th annual ceremony will take place on Monday, March 14, 2011, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and will be broadcast exclusively on Fuse, Madison Square Garden’s national music television network, on Sunday March 20 at 9 p.m. EST.
The performer Inductees are:
· Alice Cooper will be inducted by Rob Zombie (White Zombie)
· Neil Diamond will be inducted by Paul Simon
· Dr. John will be inducted by John Legend
· Darlene Love will be inducted byBette Midler
· Tom Waits will be inducted by Neil Young