How the new ‘Alice Cooper at 75’ explores the legacy of the shock rocker

On Feb. 4, shock rocker Alice Cooper turns 75.

To celebrate the milestone, veteran music journalist Gary Graff has just published “Alice Cooper at 75,” a lush coffee table book full of photos and images exploring 75 key events in Cooper’s life and career.

The book, which will be in stores Jan. 31, is an unauthorized illustrated biography that starts with Cooper, born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, playing in garage rock bands. The book follows a chronological timeline through his 28 studio albums, gory live stage shows and musical collaborations – as well as his Christian faith, love of golf, charity work and life as a husband, father and grandfather.

Graff, who has lived in Detroit since 1982 and interviewed Cooper numerous times throughout his career for various newspaper and magazine articles, described his subject as fascinating.

“I grew up in Pittsburgh and I was a huge fan of Alice as a kid,” he said. “Like any other kid, I heard that there was this guy and he kills chickens on stage, which of course, wasn’t the true story, but yeah, he cuts their heads off and he wears makeup and it just captures your imagination.”

Shock rocker Alice Cooper (pictured performing on Nov. 11, 2022 in Palm Springs) is the subject of author and rock music journalist Gary Graff’s new book, “Alice Cooper at 75,” out on Jan. 31. It tells the story of Cooper through 75 career accomplishments, events and collaborations ahead of his 75th birthday on Feb. 4. (Photo by Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

Author and rock music journalist Gary Graff’s new book, “Alice Cooper at 75,” out on Jan. 31, tells the story of the shock rocker through 75 career accomplishments, events and collaborations ahead of Cooper’s 75th birthday on Feb. 4. The book includes dozens of concert photos and candid offstage photographs, rare concert posters and memorabilia, vinyl record sleeves, ticket stubs and more. (Image courtesy of Motorbooks)

Author and rock music journalist Gary Graff’s new book, “Alice Cooper at 75,” out on Jan. 31, tells the story of the shock rocker through 75 career accomplishments, events and collaborations ahead of Cooper’s 75th birthday on Feb. 4. The book includes dozens of concert photos and candid offstage photographs, rare concert posters and memorabilia, vinyl record sleeves, ticket stubs and more. (Image courtesy of Motorbooks)

Author and rock music journalist Gary Graff’s new book, “Alice Cooper at 75,” out on Jan. 31, tells the story of the shock rocker through 75 career accomplishments, events and collaborations ahead of Cooper’s 75th birthday on Feb. 4. The book includes dozens of concert photos and candid offstage photographs, rare concert posters and memorabilia, vinyl record sleeves, ticket stubs and more. (Image courtesy of Motorbooks)

Author and rock music journalist Gary Graff’s new book, “Alice Cooper at 75,” out on Jan. 31, tells the story of the shock rocker through 75 career accomplishments, events and collaborations ahead of Cooper’s 75th birthday on Feb. 4. (Photo courtesy of Gary Graff)

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He said that at the time, 1971-1973, Alice Cooper’s music was the ultimate act of rebellion.

“Your parents didn’t like him, your older siblings didn’t like him and anyone who was a hippie didn’t like him,” he said. “Alice liked to say that they were the stake in the heart of the hippie movement with what they did, so for a particular generation that was trying to find its own rock icon and its own music, Alice was definitely one of a handful of artists they found … the others being like David Bowie and Elton John. But Alice was doing something that hadn’t been done before and even a lot of rock fans didn’t think it should be done. We all said, ‘Great! Then give him to us. We’ll take him and he’ll be ours.’”

Though he was already a fan and had maintained a friendly relationship with Cooper over the years, Graff said there were a few things that he really enjoyed being reminded of and exploring in depth while writing the book.

“It was more being reminded of certain aspects of his career like his association with the Friar’s Club and all those old-time comedians,” he said. “It makes sense when you hear Alice tell it because those guys got him. They understood what he was doing was the 1970s incarnation of vaudeville, so they accepted him quicker than maybe some Jefferson Airplane fans did.”

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He was also reminded of Cooper’s connection and relationship with the English rock band Pink Floyd.

“His friendship with Pink Floyd back in the late ’60s is something I had heard touched upon, but then to find out that they lived in the same house and were friendly … Alice talked about having breakfast with Syd Barrett and what an odd character he was,” he said. “After I wrote the book, I was talking to Nick Mason from Pink Floyd about something else, but he was remembering the poker games they’d all play.”

He spent nearly five months writing the book and several more waiting for the graphics to be added to the finished product. The visuals include full-color photos of Cooper and his band, and there are rare backstage images, as well as scanned concert posters from a myriad of tours and various cities, ticket stubs and other Alice Cooper memorabilia.

Graff is pleased with the overall packaging, which is part of a series of books that include “Elton John at 75” and “David Bowie at 75.”

“I had no idea it was going to have a black velvet cover, so that was a surprise,” he said. “It’s like a blacklight poster. You open it up and it comes with a little envelope of goodies that complement the book. It’s a lot of fun. It was one of those things where they weren’t showing me each time they found some artwork, but when I got the first PDF of the book and saw what they had, that was a rush.”

Graff said he was struck by how embedded Alice Cooper is in pop culture. Cooper appeared on “The Muppet Show” in 1978 and he was worshiped by Wayne and Garth in the 1992 feature film “Wayne’s World.”

He inspired artists like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Swedish heavy metal band Avatar and Swedish rock band Ghost. And he’s still rockin’, too. Cooper was out on tour in support of his 2021 album, “Detroit Stories,” and he still performs with supergroup Hollywood Vampires, featuring Johnny Depp on guitar and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry from time to time, too.

“One of the things that gets eclipsed by the Alice Cooper image and the Alice Cooper stage show is that he created great music,” Graff said. “I mean, ‘School’s Out’ and ‘I’m Eighteen,’ those are going to be with us forever. The line has been for so long that ‘I’m Eighteen’ smelled like ‘Teen Spirit’ before the guys from Nirvana were born. The music will last forever and the sense of showmanship will be passed on. He’s entrenched in our collective understanding of popular culture. He’s created something that will be with us forever.”

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